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Racing Headlines

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."

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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."

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Graded Recaps

Startup Nation goes last-to-first in With Anticipation

Startup Nation flew home an easy winner of the With Anticipation (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Klaravich Stables Inc. and William Lawrence's Startup Nation trailed in last during Thursday's Grade 2, $200,000 With Anticipation at Saratoga before coming widest of all around the turn and rallying for a 4 1/2-length victory under jockey Joel Rosario. The duo were sent off the 2-1 second choice in the eight-strong field and paid $6.50 for the easy win.

Startup Nation is now two-for-two after taking his maiden debut by two lengths just three weeks ago on August 7 at the Spa. The Chad Brown trainee came from more than 10 lengths back on that occasion while going 1 1/16 miles and has thus far accumulated $163,800 in earnings.

"I'm very impressed," Brown admitted. "The horse had run similarly in his debut, very impressive, with a big, wide move running away. But running back in just three weeks and now against open company, nevertheless a stakes race, you need to move forward.

"For this horse to run back in three weeks and run the way he did, in 1:41 and change, he's a real runner."

Brown mentioned the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita could be in Startup Nation's future.

Startup Nation ran himself into BC Juvenile Turf consideration when effortlessly pulling away in the lane (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

"I'd say. I haven't been following the entire country to see what's out there for juveniles on the turf; I'm sure some haven't even run yet. But from what's run already, I'd say these two horses that ran the last two days here are as good as I've seen out there. Time will tell, but I wouldn't trade with anybody," he remarked.

The win was Brown's third of the day and moved him just one race away from Todd Pletcher, 23-22.

"We're just going to go race by race and put them in the right spots," he said in regards to the trainer's race. "I thought I had good chances today going in. All the horses are in the right spots and they're all doing well. We have one more to go, so we'll just stick to our plan here and see what happens."

Kutuzov and Creaky Cricket duked it out for pacesetting honors once the gate opened on the With Anticipation, with the former taking command through the opening half-mile in :22 4/5 and :47 1/5. The rest of the field began overtaking Kutuzov in midstretch and soon swamped the early leader.

Startup Nation was patiently biding his time in last through all this, more than 11 lengths behind the front runner, before beginning his move entering the turn. Circling widest of all, the dark bay was moving so fast that he startled International Star, who had been rallying just in front to his inside. International Star jerked away from Startup Nation and bumped into Designed for War to his left, momentarily losing his stride.

Startup Nation continued motoring and easily cleared the rest of the field, pulling away in the lane to finish 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:41 3/5. Following a claim of foul by International Star's jockey, Rosie Napravnik, and a stewards' inquiry, the result was allowed to stand.

Startup Nation has stamped himself as a juvenile to watch (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

"I thought I had a lot of horse; I ran by (International Star) and tried to give him some room on the inside. I thought (International Star) came out a little bit, too," Rosario explained the turn incident. "(Startup Nation) is the kind of horse, when he gets started, he keeps on going. After I made the move, he took off and improved position from there."

International Star regained his momentum and proved best of the rest by 2 1/2 lengths over Nutty Futty. Strong Coffee, the 2-1 favorite, filled out the top four and was followed under the wire by Designed for War, Hot Tin Roof, Creaky Cricket and Kutuzov. Blame Jim, a main-track only entrant, was scratched.

Bred by Spendthrift Farm in New York, Startup Nation brought $95,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling. He is the first registered stakes winner for both his freshman sire, Temple City, and his dam, the stakes-placed Wagon Limit mare Pennyrile.

Startup Nation's third dam is Grade/Group 1 heroine Infinidad, who is a full sister to Group 1 victor Infanzon and a half-sister to dual Group 2 diva *Ganancia. That mare would go on to produce Grade 2 scorer First Norman.

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Racing Headlines

Angela Renee faces eight in Spinaway

Angela Renee is one of two runners for four-time Spinaway winner Todd Pletcher  (NYRA/Adam Coglianese)

Angela Renee heads a field of nine juvenile fillies in the penultimate day feature at Saratoga, the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway. A smart debut winner at Belmont Park on June 27, the Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Bernardini exits a runner-up finish as the favorite in the Grade 2 Adirondack on August 10.

A full sister to multiple Grade 1 scorer To Honor and Serve, she won't have to face the Adirondack winner, Cavorting, and Angela Renee will add blinkers on Sunday. The bay lass breaks from post No. 2 with regular rider John Velazquez.

"I thought she ran very well (in the Adirondack), but just caught a buzzsaw with Cavorting," Pletcher said. "Johnny seemed to think she was a little bit shy of horses and intimidated, so we worked her back in some blinkers and liked what we saw. We'll stick with them."

Angela Renee is bred to relish longer distances but still managed to win her career bow going five furlongs, something that Pletcher did not fully expect.

"You would think based on her pedigree that the distance would suit her well," the trainer noted. "She's been a pleasure to train. She surprised us a little bit that she was able to get ready early and win at five furlongs. She's a nice-sized, scopey filly you would think would handle two turns no problem."

Curalina, a rallying second when making her lone start on July 27, will also represent the mighty Pletcher stable. She picks up the services of Javier Castellano and earned a 96 BRIS Speed rating last time, second behind only the 97 earned by her stablemate in the Adirondack.

"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.

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Flamboyant faces off against Enterprising in Del Mar Derby

Flamboyant was feeling his oats prior to the Belmont Derby Invitational (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The well-traveled Flamboyant will be back in California on Sunday to face seven rivals in the Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The Paddy Gallagher trainee's career has thus far taken him from France to New York and California.

The bay colt has yet to finish worse than third from nine lifetime starts, going 2-2-2 from six French starts before making his U.S. debut a neck score in the La Puente at Santa Anita Park on April 19. Flamboyant shipped cross-country to Belmont Park for the May 26 Pennine Ridge and battled in the stretch to just miss by a head on the wire.

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.

Enterprising is seeking a rare sweep of Del Mar's three-year-old turf stakes (Benoit Photos)

Enterprising appears to be Flamboyant's biggest threat in the Del Mar Derby. The Elusive Quality colt dropped his initial start but has gone 5-1-2 from eight starts since, including victories in the first two legs of Del Mar's turf series for three-year-olds. Enterprising captured the Oceanside on July 17 by a neck, extended his margin of victory to 1 1/4 lengths for the La Jolla last out on August 9 and hopes to join Ladies Din (1998) and Blackdoun (2004) as the only ones to sweep the series in the Del Mar Derby.

The Tom Proctor pupil has also racked up scores in the Pasadena and Eddie Logan at Santa Anita, and placings in the El Camino Real Derby and California Derby at Golden Gate Fields. He ran third to Flamboyant in the La Puente prior to his past two Del Mar wins, and keeps jockey Mike Smith in the irons.

Home Run Kitten just missed by a neck to Flamboyant in the La Puente while holding Enterprising 1 1/2 lengths to third, and has captured his two races since. The David Hofmans-trained son of Kitten's Joy triumphed in an optional claimer and the Singletary at Santa Anita, but hasn't competed since that latter event on June 21. Regular rider Joe Talamo has the call as Home Run Kitten returns to action off the more than two-month break.

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.

Fashion Plate's last win came in the Santa Anita Oaks in early April (Benoit Photos)

Sophomore fillies will get their turn in the spotlight earlier on the card when seven line up for the Grade 3, $100,000 Torrey Pines at a mile on the Polytrack.

Fashion Plate is seeking a return to her winning ways after a pair of dismal performances in the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn. The Simon Callaghan charge captured a pair of Grade 1s prior to that when taking the Santa Anita Oaks and Las Virgenes. Stevens takes the reins from a recuperating Gary Stevens and will try to guide Fashion Plate back to the winner's circle in her California return.

Standing in Fashion Plate's way is the Bob Baffer-trained Jojo Warrior. The Pioneerof the Nile filly hasn't been seen since June 21, but on that day wired the 1 1/16-mile Summertime Oaks by 5 1/4 lengths under a returning Martin Garcia. Also in the Torrey Pines with a chance are Margot Machance, fourth in the grassy Honeymoon and Providencia in her last two, and More Complexity, a 4 3/4-length optional claiming winner on August 8 over the track.

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.

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LoPresti: 'Horse of the Year is the furthest thing from my mind right now'

Wise Dan has taken his owner and trainer on an "unbelievable ride" (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan is set to race for the first time in nearly four months in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. The last thing on trainer Charlie LoPresti's mind, he says, is a third straight Horse of the Year title.

A seven-year-old Morton Fink homebred, Wise Dan has earned six Eclipse Awards -- voted champion older male, champion turf male and Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013 -- while racking up 10 Grade 1 victories.

Forego was the last horse to win three straight Horse of the Year titles, from 1974-76.

"People keep talking to me about Horse of the Year," LoPresti said. "I don't know how many people have said, 'You need to do this,' or 'You need to do that' to get Horse of the Year.

"I'm not even thinking about that right now. I'm thinking how lucky we are to get him back to the races, have him out here breezing, getting the chance to get him back in a race, and then we'll go from there. I'm just glad that he's back in training and has a chance to run. Horse of the Year is the furthest thing from my mind right now."

Wise Dan has won 21 of 29 career races with two seconds and $6,802,920 in purse earnings. Seventeen of those victories have come in graded stakes, including Grade 1s on both turf and dirt.

This year, Wise Dan is two-for-two, winning the April 11 Maker's 46 Mark at Keeneland and May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. He underwent emergency colic surgery on May 16 and has been on the road to recovery, returning to the work tab on July 11 and breezing six times since arriving at Saratoga in mid-July.

"I think so many horses, they drill them into the ground to get Horse of the Year," LoPresti said. "They worry about making stallions rather than doing what's right by the horse. If everything goes right and you get Horse of the Year, fine. But, if you map out a campaign for a horse just to try to get Horse of the Year, I'm not that kind of trainer. It all depends on what the turf writers want, anyway, and what they think.

"There's still a lot of people that say he shouldn't have gotten Horse of the Year (in 2013), and a lot of people voted against him. It's just how they see it. I could say if he wins this race and he comes back from surgery and is undefeated, he should be Horse of the Year. How many horses have colic surgery in the middle of the year and come back? But, that's not what it's all about."

LoPresti took time to reflect on the accomplishments of Wise Dan, who won his first stakes in the Phoenix over Keeneland's Polytrack in 2010. He posted career-high 110 BRIS Speed Figures in the 2013-12 editions of the Fourstardave at the Spa and has victories in successive runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

"It's been an unbelievable ride to have a horse like that. It's hard to describe," he said. "Every time you think about how great this horse is, it's like, 'Wow, can you believe I trained a horse like that?' Or for Mr. Fink to say, 'Can you believe I bred a horse like that?' It's really gratifying, and you just feel like you really accomplished something. There's been a lot of people that have had a big part in this horse."

Wise Dan will face 10 in the Bernard Baruch, including multiple Grade 3 hero Optimizer, who has been away since a dismal 12th-place finish in the Elkhorn in April at Keeneland. The English Channel five-year-old will attempt to get his career back on track Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch.

Optimizer returns to action after spending time at Calumet Farm (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

Optimizer has competed well against some of the top horses in training. He was second to Point of Entry last year in the Manhattan at Belmont Park and runner-up to Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

He has not fared well in four starts since the Manhattan and been freshened by owner Calumet for this rematch with Wise Dan.

"He came in with some problems, obviously," said Jose Fernandez, the longtime on-farm trainer for Calumet, who has taken over the conditioning of Optimizer. "We worked on him. I had to work on his throat, and now he's been training pretty good. He's worked a mile twice (at the Calumet training center). My hope is he will run good here, and there's another race I can run him back in. The end game is to get to the Breeders' Cup. He's on his toes. He's been in the feed bag."

Fernandez, however, has not been on his toes. He is currently recovering from double knee-replacement surgery. Trainer Rusty Arnold will saddle Optimizer in the Bernard Baruch.

"He's been galloping the last couple of days in New York," Fernandez said of Optimizer, who arrived Monday in Saratoga. "He schooled in the paddock (on Wednesday), so I'm hoping he fires like he used to. This one I wanted to run in my name. I think he's going to run really well."

Sky Blazer will be a long shot to defeat Wise Dan in the Bernard Baruch, but the six-year-old gelding has already beaten the odds just to race again.

Trained by Barclay Tagg for owner-breeder Joyce Young, Sky Blazer has trained steadily at Saratoga since finishing third, beaten less than a length, in the 1 1/2-mile Bowling Green Handicap on July 12 at Belmont Park.

Saturday's Baruch will be the 29th lifetime start for Sky Blazer, who owns a record of 5-4-4 with $342,542 in purse earnings. At Saratoga, he was fourth by three lengths in the 2011 Saranac and third by 2 1/2 lengths in the 2012 Baruch.

The following winter, Sky Blazer was injured in a morning mishap at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park's satellite training facility in Boynton Beach, Florida.

"A horse was running loose and crashed into him when he was at a standstill. He got hurt really badly," Tagg said. "It broke his tailbone and everything and he's been a long time recuperating from that. It never seemed to stop him, but he certainly wasn't at his best for about a year until all his nerves came back and his hind end filled out again.

"He looks beautiful now. He's not 100 percent, but he looks great. It really curtailed his career a little bit."

Tagg and Young, whose professional relationship dates back 29 years, gave some consideration to retiring Sky Blazer before making the decision to persevere with his career.

"I had this wonderful chiropractor, Shirley McQuillan, go over him and she said all his nerves would come back, but it was going to take a year," Tagg said. "She was exactly right. A year to the day is when his hind end started to fill out again, which it wouldn't do with the nerves being damaged. He couldn't swish his tail for a year, either. It was all caved in.

"He's had a lot to overcome. We didn't really have to stop him, but he wasn't quite himself, either. He was probably five or 10 lengths worse than he used to be."

Young has had a particular attachment to Sky Blazer, having owned his grandmother, Highland Mills, who won three Grade 3 stakes with Tagg including the Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap and Daryl's Joy -- now the Fourstardave -- in 1989 at Saratoga.

"The (owner) doesn't want to put him in claiming races or anything like that, and I can't blame her," Tagg said. "She raised him, and he's a good-looking horse and an honest horse. It's either sell him for a steeplechase horse or put him in a claiming race or keep running him. He's a nice horse."

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Weekend Hideaway hoping to continue NY-breds run in Grade 1 Spa sprints

Weekend Hideaway has easily handled state-bred rivals in his past two (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Two New York-breds, Palace and Artemis Agrotera, have won Grade 1 sprint races so far during the 2014 Saratoga meet. On Saturday, Weekend Hideaway will attempt to join that group when he competes in the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego, a seven-furlong race for three-year-olds and up at the Spa.

The chestnut son of Speightstown is a four-time stakes winner and enters the Forego off a two-length triumph in the 6 1/2-furlong John Morrissey for New York-breds just two weeks ago on August 15 at Saratoga. The Red and Black Stable colorbearer is trained by Phil Serpe, who also trained for and advised Weekend Hideaway's late breeder, Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stables.

Serpe credited Lizza for being at the forefront of the movement to improve the quality of New York-breds.

"When Mr. Lizza passed away, I bought (Weekend Hideaway for $40,000) for Red and Black Stable out of the dispersal," the horseman explained. "At that time, Flying Zee Stable was one of the first operations to go really in advance on breeding better mares to out-of-state sires and coming up with better New York-breds.

"As you can see from this horse and (Artemis Agrotera) and horse after horse that New York-breds are something to be reckoned with now. Just like (Zivo), who came back and won the Suburban (Handicap). You have to respect horses for what they are and not where they are bred."

Weekend Hideaway is 3-1-0 in four starts on the main track at Saratoga, where he broke his maiden and won the David Stakes as a two-year-old. He has made only one start in a graded contest, finishing fifth in the 2013 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park.

"We're definitely moving up in class," Serpe said. "I thought he ran a really sensational race (in the Morrissey), and we have to see how good we are."

Serpe said he expects Weekend Hideaway to relish the Forego's seven-furlong distance.

"I think this horse's best distance is six to seven furlongs," Serpe stated. "We were trying to stretch things to a mile (when he was third in the Commentator Handicap in May) at Belmont, and I don't think that is his cup of tea. Against the right horses on the right day he could go farther than seven furlongs, but I'm not really looking to do that."

Vyjack is seeking a return to his early form (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Grade 2 victor Vyjack should also relish the Forego's seven-furlong distance; the four-year-old is two-for-two at seven-eighths while winning the 2012 Traskwood at Aqueduct in his second career start as well as an optional claimer on April 27 at the Big A in his seasonal debut.

"We're taking a chance, and hopefully the seven furlongs will help him," trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. "It's a very tough field. It's not going to be easy. Let's see what happens."

In his most recent effort, the four-year-old Into Mischief gelding was fourth, beaten five lengths by Palace, in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on August 2 at the Spa after breaking awkwardly and spotting the field an early advantage.

"We were kind of disappointed with the way he broke last time," Rodriguez said. "He ran a pretty good race that day. If he had broke with the group, I don't think he could have beaten the winner but we could have been a little closer, maybe second or third. Since then he's been training very, very good."

Despite the result, Rodriguez was pleased to see a renewed interest by Vyjack, who was a well-beaten ninth in the Metropolitan Handicap and eased in the Suburban Handicap in his other two 2014 outings.

"We were very happy to see him perform and finish the way he did," Rodriguez said. "It was encouraging to us to see that he still wanted to do it. He ran a very good race and he came back good out of the race. He's training very good. I take him every day to the main track and I school him in the paddock. I do what I can, and now it's up to him."

Vyjack won his first four starts, including the Jerome and Gotham to open his 2013 campaign. On the Triple Crown trail, he was third by a length in the Wood Memorial, 18th in the Kentucky Derby, eighth in the Belmont Stakes and sixth in the Haskell Invitational before getting an extended vacation.

"Sometimes, you have to give them an easy race to get them back into the rhythm again," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes, you keep putting horses in the Grade 1 races and they finish third, fourth, fifth and I think they just go through the same routine. They know when they win; they know when they do something good. Sometimes you have to show them that they can still be competitive and then they get a little better."

Rodriguez is hoping for a better start in the Forego for Vyjack, who will break from post 3 in the 10-horse field under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

"I don't want to look for excuses," Rodriguez said. "Believe me, he's worked good and he's trained good. He's doing very good, and he looks very good. You've just got to hope that he breaks good. I think if he breaks with the group he's got a good chance."

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Durkin to be honored with two-day celebration

The New York Racing Association Inc. will celebrate the illustrious career of longtime track announcer Tom Durkin with two days in his honor at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday and Monday.

The celebration will begin on Sunday with a special winner's circle ceremony honoring the accomplishments of Durkin's legendary career following his final race call at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Spinaway. The call will bring Durkin's 43-year career to a close. Fans are encouraged to remain in their seats after the Spinaway to witness the ceremony. 

"Tom Durkin is one of the greatest race callers in history and we are fortunate to have had him with us here in New York for so many years," NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay said. "It is truly fitting to see Tom take his final bow in Saratoga, a place that he loves and where he is truly beloved.

"We encourage racing fans to join us as we celebrate Tom's storied career and wish him the best with a send-off fitting of the affection and admiration felt by fans for this unique, poetic and unparalleled storyteller."

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen will issue a citywide proclamation that will declare Sunday to be "Tom Durkin Day" throughout the city of Saratoga Springs. The proclamation, in part, reads: "For Saratoga race fans, his (Tom's) voice has been a familiar and reassuring presence, one of the sounds of a Saratoga summer. His warmth and generosity have won him great admiration in our city, and many Saratogians are proud to consider him a friend."

"I want to thank the tens of thousands of dedicated people, from the grooms to the jockeys to the trainers and owners, that help put on this exciting show, remembering, as ever, it is all about these magnificent animals," Durkin said. "I was fortunate enough to have described the finished product.

"Most of all, I must thank the people that make everything possible - the racing fan. Thank you again from one lucky announcer."

The celebration will continue on Monday's closing-day program when Durkin returns to Saratoga to greet fans, sign autographs and take pictures in the backyard beginning at noon (EDT).

Classic race calls made by Durkin during his long career will be showcased on the video boards between races on both Sunday and Monday.

Born in Chicago, Durkin began calling races at county fairs in Wisconsin in the summer of 1971. In 1975, he moved on to ply his trade at a string of small tracks including Cahokia Downs, Balmoral Race Course, Quad City Downs and Miles Park before landing the job at famed Hialeah Race Course in 1981.

Three years later, he was hired as the announcer for the annual Breeders' Cup, a job he held until 2005, and gained further fame calling the Triple Crown for a decade beginning in 2001. Durkin began his tenure with the New York Racing Association in 1990. Some of Durkin's most memorable calls have come on the New York Racing Association circuit of Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

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Carstanjen named CEO at CDI; Evans continues as chairman of the board of directors

The board of directors of Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) named William C. Carstanjen as the company's 12th chief executive officer (CEO), a position held by Robert L. Evans since August 2006. Carstanjen has been the company's president and chief operating officer since March 2011.

Evans will continue as chairman of the board of directors and will continue his full-time, daily involvement in the leadership of the company focusing on strategy, acquisitions, senior management selection and development, technology initiatives, legislative initiatives, and the iconic Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby events.

Over his career, Carstanjen, 46, spent 5 1/2 years as an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York and five years at General Electric Company (GE) in Connecticut. Since joining CDI in July 2005, Carstanjen has served as the company's general counsel and chief development officer (2005-2008), as chief operating officer (2008-2011) and, most recently, as president and chief operating officer.

He has led CDI's diversification strategy into online wagering on Thoroughbred racing via, including the acquisitions of, AmericaTab, and Bloodstock Research Information Systems (BRIS); the growth of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby events; and into regional casino gaming.

"I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to lead Churchill Downs," Carstanjen said. "Over the last several years we have transformed Churchill Downs into a diversified growth company while continuing to strengthen and invest in our traditional horse racing business.

"Today, CDI is better positioned strategically and operationally, and is stronger financially and organizationally, than perhaps at any time in its 140-year history. I'm excited about our terrific team and the future of our racing, gaming and online businesses and new businesses we may yet enter."

In addition, William E. Mudd has been promoted to president and chief financial officer (CFO). Mudd has served as the company's executive vice president and CFO since joining CDI in October 2007. Mudd will be responsible for operations at the company's race tracks and gaming properties, except for Churchill Downs Racetrack, and for all finance activities, corporate-level communications and investor relations. He will report to Bill Carstanjen.

Prior to joining CDI, Mudd, 43, spent 15 years at GE in multiple businesses inside and outside the United States. Since joining the company, Mudd has been responsible for all of CDI's financial activities, managing the company's capital structure, leading CDI's information technology group (2007-2011), and, since 2011, leading the company's business development activities.

"Having worked in finance for most of my career, I appreciate this opportunity to expand my experience in the operations area," Mudd said. "The vast majority of our employees are at our tracks and casinos and I look forward to working with them to continue CDI's success."

"CDI's future is exciting and I look forward to continuing to work with these outstanding leaders," Evans said. "We operate under a collaborative senior leadership model and have frequently changed our organizational structure to allow our executives to develop experience in new areas. This approach has served us well, enabling us to diversify and grow the company.

"In Bill Carstanjen and Bill Mudd we have two proven senior executives who are well known by our major shareholders and who can continue to profitably grow the company and deliver exceptional returns to our shareholders."

Evans, Carstanjen and Mudd will assume their new roles beginning Thursday.

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Wise Dan returns to action in Bernard Baruch

Dual Horse of the Year Wise Dan has won 12 straight on the grass (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

If there was ever a time to catch two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan at less than his best, Saturday might be the day. The marvelous seven-year-old gelding, whose season was temporarily halted in May after emergency surgery was performed following a bout of colic, returns to action in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

On paper, Wise Dan looks as he always does -- formidable. A winner in 13 of 14 career starts on turf, including two editions of the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, the Morton Fink-owned chestnut showed earlier in the year that he remains difficult to dethrone. Kaigan and Seek Again each took a shot, in the Maker's Mark Mile and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, respectively, in Kentucky last spring, but the dual grass champion prevailed both times, but by margins of only three-quarters of a length and a head.

The connections of Wise Dan, satisfied with the way he's recovered from his illness, have been nothing but upbeat about his return.

"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.

Miss Behaviour is among several viable contenders in the Prioress (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

"We could be on an uncontested lead, but Wise Dan is keen and off a long layoff; he could be breathing down our throats or he could be on the lead," said Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Sayaad. "I'm hoping we can be on the lead, but if there's other speed we can lay second. He did rate (in the Fourstardave), we just need to time it right."

Two veterans with back class -- Boisterous and Optimizer -- give the race some added pizzazz, although neither has struck gold in graded company in some time. Boisterous peaked last year at the Grade 1 level in the Man o' War, but has just an allowance victory in five outings since joining the Todd Pletcher barn.

Optimizer, a multiple Grade 3 winner on turf, has been up the track in his last four outings dating back more than a year. Formerly with D. Wayne Lukas, the Calumet Farm-owned five-year-old will be saddled here by Jose Fernandez.

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.

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Moreno the one to catch in Woodward; Clearly Now, Palace head Forego

Moreno was never seriously threatened winning the Whitney and can boost his Horse of the Year credentials with another tour-de-force performance Saturday (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photo)

Whitney winner Moreno will seek his second straight Grade 1 tally at Saratoga when he lines up for Saturday's $600,000 Woodward. The four-year-old gelding tops a field of 10 that includes seven-times stakes hero Itsmyluckyday and Suburban H. winner Zivo.

The 1 1/8-mile event lost some luster when Palace Malice and Will Take Charge were removed from consideration in recent weeks, but the Woodward could still have serious ramifications in the Eclipse Award races. Moreno tossed his hat into the ring with the dominant Whitney score, defeating both aforementioned rivals with ease as he led wire to wire for a 1 1/4-length decision, and the Eric Moreno-trained son of Ghostzapper registered a 107 BRIS Speed rating.

"(Two-time Horse of the Year) Wise Dan's just getting started, right?" Guillot said, handicapping who he perceives as the Horse of the Year leaders. "Palace Malice has got the Met Mile under his belt and Grade 2s other than that, right? The three-year-old, California Chrome, won the first two legs (of the Triple Crown); what he does when he comes back is going to be important.

"What I do from this day forward is going to be important. Shared Belief has us beaten (after winning the Pacific Classic), but Game On Dude is a tired old horse on the synthetic, so (Shared Belief's) got to do more."

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 established himself as a serious contender for the Breeders' Cup Sprint in the Vanderbilt and will attempt to carry his momentum forward  (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photo)

"We just tried to give him more time," Brown said of the decision to bypass the Whitney. "He's doing really well. He needs some pace to run at. I would expect (Itsmyluckyday) to engage Moreno a little sooner this time if he expects to have a chance to win. If Itsmyluckyday lets him gallop around again, he's not going to beat him."

Micromanage improved his mark to two for two at Saratoga an 8 1/2-length romp in the August 7 Birdstone and the four-year-old colt also captured the Grade 3 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park earlier this season. The Todd Pletcher trainee will cut back in distance with strong BRIS Speed and Late Pace numbers to his credit and the son of Medaglia d'Oro receives a rider switch to Rajiv Maragh.

Other contenders include Brooklyn winner Norumbega; Grade 2 scorer Last Gunfighter, who finished fifth in the Whitney for Brown; and multiple Grade 3 victor Romansh.

One race earlier on the stakes-loaded program, the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego features a nice group of 10 sprinters at seven furlongs.

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.

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Del Mar Debutante attracts nine

World traveler Sunset Glow stays at Del Mar for the Debutante (Benoit Photos)

Nine juvenile fillies will line up on Saturday for the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Debutante going seven furlongs over the synthetic Polytrack, but only two bring prior stakes experience into the contest.

The Wesley Ward-trained Sunset Glow is the most experienced filly in the field in terms of both travel and starts. The Exchange Rate miss ran second in her debut over Presque Isle Downs' all-weather Tapeta on May 13, returned June 6 to break her maiden over Belmont Park's turf course, then shipped to England for a start during Royal Ascot.

Sunset Glow reputed herself very well, finishing second in the Albany just 14 days later, and was given a slight break before showing up at Del Mar on August 6 to take the Sorrento by 3 1/4 lengths. Jockey Victor Espinoza has been aboard since the gray filly's maiden score and retains the mount on Saturday.

Seduire comes into the Del Mar Debutante with much more modest accomplishments. The gray daughter of Elusive Quality took her maiden debut at Santa Anita in May prior to a second-best placing in the Landaluce a month later for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. She showed up on August 8 to wire the Wine Country Debutante at Santa Rosa and gets a jockey switch to Elvis Trujillo for this graded bow.

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.

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Los Alamitos races now Kentucky Derby, Oaks qualifiers

The $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity has been added to the list of races that comprise the 2014-15 "Road to the Kentucky Derby." The series of 35 select races -- 19 "Prep Season" races and 16 "Championship Series" races -- will determine which horses qualify to the 141st running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2015.

The 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity, a race formerly known as the Hollywood (1981-2006) and CashCall (2007-13) Futurity at the now-shuttered Hollywood Park, will be run for the first time at Los Alamitos -- the home base for 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome -- on December 20. The race produced six Kentucky Derby winners during its run at Hollywood Park.

"The robust commitments by the team at Los Alamitos suggest a strong desire to be included in our series, and we're confident the race is likely to attract aspiring and compelling Derby prospects," said Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery. "We're delighted to welcome the Los Alamitos Futurity to the Kentucky Derby 'Prep Season.'"

Points awarded to the top four finishers in the Los Alamitos Futurity will be 10-4-2-1 as part of the "Prep Season" that showcases foundation-building races over a minimum of one mile between September and mid-February. It commences September 6 at the home of the Derby with the $100,000 Iroquois over 1 1/16 miles.

The 16 significant events that comprise the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" during the 10-week run-up to the first Saturday in May remain unchanged from a year ago.

This is the third consecutive year that Churchill Downs will use a sliding scale of points awarded to the top four finishers in choice races to determine preference for its 20-horse Derby field. At least 20 horses have entered the 1 1/4-mile classic every year since 2004, and 14 of the last 16 years.

In the first two years of the point system, the horses that topped the leaderboard with 150 points each won the Kentucky Derby: Orb in 2013 and California Chrome in 2014.

A similar series remains in place to qualify for the Derby's sister race, the $1 million Kentucky Oaks for three-year-old fillies on May 1, 2015. The lone change to the 31-race "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" series is the addition of the $350,000 Starlet, a 1 1/16-mile "Prep Season" race scheduled for December 13 at Los Alamitos. Like the Futurity, the Starlet also had been previously run at Hollywood Park.

The full schedule of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks qualifiers, along with point breakdowns, can be found here.

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In brief

Grade 2 winner Neko Bay (Giant's Causeway) was represented by his first winner as a sire on Thursday when Magic Bay captured the 3RD race at Arlington by seven lengths. The juvenile gelding, trained by Scott Mullins for Larry Bingham, led all the way home in the six-furlong maiden claiming contest under jockey Maria Thornton to score in his fourth try. Just a few hours later at Louisana Downs, Neko Bay saw his second winner as Netcents posted a two-length score in the 3RD race with Eguard Tejera in the irons. Trainer Jorge Lara was sending out the Terrell Jarrett Jr.-owned chestnut colt for his second start. Neko Bay -- who stands for $3,000 at Elite Thoroughbreds near Folsom, Louisiana -- went 3-4-0 from his first seven starts, including placings in the Tokyo City Cup H. (G3), Alydar and Santa Mile H. He finished fourth in the 2008 Mervyn LeRoy H. (G2) in his first off-the-board placing, ran sixth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile one year later, but closed out his career with a third in the 2009 Native Diver H. (G3), a win in the 2010 San Pasqual H. (G2) and a half-length second to Misremembered in the 2010 Santa Anita H. (G1). The 11-year-old dark bay retired with a 14-5-6-1, $473,020, career mark and is out of Grade 2 heroine Brulay (Rubiano), who is a half-sister to classic-winning champion and sire Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo). Neko Bay's third dam is Lassie Dear (Buckpasser), from whom is descended the likes of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, just to name two...

The speedy four-year-old Moreno (Ghostzapper), upset winner of the Whitney (G1) four weeks ago, will be the one to catch in Saturday's Woodward (G1) at Saratoga as part of the "Summer at Saratoga: Breeders' Cup Challenge Series" at 6 p.m. (EDT) on NBCSN. The Woodward will be the eighth of 11 telecasts in the Challenge Series leading to the Breeders' Cup World Championships on NBC and NBCSN, October 31-November 1, from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Saturday's show will be hosted by Laffit Pincay III, who will be joined by analyst Jerry Bailey, analyst/handicapper Bob Neumeier and reporter Carolyn Manno. In addition, Saturday's "Summer at Saratoga" program will include the Forego (G1) and an update on reigning two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan (Wiseman's Ferry), who will be competing in the Bernard Baruch H. (G2) earlier in the day. Click for the complete "Breeders' Cup Challenge Series Win & You're In" television schedule...

Brilliant Match (Partner's Hero) has bounced back and forth between flat and jump racing during her short eight-race career, but on Thursday added a first stakes win to her resume when taking the $69,750 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords over the national fences. Bred, owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, the six-year-old mare was 1 3/4 lengths clear after going about 2 3/8 miles with jockey Darren Nagle aboard. The duo stopped the clock in 4:39 over the firm turf to move Brilliant Match's career line to 9-3-2-1, $98,075...

Khalid Abdullah's Tested (Selkirk) settled in second early during Thursday's 65,000 Fairy Bridge (Ire-G3) at Tipperary, keeping tabs on the forcefully ridden leader Some Spirit (Invincible Spirit). The Juddmonte Farms homebred took command traveling easily with a quarter-mile remaining and drew away as the remainder failed to make any impression. "She's a filly we've always held in high regard and she's only really getting it together now," jockey Pat Smullen said. "She settled really well and everything was right for her today, as seven furlongs on fast ground is tailor-made. She pulled too hard in the Irish Guineas, but she's learning to race properly now and we might see some more improvement. She's getting quicker as she gets older and could be a seven-furlong specialist." Two-for-two over seven furlongs entering the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1), Tested never factored when sixth in that May 25 Curragh classic but resumed the winning thread in the listed Owenstown Stud back over seven at Naas eight days later. Beaten a half-length into second by Dalkova when runner-up in Galway's listed Corrib Fillies again over that trip at the end of July, the Dermot Weld-trained bay miss stepped up again at Tipperary on Thursday to win with authority and produce a career-best.

Dual Group 1 winner Reckless Abandon (Exchange Rate) could be headed for the October 18 Champion (Eng-G1) on British Champions Day at Ascot after pleasing trainer Charlie Appleby with a third-place finish in Newmarket's listed Hopeful last weekend. The four-year-old was making his first start in almost 10 months. He was returned to training after suffering fertility issues while standing his first season at Darley's Kildangan Stud in Ireland this year. "We were very happy with him and he seems to have come out of the race very well," Appleby said. "We'll potentially look to go towards Champions Day at Ascot, but we would like to get one more run into him before then. There is a listed race at York September 7 that we are looking at and if all goes well there, we'll look towards at Ascot. When horses come back from stud duties there is also a question mark over whether their mind is on the job, but he obviously showed he still has the enthusiasm and plenty of ability." Reckless Abandon was unbeaten as a juvenile and won the Prix Morny (Fr-G1) and Middle Park (Eng-G1) while trained by Clive Cox...

Khalid Abdullah's Kingman (Invincible Spirit) stamped himself the undisputed leader of the European miling division when collecting his fourth consecutive Group 1 in the August 17 Prix Jacques le Marois, and trainer John Gosden has expressed confidence that his charge could handle longer distances, too. While Kingman has not yet reached the acclaim of Juddmonte's other recent luminary Frankel, Gosden noted the three-year-old could take in a similar campaign to Sir Henry Cecil's unbeaten star if kept in training next year. "Frankel obviously went mile, mile, mile and then he stepped up to a mile and a quarter at York (for the Juddmonte International [Eng-G1]) and again in the Champion (Eng-G1) at Ascot," Gosden noted. "If (Kingman) stayed in training next year you have the options to do similar things, but at this stage, as a three-year-old, a mile is his trip." Gosden said he has seen a progression in Kingman -- who also won this year's Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1), St James's Palace (Eng-G1) and Sussex (Eng-G1) -- throughout the season. "He's grown a lot, he's a powerful horse, he's got a phenomenal turn of foot and he has the ability to switch off, which is great," he said. The conditioner added that a decision on Kingman's racing future would likely not come until later in the year. "I don't think any decisions will be made until the end of October," Gosden stated. "We'll sit down and discuss the matter thoroughly and see what's best and the final decision will very much rest with the owner." Kingman is likely to have his final run of the season in the Queen Elizabeth II (Eng-G1) on British Champions Day, October 18...

Grade 3 winner Bandbox, a son of leading sire Tapit, will stand his first season at stud in 2015 at Northview Stallion Station near Chesapeake City, Maryland, according to an announcement from the farm. His stud fee will be $2,500 live foal and he is now available for inspection at the farm. "We're extremely excited to stand Bandbox here in Maryland and, as far as we know, he is the first graded stakes winner by Tapit to stand outside of Kentucky," said Richard Golden, President/CEO of Northview Stallions. Raced by Ellen Charles' Hillwood Stable and trained by Rodney Jenkins, Bandbox won his first three starts at two, including a 9 1/2-length runaway win in the $100,000 Charles Town Juvenile S. and a victory over New York-bred rivals in the Sleepy Hollow S. at Belmont Park. He concluded his juvenile season with a troubled fourth in the Remsen S. (G2), finishing behind To Honor and Serve and Mucho Macho Man, and went on to capture a total four stakes races. The six-year-old posted his biggest career victory earlier this year, a four-length romp in the General George (G3) at Laurel Park, and Bandbox earned $390,345 from a 15-5-4-1 ledger over four seasons of racing. The gray horse is out of the unraced Grand Slam mare Empty the Bases. Lifetime breeding rights to Bandbox are $10,000, payable over four years with two seasons each year for the first five years. Shares are also available for $10,000, payable over four years at $2,500 each year with two seasons each year for the first five years. Inquiries can be made to Paul O'Loughlin at Northview Stallions 717-548-3401 or Linda Bench at Northview 410-885-2855...

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...

A total of 98 horses have been entered for the 11 races Canterbury Park has carded for the 21st annual Minnesota Festival of Champions scheduled for Sunday. The program offers more than $564,000 in purses and is restricted to horses bred in the state. There will be six stakes for Thoroughbreds, two for Quarter Horses, plus three additional Thoroughbred turf races. Racing begins at 12:45 p.m. (CDT). "The State Tournament of Horse Racing" was first held in 1992. The owners at that time closed the Shakopee, Minnesota, racetrack at the end of the year. Racing returned to Canterbury under new ownership in 1995 as did the Festival of Champions. It has been a centerpiece of the racing season ever since. "The 1992 Festival, held at the end of that season, was a success despite a disinterested ownership and a failing business," Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. "It showed that racing, with proper promotion and leadership, could thrive in Minnesota and it led to Minnesotans purchasing the business a couple of years later." Sampson, one of the organizers of the 1992 event, has been Canterbury Park's president since he, his father, Curtis, and South St. Paul businessman Dale Schenian purchased the track in 1994. "This is the richest day in the history of Minnesota-bred racing," Sampson added. "With breeding on the rise in the state and purses increasing thanks to the purse enhancement agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, I see a bright future for Festival of Champions and the entire Minnesota racing industry."...

Miss Frost (Curlin) looks to extend her win streak to three races in Friday's sixth running of the $100,000 Riskaverse for three-year-old fillies going one mile on Saratoga's inner turf course. Trained by Tom Albertrani, Miss Frost won an entry-level allowance on July 10 at Belmont Park before scoring by a half-length in the Tenski on August 11 at Saratoga. She is two-for-three lifetime at the Spa, her only loss coming when third in the P.G. Johnson last summer. Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado will ride Miss Frost from post 2 as the 3-1 second choice on the morning-line. The winner of the 2013 P.G. Johnson, Granny Mc's Kitten (Kitten's Joy), returns as the 9-5 program favorite for the Riskaverse off a three-quarter length victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on August 2 at the Spa. She also has two wins from three career Saratoga starts, losing her debut by a nose last summer to Miss Frost. Meet-leading rider Javier Castellano will be aboard from post 5. Also in the Riskaverse are Prayed For (Dynaformer), a maiden winner at the Spa in her August 9 debut; Fashion Fund (Oasis Dream), third by a length to Granny Mc's Kitten in the August 2 allowance; Latique (Elusive Quality), who returned from a six-month layoff with an allowance win at Monmouth on July 25; New York Stallion Series stakes winner Old Harbor (Raffie's Majesty); three-time Florida-bred stakes winner Scandalous Act (Act of Duty); and Irish-bred Nishanora (Excellent Art), making her second North American start. Faith Hall (High Cotton) and Vero Amore (Mineshaft) are entered for main-track only...

Newly-minted Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis, returning to the West Coast after several years in the East, was on the morning scene at Del Mar Thursday, working two horses. He also has his first two mounts scheduled Saturday. "Settled in and ready to go. It's good to be home," Solis said. "Hopefully we can get lucky." Solis has 4,992 career wins and joked that, "Hopefully we can get to 5,000 the next four days." Realistically, of course, Solis' milestone win could come at the Los Alamitos meeting which follows Del Mar, "Of all places, Los Al, where I haven't ridden very much," Solis said..

Saturday's Memsie S. marks the return of Group 1 racing for the Australian spring and features the return of last season's triple Group 1-winning mare Silent Achiever (O'Reilly). The 2012 New Zealand Derby (NZ-G1) winner clinched last year's New Zealand S. (NZ-G1) before crossing the Tasman to score a Sydney Group 1 double in the Ranvet S. and The BMW. The now six-year-old closed out the season with a fourth-place finish when last seen in the April 19 Queen Elizabeth S. (Aus-G1). While the Memsie's 1400-meter distance is likely shorter than ideal for Silent Achiever, it is worth noting that seven of the last nine winners of this event were having their first run of the season. While Moment of Change (Barely a Moment) does have a run under his belt this season -- a second in the 1200-meter Regal Roller S. at Caulfield two weeks ago -- the six-year-old gelding returns to the track and trip over which he won last season's CF Orr S. (Aus-G1) and Futurity S. (Aus-G1) for trainer Peter Moody. The Gai Waterhouse-trained Sweet Idea (Snitzel) was the model of consistency last season, recording three wins from six outings with her only poor showing coming when ninth in a boggy TJ Smith S. (Aus-G1). The four-year-old filly indicated she retains her class with a first-up win in the August 9 Missile S. (Aus-G2) at Randwick, where she bested the highly promising and re-opposing Messene (Lonhro), who had a seven-race win streak snapped when seventh over heavy going in the Doncaster Mile (Aus-G1) on April 12. Puissance de Lune (Shamardal), amongst the favorites for last year's Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1) before injuring himself when 12th in the Cox Plate (Aus-G1), checked in sixth in his first start in 10 months in the P.B. Lawrence S. (Aus-G2) over this track and trip two weeks ago, but the Darren Weir-trained gray boasts a 4-3-1-0 second-up record...

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)...

Coolmore's Choisir (Danehill Dancer), a longtime shuttler between Australia and Ireland, will not return to Ireland, according to published reports. The 17-year-old, who has sired the likes of Group/Grade 1 winners Starspangledbanner, Olympic Glory and Obviously, will continue to stand in Australia. "He's been a wonderful asset to Coolmore's stallion roster since he retired in 2003 and (began) his shuttle career a year later," Coolmore Australia's Michael Kirwan told Australian media. "He's now a 17-year-old horse and still very fertile. But his popularity in Australia has never been better, as evidenced by the fact eight of his yearlings sold from $460,000 to $210,000, with his Inglis Easter average $423,636."...

In addition to the regular Saturday and Sunday free handicapping seminars at Del Mar, there'll be one on Monday to complete the Labor Day weekend. Trainer Julio Canani, whose 42 Del Mar stakes victories include the 2004 Debutante (G1) with champion Sweet Catomine, will be the guest Saturday, which happens to be Debutante Day. Jon Lindo's guest on Sunday will be Art Sherman, trainer of 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome. The seminar triple concludes Monday with racetrack deluxe, man-about-racing and Barona Casino off-track betting manager John "Johnny B" Bucalo. Seminars begin at 12:45 (PDT) and are held in the Seaside Terrace near the top of the stretch...

Sunday is the final giveaway of the Saratoga meeting, a Saratoga short-sleeve t-shirt that is free with paid admission, while supplies last. Guests will be able to redeem up to three vouchers at Saratoga Race Course's giveaway redemption areas, including the one they receive with paid admission and the two additional vouchers they are able to purchase at the multiple admissions line beneath the grandstand.

Carryover Watch

For Friday or Next Raceday

WOODBINE:   Pick 6 -- $278,841
GULFSTREAM:   Pick 6 -- $51,383
    Pick 5 -- $11,916
GOLDEN GATE:   Pick 6 -- $10,747



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. 

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AUGUST 29, 2014

by John Mucciolo

A huge weekend of racing, led by the Travers Stakes, topped the action at Saratoga Race Course.

Travers S. (G1): Magalen O Bryant's V.E. DAY (English Channel) slowly began getting closer inside the final furlong and got up by a nose in the final jump to post the upset under a fine ride by Javier Castellano. The rapidly improving colt finished up 10 furlongs on the fast main strip in 2:20 4/5 for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who also saddled the runner-up.

King's Bishop S. (G1): Alex and Joann Lieblong's THE BIG BEAST (Yes It's True) wore down the clear leader inside the final sixteenth to post his first graded tally for conditioner Tony Dutrow. The surging sophomore colt was a neck clear on the line, stopping the teletimer in 1:22 1/5 for seven panels on the fast dirt under Castellano.

Personal Ensign S. (G1): Juddmonte Farms' homebred CLOSE HATCHES (First Defence) took a nice lead on the backstretch and gave her foes little chance thereafter under Joel Rosario, drawing off by five convincing lengths. The Bill Mott trainee went nine panels on the muddy, sealed main oval in 1:50 3/5.

Ballerina S. (G1): Mary and Chester Broman's homebred ARTEMIS AGROTERA (Roman Ruler) tracked in second to the top of the lane, took over readily in early stretch and cruised home a facile 6 1/2-length winner for trainer Mike Hushion. The multiple Grade 1 heroine sped seven-eighths on the fast main surface in a snappy 1:21 4/5 under Rajiv Maragh.

Ballston Spa H. (G2): Phipps Stable's ABACO (Giant's Causeway) sat in last to the top of the lane, moved widest of all in the final furlong and got up by a neck late beneath Jose Ortiz. The Shug McGaughey trainee went 1 1/16 miles on the good turf oval in 1:42 3/5.

Track Stats

A total of 65 races were held at the Saratoga Springs, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 28 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 54 percent of the wins during the week. From 39 races on the main oval, nine animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (23 percent), while five of the 26 races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (19 percent).

Eight of the nine wire-to-wire winners on the dirt came Thursday and Friday, when the main surface had some moisture in it. Just one led all the way from 19 tries during the other four days of racing.

All five turf wire jobs occurred in route races -- three on the inner and two the outer.

Trainer Chad Brown had another solid week and Todd Pletcher did not, and the latter's lead in the trainers' race has dwindled to four. The stretch run is down to this pair. Kiaran McLaughlin, whom we have touted for a few weeks, had another strong week and was a few head bobs away from a huge one. This barn is winning at a 22 percent clip here.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens continues to fly high at The Spa, winning at a sensational 39 percent rate. His fantastic line reads 23-9-4-2 and he saddled the one-two finishers in the signature race of the meeting.

Irad Ortiz Jr. might not reel in Javier Castellano in the jockeys' race, with eight wins to make up, but he surely will be in the top two barring something unforeseen. His 21 percent win rate in superb for the  demanding meeting. He has booted home horses to a total of more than $4 million in purse money.

Meet Totals

RACES:   348
DIRT:   190
TURF:   158
FAVORITES:   117 (36 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   81 (22 percent)
TURF WIRE:   34 (24 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   51 (30 percent)


Wednesday (8/20)

7TH -- KENZADARGENT (Kendargent) was well backed in her U.S. debut and the sophomore filly responded with a fine closing run to top this field going away. We're not sure what the Chad Brown pupil defeated in this spot, but it was a nice start to her stateside campaign.

8TH -- Christophe Clement's aptly named SARATOGA DREAMER (Elusive Quality) ranged up into contention approaching the turn for home and exploded late in a powerful debut score on the lawn under Irad Ortiz Jr. The well-meant colt really impressed us and we think he has a big future with steady development.

Friday (8/22)

3RD -- MEWANNAROSE (Bwana Charlie) couldn't catch the sharp winner but finished up well to be a clear second on this day, his first run since May. The Chris Englehart trainee could be very tough next out with even slight improvement.

7TH -- GAP YEAR (Bernardini) broke slowly and had a lot of ground to make up in the lane after cornering extremely wide, but this first timer almost pulled it off with a huge rally, finishing just a nose and head shy of winning in this fine debut. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained juvenile filly should be graduating next time out and could be a very good one with more seasoning.

Saturday (8/23)

2ND -- IMPERIA (Medaglia d'Oro) was a bit unlucky not to have won at first asking in this turf debut as he just fell short behind a loose on the lead winner who had everything his own way. The McLaughlin trainee made a bold late run and should be graduating before long after being more than three lengths clear of third. The colt got his five five-sixteenths in a wicked :28 4/5!

10TH -- THE BIG BEAST looked to always have this race measured and we think he could be any kind going forward. The sophomore appeared to have more to offer at the end of seven furlongs, so additional ground may prove very doable, and he rates as a very exciting prospect.

11TH -- We didn't think the dominant score by ARTEMIS AGROTERA was a fluke by any means in this one and she could be among the top few one-turn distaffers in training. She made short work of a very good field today.

Sunday (8/24)

2ND -- We thought the Richard Violette-trained UPSTART (Flatter) was especially impressive in running down a very clear one late to remain unbeaten. The New York-bred juvenile finished up in a solid final time and showed a ton of heart -- and is reportedly going to tackle open foes next out.

Monday (8/25)

5TH -- PUCA (Big Brown) always looked to have horse on the backstretch and nearing the top of the lane, and the Bill Mott trainee finished with excellent energy in finishing a clear third in a tough field. We expect this juvenile filly to continue to improve and be a useful sort for sure.

9TH -- FREE AS A BIRD (Hard Spun) makes this list yet again after another tally when it looked as she had no chance, only to fly late and get up. The Ian Wilkes charge seems to know exactly where the wire is and we will never feel comfortable betting against this gem of a mare.

A Look Ahead

A huge closing weekend is upon us at Saratoga, with eight graded races on tap through Labor Day. Saturday will play host to a quartet of graded races in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward Stakes; Grade 1, $500,000 Forego Stakes; Grade 2, $300,000 Prioress Stakes; and the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap.

The Sunday card is led by the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway Stakes and it is accompanied by the Grade 3, $150,000 Glens Falls Stakes. The Holiday program features the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes and the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac Stakes.

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Saturday, August 30   Woodward (G1)
    Forego (G1)
    6 - 7 p.m.

all times Eastern


Monday thru Friday   At the Races w/ Steve Byk
    10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Sirius 93 - XM 209
Thursdays Call-In Show
    6 - 7 p.m.
    Sirius 93 - XM 209
Saturdays   Down the Stretch w/ Don Knobel
    10 - 11 a.m.
    790 AM (WKRD)
Saturdays   Down the Stretch
    10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Sirius 93 - XM 209
Saturdays   Equine Forum
    8 - 10 a.m.

all times Eastern

At a Glance
Avg. Winning Odds: 3.86 - 1
Favorite Win%: 39%, Favorite Itm%: 73%
Daily Double71.15
Pick 3369.25
Pick 62,131.50
Pick 42,237.73
Pick 53,243.05
Super High Five2,209.38
TRACK BIAS MEET(07/03 - 08/24)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 22 64% E Mid/Out
6.0fDirt 42 45% E Rail
1 MileDirt 33 36% E Rail/Ins
Turf Sprint 32 31% E Rail/Ins
Turf Routes 65 18% S Rail/Ins
TRACK BIAS WEEK(08/18 - 08/24)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 1 100% E Middle
6.0fDirt 5 20% E/P Rail/Ins
1 MileDirt 6 50% E Rail/Ins
Turf Sprint 4 50% E/P Inside
Turf Routes 8 25% S Inside
Who's HOT, Who's NOT
HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Bradley William B. 5 2 0 0 3.32 2 10%
Gorder Kellyn 5 2 0 0 4.10 0 18%
HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Saez Juan C. 22 6 1 5 4.90 4 24%
Pedroza Marcelino 16 4 3 1 7.04 0 12%
Borel Calvin H. 11 3 3 2 8.12 1 14%
COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Pompell Thomas L. 14 0 1 2 19.42 0 7%
Avg. Winning Odds: 4.89 - 1
Favorite Win%: 33%, Favorite Itm%: 71%
Daily Double81.62
Pick 3535.57
Pick 635,281.17
Pick 44,239.13
Pick 519,422.33
Grand Slam107.95
TRACK BIAS MEET(07/18 - 08/28)
Distance #
6.0fDirt 56 41% E Middle
7.0fDirt 41 27% E/P Rail
1 1/8mDirt 55 27% E Rail
1 1/4mDirt 2 0% E/P Mid/Out
Distance #
6.0fDirt 9 56% E Outside
7.0fDirt 7 0% S Outside
1 1/8mDirt 11 27% E Mid/Out
1 1/4mDirt 1 0% S Middle
Who's HOT, Who's NOT
HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Brown Chad C. 35 12 4 3 3.71 6 27%
Donk David G. 8 4 2 1 5.81 1 14%
Jerkens James A. 8 4 3 0 4.48 2 24%
Levine Bruce N. 11 4 1 0 6.08 1 16%
Asmussen Steven M. 12 4 1 2 6.22 1 21%
Lewis Lisa L. 4 3 0 0 5.69 0 15%
Valentine Richard L. 5 2 0 2 12.00 1 16%
HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Rosario Joel 40 11 4 6 6.87 4 20%
COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Hennig Mark A. 10 0 2 1 11.62 0 15%
Hertler John O. 10 0 1 0 23.99 0 7%
COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Rice Taylor B. 13 0 0 2 20.77 0 16%
Rocco, Jr. Joseph 12 0 0 1 14.27 0 11%
Bridgmohan Shaun 10 0 0 1 16.75 0 18%


MONDAY:   Golden Gate Fields and Monmouth Park
TUESDAY:   Arlington and Del Mar
WEDNESDAY:   Louisiana Downs and Woodbine
THURSDAY:   Delaware Park and Gulfstream Park
FRIDAY:   Ellis Park and Saratoga

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Friday

Arlington Park   (5th) Sheza Ruler, 10-1
    (7th) J. L.'s Princess, 4-1
Belterra Park   (2nd) Pikestar, 3-1
    (6th) Dangerous Daniel, 3-1
Canterbury Park   (1st) My Funny Gal, 3-1
    (2nd) Rockadora, 8-1
Charles Town   (1st) Candy Castle, 3-1
    (3rd) Blonde Vixen, 7-2
Del Mar   (3rd) Delaney's Joy, 5-1
    (7th) Nero's Pleasure, 5-1
Ellis Park   (1st) Yuckon Dance, 3-1
    (8th) Sugar Kate, 4-1
Evangeline Downs   (2nd) Sensational Star, 4-1
    (11th) Lunar Fog, 6-1
Finger Lakes   (4th) Duo, 6-1
    (5th) Winco, 10-1
Golden Gate Fields   (4th) Hidethegoodstuff, 9-2
    (6th) Uarockstarbaby, 8-1
Gulfstream Park   (6th) Fantastic Voyage, 4-1
    (9th) Volcano Run, 6-1
Hastings Park   (2nd) Tarue Grit, 4-1
    (4th) Say Fabulous, 8-1
Indiana Downs   (7th) Golden Andrew, 10-1
    (8th) Rhinestone Justice, 3-1
Louisiana Downs   (6th) Fiesty Margie, 6-1
    (9th) Unbridled Passion, 7-2
Monmouth Park   (3rd) Titanium Jo, 4-1
    (7th) Abundance of Class, 9-2
Penn National   (4th) Halton Gully, 5-1
    (6th) Aisle Show You, 3-1
Remington Park   (2nd) Prospect Knight, 8-1
    (9th) Amber's Deputy, 6-1
Saratoga   (1st) Da Wildcat Girl, 3-1
    (3rd) Winner's Legacy, 4-1
Thistledown   (7th) Lil Skeletol, 5-1
    (8th) Raka, 7-2
Woodbine   (5th) North Tip, 3-1
    (6th) Irish Gem, 6-1


For Friday

ARLINGTON PARK (4:00): $33,000 alw, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/8mT (6TH).
BELTERRA PARK (3:00): $16,600 alw, 3&up, 6 1/2f (6TH).
CANTERBURY PARK (7:40): $30,000 ocl, 3&up, 6f (7TH).
CHARLES TOWN (7:00): $26,000 alw, 3&up, 1 1/16m (8TH).
DEL MAR (7:00): $100,000 El Cajon S., 3yo, 1m (6TH).
ELLIS PARK (1:50): $35,500 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 5 1/2fT (2ND); $35,500 alw, 3&up, f&m, 5 1/2f (5TH).
EVANGELINE DOWNS (6:45): $30,500 alw, 3&up, f&m, 1mT (7TH).
FINGER LAKES (12:35): $19,200 alw, 3&up, 1m 70yds (3RD); $19,200 alw, 3&up, 6f (7TH).
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS (6:45): $35,000 alw, 3&up, f&m, 6f (4TH).
GULFSTREAM PARK (1:15): $40,000 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 6f (8TH).
HASTINGS PARK (10:00): $25,000 alw, 3&up, f&m, 6 1/2f (6TH).
INDIANA DOWNS (5:05): $38,000 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 7 1/2fT (6TH).
LOUISIANA DOWNS (3:50): $25,500 ocl, 3&up, 1 1/16mT (8TH).
MONMOUTH PARK (12:50): $37,800 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 5fT (9TH).
PENN NATIONAL (6:00): $30,400 alw, 3&up, 6f (5TH).
REMINGTON PARK (8:00): $50,000 Ricks Memorial S., 3&up, f&m, 1mT (8TH).
SARATOGA (1:00): $100,000 Riskaverse S., 3yo, f, 1mT (10TH).
WOODBINE (1:00): $62,300 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16mT (3RD).

*all times Eastern

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.


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