In Atoned’s only start at Aqueduct, he stumbled after clipping heels with another horse but still managed to finish second to Court Vision by a neck in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in November 2007. That race, in which Atoned turned in a game effort but came up just short, was emblematic of his career until last October, when he rallied to win the Pegasus Stakes (G3) by a nose over Ready Set at The Meadowlands.
On Saturday, Atoned will try for his second graded stakes win in the $200,000 Excelsior Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, where the Florida-bred colt has been installed as a 6-1 pick in a field of eight 3-year-olds and up.
Prior to the Pegasus, Atoned had grown used to being a bridesmaid, with seven runner-up finishes in his 17 starts, including a neck-length defeat at the hands of Big Truck in last year’s Tampa Bay Derby (G3).
Cot Campbell, the president of Dogwood Stable, the Aiken, S.C.-based operation that owns Atoned, said he’s expecting another big effort from his horse in the Excelsior. But he was quick to point out that if his horse comes up just short once more, he has nothing to apologize for.
“I think his chances are good,” Campbell said. “He’s run good at Aqueduct. He was second in the Remsen in a race I think he could have won with a better break. I expect him to run well. He’s awfully consistent. He’s certainly had ‘seconditis’ in his career, but there are worse things to have, and I’d sure like to have a barn full of horses like Atoned. He doesn’t owe us a thing.”
Atoned was bred by Anthony and Mitzi Robinson and purchased by Dogwood Stable for $165,000 at OBS in February 2007. He has three wins and ranks second in the Excelsior field with $443,757 in career earnings. John Velazquez, who rode Atoned in the Tampa Bay Derby and the Remsen, will be aboard the son 4-year-old of Repent once again when he breaks from the No. 7 post.
Atoned has run at the Excelsior’s nine-furlong distance six times, but the Pegasus is his only win at the distance. He had a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure for that race. Atoned tried turf for the first time in his last start, finishing fourth to Victory Alleged in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes in Oldsmar in February. Campbell said a return to dirt in a nine-furlong race might be just what his horse needs to return to the winner’s circle.
“I think nine furlongs at Aqueduct is a splendid spot for him,” Campbell said. “We tried him on turf, and it didn’t seem to move him up any, and I think he’s a bit better horse on dirt. He’s an easy horse to train and ride, but a few times, the riders hit the front two quickly with him. He has a run for about three-sixteenths of a mile, so he’s a horse that has to be timed just right.”
The field also includes Barrier Reef (5-2), Alaazo (12-1), Chilean horses Real Merchant (10-1) and Kurbat (4-1), Florida-bred True Resurgence (6-1), Cool Coal Man (7-2) and Giant Moon (12-1).
True Resurgence, bred by Ray Adam, finished third in his last outing behind Barrier Reef and Real Merchant in the $71,305 Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct in February. He’s hit the board in three of his four tries at the nine-furlong distance. The 5-year-old gelding has four wins in 20 career starts for $209,095. True Resurgence will start from the No. 5 post under usual rider Jeffrey Sanchez.
Barrier Reef, who drew the rail and will run under Ramon Dominguez, has won three straight races at Aqueduct. In addition to the Stymie Handicap, he won the $67,795 Evening Attire Handicap in January. The 4-year-old colt has won five of his 11 starts for $226,871.
Cool Coal Man, who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park last year, leads the field with $491,974 in earnings. He most recently ran fifth behind Florida-bred Smooth Air in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in Hallandale Beach on March 14. Cool Coal Man drew the No. 6 post and will run under Charles Lopez.
Kurbat made a successful U.S. debut at Laurel Park in February, winning a $32,000 optional-claiming race by three lengths with a 100 Beyer. He drew the No. 4 post and will have Joe Talamo aboard.