Friday night’s renewal of the $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park is coming up deeper than usual, with Breeders’ Cup participants The Mackem Bullet and Somelikeithotbrown squaring off in the 1 1/16-mile test. Further international flavor comes courtesy of Team Valor’s new recruit, Bermejo.
European import The Mackem Bullet was only sixth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), her American and two-turn debut on a yielding course at Churchill Downs. But subsequently transferred to Wesley Ward, the daughter of Society Rock crushed an entry-level allowance over a mile on Turfway’s Polytrack on New Year’s Eve. Luan Machado will be back aboard as she breaks from the far outside post 12.
Although the Battaglia marks her first stakes attempt versus males, The Mackem Bullet had raced in open company in her first three outings for trainer Brian Ellison, including a five-length romp at Carlisle. She progressed markedly thereafter and just missed in photo finishes to Fairyland in both the Lowther (G2) and Cheveley Park (G1). In between those efforts, she was privately purchased by Katsumi Yoshida. It would be no surprise if her internationally minded connections were entertaining thoughts of Royal Ascot this summer.
Somelikeithotbrown, last seen holding on stubbornly for third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), now tries to transfer his game to a synthetic surface – while giving The Mackem Bullet five pounds. The Mike Maker trainee has been admirably consistent on turf. After romping in a New York-bred maiden at Saratoga, he placed second in the With Anticipation (G3) and Pilgrim (G3). The well-named son of Big Brown and Marilyn Monroan figures to be prominent from post 7 with new rider Rafael Hernandez.
Maker also sends out Calumet Farm’s homebred Kentucky Allstar, who has class concerns but comes off a local allowance score. Ward is likewise double-handed with another filly, Ramsey homebred Naughty Joker. Runner-up to Dunph in the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion S., the daughter of Into Mischief broke her maiden next out at Churchill in her two-turn bow.
The wild card, French-bred Bermejo, ships in from Tampa Bay Downs for new trainer Arnaud Delacour. By the Exceed and Excel stallion Bungle in the Jungle, the €30,000 ($35,274) Arqana yearling wired his lone outing for owner/trainers Carlos and Yann Lerner. Bermejo was drawn widest of all in post 11 in that August 11 maiden at Pornichet, but had the tactical speed to cross over, and drew off in style. While he’s stepping up in class, at least he is proven going a left-handed route on synthetic. Bermejo has landed in post 11 again, with Angel Serpa and Lasix.
Echo Alpha Six, second to Ward’s promising Hawaiian Noises in his prior Turfway appearance, outran his 22-1 odds when third in a Fair Grounds turf allowance in his latest. Wallace had mixed results in Woodbine stakes, winning the Soaring Free but unplaced in the Victoria and Summer (G1), and most recently finished third in Aqueduct’s off-the-turf Atlantic Beach.
Arlington debut winner Dabo, unplaced in turf and dirt allowances, reverts to Polytrack for Dale Romans. Dynamic Racer also has a fondness for the surface judging by how he moved forward to take a Turfway allowance. Over Protective finally shed his maiden status here in his fifth try, and Mahoning Valley winners Zulu Legend and Maya Solomea round out the field.
The Battaglia serves as a stepping stone to the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), a Kentucky Derby (G1) points race on March 9.
Earlier in the 4TH race, the four-year-old full brother to Bobby’s Kitten and Camelot Kitten, Cardiac Kitten, steps up into allowance company. Trained by Ward for the Ramseys, the May 28 foal made a winning debut here December 1 and aims to go two-for-two over the same mile trip.