Velazquez honored with Mike Venezia Memorial Award
Previous winners of the Venezia Award:
Note: The award was not given in 2005 nor from 2007-12
Competitive Edge, I Spent It highlight Hopeful
I Spent It enters the prestigious event off a convincing 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 10, overcoming a troubled trip to win from just off the pace for Tony Dutrow. He became the first winner for his sire when capturing his debut at Belmont Park on July 2 and I Spent It possesses the top BRIS Speed rating in the field, registering a 99 last time. Leading rider Javier Castellano sticks with the promising bay.
Bashart, a sharp winner of last year's Grade 2 With Anticipation at Saratoga, is also part of the 10-horse field. The War Front colt opened his 2014 campaign with a pair of unplaced finishes and will look attempt to rebound while making his first start for new trainer Michael Matz. Storm brings a three-race win streak into his stakes debut and the Pletcher-trained colt retains the services of Castellano.
Albano, Ben's Cat stand out in Parx stakes
Also exiting the Haskell is Just Call Kenny, who finished sixth in the nine-furlong test but only 2 3/4 lengths behind Albano. Hero of the six-furlong Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream in January, the Jump Start colt returned from a six-month break in early July to finish second by a half-length in the Long Branch, an ungraded prep for the Haskell.
The lightly-raced Protonico, from the barn of Todd Pletcher, adds blinkers after finishing a head behind subsequent Travers winner V. E. Day in the $100,000 Curlin at Saratoga. A mild 3-1 favorite there in just his fourth career start, the Giant's Causeway colt is joined by Curlin sixth-placer Joint Custody, a four-time stakes winner on the Maryland and Delaware circuits.
The Smarty Jones field also includes Almost Famous, third in the Ohio Derby and Matt Winn in his last two; Lynx, third in the Pegasus and runner-up in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie; and Grade 2-placed Classic Giacnroll, most recently fourth in the West Virginia Derby.
The venerable eight-year-old sprinter Ben's Cat will attempt to win the Grade 3, $300,000 Turf Monster Handicap for a third time on Monday. The Maryland-bred eight-year-old won the five-furlong contest in 2011 and 2012, but finished third behind returning rivals Stormofthecentury and Tightend Touchdown last year.
Micromanage, a Grade 3 winner at Gulfstream earlier this term, will be the one to beat if he contests the Grade 3, $200,000 Greenwood Cup over 1 1/2 miles. The Todd Pletcher trainee, successful by 8 1/2 lengths in the $100,000 Birdstone at Saratoga over 1 3/4 miles last time, was also entered in Saturday's Woodward at the Spa.
Also in the lineup are Argentinean Group 2 winner Ever Rider and Grade 3-placed Abraham, both allowance winners at Saratoga most recently; Birdstone runner-up Irsaal; Argentinean Group 1 winner Lideris, unplaced in both U.S. starts to date; and West Virginia Governor's runner-up Adirondack King, who owns a five-for-12 mark over the Parx main track.
Among the main contenders in the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap, a five-furlong dash for fillies and mares are Spun Cap, an overnight handicap winner against males at Ellis Park on August 2 following a year-long layoff. Other leading hopefuls are the stakes veterans Sweet Cassiopeia, Jewel of a Cat, Miss d'Oro, Quality Lass, Coarsegold, and Joya Real.
Competitive Yellow Ribbon on tap for Del Mar's Labor Day program
Miss Serendipity was the nose victress of the Gamely two back prior to a last-of-six run in the John C. Mabee three weeks ago. The Ron McAnally-trained six-year-old is a Group 1 winner in Argentina and appears to have brought that form with her to the United States, having also placed in the Santa Barbara Handicap and Santa Ana while finishing fourth in the Buena Vista and Paseana to account for her six tries stateside thus far. Brice Blanc takes back the mount from Rafael Bejarano, who rode Miss Serendipity in the Mabee.
Earlier, dual stakes hero Wake Up Nick seeks to move his record to a perfect four-for-four in the I'm Smokin against fellow unbeaten stakes winner Truely Quick. Sorrento third-placer Heart of Paradise highlights the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Zivo among several seeking Woodward upset
With the Saratoga training title in his sights, Chad Brown will saddle two runners on Saturday in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward.
At 5-1 on the morning line, the late-running Zivo is the shorter price of the uncoupled entry. Zivo enters the Woodward on a six-race winning streak that crescendoed with a last-to-first runaway victory in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap, which he won by three lengths over next-out Whitney winner Moreno, on July 5 at Belmont Park.
As a confirmed closer, pace might likely determine Zivo's chances in the Woodward.
"You can never predict (the pace)," Brown said. "I wish there was some more speed signed up for the race than what I see, but hopefully there will at least be an honest pace for him to run his race. When the gates open, you never really know who's going to break well, and what the jockeys have planned for the first part of the race. Hopefully (Moreno and Itsmyluckyday) engage each other sooner rather than later, and that will set it up for us."
Brown's other entrant is Last Gunfighter. The son of First Samurai has won nine of 18 starts, including six in a row from late 2012 into early 2013, and has hit the board in five others. In his latest start, Last Gunfighter finished fifth, beaten 10 3/4 lengths, in the Whitney.
"He got a good number in (the Whitney); he was very wide on both turns," Brown said. "He wasn't going to win the race, but I think he could have finished a lot closer than he did. He didn't disgrace himself at all finishing fifth. He lost a few lengths at every pole, so hopefully he can save some ground and pick up a piece of this, and who knows, maybe he's the one to grab them all at the end. He's training well enough that I believe he deserves another chance."
A year after pulling off an upset in the Woodward with Alpha, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping for a similar result with another Godolphin Racing-owned colt.
McLaughlin will send out Long River in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward. The chestnut son of 1992 Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer A.P. Indy is out of the Awesome Again mare Round Pond -- all Grade 1 winners.
"He has a Grade 1 pedigree, so to win a Grade 1 would be great," McLaughlin said. "It would put him in the stallion barn at Darley. That would be nice."
Long River won the Time for a Change to end his three-year-old season as well as the Evening Attire to open the 2014 campaign, both at Aqueduct, before finishing second by a neck as the favorite to Woodward contender Romansh in the Excelsior on March 22.
Since then, he was fifth in the Charles Town Classic, seventh in the Stephen Foster Handicao at Churchill Downs and fifth in the Monmouth Cup on July 27.
"We were in a little trouble and wide in that race, so he did run better than it looked like," McLaughlin said. "At Churchill he just didn't like the track, and he didn't run at all in Charles Town. It was a tough race but he's doing well, and we're hopeful."
Long River will race with blinkers for the first time in the Woodward, his 14th lifetime start.
"We feel like we've been a little disappointed in him. He trains great and he's a nice horse," McLaughlin said. "He's had excuses, but we're putting blinkers on and hope it makes him focus better and not be too keen in the race, because there's plenty of pace in there.
"Itsmyluckyday is putting blinkers on from the one hole and Moreno goes every time, so hopefully it'll just help us stalk in third or fourth and perform better. He started out the year great, and the last couple weren't that great."
Stephanoatsee will tackle Grade 1 company for just the second time in his career as part of a 10-horse field for the Woodward.
The Woodward will be the 18th lifetime start for Stephanoatsee and third since being transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito this spring. He was fourth in a one-mile allowance on June 28 at Belmont Park before rallying to be second by two lengths in a similar spot going 1 1/8 miles July 25 at Saratoga.
"I think he picked himself up again," Zito said. "Obviously, he was a horse with very good potential. Since he's gotten to Saratoga, he's done better. The first race we gave him at Belmont was pretty good. I think he's moving in the right direction, so you might as well go all the way and see how far he's moved up.
"Unfortunately, there was no pace last time and he still closed into it," Zito said. "That's always unusual for a horse to close into a slow pace. You hope for a bit more pace in here. You know Moreno, he's not going to rate. You just hope (Stephanoatsee) fires again.
"That's what I'm trying to do, trying to get a big win," he added. "He's a well-bred horse, obviously, and he's a nice horse to be around. He's the kind of horse that I always like to train. If I keep pushing him in the right direction, who knows?"
A five-year-old son of A.P. Indy out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, Stephanoatsee began his career with trainer Graham Motion and has tackled the likes of Alpha, Boisterous, Game On Dude, Richard's Kid and Willy Beamin over the years.
He has three wins, four seconds and a third with purse earnings of $286,600, his lone stakes victory coming in the 2012 Barbaro at Delaware Park. The same year, he was third in the Discovery Handicap and second in the Strub.
"I haven't been getting lucky with these post positions. I wish I was inside just to save some ground," Zito said. "Saratoga is not like some tracks where you're really at a disadvantage if you're outside. You have to have the horse, obviously, but he does have some credentials that he could do something good. If you look at it, he could do something good; that's what we're hoping for. He had kind of tailed off, but now I think he's getting back to what he used to be."
Tagg optimistic about Confrontation in Forego
Trainer Barclay Tagg issued an upbeat bulletin in the lead up to the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego at Saratoga on Saturday, in which his protégé, Confrontation, will make his graded stakes debut. A four-year-old gelding, Confrontation has won two straight and is unbeaten in three starts at Saratoga.
"He hasn't done anything wrong and he's won every race he's run at Saratoga, so he likes the track," Tagg said. "He's in tip-top shape, and I want to move him up to at least seven furlongs or a mile. This is a good step to go a mile later on. If he doesn't have to go too fast, he doesn't go too fast, but he wins. And if he has to go faster, he goes faster and he wins."
Confrontation, purchased for $35,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training sale in Timonium, Maryland, opened his career with three straight wins, including a 7 1/4-length debut score in a $50,000 maiden claiming race last year at Saratoga. His first start was the only time he has been dangled for a claiming price.
Following a third-place finish in March at Gulfstream Park and a second in May at Belmont Park, Confrontation cleared the second allowance condition by three-quarters of a length going six furlongs on July 5 at Belmont. Most recently, he cleared the third level with a 2 3/4-length victory going seven furlongs on August 8 at the Spa. The Forego also will be contested at seven furlongs.
"He's going from kindergarten to college," Tagg said of the rise in class from allowance company to the Forego. "Not even as a freshman -- he's starting his sophomore year."
Tagg, however, decided against running Confrontation in a softer spot, the restricted $100,000 Left Bank at one mile on September 5 at Belmont Park.
"I would have preferred maybe a Grade 3 or maybe a regular stakes first," Tagg said. "There is one on opening day at Belmont, but he's doing so well right now. He's just jumping out of his skin. He's dappled all over, he's feeling good, he's nice and sound. Sometimes you put something off like that, and the next thing you know you're not getting there. If there is ever a chance to try a Grade 1, now is it."
Confrontation has demonstrated versatility in his past two starts, rallying from eight lengths off the lead in sixth in his July win and setting the pace in his most recent outing. With that in mind, Tagg drew up the setup he'd like to see in the Forego.
"If he went to the front and won by 20, that would be the ideal trip," said Tagg. "That'd be really nice. Nobody complained about Secretariat winning by 31 lengths."
Pocahontas, Iroquois attract 60 noms to open Churchill's September meet
The names of 60 promising two-year-old stars are included on the rosters of horses nominated to compete in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas for juvenile fillies and the Grade 3, $100,000 Iroquois for juveniles, races that will kick-off their respective "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" and "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series that will determine the participants for the 2015 renewals of the spring classics at Churchill Downs.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois also begin the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile divisions, respectively, of the Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" series, and their winners will earn automatic starting spots in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile, along with a $10,000 travel stipend for the races to be run at Santa Anita Park on October 31-November 1.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois are part of a special Churchill Downs racing program that will feature four stakes events on September 6, the second day of the track's 12-day September Meet. Nomination rosters also have been issued for the day's other stakes races -- the 22nd running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack, a one-mile race for three-year-olds and up, and the 31st running of the $100,000 Locust Grove for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
The four events are among eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 scheduled during the upcoming September Meet, which opens on September 5 and concludes on September 28. Only the second racing meet scheduled exclusively during that month in Churchill Downs' 140-year history, September Meet racing will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during its four-week run. "Downs After Dark" night racing celebrations are set for opening night Friday and September 19.
The 2013 Pocahontas was won by Untapable, who finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer Steve Asmussen but rebounded this season with victories in the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, Fair Grounds Oaks and Rachel Alexandra. Cleburne won the Iroquois for trainer Dale Romans and traveled to Santa Anita for the Juvenile, but suffered an injury there that prevented him from participating in the event.
The Pocahontas attracted nominations of 25 juvenile fillies, a list headed by Angela Renee, the Todd Pletcher-trained runner-up in Saratoga's Adirondack; Take Charge Brandi, a winner at first asking under the Twin Spires and runner-up in Saratoga's Schuylerville for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas; Unbridled Reward, a 7 3/4-length debut winner at Churchill and runner-up in the track's Debutante for trainer Mark Casse; unbeaten A. P.'s Glory, who romped by 7 1/2 lengths in her Arlington debut prior to taking the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies for Arlington Park-based trainer James Divito; and Rachel's Ready, who finished third for conditioner David Vance in her most recent outing in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies.
Thirty-five colts and geldings were nominated to the Iroquois. That roster is headed by Hashtag Bourbon, a runaway winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile for trainer Kellyn Gorder; Mr. Z, a Lukas trainee who won at first asking at Churchill Downs and followed with runner-up finishes in the Saratoga Special and Sanford at the Spa; W V Jetsetter, third in the Saratoga Special and winner of the TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park for conditioner George Weaver; Holiday Camp, who ran last of six as the favorite in the Santa Anita Juvenile following an impressive debut victory over the Southern California track for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert; undefeated Private Prospect, victorious in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile and Prairie Gold Juvenile for trainer Michael Campbell; and Gotta Get Paid, saddled by Tom Amoss to a runner-up finish in the Mountaineer Juvenile.
Defending winner Pants On Fire as well as Grade 1 scorers Golden Ticket and Lea head 23 experienced and accomplished stakes veterans nominated to compete in the Ack Ack Handicap.
Pants On Fire scored a 2 1/4-length victory in the Ack Ack during last year's first September Meet at Churchill. The Kelly Breen charge traveled to Santa Anita to finish seventh in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile next out before shipping to Japan to complete his season with a last-place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt. The son of Jump Start was third in the Monmouth Cup to open his six-year-old campaign on July 27 and was a half-length second last out in the August 17 Philip H. Iselin.
Golden Ticket rose to fame when finished in a dead-heat with Alpha to win the 2012 Travers at Saratoga, but has yet to visit the winner's circle this year from six prior starts. His best finishes thus far have come as a head second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap to open his five-year-old season on March 8 and a half-length second in the May 2 Alysheba. The Kenny McPeek trainee finished second in last fall's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and is exiting last-of-nine placing in Saratoga's Whitney on August 2.
Lea is two-for-two on the year after taking the Hal's Hope and Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. He hasn't competed since that latter event on February 9 and is one of a pair of accomplished stars nominated to the Ack Ack by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, which also made multiple Grade 2 hero Departing eligible for the race.
Lea is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the all-time leader in victories and stakes wins at Churchill Downs, while Departing is conditioned by Al Stall Jr. That four-year-old followed a good third-place run in the June 14 Stephen Foster with a disappointing eighth-place finish the Whitney.
Other Ack Ack nominees include Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap winner Carve; Sir Barton scorer Class Leader; Grade 3 hero Falling Sky, third recently in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga; Grade 2 conqueror Flashback, unraced since a fourth-placing in the December 26 Malibu; Grade 3-placed multiple stakes king Good Lord; Mylute, fifth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness who is exiting a third-place effort in the West Virginia Governor's on August 2; and Grade 1 veteran Regally Ready, winner of the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup.
Nominations to the Locust Grove include Molly Morgan, who finished sixth in last year's running but has had a breakout year in 2014 highlighted by a runner-up finish to multiple Grade 1 winner On Fire Baby in the La Troienne followed by a win over that rival in the Fleur de Lis Handicap. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper also recently won the Gardenia at Ellis Park.
The Locust Grove could serve as round three in the growing rivalry between Molly Morgan and On Fire Baby as that two-time Grade 1 queen is also nominated to the race. The Smoke Glacken five-year-old mare has not run since her fifth-place finish in the Fleur de Lis for trainer Gary Hartlage.
Also nominated is My Miss Sophia, the Pletcher-trained runner-up to Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks who posted a 7 1/4-length decision in the Gazelle prior to the Oaks. The Unbridled's Song filly has not competed since a seventh-place run in the Acorn at Belmont Park on June 7.
Other nominated fillies and mares include Ria Antonia, winner via disqualification of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and fourth last out in the Monmouth Oaks; Grade 2 victress Don't Tell Sophia, last seen finishing third in the March 15 Azeri; Honey Hues, winner of the Mint Julep and Ellis Park Turf thus far this season; multiple Grade 3 diva My Option, a 6 1/2-length romper in the Chicago Handicap two back; and the McPeek-trained Tapit's World, a head second in the Gardenia.
NYS Equine Medical Director addresses Saratoga's increased horse fatalities
New York State Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott E. Palmer released the following statement on Friday in regards to the increased number of horse fatalities during the 2014 Saratoga meet:
Keeneland opens new dirt track to training
Keeneland on Thursday unveiled a new dirt racing surface that was installed this summer on its 1 1/16-mile main track. The dirt track is now open for training and will be featured when racing resumes at Keeneland for the Fall Meet, October 3-25.
The dirt surface, comprised of sand, silt and clay native to Kentucky, features a unique drainage system designed to collect and discharge water consistently away from the track.
"The new materials and advanced technology available to monitor consistency and moisture content in the racing surface have enabled us to build a world-class dirt track that will be as safe as possible for horse and rider," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. "We are proud of the renovation and excited to welcome owners and trainers back to Keeneland."
Conversion of the main track from a synthetic Polytrack surface to a dirt surface began May 19. Construction was completed on schedule in mid-August and the track was turned over to the track maintenance crew for conditioning.
"This dirt track represents more than a year of study and testing with regard to materials, water drainage and track maintenance, but our job is not done," Keeneland Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley said. "We want to be part of the national dialogue about track maintenance and safety. The data we retrieve from our ongoing research will be an opportunity to move the industry forward."
Keeneland officials embarked on the project in earnest long before construction began, assembling in June 2013 a team of experts who consulted with Dr. Mick Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, to develop the safest, most consistent racing surface possible.
"Keeneland has addressed the single most critical factor in both dirt and turf track maintenance and design: moisture content," Dr. Peterson said. "In addition to a novel drainage system, Keeneland has committed to an ongoing study of the way water is applied by the water truck, how the water evaporates from a dirt racing surface and the maintenance response to rain. By committing to understanding the single biggest variable in dirt race track design and maintenance, Keeneland is not only providing a superior racing surface but also supplying technology that can be used throughout the industry."
During the winter of 2013 and into early spring of 2014, Keeneland, together with Dr. Nancy Cox, dean of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture; Dr. Ole Wendroth, professor of plant and soil sciences; and Robert Brashear, assistant dean for facilities management, developed a test site on the univeristy's North Farm near Lexington. The site, which measured 20 feet x 120 feet, was created to simulate a section of dirt track, allowing experts to experiment with materials, water drainage, slope and grade.
Construction of the dirt track got underway in mid-May when workers began removing 16,000 tons of Polytrack to reach the existing layer of porous asphalt that covers a complex drainage system installed during the 2006 track renovation.
The porous asphalt was then covered by Mirafi 140N geotextile fabric, which maintains the integrity of the 26,000 tons of Class I sand placed on top of it to form the base of the track.
The dirt track features a unique drainage system, the first of its kind in North America, along the inside and outside rails that works in tandem with the existing system beneath the track.
Under the inside rail and along the outer rail through the straights and chutes, interlocking EcoRain drainage cells filled with pea gravel were stacked horizontally and covered by a flexible porous paving material made from recycled tires. This system is designed to consistently collect and discharge water into the existing drainage system and away from the track surface.
A blend of approximately 19,000 tons of sand, silt and clay native to Kentucky forms the main track's six-inch racing surface. The surface composition consists of approximately 87.5 percent sand and 12.5 percent clay and silt.
Keeneland will employ GPS technology via custom-made equipment to carefully monitor the consistency of the dirt racing surface. The data gained will be an invaluable tool in outlining proper maintenance, which is a key to making the track as safe as possible for horse and rider.
Angela Renee faces eight in Spinaway
"She ran a bang-up race in her maiden and has trained very well since then," Pletcher said. "We felt like she did everything except win first time out, and thought that, with the way she's trained and the number she ran first time out, she fits in a race like this."
Other top challengers include debut maiden winners Darling Sky, By the Moon, Winter Dawn and Condo Commando.
Darling Sky invades from Parx for trainer Robert Reid Jr. following a 7 1/4-length romp on August 9. The Sky Mesa filly earned a 92 Speed rating that afternoon and Cornelio Velasquez will pick up the assignment.
By the Moon closed gamely to take her lone appearance on July 18. Conditioned by Linda Rice, the dark bay daughter of Indian Charlie will keep Jose Ortiz in the saddle. Winter Dawn, a Sky Mesa filly trained by Wayne Catalano, won at first asking at Saratoga on August 3. Shaun Bridgmohan rides. Condo Commando, a romping 12-length scorer over maiden claiming foes on August 3, will be tested for class in her second career start. Joe Bravo sticks with the Tiz Wonderful filly for Rudy Rodriguez.
Rounding out the field are Lady Zuzu, a well-bred daughter of Dynaformer who cost $1.225 million as a yearling and finished third in her lone appearance on turf; Penn National debut heroine Bonnie K; and Gulfstream maiden winner Ryabinka, seventh most recently in the July 12 Cassidy.
Earlier on the program, fillies and mares will contest the Grade 3, $150,000 Glen Falls at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf. Aigue Marine, a 1 3/4-length winner of the Grade 3 Robert Dick Memorial at Delaware Park in her last outing, is a leading contender. The Galileo mare is one of three entrants for trainer Christophe Clement along with Irish Mission and the main-track only Lady Cohiba.
Irish Mission exits runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park and the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup versus males.
Cat's Cay will bring a three-race win streak into the Glens Falls, most recently rallying to win the August 3 Waya going away, and the Mark Hennig charge registered outstanding BRIS Class (121) and Speed (104) numbers for that performance. Waya runner-up Viva Rafaela also returns on Sunday.
Caroline Thomas and Watsdachances are other runners of interest in the 10-horse field.
Flamboyant faces off against Enterprising in Del Mar Derby
Next up the three-year-old son of Peer Gynt tried Grade 1 rivals, and 10 furlongs, for the first time in the Belmont Derby Invitational and reputed himself well with a rallying third. He shipped back to California and has been working up a storm at Del Mar, including a six-furlong bullet move in 1:12 4/5 last Saturday. Joel Rosario has been aboard for Flamboyant's past two starts and retains the mount Sunday.
Talco and Aventador will each be making his U.S. bow in the Del Mar Derby after running in France. The former enters off a half-length second in the listed Prix de Saint-Patrick on July 2 while Group 3-placed Aventador posted a 1 3/4-length decision in the Prix Ridgway in his French finale.
The Del Mar Derby field is completed by Sammy Mandeville, fourth in the Oceanside and third in the La Jolla; Sawyer's Hill, winner of his past two going 1 1/16 miles over Del Mar's grass; and Midnight Storm, who captured his turf debut at Del Mar on August 10 while going a mile.
Sandwiched between the Torrey Pines and Del Mar Derby will be the $90,000 Tranquility Lake for distaffers going a Polytrack mile. An overflow field of 14 has been entered, including Grade 2 diva Broken Sword, who is exiting a half-length second in Del Mar's Clement L. Hirsch on August 2.
Wise Dan returns to action in Bernard Baruch
"He's gotten back to where he was; he's dragging his rider around there," trainer Charlie LoPresti said. "His works have been really good, and they've been basically not even asking him to do that. He's just been doing it in hand.
"I think he's back to himself again. It took him a while to get back. We were probably two works short of the Fourstardave. Once we got him up here, I realized I was trying to play catch-up to make that race and this makes more sense. I can't say that any race at Saratoga is easy, but this is an easier spot, I think, for him to come back in."
Until the race is run, though, there might be some reasons for skepticism following such a serious setback. In addition to the health issue, handicappers might be wary that Wise Dan did not earn a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating in either of his earlier victories, a possible sign of modest decline. Wise Dan will also have to tote 127 pounds in his comeback, at least eight pounds more than the rest of his rivals.
"I want to get him started. I'm not going to jump off the roof if he gets beat half a length or a length, something like that," LoPresti said. "He's been beaten before, so that doesn't worry me. He got beat in the Shadwell Mile and everybody started writing him off, but he got beat by a horse that got on the front end and just stole the race."
The 1 1/16-mile Baruch, over the inner turf, is likely Wise Dan's lone race before a return trip to his beloved Keeneland for the Shadwell Turf Mile in October. LoPresti recently said a shot at a threepeat in next month's Woodbine Mile is not high on the agenda.
Wise Dan should get plenty of pace to chase in the Baruch. Five Iron, upset winner of the Fort Marcy in May, shortens up after faltering in the 10-furlong Manhattan and nine-furlong Nijinsky, the latter at Woodbine where he set an unsustainable six-furlong split of 1:09 4/5.
Sayaad, who breaks to his immediate right, also has some early foot. He weakened to fifth after chasing a fast pace set by Silver Max in the August 9 Fourstardave, but looked good taking the $144,000 Forbidden Apple over a yielding Belmont turf one prior.
Also lining up is last year's Bernard Baruch runner-up Paris Vegas, who adds blinkers after a sixth-place finish in the $100,000 Lure on August 2; Bio Pro, who placed in both the Forbidden Apple and Lure in his last two starts; multiple Grade 2-placed Sky Blazer; and the allowance-class North Star Boy.
Entered for the main track only is Lea, last seen taking the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February. With little rain expected before post time, the Bill Mott trainee is more likely to return in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs next Saturday.
Red Rifle, winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston last winter, is also entered for the main track only.
The final Saturday of Saratoga's meet includes three other graded stakes, including the Grade 2, $300,000 Prioress for three-year-old fillies going six furlongs.
Grade 2 queen Miss Behaviour, runner-up in the Test and Victory Ride in her last two outings, faces several Test also-rans here: Grade 3 winner Sweet Whiskey, runner-up in the Acorn and Beaumont; Southern Honey, an impressive winner of the Winning Colors at Churchill Downs two back; and Tea Time, who failed to handle the rise in class after taking minor stakes at Parx and Delaware Park.
"I think clearly everybody feels six furlongs is better for her than seven (furlongs), said trainer Phil Schoenthal of Miss Behaviour. "She's undefeated at six (furlongs) and has never won past the distance."
Other leading contenders include Princess Violet, a distant second to Untapable in the Mother Goose last time, and the stakes debuting Thirteen Arrows, an allowance winner at Delaware Park for trainer Larry Jones in her latest effort.
Moreno the one to catch in Woodward; Clearly Now, Palace head Forego
Moreno breezed five furlongs in :59 1/5, the fastest of 46 workers at the distance last weekend in advance of the Woodward. He picks up five pounds off the Whitey, spotting weight to all foes under a 122-pound impost, and will be the one to catch with a returning Junior Alvarado.
"The Woodward is just another journey," Guillot said. "This horse is better doing 30-30-30 days (between races) and training light in between and working him like I do. He's a fresh horse. He's not tired by any means."
Itsmyluckyday will seek to improve one spot after finishing a clear second in the Whitney. Runner-up in both the Preakness and Florida Derby last season, the Lawyer Ron colt reeled off three consecutive listed stakes wins before making his Saratoga debut last time. Trainer Ed Plesa Jr. adds blinkers and the dark bay could show more early speed from his innermost post position with regular rider Paco Lopez.
"I think maybe we can fine-tune him a little bit, maybe focus him down the lane," Plesa said of the new headgear. "Sometimes, horses need a little something to shake them up. I don't think Moreno is going to have his own way in this race, for whatever reason, whether it's me or somebody else. Jockeys get paid a lot of money to ride these horses; they need to know how fast the horses are going in front of them.
"(Moreno) won the (Whitney) -- no ifs, ands or buts. He's the horse to beat."
Zivo brings a six-race win streak into the Woodward. Conditioned by Chad Brown, the surging New York-bred stepped up to face open rivals with a monstrous performance in the July 5 Suburban, rallying up the rail to win going away at 13-1, and earned a career-best 104 Speed rating. The five-year-old son of True Direction returns off a 56-day freshening and will be running late with Jose Lezcano.
Palace will pursue his second Grade 1 of the meet following his one-length victory in the A.G. Vanderbilt on August 2 and the Linda Rice-trained horse also impressively captured the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park three starts back, recording respective Speed ratings of 104 and 107 for those efforts. The five-year-old son of City Zip sandwiched a runner-up in the Grade 3 Belmont Sprint between those efforts and will resume his budding rivalry with Clearly Now on Saturday. Cornelio Velasquez rides.
Clearly Now will make his first start since a superb 6 1/4-length score in the Belmont Sprint, establishing a new track at Belmont Park when blitzing seven furlongs in 1:19.96. The four-year-old son of Horse Greeley has been freshened 56 days in advance of this appearance by trainer Brian Lynch and will keep Lezcano in the irons.
Grade 3 winner Falling Sky merits respect following his third in the Vanderbilt, and Capo Bastone, a two-length winner of last year's King's Bishop at Saratoga, is also entered. Weekend Hideaway and Big Business, the one-two finishers in the restricted John Morrissey 15 days earlier, will both try open rivals again.
Del Mar Debutante attracts nine
Four other runners on Saturday on exiting maiden debut wins, including Manahtta and Conquest Eclipse. The former got her initial career triumph at Del Mar while sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on August 10, defeating the re-opposing Dad's Princess and Windy Forecast that day. Conquest Eclipse will be trying Polytrack for the first time after taking her maiden on Churchill Downs' dirt June 29.
Rafael Bejarano has the call on Manahatta for Hollendorfer while the Mark Casse-conditioned Conquest Eclipse will have Corey Nakatani aboard.
Her Emmynency and Stealth Drone are the other two maiden debut winners, both occurring at Del Mar, while Starlet O'Hara got her first win in her second try on July 27, also at Del Mar.
Also on Saturday's program, six older runners will go a mile in the $90,000 Harry F. Brubaker Stakes.
Drill is taking a step down in class off a Grade 1 fourth-placing last out, and this could be the perfect spot for the Lawyer Ron five-year-old to get a confidence building win. The Bob Baffert trainee, who captured the 2011 edition of the Del Mar Futurity, hasn't visited the winner's circle since taking the 2012 Lazaro Barrera Memorial 15 starts back.
Dogwood Stable's Miss Frost (Curlin) took command of Friday's $100,000 Riskaverse soon after the start and never looked back en route to a 4 3/4-length victory at Saratoga despite drifting out several paths in the lane. Jockey Edgar Prado tried to correct the Tom Albertrani pupil's wayward drive in the stretch as she finished a mile on the firm inner turf in 1:34 2/5. "She's a little funny to ride, you know?" Prado said after the race. "We've had to figure out the best way to ride her and it seems like we're finding the key for her. She relaxed on the backside, you can see she pricked her ears and waited for competition. When the competition came, she picked it up and finished good. I think she's getting more mature. She likes this turf course, (with the) little tight turns. She made the turns beautifully. The way she is in the stretch, she wants to drift a little bit, but as long as they're running, it's OK, I don't mind." Miss Frost earned her second stakes win in this spot after taking the Tenski just 18 days ago over course and distance. "Her last two races she's made steps forward; it was a tremendous performance from her," Albertrani remarked. "We weren't planning on being on the front end, but it's just the way things worked out. She was just dragging Edgar along. Down the backside I thought maybe she was doing too much for her own good, but once they came to her she just re-broke again. Edgar had a ton of horse the whole way." Bigger races are now on the horizon for Miss Frost after the three-year-old miss improved her record to 10-4-0-2, $241,052. "I believe we'll look at Keeneland (and the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup [G1] on October 11)," Albertrani said. "She's won three in a row, so we might just step her up now while she's in form. We'll see how she comes out of it."...
Back in his stall at Gulfstream Park after finishing a troubled fifth in the King's Bishop S. (G1) at Saratoga last weekend, Wildcat Red (D'wildcat) will be pointed toward the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) at Remington Park on September 28. "The next step will be the Oklahoma Derby. We had two options: the Oklahoma Derby or the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), but that's going to be a tough race," trainer Jose Garoffalo said. "He came back really good. He's happy. We're looking forward to his next race." Wildcat Red hit the gate at the start of the King's Bishop to break last before racing forwardly. Wildcat Red raced wide around the far turn before fading to fifth, beaten by about three lengths. "He lost all chance at the start. The horse wasn't in good position in the gate. He was sideways with his head turned when they broke," Garoffalo said. "He still ran a good race. He only got beat by three lengths, and he broke dead last. If he had a good break, he would have been right there." Wildcat Red enjoyed much success early in the season, capturing the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and Hutcheson S. (G3) and finishing second in a photo in the Florida Derby (G1)...
Grade 3 winner Kid Cruz (Lemon Drop Kid), most recently fourth in the Travers S. (G1) on August 23, will miss the rest of the year after having surgery next week to remove a chip from his left knee. Trainer Linda Rice said Friday that Dr. Patty Hogan is scheduled to perform the operation on Tuesday at her Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge, New Jersey. Kid Cruzwas beaten six lengths in the Travers. Rice noticed something amiss the following morning, and subsequent X-rays revealed a small chip in the upper joint of the left knee. "The day after the race I saw a little heat," Rice said. "The second day after the race, he showed a little lameness with the heat. It took a couple days for it to kind of move around, but (Dr. Hogan) said it's a great prognosis and he'll be good as new." In addition to the Dwyer S. (G3) on July 5, Kid Cruz also won the Easy Goer S. at Belmont Park, the Federico Tesio S. at Pimlico and the Private Terms at Laurel this year. Claimed for $50,000 last fall, Kid Cruz was third in the Jim Dandy S. (G2) at Saratoga and is 5-1-1 from 10 lifetime starts with purse earnings of $508,375. "He's had a nice season," Rice said. "It's time for us to get him patched up for next year and, hopefully, have a good four-year-old campaign."...
Her Emmynency (Successful Appeal) produced a 2 3/4-length victory in a 5 1/2-furlong Del Mar maiden special weight on August 2 in her racing debut in a good, but not outstanding time of 1:04. In most circumstances it would have earned the Mike Stidham-trained two-year-old an assignment one step up the condition ladder for her next start. Instead, she is one of nine entered in Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (G1), the event that determines the meeting's juvenile filly championship. Her Emmynency is the 7-2 second choice on the morning-line behind 5-2 pick Sunset Glow (Exchange Rate), winner of the the Sorrento (G2) last out. "We wouldn't do it very often (maiden to Grade 1), but there are only a few Grade 1s (in the division) and most of the horses we're up against are in the same boat, coming off maiden wins," Stidham assistant Chris Davis explained Friday morning. "She's very precocious, she was very impressive, so we thought we'd give it a shot." From the No. 8 post of 10 in the maiden race, Her Emmynency was beaten by only one horse out of the gate, was third for the first half-mile, then moved to the lead and pulled away. "She ran as good as we thought she would. She did everything very professional," Davis said. "She broke well, settled in and finished well all by herself. Hopefully we can get that again or maybe even improve on it." A win by Her Emmynency would be the third stakes of the summer for the 14-horse string at Del Mar that Davis has overseen for much of the summer while Stidham has focused on business at the base at Arlington in Chicago. The first two stakes victories were provided by Istanford (Istan) in the July 19 San Clemente (G2) and August 15 Sandy Blue Handicaps...
A. P.'s Glory (Mineshaft), who ran off the screen in her debut at Arlington and then won the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies three weeks later on August 2, is possible to make her third start in the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie on September 6. "She's undecided right now, but I'm looking at the race," confirmed trainer Jimmy DiVito who has the filly based at Arlington. "She's doing fine right now and we're not going to rush her. I think she has a big upside and if you run them too many times early on, it can be bad." Last out at Mountaineer, A. P.'s Glory after making all the running en route to a 7 1/2 length victory on debut -- showed the ability to break and settle before taking command and holding off an onrushing Heart's Song under a hand ride. The athletically built charge hinted at an ability to stretch her speed, as well as the versatility to win on both a dirt and synthetic surface (Arlington). "She's relaxed and has won going very easily," DiVito explained. "She was moving on again at the finish when (jockey Corey Nakatani) saw that other filly coming. That's another reason I think she can get two turns. That was a big effort." The Lassie would be another increase in distance from six to seven furlongs.
Sheikh Hamdan's Taghrooda (Sea the Stars) remains on track for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) despite a first career loss when second in the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-G1) on August 21, according to trainer John Gosden. The conditioner said he believes the Oaks (Eng-G1) and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (Eng-G1) heroine was undone by the quick going at York. "I'll be quite honest, our filly didn't quite let herself go on the ground, but I was not going to stand making excuses afterwards," Gosden told At The Races. "I don't believe in that -- I don't like anyone who whinges, but the ground was quick underneath and she was just holding back on it. It was the same for everyone and that's why you don't whinge -- you just get on with it. She's in great order and we're pointing towards the Arc." Gosden was also full of praise for the Yorkshire Oaks winner Tapestry (Galileo). "I take nothing from the filly that won -- she's very talented, beautifully bred, and people forget she was favorite for the (One Thousand) Guineas (Eng-G1). She got lost early in the year and I think they changed the program, put some condition on her and she came there with a lot of confidence behind her. I think they are two exceptional fillies and she liked fast ground more than we did. It was that ground where the grass was short with a little give on top and boom, very firm underneath. It wasn't her favorite but you go there to race, not to moan about the ground."...
Undefeated Sea the Moon (Sea the Stars) is set to make his first appearance since an 11-length victory in the July 6 Deutsches Derby (Ger-G1) when showing up for Baden-Baden's Grosser Preis von Baden (Ger-G1) on September 7. The Gestut Gorlsdorf homebred will once again be ridden by Christophe Soumillon and is expected to re-oppose Deutsches Derby second and subsequent Bayerisches-Zuchtrennen (Ger-G1) winner Lucky Lion (High Chapparal)...
Dona Licha's Argentine-bred Big Cazanova (Giant's Causeway) has been sent postward twice in the current Del Mar meeting by trainer Peter Miller and won both assignments wire-to-wire in track record time. The latest came in Thursday's 2ND race, an $80,000 allowance/optional claimer going 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack. Ridden by Elvis Trujillo, taking over for the suspended Corey Nakatani, Big Cazanova won breezing home by six lengths in a record 1:48.85, easily bettering the mark of 1:50.03 set a month ago by Friendly Banter (Distorted Humor). On July 26, Big Cazanova set a new standard for one mile on the Polytrack of 1:34.74 in winning by 3 1/2 lengths. The former mile mark was 1:34.86 set by Potesta on September 2, 2012...
Trainer Sean McCarthy said Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) romper Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor), sixth in last Sunday's Pacific Classic (G1), said the six-year-old came out of the Del Mar race in excellent shape and is headed for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita with "possibly" one start in the September 27 Awesome Again (G1), the stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Classic...
Trainer A.C. Avila said that Masochistic (Sought After), an impressive two-race winner during the Del Mar meeting who is riding a three-race win streak, would make his stakes debut next out in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Mile on September 6...
Adirondack S. (G2) winner Cavorting (Bernardini) breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on the Saratoga main track Friday. The rtwo-year-old filly is pointing to the $500,000 Frizette S. (G1) on October 4 at Belmont Park. "She's doing great. She's a very nice filly," McLaughlin said. "(Sunday's Spinaway [G1]) was just too quick back. We're going to go, hopefully, to the Frizette and then Breeders' Cup. After talking to (owner) Barbara (Banke), we just thought we would wait. She would have made it tough had she been in (the Spinaway), but she probably wants farther, too, so the mile at Belmont will be nice."...
Dan Eidson, who has served as the racing secretary at Aqueduct as well as the assistant racing secretary at Belmont Park and Saratoga since last January, has been named the New York Racing Association's interim racing secretary for the fall championship meet at Belmont Park, which begins on September 5. Eidson, 63, will take the place of Frank Gabriel, who is returning to Dubai. "We are sorry to see Frank go but understand his desire to rejoin the Dubai Racing Club," said Martin Panza, NYRA's senior vice-president of racing operations. "We are grateful for all of his expertise and contributions during our highly successful meets at Belmont Park and Saratoga this spring and summer, and wish him well in Dubai." Eidson was Hollywood Park's racing secretary for its final meet last fall, having succeeded Panza, who joined NYRA in November. Previously, Eidson assisted Panza at Hollywood Park and worked as the track's stakes coordinator since 2002. He also worked at Delaware Park for a year after serving as the racing secretary at Golden Gate Fields from 1985-2000 and as assistant to Bob Umphrey at Golden Gate before that. "Dan is an experienced racing secretary who has worked for me for more than 11 years, including seven months here in New York at all three of our racetracks," Panza said. "He knows what is needed and will continue to be an asset to NYRA, the horsemen and our guests at Belmont and Aqueduct."...
The Oaklawn Jockey Club has announced it is projecting a record purse distribution of $23.5 million for its 2015 racing season, starting January 9. This will mark the seventh consecutive year of increased purses. Oaklawn will begin the meet with maiden special weight races carrying purses of $60,000, which is $5,000 per race higher than the start of last season. Open allowance races will have purses up to $65,000, and the minimum purse will be $18,000. Since 2008, Oaklawn's purses have increased by 33 percent. According to Oaklawn's Director of Racing David Longinotti, the spike in purse distribution is the result of a strong racing product and the success of Instant Racing and other electronic gaming. "In this day and age, it's always gratifying to be able to raise purses -- and for us to be able to do so year-after-year is a reflection of Oaklawn's commitment to bringing the highest quality racing to Arkansas," Longinotti said. Oaklawn's also is nearing the completion of an expansion to its gaming area. Begun only last April, the expansion will increase gaming by 50 percent and should be completely finished in time for the 2015 season. Longinotti expects purses to increase further once the project is complete. Oaklawn, which had previously announced a record $6.7 million stakes schedule in 2015, runs through April 11...
Andre Fabre pays a rare visit to Sandown on Saturday to take in the £65,000 Atalanta (Eng-G3) with his up-and-comer Fintry (Shamardal), who was last seen winning the Prix de Sandringham (Fr-G2) at Chantilly at the beginning of June. That success came against some smart types among the French fillies, and Godolphin's bay will be tested carrying a seven-pound penalty as a result. "Fintry is a nice filly who won her Group 2 at Chantilly very well, but after that she picked up a virus and was sick for a while," Fabre explained. "For that reason, she might need the race on Saturday, but she is a talented filly and I still expect her to run well. If all goes well, the Sun Chariot ([Eng-G1] at Newmarket on October 4) could be the plan." Godolphin is also represented by the four-year-old Zibelina (Dansili), whose sole defeat last term came when fourth in the Atalanta and who is also coming off a break after her comeback third in the May 3 listed Conqueror at Goodwood. "We purposely gave Zibelina a break after her run at Goodwood in May because of the ground," trainer Charlie Appleby said. "She is not suited by summer ground and needs some juice. She has been training well and we will be happy with the conditions at Sandown on Saturday. We are hopeful that she is going to put up a decent performance." Another who will be helped by rain is William Farish's progressive Water Hole (Oasis Dream), who handled testing conditions when winning her third consecutive race at Newmarket on August 8...
Twelve months ago, Kingman (Invincible Spirit) served notice of what was to come when winning Sandown's £45,000 Solario (Eng-G3) with ease, and Saturday's renewal earlier on the card offers one with unexposed potential in Godolphin's Future Empire (New Approach). While he lacked Kingman's natural zip when scoring over the Solario trip at Newmarket on July 26, there was much to like about the way the chestnut went about his task on that occasion, and the next three home have all won subsequently to boost the form. "Future Empire is doing well," trainer Saeed bin Suroor stated. "He is a colt that I like and has improved since his debut. His last piece of work was good. He does need good ground." Set to test his credentials is the proven performer Aktabantay (Oasis Dream), who had the re-opposing Cock of the North (Cockney Rebel) 2 1/4 lengths behind in third when runner-up in the July 12 Superlative (Eng-G2) at Newmarket. "He's done extremely well since Newmarket and I think the track will suit him," Aktabantay's trainer Hugo Palmer told PA Sport. "He's always done his best work on rising ground, at Newcastle and Newmarket. The four furlongs of rising ground at Sandown will really suit him. This has been very much the race I've wanted to run him in all year. It has been the plan since his maiden and I'm just looking forward to it. Drying ground would help him."...
Monmouth Park will host its top races for two-year-olds this holiday weekend, with the $100,000 Sapling, to be run for the first time at a mile, and $75,000 Sorority, at six furlongs, highlighting the Sunday card. Dating back to 1883 when Duchess took the inaugural running, the Sapling has never been run at two turns in Oceanport, New Jersey. The race has drawn a field of seven, including unbeaten Souper Colossal (War Front), who captured the off-the-turf Tyro on August 3 over the track, and Tapitsphere (Tapit), who ran out of ground when rallying for fourth in the six-furlong Mountaineer Juvenile on August 2. The Sorority has drawn eight fillies, among them Perpetual Novena (Majestic Warrior), runner-up in Monmouth's grassy Colleen two weeks ago on August 10. Over the year's both races have seen their fair share of championship participation, including 16 male champions and eight females. With live racing set for Friday through Labor Day Monday, Monmouth has a full slate of activities to complement the holiday weekend. The annual BBQ & Craft Beer Festival returns Saturday and Sunday, with fans able to enjoy smoked barbecue goodness from around the state. In addition, for $10 patrons will receive a commemorative mini pilsner glass and 10 samples in the craft beer garden featuring more than 50 local brews. There will be live music "On the Green" both days, with After the Reign performing Saturday and BethAnne Clayton playing Sunday. Also on Sunday will be Family Fun Day with clowns, pony rides, a bounce house, face painters and more to entertain the kids. For the Monday card, fans with paid admission will receive a pass that is good for the rest of Monmouth Park's racing season, which is redeemable at the Finish Line Welcome Center or at the Miller VIP Hangout. The VIP Hangout will also feature relaxed seating, $3 Miller Lite specials, giveaways, cornhole, and live entertainment from DJ Gotts of 95.9 the WRAT. Family Fun Day will be in full force again on Monday as Pez Head performs live "On the Green." Gates open at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) with first post slated for 12:50 p.m. Following the Labor Day card, Monmouth will shift to live racing on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the meet on September 28...
Mister Marti Gras (Belong to Me), winner of the 2011 edition of the $150,000 Washington Park H. (G3), faces five rivals on Saturday in his quest for a second victory in the 1 1/8-mile contest at Arlington. The Chris Block-trained seven-year-old will be making his fourth consecutive start in Arlington's long-standing main track fixture, having captured the race in his first attempt three years ago, finished second the following year and ran fourth last year. In four starts this year, Mister Marti Gras finished fifth in his seasonal bow going a mile on Keeneland's turf before, owns a second in the one-mile Hanshin Cup (G3), triumphed in a tough Arlington turf allowance and filled the fifth spot in the grassy Arlington H. (G3). Eduardo Perez has the mount aboard the 121-pound starting highweight, who will be spotting his rivals from four to eight pounds. Fordubai (E Dubai) returns to his Chicago homebase off a third after setting the pace in the Prairie Meadows H. last month. All six of his starts in 2014 have been in stakes company, including a victory in the Louisiana H. at Fair Grounds in January for trainer Greg Geier. The dark bay four-year-old will have James Graham in the saddle. Avanzare (Grand Reward) will be making his synthetic debut in the Washington Park after spending his previous eight starts on turf where he only once finished outside the top two, with that actually coming in his last outing, a fourth in the Arlington H. (G3). The Tom Proctor trainee will be ridden by Chris Emigh. Hattaash (Strong Hope) is looking to better his third-place finish in this event from a year ago. The seven-year-old gelding's only 2014 score from six tries thus far came via disqualification when moved up to the top spot in a Mach 16 allowance at Hawthorne. Sheldon Russell has the mount aboard the Cheryl Winebaugh trainee. Completing the field for the Washington Park are stakes debuters Gimmeadrink (Gimmeawink) and Only in America (Tiznow)...
The catalog for Barretts October Yearling Sale is now online and will be mailed soon. This auction of 259 yearlings will be held on October 7 starting at 1 p.m. (PDT) in the Hinds Pavilion located on the grounds of Fairplex Park in Pomona, California. Submitted photographs of yearlings in the sale catalog will be posted soon after the end of next week. More than 100 stallions spanning the alphabet, including every top tier stallion in California as well as many nationally ranked ones, are represented in the sale catalog including Arch, Blame, Cape Blanco, Discreet Cat, English Channel, First Defence, Giacamo, Haynesfield, Informed, Lucky Pulpit, Midnight Lute, Noble Court, Old Fashioned, Philanthropist, Rocky Bar, Sidney's Candy, Twirling Candy, Unusual Heat, Vronsky, Warriors Reward and Yes It's True...
Joel Rosario, leading rider at Del Mar from 2009-2011 before moving his tack to the East Coast, will be back for a one-day stand on Sunday. He is booked on four mounts, the main one being Flamboyant (Peer Gynt) for Paddy Gallagher in the Del Mar Derby (G2).
For Saturday or Next Raceday
AUGUST 29, 2014
by Dick Powell
Ten-furlong races are very different than nine-furlong races. We see it every spring when horses dominate the last major Kentucky Derby prep races, run at 1 1/8 miles, and then come up short on the stretch out to 1 1/4 miles.
Sometimes, with experience and training, horses that fail at nine furlongs can learn to get that elusive extra furlong. Chief's Crown comes to mind as he failed in the 1985 Kentucky Derby when it looked too far for him but came back to win the Travers Stakes.
Others, like Quality Road, were absolutely brilliant going nine furlongs while winning the Florida Derby (G1), Donn Handicap (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1), but he failed to produce the same form dropping the ten-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Breeders' Cup Classic.
This past weekend, we were faced with the decision on whether or not Bayern (Offlee Wild) , an easy winner of the nine-furlong Haskell Invitational (G1), could get another furlong in the Travers.
At first glance, it looked like it would be out of his reach no matter how strong he appeared to be at the end of the Haskell. But, the way this Travers shaped up, it was clear that he would be loose on an easy lead and who knows how brave he would get with things going his own way.
From an inside post, there was no doubt that Martin Garcia would send Bayern to the lead into the clubhouse turn. And, as the field of 10 hit the finish line after a furlong had been run, two funny things happened.
First, Martin Garcia, who opened up three lengths on the field in the first sixteenth of a mile, suddenly decided to wrap up on Bayern. Instead of going on with it and shaking loose on an uncontested lead, Garcia tried to throttle him down and nurse his speed. When you are fearful of getting the distance on a track that he only saw a couple of days earlier, this is what you do. Big mistake.
The other surprise was that Joel Rosario sent Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist (Tapit) up between horses to challenge for the lead with a full lap to go.
Wicked Strong (Hard Spun), who showed a new dimension racimng closer to the pace with the addition of blinkers in the Jim Dandy (G2), was three wide entering the clubhouse turn but Rajiv Maragh was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and decided to save ground behind the top two.
The pace of the Travers was honest with a first quarter in 23.74 seconds and the first half in :47.31. Bayern was on the lead but Tonalist was doing all the work, applying constant pressure on the outside. Entering the far turn, Maragh eased off the rail and went up to challenge three wide. The third quarter was run in 23.96 seconds and as they approached the top of the stretch, Maragh put Wicked Strong in front as Tonalist battled on and Bayern wanted no more as he plummeted back through the field.
In a perfect trip, Maragh would have waited before seizing the lead but his decisive move looked like it was going to be the winning one as Wicked Strong had a clear lead with one furlong to go. Tonalist was battling on gamely but was clearly not going to win and as I watched the rest of the field for any threatening moves, a horse covered with mud emerged between horses to go after Wicked Strong.
It was Jimmy Jerkens' "other" horse, V.E. Day (English Channel), who looked like a long-distance turf horse until he won the nine-furlong Curlin Stakes on the day before the Jim Dandy. Now, here he was, eating up ground with every stride under a perfectly-timed ride (is there any other with this guy?) from Javier Castellano, erasing the deficit that Wicked Strong had built.
Maragh asked Wicked Strong for everything he had but his gallant colt was leg weary in the last 100 yards and V.E. Day got his nose down at the wire to pull off the upset at odds of 19-to-1. Wicked Strong easily held second as Tonalist held well to be third.
What trainer Bob Baffert asked Bayern to do was next to impossible. He was cooked after a mile and Garcia wisely did not persevere with him through the stretch. He should have waited for the nine-furlong Pennsylvania Derby (G2) next month but now I would hope he turns him back in distance. His easy win in the Woody Stephens (G2) going seven furlongs is more of an indication of who Bayern is than his easy win the Haskell.
How many times have we talked about the handicapping angle of the "the other Baffert?" So many times, the lesser-fancied runner in the field gets the job done at inflated odds and here we had it again with a guy not known for running entries in major stakes races.
Out at Del Mar the next day, the Pacific Classic was contested for the last time on a synthetic track and undefeated champion two-year-old Shared Belief (Candy Ride) was being asked to not only try 10 furlongs for the first time but to take on older horses as well. A Herculean task, to be sure, but the betting public felt he was more than up to it and sent him off as the 6-to-5 favorite.
Second choice in the wagering was Game On Dude (Awesome Again), who might not be the horse he used to be at the age of seven, but it was only last spring that he crushed the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) going this distance in blazing-fast time. He was the speed of the race and Garcia, who rode him to victory last year, was back from Saratoga for the ride.
As good as Game On Dude looked for the first seven furlongs of the race, Shared Belief looked like he could take over any time Mike Smith wanted to. Coming out of the far turn, he swooped three wide and despite lugging in a bit on Toast of New York (Thewayyouare), he went on to a convincing 2 3/4-length win in the excellent time of 2:00.28.
At this point, who cares about his chances for another divisional championship? Shared Belief will bring a lot of buzz to the rest of the year and things could get even more exciting when Derby/Preakness winner California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) returns in the Pennsylvania Derby. There are still a lot of good three-year-olds competing at the highest levels but only Shared Belief has beaten older horses in a Grade 1 stakes race going long.
*all times Eastern
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