Circling the Drain Trying Turf in $100,000 James Murphy

May 15th, 2023

That’s Right Ready to Roll in $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint

BALTIMORE – Stakes-placed Circling the Drain, worse than third just once in six dirt tries, will shorten up and switch surfaces as he makes his turf debut in Saturday’s $100,000 James W. Murphy at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 58th running of the one-mile Murphy for 3-year-olds and 18th renewal of the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up going five furlongs, both scheduled for the grass, are among 0 stakes, six graded, worth $2.6 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program headlined by the 148th renewal of the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

First race post time is 10:30 a.m. (EST).

Bred and owned by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds, Circling the Drain most recently broke slowly and was never involved winding up seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio April 15 at Laurel Park. Two horses from that race, winner Perform and fifth-place finisher Coffeewithchris, are entered to make their next start in the Preakness.

Prior to the Tesio, Circling the Drain had alternated firsts and seconds through his first four races before running third behind Hayes Strike and Coffeewithchris in Laurel’s 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 18.

“We weren’t terribly disappointed in the Tesio,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “It was just sort of put a line through it, regroup, and hopefully we can get him back on track.”

Russell has always had grass in the back of her mind for Circling the Drain, a gelded son of West Coast out of the Cozzene mare Who’s Cozy. Cozzene was the champion turf horse of 1985 following his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) while Who’s Cozy placed three times in grass stakes including a third in the 2005 Lake George (G3).

“We always kind of thought he was kind of that big, two-turn, turfy-type moving horse,” Russell said. “He seemed to be doing well on the dirt so we didn’t want to change a whole lot. Actually, we have had him up at Fair Hill training and he’s been galloping out back on the grass and he seems to really travel well over it. He enjoys it out there, so you hope he takes to it in the afternoon.”

Russell’s former boss, two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, will send out Blue Diamond Stud Farm’s homebred Wonderful Justice. The bay son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify began his career with two straight wins this year including the 1 1/16-mile Black Gold at Fair Grounds before finishing a troubled ninth in the April 7 Transylvania (G3) at Keeneland.

“He didn’t run very well at Keeneland,” Cox said. “He started out two-for-two, and he’s doing well.”

Corrigan Racing Stable, Inc. and Tom Campbell’s Nagirroc has never been worse than third in six starts, winning the six-furlong Futurity (G3) over the Aqueduct turf last fall in his stakes debut. Since then the bay Lea colt has run third by 2 ¼ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), third by a length in the Eddie Logan – both last year – and second by a length in the Transylvania in his 2023 season opener.

Mark Grier’s A Western Yarn has raced six times with two wins, both coming in three tires going the Murphy distance. He comes out of a third in the one-mile Columbia March 11 at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Arnaud Delacour.

“[He’s] doing good,” Delacour said. “A very honest horse. Probably a mile is as far as he wants to go. He has always been consistent, and we have always liked him.”

Three Chimneys Farm’s Funtastic Again, trained by Wesley Ward, won the one-mile Leonatus and was third behind subsequent Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Two Phil’s after setting the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) March 25, both races coming over Turfway’s all-weather course.

Also entered are 2022 Ellis Park Juvenile winner Top Recruit, Fadethenoise, Kingfish Stevens and Moonstrike.

That’s Right Ready to Roll in $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint

Three weeks later than originally planned, James Shannon Jr.’s Grade 3 winner That’s Right is set to launch his 4-year-old campaign in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Saturday at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Trained by Parx-based Michael Moore, That’s Right was scratched from the April 29 King T. Leatherbury at Laurel Park when the 5 ½-furlong turf sprint was rained off the grass. The McKay is contested at five furlongs, a distance where That’s Right is undefeated in three tries.

“He’s the same. He’s basically just waiting to run. We wanted to run that day and unfortunately they got all that rain and took it off, but we’re ready to run,” Moore said. “I think the five-eighths probably helps us. I don’t know who’s going to be in this one but that’s what he was real good at last year. He’s so quick out of the gate, so hopefully that helps us.”

That’s Right has not raced since finishing fifth after setting the pace in the six-furlong Carle Place last October at Aqueduct. He went four-for-nine in 2022 including stakes wins in the 5 ½-furlong My Frenchman in July at Monmouth Park and five-furlong Turf Monster (G3) in September, both in front-running fashion.

The Turf Monster came on Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Day, the biggest event of the year at Parx. Moore isn’t concerned about the atmosphere that will be surrounding Pimlico on Preakness Day.

“He’s a pretty level-headed horse. That type of stuff doesn’t bother him, fortunately,” Moore said. “That obviously will be a real big crowd, but I don’t think that should be a factor for him.”

That’s Right has fired a pair of half-mile bullet works at Parx since missing the Leatherbury, going in 47.57 seconds May 6 and 47.64 May 13, respectively the fastest of 39 and 33 horses.

“He’s been doing that pretty consistently each week,” Moore said. “We’ve basically just waiting to run to get his season started.”

Crown’s Way Racing and NBS Stable’s Smokin’ Jay won the six-furlong Allied Forces and ran second in the seven-furlong Carle Place on the Belmont Park turf and was third in the five-furlong Janus at Gulfstream in 2021 before kicking off 2022 in the McKay Turf Sprint, where he ran second by 1 ½ lengths to Carotari. The 5-year-old Cairo Prince gelding has won one of five subsequent starts, a 2023 season-opening optional claiming allowance triumph going five furlongs March 4 at Gulfstream.

Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher and Michael Dubb’s Artemus Citylimits is a 6-year-old Temple City gelding that has been third or better in 21 of 24 lifetime starts, six of them wins, with $533,236 in purse earnings. Last fall he was second by a neck in the six-furlong Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2) and third by 1 ½ lengths to two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal in the 5 ½-furlong Woodford (G2) at Keeneland. Artemus Citylimits finished 11th after racing near the pace in the 5 ½-furlong Shakertown (G2) April 8 in his lone 2023 start.

Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and Sterling Stables’ Beer Can Man won the 2020 Cecil B. DeMille (G3) going one mile in his stakes debut and has placed in five stakes since, including the 6 ½-furlong Joe Hernandez (G2) and San Simeon (G3) last winter at Santa Anita before going to the bench. Elevated to first in the 2021 Turf Monster after crossing the wire second, Beer Can Man returned from more than a year layoff to run fifth as the favorite, beaten two lengths, in a 5 ½-furlong allowance April 22 at Keeneland.

Gordon Keys’ homebred Grateful Bred was also scratched from the Leatherbury in what would have been his 7-year-old debut and returns for another try in the McKay, having finished fourth by less than four lengths last year. Popular winner of the 2021 Maryland Million Turf Sprint, Grateful Bred went winless with four seconds in seven starts last year; none of his four runner-up finishes came by more than a length.

Breakthrough, winner of the 2022 Wolf Hill at Monmouth Park; multiple dirt stakes winner Kenny Had a Notion; Nothing Better, a two-time turf sprint stakes winner last year; Uncle Ernie, three times stakes-placed on dirt with one career grass start; Coppola, Fore Harp and Noble Emotion are also entered.

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