Diane Cotter's homebred TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road) stylishly passed Saturday's class test in the $100,000 Whirlaway S. at Aqueduct, rallying to an easy two-length decision in his stakes debut. A maiden and allowance/optional claiming scorer in his last two starts at Laurel Park, the Graham Motion-trained sophomore colt posted his third straight win and completed 1 1/16 miles over the muddy inner track in 1:45 3/5.
Count Fleet S. runner-up J J's Lucky Train (Silver Train) showed the way early, recording a contested opening split of :23 2/5 before getting clear and slowing the pace down, with a half-mile in :48 4/5 and three-quarters in 1:14. Toby's Corner took back under new jockey Eibar Coa, rating in last among five rivals, and raced about five lengths off the pace down the backstretch. Preachintothedevil (Pulpit), Rescind the Trade (Put It Back) and Arthur's Tale (Bernardini) all attempted to make a run at the leader entering the far turn, but Coa was still waiting to ask his mount.
Toby's Corner was guided off the rail approaching the stretch, as J J's Lucky Train turned back his initial challengers, and went after the pacesetter in earnest after straightening for home, closing with a rush on the outside. The chestnut showed signs of greeness as he resisted his rider's initial urges to switch leads and tried to lug in, but he was clearly going much the best and cruised to the lead in deep stretch.
"I was a little concerned about how he would handle the sloppy track, but he did well," assistant trainer Adrian Rolls said. "The only instructions I gave the jockey were to let the horse relax, and put him where he was comfortable, which is what happened. I thought he made a pretty good move around the bend, and thought he would get there. He was looking around a little bit -- he did that his last race, too -- but he straightened right out. It was a good effort. We'll see how he comes out of this before looking ahead to his next race."
The $250,000 Gotham S. (G3) on March 5 will offer the opportunity for graded earnings if his connections elect to run back at Aqueduct.
"I tried to relax the horse first thing, and he had a nice kick," Coa explained. "I think he's a nice horse, and I think he'll go the distance, too."
Off as the near 5-1 fourth choice, Toby's Corner paid $11.60, $4.70 and $3.20. J J's Lucky Train, the 8-5 favorite, held second by 3 3/4 lengths over Preachintothedevil. It was another two lengths back to Arthur's Tale in fourth, and the 9-5 Rescind the Trade completed the order of finish. Norman Asbjornson (Real Quiet) and Sky Music (Sky Mesa) were both scratched.
Out of the winning Mister Frisky mare Brandon's Ride, the Florida-bred Toby's Corner counts stakes winner Bushmills Best (Concerto) as a half-brother. He finished third when making his debut at Delaware Park last October and has now won three-of-four career starts, earning $97,240.