Cooke Creek On Target For Rematch With Courvoisier, Smarten Up In Feb. 5 Withers - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Cooke Creek On Target For Rematch With Courvoisier, Smarten Up In Feb. 5 Withers

Cooke Creek on target for G3 Withers; Undefeated Jet Force set for stakes debut

Cheyenne Stable's Cooke Creek breezed a half-mile in 50.58 over the Belmont dirt training track Jan. 19 in preparation for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on Feb. 5 at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y. The nine-furlong test for sophomores offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Cooke Creek is one of three Jeremiah O'Dwyer trainees stabled in New York at the barn of Belmont-based trainer Natalia Lynch along with Jet Force and Sibelius.

A dark bay son of Uncle Mo, Cooke Creek finished third as the mutuel favorite last out in the one-turn mile Jerome, contested over a sloppy and sealed main track on New Year's Day.

“Cooke Creek came back here [to Laurel] after the Jerome and I sent him back up to Belmont last week and he breezed there Wednesday,” O'Dwyer said. “He'll have one more breeze at Belmont – I'd love it to be Saturday, but I'll have to see how the weather is going to be. If all goes well, he'll have a nice five-furlong breeze next week and then run in the Withers.”

Cooke Creek made his first two starts at Delaware Park, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in September ahead of a driving half-length score around two turns in the one-mile Rocky Run in October.

He entered the Jerome from a runner-up effort to Rockefeller in the one-turn mile Grade 3 Nashua on Nov. 7 at Belmont.

Cooke Creek will enjoy a rematch in the Withers with Jerome-winner Courvoisier and runner-up Smarten Up. Although Cooke Creek garnered two Kentucky Derby points for his third-place Jerome effort and is currently 24th on the leaderboard, O'Dwyer said he's not thinking about the first Saturday in May just yet.

“The Withers is going to be another test. You're always hoping you might have a Derby horse, but they have to progress along to get there,” said O'Dwyer, whose past Derby trail success includes a win in the 2019 Grade 2 Remsen with Shotski. “This is the path we're taking and I think it's a good spot for him, going two turns up there. He seems to be fit and well and I think the two turns will help him.

“But the first three that ran in the Jerome are all going to be thinking the same thing – the further they go, the better they'll be,” O'Dwyer added. “The winner of the Jerome broke his maiden going a mile and an eighth up there and the [connections of the] second horse are adamant their horse wants to go further as well, so we're all thinking along the same line. That's why we run them – to find out.”

Orpen Horses' Jet Force, a sophomore daughter of Jimmy Creed, boasts a perfect record through two starts at Penn National. She breezed a half-mile in 53.06 Jan. 19 over the Belmont dirt training track.

A $17,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the Pennsylvania-bred chestnut graduated sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs on December 8 and followed up nine days later with a 2 3/4-length score in a six-furlong allowance sprint.

O'Dwyer said Jet Force is nominated to Saturday's $100,000 Xtra Heat, a six-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies at Laurel Park but could also consider the $100,000 Ruthless, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies on Feb. 6 at the Big A.

“She's going to sprint for now. She went an easy half and had a nice gallop out after,” O'Dwyer said. “We'll probably enter in the stakes at Laurel and see how it comes up and we have the Ruthless as a backup.”

Sibelius, a 4-year-old son of Not This Time owned by Jun. H. Park and Delia Nash, has made his last two starts at the Big A, winning a seven-furlong allowance sprint last out on Jan. 8.

“He's ran two nice races up there in New York,” O'Dwyer said. “We'll try and run him through his conditions first of all. There's one for him at the beginning of February going seven-eighths again.”

Bred in Kentucky by Taylor Brothers Properties and Pollock Farms, Sibelius graduated at second asking sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs in April at Keeneland ahead of off-the-board efforts in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Penn Mile in May, the six-furlong Concern in July over the Pimlico main and the seven-furlong Robert Hilton Memorial on August 27 at Charles Town.

O'Dwyer said Sibelius benefited from the more than three-month layoff out of the Charles Town effort.

“He was immature mentally more than anything else and a little bit physically, I guess,” O'Dwyer said. “When he threw in a couple of clunkers, there was nothing wrong with him physically and he was sound, but we just decided to take a step back. We gave him a little turn-out time and let him re-group. Thankfully, it worked. He came back really good and is after running two decent races off the layoff. We hope there's a bit more progression in him.”

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