Gretzky the Great to Make 2021 Debut in John Battaglia

Gretzky the Great to Make 2021 Debut in John Battaglia

By   and  BloodHorse

With qualifying points toward the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on the line, the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes Feb. 26 at Turfway Park has drawn a strong overflow field of 13 horses.

The 1 1/16-mile race, which is run on the all-weather track, offers points toward the Derby in increments of 10-4-2-1 to the first four finishers.

One of two highweights in the field will be Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Gretzky the Great. The 3-year-old Nyquist  colt is already a grade 1 winner on the turf, having picked up his first top-level victory at 2 in the Summer Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine.

Gretzky the Great’s first trip out of his native Canada came in November at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America (G1T). Despite breaking well from the gate, the colt was muscled out by other runners ahead of the stretch run and faded, finishing sixth. It was the first time in five starts he had finished off the board.

“He got a little banged up in the Breeders’ Cup,” said trainer Mark Casse. “He couldn’t open his eye the next day after the race. It took him a little while to get over that but he’s come back, he’s trained well, and we’re looking forward to getting him going.”

Gretzky the Great has been training at Palm Meadows ahead of the John Battaglia and recently posted a four-furlong move Feb. 19 on the dirt. He was clocked in :50 flat.

“He’s training well,” said Casse. “We were anxious to get him back going. We had talked about possibly giving him a start on the dirt, but nothing lined up great for us, so we decided to come back here on the Tapeta at Turfway. We’ll have to figure out what direction we go from there, whether it’s dirt or turf or Woodbine. He is a Canadian-bred, so he is eligible to the Queen’s Plate.”

Gretzky the Great will break from the rail under Gerardo Corrales.

“I’ve said this a million times—Tapeta is easier on them, so you don’t have to have them quite as fit,” said Casse. “That’s one of the reasons we’re there. We just didn’t feel like dirt-wise he was ready yet, so this was a little bit of a compromise. Got a good post position, hopefully he comes away from there running, and we’ll go from there.”

The co-highweight in Friday’s field will be Catman, a 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy  trained by Mike Maker. Like Gretzky the Great, Catman became a stakes winner at 2 when he took home the Laurel Futurity at Pimlico Race Course.

The Battaglia will be the second start of 2021 for Catman, who enters off a fifth-place run in the Jan. 31 Texas Turf Mile Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park. Campaigned by Paradise Farms, David Staudacher, John Piehowicz, Angelo Carlesimo, and Maker, he will partner with Emmanuel Esquivel from post 11.


Turfway Park, Friday, February 26, 2021, Race 5

  • STK
  • 1 1/16m
  • All Weather Track
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo
  • 8:16 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Gretzky the Great (ON) Gerardo Corrales 124 Mark E. Casse
2 The Predicament (KY) Rafael Manuel Hernandez 118 Timothy E. Hamm
3 Twirling Mamba (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Albin Jimenez 118 John Alexander Ortiz
4 Like the King (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Rafael Bejarano 118 Wesley A. Ward
5 Kinetic Sky (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Deshawn L. Parker 118 Brad H. Cox
6 Pico d’Oro (KY) John McKee 122 William E. Morey
7 Hard Rye Guy (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Chris Landeros 118 Ian R. Wilkes
8 Hush of a Storm (NY) Santiago Gonzalez 118 William E. Morey
9 Fort Moultrie (MD) Rodney A. Prescott 118 J. Reeve McGaughey
10 Notable Exception (KY) Declan Cannon 118 Jack Sisterson
11 Catman (KY) Emmanuel Esquivel 124 Michael J. Maker
12 Warrior in Chief (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Robby Albarado 118 Kenneth G. McPeek
13 Bakwena (KY) Rodney A. Prescott 118 Darrin Miller
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