Nicodemus got up just in time to deny front-running Stan the Man and earn his black-type badge in the GIII Westchester S. at Belmont on Kentucky Derby day. Stalking from a two-wide third as Stan the Man registered an opening quarter in :23.08, the 8-1 shot ran in a joint second with longshot Hoffenheim (Midnight Lute) through a half in :45.45. Shaking free of that foe on the far turn, the bay confronted the leader in the lane and the pair battled stride-for-stride to the wire with Nicodemus getting the win by a determined neck. It was the third win of the day for trainer Linda Rice and fourth overall. The conditioner, who captured the Aqueduct winter meet title, won race 8 in a dead-heat with Invest (Super Saver), race 9 with Big Gemmy (Gemologist) and race 12 with First Forever (Take Charge Indy).
“This was a nice win,” Rice said. “[Mike] Luzzi did a good job and put him in a nice spot. It’s nice to pick up this graded stakes win following an effort like that. I was telling the owners that I thought he’d be better at one-turn and that turned out to be the case today. We’ll certainly enjoy this win before planning where we’ll want to run next.”
“I was a little teeny bit worried about being too close,” said Luzzi, who was riding Nicodemus for the first time. “Just not knowing the horse and watching his other races and the advice that Linda [Rice] gave me, I thought there would be one or two other horses in front of me. He placed himself there and I wasn’t going to take it away from him. I was pretty confident turning for home.”
Bred by WinStar Farm, Nicodemus was part of the group of colts owned by Kenny Troutt’s operation in partnership with the China Horse Club and SF Racing and made his first two racetrack appearances under the care of Rodolphe Brisset. Second in his six-panel unveiling at Churchill Downs last June, he earned his diploma next out going a mile at Ellis Park July 7. The bay was privately purchased by Avram and Rhoda Freedberg’s Everything’s Cricket Racing and Larry Goichman after RNAing for $270,000 at the Fasig- Tipton July Sale and was transferred to Rice.
Runner-up in Saratoga’s Curlin S. first up for the Rice barn on less than three weeks rest, Nicodemus was subsequently shelved for the season and returned with a fourth in the slop at Aqueduct Feb. 21. Besting his stablemate American Power (Power Broker) by a head in another sloppy Big A allowance Mar. 10, the colt was fourth after a wide trip in the nine-panel GIII Excelsior S. last time in Ozone Park Apr. 6.
Nicodemus is the 43rd graded stakes winner and 84th black-type winner for his leading sire Candy Ride. Winner of the 2006 GII Raven Run S., Leah’s Secret was purchased by WinStar Farm for $525,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November Sale and put in training with trainer Todd Pletcher. She went on to win the GII Chilukki S., GII Top Flight H. and GIII Chicago H. in 2008 before joining the WinStar broodmare band. Her 3-year-old filly Nikki Beach (Distorted Humor) summoned $410,000 from owner Mike Ball at Keeneland September and is still unraced. The 16-year-old mare is also responsible for a juvenile colt named Diverstiture (Pioneerof the Nile). She was given a year off after producing that May 5 foal, but had an Exaggerator colt Mar. 21 of this year.
Originally published in the May 5, 2019 edition of the Thoroughbred Daily News.
Photo credit: Chelsea Durand/Coglianese