Clawback’s connections keep is simple

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The comment lines for Clawback’s first two races are not “wiped out at the start” or “hooked serious classics contender,” but they easily could be. Just as easily as the next two could be “relatively smooth sailing” and “smooth sailing” for the Put It Back colt who goes in Saturday’s Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes at Aqueduct.

Clawback is the one to beat in the six-furlong Capossela after a five-length win in a similar spot in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes going the same distance Jan. 21 at the Big A. He’s in the Capossela after his owners Seth Klarman and William Lawrence and trainer Rick Violette resisted temptations to stretch him out for last weekend’s Gotham Stakes and go on the road to the spring classics.

“It was very very tempting to try and experiment in the Gotham, to see if we should stretch him out,” Rick Violette said Friday from South Florida, where he was attending two days of meetings with the National Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “He’s bred like a sprinter. He’s out of a Dixieland Band mare, so you could speculate he’d go long, but you can also take a shot of getting to the bottom of him and him not bouncing back. He looks like a sprinter and hasn’t grown as much as you’d like to see him grow. So we’re staying the course. He’s definitely a serious sprinter.”

Races like the Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard and King’s Bishop Stakes on the Travers Stakes undercard are long-range goals for Clawback, along with the Breeders’ Cup Sprint way down the road.

In the meantime he’ll contend with six opponents in the Capossela, including undefeated two-time stakes winner Whiskey Romeo, New York-bred stakes winner Weekend Hideaway, and impressive maiden winner Maleeh.

Clawback will also deal with what will most likely be an off track after snow, rain, and a wintry mix hit the New York area the last few days, so much that NYRA called off Friday’s card. Violette hopes Clawback’s athleticism will be enough even if he doesn’t handle the off track.

That athleticism kept him in three of his first four races, especially his debut on closing day at Saratoga last September.

Breaking from the No. 2 post, Clawback was wiped out at the start when Stage Street broke outward from the rail, causing a chain reaction that also affected favored Revolutionary. Both colts recovered, Clawback better than recent Withers Stakes winner Revolutionary, but neither could get past Always in a Tiz in the stretch.

Clawback hooked eventual Gotham winner Vyjack in his second start and finished second. Two spots back was eventual Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Orb. That race came about two months after his debut, a break necessitated by the usual minor ailments young horses usually can’t avoid.

“Just little 2-year-old stuff,” Violette said. “We had to skip a breeze. A little bit of a shin at one point. Didn’t eat well another time. Just stuff you need to pay attention to and can’t ignore. We just had to wait until he was on all eight cylinders.”

No problems awaited his third start and Clawback won on the inner track easily Dec. 13, a race that came a little more than a month before his Winkfield score.

“He’s kept good company. He’s been surrounded by very, very talented horses from his first start on,” Violette said.