Rewarding the Little Guy

Trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci netted the most points and the $18,000 top prize for winning the New York Racing Association’s ‘Under 20’s Claiming Challenge’ during the Aqueduct winter meet. A concept launched last April at the Belmont spring/summer meet, the Under 20’s Claiming Challenge was open to trainers with 20 or fewer horses in their barns. Points were earned based on their horses’ performances in all winners’ claiming races at Aqueduct through the end of the winter meet, which closed March 31.

“It feels great. It’s been hard work, and we haven’t been in New York long,” Kantarmaci told the NYRA Press Office. “Here, I work together with my family. It’s not a surprise for us. Our goals are to continue and improve. In our country (Turkey), we won all kinds of stakes races. So, we knew we could be all right over here. Right now, our goal is to be better. We’ll always try our best.”

The 27-year-old Kantarmaci came to the United States in 2016 from Turkey. As a conditioner in one of the country’s most challenging circuits, Kantarmaci saddled 11 total winners in 36 starts during the Aqueduct winter meet, tying for the 11th most. In Turkey, Kantarmaci worked for his father Tuncay, a successful trainer, where he served as an exercise rider as well.

Looking to Cement a Legacy
Australia’s super-mare Winx has her sights on a grand farewell in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, set for Day 2 of The Championships at Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse, on Friday.In what will be her final appearance, Winx will look to topple Arrogate as the all-time leading money earner with over $17M in prize money.

Regular rider Hugh Bowman will be aboard as one of racing’s all-time greats breaks from the 9 hole in a race she has won the past two years. All told, Winx has prevailed in 36 of her 42 lifetime starts including a remarkable 33 wins in a row.

“We prefer to be wider than in close to eliminate the problems you might get early in a race, and Hugh’s always been happy to be out of trouble,” co-owner Peter Tighe told the Associated Press.

Two More Chances Remain
With the first Saturday in May fast approaching, just two more prep races with Derby implications remain: the Lexington Stakes and the Arkansas Derby. Offering just 20 points to its winner, on paper the Lexington is the race with less likely to produce a Derby contender. However, a closer look at the field reveals a slew of horses capable of making a run for the roses.

Four horses already within striking distance of qualifying are Anothertwistafate (22nd), Sueno (24th), Knicks Go (28th) and Harvey Wallbanger (29th). With the Arkansas Derby offering 100 points for first and 50 for second, the aforementioned horses all need a win and then some help to punch their ticket to Churchill Downs.

Trained by Ben Colebrook, Knicks Go has enjoyed the most success at Keeneland his home track, shocking the world in last fall’s Grade I Breeder’s Futurity at odds to 70/1 while coming back to finish a game second in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, also held on the Keeneland strip. Since that time, there’s been only limited success with a 7th place finish at the Sam F. Davis Stakes in Tampa and a 5th place showing in the Gotham at Aqueduct.

On the cusp of Derby eligibility, Northern California-based Anothertwistafate has taken an unconventional road to the Blue Grass state. After a trio of convincing wins at Golden Gate Fields, including a triumph in the El Camino Real Derby, trainer Blaine Wright opted to take the show to the shadow of the Mexican border and Sunland Park, finishing second in the Grade II Sunland Park Derby. After showing loyalty to Northern California stalwart Juan Hernandez, Wright and owner Peter Redekop have given the mount to national star Javier Castellano on Saturday.

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