April 23, 2024

Bobby’s Wicked One aims to defend Thanksgiving Classic title from Manny Wah, Nitrous

Bobby's Wicked One wins the Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds 2019
Bobby's Wicked One wins the 2019 Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds (Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir)

At this time last year, Bobby’s Wicked One found the Thanksgiving Classic Stakes the ideal spot to rebound from a pair of poor losses. Trainer Al Stall hopes that history repeats itself as the feast-or-famine sprinter returns to defend his title in Thursday’s $125,000 feature on opening day at Fair Grounds.

Two things are different, however, this time. Bobby’s Wicked One enters off a five-month layoff, unlike in 2019 when he was making his second start back from a similar freshening. More significantly, he had only two rivals in a scratch-reduced field last Thanksgiving, while he’ll contend with seven here including Grade 1-placed performers Manny Wah and Nitrous.

Bobby’s Wicked One has the horse-for-course angle in his favor. Sporting a 5-for-6 mark at Fair Grounds, he sustained his only local loss when trying to route early in his career. The son of Speightstown is unbeaten here over this 6-furlong trip, including his wire jobs in the Thanksgiving Classic and Jan. 18 Duncan F. Kenner. His ensuing two starts were flops, double-digit lasts in the Apr. 18 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at Oaklawn and June 6 Aristides at Churchill downs.

But Bobby’s Wicked One has back class even aside from his local heroics, notably his victory in the 2019 Commonwealth (G3) and runner-up effort to champion Mitole in the Churchill Downs S. (G1). The 4-1 chance will try to summon his best with regular rider Miguel Mena from post 4.

Manny Wah rates as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line following his fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Yet the Wayne Catalano pupil has gone winless since a Sept. 2019 Churchill allowance. More often settling for minor awards, Manny Wah was third to Omaha Beach in last year’s Malibu (G1), and he filled the same spot in the aforementioned Count Fleet and Aristides. James Graham picks up the mount on the Will Take Charge colt, who also placed in the track-and-trip Sugar Bowl as a juvenile as well as in the Lecomte (G3) as a sophomore.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Nitrous, the 7-2 second choice, has also been thereabouts while missing the winner’s circle since the 2019 Bachelor at Oaklawn. A near-misser in last summer’s Woody Stephens (G1), the son of Tapit rolled from far back to take fourth in the Count Fleet, and he secured better early position when beaten all of a head in third in the Oct. 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). Nitrous figures to get plenty of pace, as well as a ground-saving passage with new rider Adam Beschizza.

Landeskog, who faded to last as the 9-10 favorite in the De Francis, looms as the potential pace rival for Bobby’s Wicked One. The lightly raced 4-year-old has yet to capture a stakes, but he was second to Nitrous in the Bachelor and runner-up in last fall’s Gallant Bob (G2) in his finale for Doug O’Neill. Landeskog showed high speed to win off the bench in his Ellis Park debut for Brad Cox, and the Munnings gelding projects another forward trip here. Colby Hernandez rides from post 6.

Six-time stakes star Mr Money Bags hasn’t had as much success outside his native Texas or New Mexico, but the consistent gelding brings a 14-8-1-3 record. Third to Chief Cicatriz in the David M. Vance at Remington two back, Mr Money Bags subsequently joined Danny Pish and finished third in a turf sprint at the same venue. The 9-2 chance is tactically drawn on the outside with Carlos Marquez.

New Jersey-bred veteran Chublicious, who mounted a comeback this summer as a 9-year-old, has tried this race twice before. Second to Yockey’s Warrior in 2017, he was fifth in the 2018 running, his final start until resurfacing in August. Rounding out the field are Tringale, runner-up to Bobby’s Wicked One here a year ago, and He’s Smokin Now, fourth versus fellow sophomores in the Oct. 14 Jersey Shore.