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Most Valuable Pony (July 13-19): Aquaphobia

by Jeremy Plonk

July 20, 2020

Each Monday, I’ll select my Most Valuable Pony from the previous week’s racing action around the country. Who won the week? It could be a breakout performer, a known stakes commodity or the horse lifting the most loot. Chime in on Twitter @Xpressbet with your thoughts on who should be each week’s MVP.

July 13-19, 2020

MVP: Aquaphobia

Owner: Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher, Hooties Racing LLC and Skychai Racing, LLC

Trainer: Mike Maker

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Performance: The 7-year-old veteran earned his first major stakes win when pouncing late to capture the July 18 Grade 1 $315,000 United Nations at Monmouth Park. Under all-time leading local rider Joe Bravo, Aquaphobia reeled in loose leading Paret to secure the 10-1 upset over the likes of Grade 1 winner Arklow in the 1-3/8 miles test. This son of Giant’s Causeway and Grade 1-winning sprinter Pussycat Doll became another in a long line of high-dollar claims for Mike Maker to make their mark in these turf marathon graded stakes. Aquaphobia was claimed for $62,500 in January at Gulfstream Park.

On Tap: Aquaphobia has raced at middle distances throughout most of his career, so he’s at a cross-roads now after this score. The Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day Sept. 5 at a mile and one-eighth could fit nicely. There’s also the Aug. 29 Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga if they choose to add more distance. Maker typically supports the Kentucky Downs schedule in September with options like the Tourist Mile on Sept. 7 on the cut-back or the Sept. 12 Kentucky Turf Cup at a mile and one-half. There’s not an obvious Breeders’ Cup divisional fit for him via the Mile or Turf, so his next start could determine if he’ll head in either direction.

Honorable Mentions: The big one went to Authentic, who scored his third graded stakes win of the season by leading wire to wire in the July 18 $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park. The 3-5 favorite worked harder than expected in holding off Ny Traffic by a nose. At Saratoga, Yaupon announced his presence as a 3-year-old sprinter to watch. He rolled to 2-for-2 lifetime in a July 18 allowance, coasting home 6 furlongs in 1:09.33 for a Steve Asmussen barn deep with dashers. Meanwhile, the Into Mischief filly Dayoutoftheoffice notched her second blowout win in two starts by romping to a 6-length victory in the July 16 Schuylerville. Tim Hamm trains the 19-1 upsetter. Finally, turf sprinter Wellabled rocketed to the front and led all the way in the July 15 Honor the Hero Stakes at Canterbury Park. The 7-year-old alum of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf won for the eighth time in just 15 career starts.