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Four Grade 1 winners highlight outstanding Travers field

Bayern served notice that he'll be a force to be reckoned with when dominating the Haskell on the front end (Carl J. Sari/Equi-Photo)

A quartet of Grade 1 winners will square off in Saturday's 145th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the 1 1/4-mile race could have serious championship implications in the three-year-old division.

Live coverage of the Travers will be part of NBC Sports Network's national telecast from 4:30 to 6 p.m. (EDT). The Travers has a scheduled post time of 5:46 p.m.

The strong 10-horse field is headed by the up-and-coming Bayern, who broke through with his first official graded stakes victory (disqualified from a narrow win in the Derby Trial) when capturing the seven-furlong Woody Stephens by a resounding 7 1/2-length margin on the June 7 Belmont Stakes undercard.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt prove to be no one-turn wonder when stretching back out to a route in the July 27 Haskell Invitational, romping by 7 1/4 lengths in the prestigious 1 1/8-mile test at Monmouth Park, and Bayern will now attempt to carry his speed an extra furlong Saturday.

Favored at 2-1 on the morning line, the son of Offlee Wild drew well on the inside for his front-running style (post No. 2) and Martin Garcia retains the mount.

"The Haskell was pretty impressive," Baffert said of Bayern, who made his career debut on January 4 and has earned more than $1 million while winning four of seven starts. "Will he take a step backward? I don't' know, but he looks good.

"He's not a really big horse, but he's fast. He's a handy horse, and he's got a lot of speed. I'm not totally convinced he can go a mile and a quarter, but he's pretty fast. You just have to let him go and what happens, happens. You can't worry about it. When you have a horse with that kind of brilliant speed, you have to use it."

Wicked Strong thrived with the addition of blinkers in the Jim Dandy while Tonalist may have been a race short in second (NYRA/Coglianese Photo/Chelsea Durand)

The Travers marks the third stakes match-up between Tonalist and Wicked Strong, who have split their past meetings and are listed as the respective 3-1 and 7-2 second and third choices on the morning line.

Tonalist made his stakes debut a winning one in the May 10 Peter Pan, scoring by four easy lengths in the slop at Belmont Park, and the Tapit colt followed with an excellent tally in the final jewel of the Triple Crown, gamely capturing the Belmont Stakes by a head with Wicked Strong two lengths back in fourth. Tonalist was favored at 4-5 in his Travers prep, the July 26 Jim Dandy, but wound up finishing second, 2 1/4 lengths behind Wicked Strong.

Joel Rosario rides the classic winner for trainer Christophe Clement.

"From (post) 5 on up, that was good for us," assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul said after Tonalist received post 6. "We didn't want to get stuck on the inside. He has tactical speed, but it really is his game being close up and behind horses. He wants to be in the clear. He has a very long stride.

"(Bayern) probably will go for it. We've got Wicked Strong outside of us (in post 7), and he might go a little bit, too. It could be a good set-up. We don't want to be as wide as we were in the Jim Dandy, so (Rosario) will have to tuck him in a bit more. It's an extra furlong (compared to the Jim Dandy), but I think the horse needed the race last time. He's had two good works since then."

Wicked Strong added blinkers for the Jim Dandy and raced more forwardly than his previous starts. A close third when concluding his juvenile campaign in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct, the Hard Spun colt returned this year with a pair of disappointing efforts at Gulfstream Park. He rebounded back in New York, taking the Wood Memorial by 3 1/2 lengths, but experienced a troubled trip finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

Mr Speaker (right) accelerated on the inside to deny a classy Adelaide in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby (NYRA/Coglianese Photo/Chelsea Durand)

After a fourth in the Belmont Stakes, Jimmy Jerkens stated his disappointment, noting that Wicked Strong ran only in spots, and the trainer decided to add blinkers for the Jim Dandy. Wicked Strong closely tracked the pacesetter in second before seizing control at the conclusion of the far turn, and proceeded to easily repel the rally of Tonalist in midstretch.

"It definitely made him get on the bit," Jerkens said of the decision to add blinkers. "Rajiv (Maragh) sent him away from there a little bit, too, so I think it was a little bit of both. I don't think they made him rank by any means. It was a combination of blinkers and Rajiv sending him from there because he wanted to get a nice spot going into the turn that made him close to the pace.

"I don't think it's going to make him rank by any means. I can't deny that he does seem to run straighter and truer with them on, no question."

Wicked Strong is attempting to become the 11th horse since 1960 and sixth in the last 12 years to complete the Jim Dandy-Travers double. Seven of the past 10 Travers winners have exited the Jim Dandy, most recently done by Alpha, who dead-heated with Golden Ticket in 2012. 

Maragh was pleased post 7.

"I think it's a great post. It gives us some options," the jockey said. "We're posted outside most of the speed horses, and it seems like a very ideal situation. I would think that Tonalist might show a little more speed; he was pretty close to the lead in the Belmont. The No. 7 post gives me a lot of options to see how the race unfolds and pick a good spot. We'll play it by ear and see how the race is going.

"The great thing with Wicked Strong is you can adjust with him; he doesn't have one specific running style. He's won close to the lead like last time and also has won from pretty much off the pace. Our hands aren't tied to doing anything specific."

Rice believes Kid Cruz will move forward off his Jim Dandy third (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photo)

Mr Speaker will be seeking his first win on dirt following a terrific turf victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, defeating Irish invader Adelaide by a length. He was flattered when that rival came back to capture last Saturday's Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington as the heavy favorite.

By Pulpit and out of an Unbridled mare, Mr Speaker is bred to relish the main track. But his successes have come strictly on turf and synthetics so far, including a four-length triumph in the Lexington on Keeneland's Polytrack. He didn't run well when trying Gulfstream Park's main track earlier this season, finishing a well-beaten seventh in the Holy Bull, but Shug McGaughey is hopeful that his charge will show more on Saratoga's dirt track.

"It's just a matter of whether he takes to the dirt or not," McGaughey said. "He'll be fine if he takes to the dirt. You never know on the dirt when you turn their head loose and ask them to run what they're going to do or if the dirt gets to hitting them. I don't think that will be a problem. If he takes to it and does fine, I think we'll be in the ballgame."

The Hall of Famer McGaughey is one of only eight trainers with three victories in the Mid-Summer Derby, having won with Easy Goer (1989), Rhythm (1990) and Coronado's Quest (1998).

Mr Speaker shows a couple of fast works on the Saratoga main track this month and will break from the far outside post Saturday with Jose Lezcano.

Jerkens, who won with his only other Travers starter, Afleet Express, in 2010, will also send out V. E. Day in the Travers. The chestnut son of grass champion English Channel has won three straight starts, including the 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on the eve of the Jim Dandy.

Four-time stakes hero Kid Cruz will look to improve upon his third-place effort in the Jim Dandy. A sharp winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer and the Easy Goer in his two previous outings at Belmont Park, the late-running son of Lemon Drop Kid will keep Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle.

"He's coming in great," trainer Linda Rice said of Kid Cruz, who was claimed for $50,000 from his second career start in late November. "We struggled this spring with him with a shoulder and a pinched nerve at the base of his neck. We missed the Wood Memorial and went to the (April 19) Tesio (at Pimlico) instead.

"The Preakness went poorly but frankly he's coming into this race very well. Despite the fact that the Jim Dandy was kind of an ugly race for us, the goal was to get to the Travers. Hopefully, we'll be ready."

Kid Cruz, who can provide Rice with the first Travers victory by a female trainer, raced closer than normal during the early stages of the Jim Dandy, dropped back going down the backstretch, and came again late for third.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, fourth in the Jim Dandy, is also entered. The Dallas Stewart trainee breaks from the innermost post with Shaun Bridmohan.

Rounding out the Travers field are Charge Now and Viva Majorca, the second- and fourth-place finishers in the Curlin; and Jim Dandy fifth-placer and Grade 3 runner-up Ulanbator.

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Wildcat Red reverts in distance for King's Bishop

Wildcat Red hasn't competed at less than 1 1/16 miles since taking the Hutcheson in February (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Wildcat Red hasn't competed at less than 1 1/16 miles in five races since taking the February 1 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park, but on Saturday will show his versatility by cutting back to seven furlongs for the Grade 1, $500,000 King's Bishop on the Travers Day undercard at Saratoga.

The Jose Garoffalo trainee nearly swept the three major sophomore stakes at Gulfstream Park over the spring, taking the seventh-furlong Hutcheson by 4 3/4 lengths and the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth by a head, but just missed when a neck second in the nine-furlong Florida Derby. He would go on to suffer his only unplaced run when 18th following a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, and was given some time off following that effort.

Wildcat Red proved ready for action when returning June 28 with a 10-length romp in the Quality Road at Gulfstream, then shipped to Monmouth Park for a third-place run in the Haskell Invitational last out. The bay sophomore has been getting familiar with Saratoga's track, clocking a half-mile in :49 2/5 last Saturday, and keeps Luis Saez in the saddle for the King's Bishop.

"I think the King's Bishop is the best spot to put him," Garoffalo explained about opting for this spot instead of the Travers later on the program. "The Travers is going to be tough, and I want to refresh him a little bit. The mile and a quarter is too long for him now.

"In this race, if we run good we still have a chance to go to (the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 20) or somewhere else. It all depends on the result and how the horse comes back."

Amsterdam winner Coup de Grace will renew his rivalry with... (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Coup de Grace is seeking his third straight stakes win for trainer Larry Jones after posting a three-length victory in the July 26 Amsterdam, the major local prep for the King's Bishop.

The Tapit chestnut entered that contest off a neck score in the Oh Say at Delaware Park just 21 days earlier in what was his first start for Jones after being conditioned by Chad Brown in his first five lifetime races. During that period of time, Coup de Grace sandwiched a win in the seven-furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct between unplaced efforts in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull and seven-furlong Woody Stephens.

"We ran him at Delaware to get a feel for him before we tackled everyone in Saratoga," Jones explained. "He's still moving forward and is comfortable training here.

"His running style depends on the length of the race," the trainer added. "In sprint races he comes out relaxed and settles off the pace, but in routes he has shown more speed. There's a lot of speed in the King's Bishop, which should be comfortable for him. He's used to coming from off the pace in sprints."

Rosie Napravnik was aboard Coup de Grace for the Amsterdam and retains the mount in this spot.

...Amsterdam runner-up C. Zee in the King's Bishop (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

C. Zee earned his shot at the King's Bishop after running second in the Amsterdam last out. Transferred from Stanley Gold to Nick Zito when shipped to Saratoga, the Florida-bred son of Elusive Bluff finished second in the Hutcheson and 10th in the Fountain of Youth behind Wildcat Red. He would go on to take the Sir Bear and Cherokee Run Stakes at Gulfstream while placing in a pair of listed events at Tampa Bay Downs and Calder.

C. Zee was making his first start outside of Florida in the Amsterdam, and has really taken to the Spa's main track, turning in a bullet, best-of-106, half-mile in :46 2/5 last Saturday.

"I think what happens is the weather is cooler than Florida and (horses) seem to really do well when they get up here," Zito said. "For some reason, he's got a lot of speed up here; a lot of speed. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a very tough race. The King's Bishop every year is getting tougher and tougher. It's a great race. I hope everything goes good. We're looking forward to it. He's a very good horse."

Joel Rosario has the call on C. Zee in the King's Bishop.

Stakes debuters The Big Beast and Fast Anna are something of a puzzle in the race after taking their past pair of races by huge margins.

The Big Beast faces a stern test in his stakes debut (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The Big Beast broke his maiden and captured an allowance, both at six furlongs, by a combined 10 1/2 lengths in his last two. The Tony Dutrow charge's most recent win, which came at Saratoga, earned him a 102 BRIS Speed rating, tying Wildcat Red's number earned in the Quality Road as a field best. The Yes It's True colt is taking a big step up in class for the King's Bishop but brings along jockey Javier Castellano to help him successfully navigate untried stakes waters.

"My horse is doing fantastic and I have lots of confidence in my horse," Dutrow stated. "I know it's going to be a tough race, but I'm going to leave it at that. My horse is doing great, and I'm really confident he's going to go over there and run good. And, I respect the competition.

"He's really, in my opinion, pulled it together tremendously in the last two months. He's very confident in himself. I think he feels like he's the real thing. I'm feeling really good about the horse coming together right at the right time for the King's Bishop."

The lightly raced Kathy Ritvo trainee Fast Anna is unbeaten in two Gulfstream starts, which he scored by a combined 15 1/4 lengths. Though the Medaglia d'Oro colt didn't break the triple-digit Speed rating mark for the two wins, he did earn a respectable 95 for each. John Velazquez will be aboard for the first time in the King's Bishop.

"This horse just seems to get better all the time," Ritvo asserted. "We're going to take a big swing, but he's doing so good there's no reason not to run him. I don't think it's going to make a big difference, the traffic or the people or anything that happens. He's professional. He's smart. He couldn't be doing any better."

Myositis Dan, Noble Cornerstone and Noble Moon complete the field for the King's Bishop. The former triumphed in a pair of seven-furlong all-weather allowances at Keeneland and Arlington, with a head third in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs tucked in between. New York-bred Noble Cornerstone is exiting a pair of victories against state-bred rivals, while Grade 2 hero Noble Moon will be going less than a mile for the first time since taking his maiden debut last September.

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Better Lucky, Filimbi star on Travers undercard

Better Lucky (blue cap) faces My Miss Aurelia (yellow cap) and seven others in the Ballerina (Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Better Lucky earned a stellar reputation as a leading turf miler at ages three and four, but has begun to show her versatility in main track sprints this year at age five. The Darley homebred will seek to win one of the latter division's more lucrative events, the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina, at Saratoga on Saturday.

Best known for victories in the 2012 Matriarch at Hollywood Park and 2013 First Lady at Keeneland, the Darley's homebred five-year-old Ghostzapper mare has made two of her three starts this season on non-turf surfaces. The first was a solid, rallying second to Judy the Beauty in the Madison at Keeneland over Polytrack. The most recent, in the $95,000 Shine Again over the Ballerina's seven-furlong course and distance July 21, resulted in Better Lucky overcoming a 12-length deficit to defeat Grace Hall by a head.

"We felt like we've accomplished enough with her on the grass -- she's won two Grade 1s -- that if she takes back to the dirt as we saw in the Shine Again, the Ballerina would be a logical race to try her back," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "She's been training as well as I've ever seen her."

Also exiting the Shine Again is My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 champion juvenile filly, who was making her first start that day following a 16-month absence. She finished third, beaten a half-length, in what was her first outing since moving from the barn of Steve Asmussen to the Todd Pletcher stable. My Miss Aurelia is winless in four outings since taking the Cotillion at Parx in September 2012.

"I think (the Shine Again), hopefully, will move her forward," Pletcher said. "I thought she ran hard that day. It was a long time since she'd run, and the complexion of the race forced us to get her involved early. I think she needed that run, so I've been pleased with the way she's trained. I thought her last breeze was particularly good and, hopefully, an indication she's in top form for this."

La Verdad is one of four New York-breds in the field and the most likely pacesetter in the Ballerina. She's used her blazing speed to good use winning several state-bred stakes in addition to the April 19 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct, but a tardy break from post 1 in last month's Honorable Miss Handicap resulted in a non-threatening, fifth-place effort as the 6-5 favorite.

"Everything went poorly, and she still wound up beaten only three lengths, so we'll forgive her," trainer Linda Rice said. "I think that seven-eighths may not be her best distance. I rather it be six or 6 1/2, but she's come out of the race very well and she breezed excellently the other day. How many Grade 1s do you have for fillies and mares sprinting?"

Also representing the Empire State's breeding program are Artemis Agrotera, last year's Frizette winner and the only three-year-old in the field. Up the track in her season debut, the June 7 Acorn, she rebounded to defeat state-bred rivals by more than 10 lengths in a course-and-distance allowance July 23.

"I just decided that, in my opinion, she fits very well in the race, and for a Grade 1 for all that money, it's time to go while she's good," trainer Michael Hushion said. "If she wasn't rounding out to her old-time form, I don't think she would have run as well as she did no matter who she was running against."

Other locally born contenders are Hot Stones, photo-finish winner of the Bed o' Roses Handicap two back and third in the nine-furlong Shuvee Handicap last time, and the six-year-old Willet, a multiple stakes winner who was Grade 2-placed in the Go for Wand Handicap in late 2012.

The Ballerina field is rounded out by Kipling's Joy, Voodoo Tales, and Geeky Gorgeous.

Filimbi has won two of three starts in the U.S., including the De La Rose (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Filimbi, who made a favorable impression taking the $100,000 De La Rose in her U.S. stakes debut August 2, is the likely favorite to repeat in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa, a 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares on the inner turf.

A Listed winner in France for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms, Filimbi was a rough-trip second to multiple graded stakes winner Somali Lemonade in her stateside debut at Keeneland in April. Rebounding next out at the same level at Belmont, she showed a strong late kick to take De La Rose by 1 3/4 lengths while under hand urging from Joel Rosario.

Second in the August 2 De La Rose while making her first start since December was Dayatthespa, the Grade 1-winning New York-bred who was meeting defeat for the first time over the Saratoga turf. The Chad Brown trainee figures stronger in her second start back, and will take some catching in a race lacking much in the way of pace.

"I think she got a lot of her last race," Brown said. "The fractions were a little strong, especially coming off a layoff, but we'll be much fitter this time around. She came out of the race well and has been training great."

Dayatthespa may opt to run in the Yaddo for New York-breds on Sunday, according to Brown, who will assess both fields before making a decision.

Another Grade 1 veteran, Centre Court, appeared to shake out of her doldrums when taking the Honey Fox at Gulfstream in March, but reversed form in the spring when only fifth in the Jenny Wiley and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.

"She had a little trouble at the start (of the Distaff Turf Mile), but she blew a shoe when that happened," trainer Rusty Arnold said. "She ran with one shoe off and bore out most of the way, so it was disappointing, but I feel we have an excuse. We had to give her some time to get it all fixed up, and she's in good shape now."

In better form of late is Grade 3 winner Abaco, who has rallied to place in three of five starts this year, including a half-length loss in the Jenny Wiley. Last time, in the nine-furlong Diana, the six-year-old mare still trailed a field of 10 at the eighth pole before making a belated wide kick to finish fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Somali Lemonade.

Strathnaver, a Grade 3 winner over 12 furlongs, successfully cut back to a mile when a nose second in the Just a Game two back, but did not enjoy a clean trip when sixth in the Diana last time.

"I was a little disappointed (in her Diana) but more frustrated," trainer Graham Motion said. "She had an awkward trip, getting bumped coming out of the gate and did not get a good set-up. She wasn't beaten very far. It was frustrating; with a better trip I think she's right there."

The Ballston Spa field is rounded out by 2013 Virginia Oaks winner Nellie Cashman, who was cross-entered to the Violet at Monmouth Park on Saturday, and the overmatched Night Song.

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Thirteen entered for Del Mar Handicap

Fire With Fire discovered his best form at age 6 this season for trainer Neil Drysdale (Benoit Photo)

The main course happens Sunday, when Del Mar will offer three graded stakes, including the signature $1 million Pacific Classic, but Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar H. serves as a tantalizing appetizer with a contentious field of 13 entered for the 1 3/8-mile affair on turf.

Only 12 will be allowed to run over the Jimmy Durante course and pair of horses -- Irish Surf and also-eligible Ice Cream Truck -- have been cross-entered to the Pacific Classic a day later.

Fire With Fire is a top draw in his first outing since capturing the Charles Whittingham Memorial on May 24. Trained by Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, the gelding posted another Grade 2 tally earlier this season, the San Luis Rey in late March, and his only setback from four starts this year was a head second in the Last Tycoon two starts back.

A son of Dynaformer, Fire With Fire has come on at age six and the 11-furlong distance is right in his wheelhouse. Regular rider Tyler Baze will be up on the 123-pound highweight.

Irish Surf merits respect if his connections opt for the Del Mar H. over the Pacific Classic. A two-time winner on turf, the four-year-old Giant's Causeway colt registered a career-best performance when switching back to Polytrack last time, running away on the front end to an 8 1/4-length score in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II. The Dan Hendricks charge registered a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating for his first stakes win and is scheduled to receive a rider switch to Victor Espinoza.

Grade 1 winner Unbridled Command is a logical contender in his third start of the season. Winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in late 2012, the five-year-old horse made only one start stateside last year, finishing third behind Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park H. He's recorded two unplaced finishes for new trainer Peter Miller but exits a decent fifth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read, and fitness should no longer be a concern for the honest gray horse, who capped a five-race win streak in the aforementioned Hollywood Derby.

Elvis Trujillo, who also rode Irish Surf last time, sticks with Unbridled Command and the New York-bred adds first-time blinkers Saturday.

Big John B will make his stakes bow in fine form for Phil D'Amato, reeling off a pair of sharp wins, including a 7 1/4-length score over allowance/optional claiming foes at Del Mar on July 30. The five-year-old Hard Spun gelding will retain the services of Hall of Famer Mike Smith.

Grade 2 winner Bright Thought will make his first start for D'Amato. Third when making his debut over Del Mar's turf in the July 23 Wickerr, the five-year-old ridgling fits well at this level and will keep Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.

Drysdale is also responsible for the filly Topic, who exits a good second in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park. The four-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat recorded her lone stakes victory over the Del Mar turf last year, romping by a 3 1/4-length margin over listed competition. Fernardo Perez picks up the mount.

Other contenders include Last Tycoon winner Quick Casablanca; multiple Grade 2-placed Si Sage; and stakes victor Cogito.

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Game on Dude, Shared Belief among 11 entered for Pacific Classic

Defending champion Game On Dude and undefeated Shared Belief top a field of 11 entered Wednesday morning in Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic.

The draw for post positions for the 24th running of Del Mar's signature summer meeting event will be at a party Wednesday night, starting at 6:30 p.m. (PDT), at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe.

In alphabetical order, the horses (with riders in parentheses) are Clubhouse Ride (Joe Talamo), Frac Daddy (Alan Garcia), Game On Dude (Martin Garcia), Ice Cream Truck (Tiago Pereira), Imperative (Kent Desormeaux), Irish Surf (Elvis Trujillo), Majestic Harbor (Tyler Baze), Mystery Train (Fernando Perez), Shared Belief (Mike Smith), Toast of New York (Victor Espinoza) and You Know I Know (Edwin Maldonado).

The race, to be run at 1 1/4 miles, is the highlight of a card with two other stakes, the Grade 2, $250,000 Pat O'Brien at seven furlongs and Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Mile on turf.

The Pat O'Brien and Pacific Classic are both "Win & You're In" qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup Championships on October 31 and November 1 at Santa. The Pat O'Brien secures entry to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, the Classic to the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Pacific Classic will be broadcast by NBCSN from 5-6 p.m. on Sunday.

Of Bob Baffert's four nominees to the Pacific Classic, only Game On Dude will show up on Sunday. Bayern is headed to Saratoga for Saturday's Travers, Fed Biz will go in Sunday's Pat O'Brien and Sky Kingdom will continue to train for a race yet to be determined.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, aboard for Game On Dude's last six starts, opted to ride undefeated Shared Belief in the Classic.

"When Shared Belief won the Los Alamitos Derby, as soon as they crossed under the wire I thought, 'Oops, I'm going to need a new jockey,'" Baffert said Tuesday on a national teleconference call. "Mike has been a big part of the (recent) success of Game On Dude. With Mike, we learned some things we didn't know about the horse before.

"I don't blame him for going with the younger gelding."

If the Jamie Osborne-trained Toast of New York wins the Pacific Classic,  it would be, monetarily, the second biggest of a career of only seven races. In March, Toast of New York was 2 1/2 lengths clear at the wire in the 1 3/16-mile U.A.E. Derby at Meydan in Dubai.

"Traveling lad" Jimmy McCarthy was with the Kentucky-bred son of Thewayyouare on the trip from Osborne's home base in Wolverhampton, England, to the Middle East. McCarthy's with him again on the West Coast venture.

"We didn't expect him to do what he did and win as well as he did," said McCarthy, a 44-year old native of West Cork in Ireland. "It was a little bit of a shot in the dark. He'd won two reasonably nondescript races (in England) but won them very well.

"We knew he was good. We didn't know how good. We were, I wouldn't say shocked, but grateful that he did what he did."

The victory provided encouragement for a shot in the grassy Belmont Derby Invitational at Belmont Park on July 5, but Toast of New York could only manage a sixth placing in that contest. The bay sophomore returned to England for further training before making a return trip across the pond to Del Mar.

Toast of New York's two wins prior to the UAE Derby were on the Polytrack at Wolverhampton, the same brand as Del Mar's surface. Meydan is Tapeta, another all-weather brand.

"They're a little different," McCarthy said. "The heat affects Tapeta a little bit, the hotter it is the slower (the track is); the colder it is the quicker it gets. I wouldn't think this would be affected as much. The (Polytrack) here is probably a little bit drier than we have at home, but then it doesn't have the same (weather conditions). "

McCarthy has had a glance at the Pacific Classic field.

"Obviously, Bob Baffert's horse (Game On Dude) is going to take a lot of beating. But if (Toast of New York) is there with a chance coming around the final bend, what will be will be," McCarthy stated.

European jockey Jamie Spencer was named to ride Toast of New York, but commitments overseas prevented travel. Osborne sent out notification on Twitter and in a short time had secured the services of Victor Espinoza.

In other Pacific Classic news:

Shared Belief and Mystery Train put in their final major moves for the Pacific Classic.

Undefeated champion Shared Belief turned a half-mile in :49 3/5 Tuesday over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields.

"I think we've done all the things we need to do to be ready," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Shared Belief's journey from Golden Gate Fields to Del Mar by van commenced at 5 a.m. Wednesday. His arrival was expected sometime in the mid- to late afternoon depending on traffic.

Argentine import Mystery Train went five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 Wednesday morning on Del Mar's Polytrack under Fernando Perez, who will be aboard for the Pacific Classic.

"Just breezing," trainer Darrell Vienna said. "It couldn't have been better."

Absent among the entries for the Pacific Classic is Footbridge, who has been under consideration for the race since a runner-up effort in the San Diego Handicap on July 26.

"I'll keep my powder dry and fight another day. The race came up extremely tough. There are five or six that I'm not ready to take on at this time," trainer Eoin Harty explained.

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Australia comfortably handles elders in Juddmonte International

Australia, planted at the back of the field while his stable companion Kingfisher made the running, eased through to lead with over a furlong to run and stamped his authority on the Group 1, £800,000 Juddmonte International at York on Tuesday.

Jockey Joseph O'Brien had said before the race that he would come on for it and his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, said afterwards that what he really needed was a racecourse gallop after being let down following the Irish Derby.

The lure of York prevailed and the English and Irish Derby winner was always in control, winning by an easy two lengths from French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby. Telescope was over two lengths back in third with the disappointing Mukhadram in fourth after pulling too hard early in the race. Arod was fifth and Kingfisher last.

"He was a bit fresh, his first run back after a while, but it was never really in doubt," Joseph O'Brien said.

"We're delighted. I couldn't be happier," trainer Aidan O'Brien said. "He was ready for a racecourse gallop, that was where he was at.

"The lads will decide what's next, but we had in our head to come here and then Leopardstown (Irish Champion Stakes on September 13) if everything went well.

"My heart starts beating at 4 a.m. every morning because of this horse. Everyone at Ballydoyle and Coolmore make this happen and I'm privileged to be part of it."

Without Epsom Derby runner-up Kingston Hill, withdrawn by trainer Roger Varian in the 30 minutes prior to post time due to the prevailing fast ground, the Group 2 Great Voltigeur earlier in the card lost much luster, but was salvaged by a high-class performance from the up-and-comer Postponed. Last seen winning the 11-furlong Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton July 18, the bay proved this 12-furlong trip held no fears as he spread-eagled a seemingly competitive affair in the absence of the Derby runner-up.

Always traveling easily behind the leading trio, the 5-2 favorite moved through rivals without being extended to take over from the long-time leader Odeon with a quarter mile-remaining. Despite veering right in the closing stages, the colt who was also third in the Craven Stakes and Tercentenary Stakes and does not hold an entry in the St Leger, was always comfortably on top of Snow Sky and had 2 1/4 lengths to spare over that rival at the line, with Odeon eight lengths away in third in what amounted to a true test.

"He looked very good today and confirmed he is a Group 1 horse in the making," trainer Luca Cumani said. "We probably wasted a bit of time running him over a mile and 10 furlongs for his first couple of races this season, and I probably don't want to stretch him over a mile and six (furlongs) in the Leger. He doesn't need to go farther, but it will be the owner's decision as to whether he goes to Doncaster. My inclination is to keep him at a mile and a half, where he could be very good.

"He has always been stronger physically than mentally, so we didn't want to overstep the mark. He will take everything you can throw at him physically, but mentally we have had our doubts so that's why we have taken it step-by-step with him. I want him to become a proper Group 1 horse next year at 12 furlongs. He likes a flat course and fast ground and going down into the dip was his undoing at Newmarket earlier on this season, as he can't get his balance."

Progressing from an August 2 breakthrough score at Goodwood, 16-1 outsider Dutch Connection caused a stir when breaking the track record to claim the Group 3 Acomb Stakes for two-year-olds.

Settled fifth in the second rank through the early fractions, the chestnut came under pressure with three furlongs remaining and kept on resolutely under a late drive to nail Toocoolforschool by a head in the dying strides. Star Basateen attempted to make all and finished 1 1/4 lengths further adrift in third.

"It was a good race, they went quick and he has stepped up on what he's done in the past," jockey William Buick said. "He gave me a nice feel when he won at Goodwood last time and he tries very hard. He is uncomplicated, which is a great trait in a two-year-old, and nothing fazes him. He is going in the right direction and it's very nice to get a York winner."

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Taghrooda heavily favored in Yorkshire Oaks

Taghrooda will use the Yorkshire Oaks as her final prep for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Courtesy of Champion Series via Twitter)

Racegoers at York on Thursday are in for a treat when they will get to see star filly, Taghrooda, in action in the day's feature, the Group 1, £330,000 Yorkshire Oaks.

The unbeaten John Gosden-trained filly has carried all before her this season with three victories to her name, including the Oaks at Epsom. She topped that when she claimed the notable scalps of Hardwicke Stake hero Telescope and Eclipse Stakes winner Mukhadram in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Even before her sizzling Ascot display, York's mile and a half showdown for fillies and mares had been on the agenda for the Sheikh Hamdan-owned daughter of Sea the Stars.

"She took the King George very well," Gosden confirmed. "The Yorkshire Oaks was always the plan for her. After her win in the Oaks it was a race we had in our mind. There was a slight change of plan in the middle when we changed from Ireland to Ascot but she has handled it all very well.

"In terms of herself I am very happy with her. It should be good racing ground and we are looking forward to it."

Taghrooda's imperious display at Ascot was the first time a filly had triumphed in the Ascot summer showpiece since 1976 and even her trainer was surprised by the style in which she landed the prize.

"I was surprised that she came to those good older horses under a hand ride," Gosden said. "To come to horses that had just won a Hardwicke and an Eclipse in the manner that she did was what surprised me. I knew she was a nice filly but that was impressive. And also the way she took the race in her stride. Many horses after running a race like that are quiet for a few days, but not her -- she ate up and was soon trying to get rid of her rider."

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has long been voiced as Taghrooda's end of season target and she is unlikely to be seen on a racecourse in between York and Longchamp on  October 5.

"If she runs a nice race at York we'll aim for the Arc and I think we would go straight there rather than taking in a race such as the (Prix) Vermeille, which would mean traveling to France twice in three weeks," Gosden said.

Aidan O'Brien plans to take on Taghrooda with both Venus de Milo and Tapestry. The pair have some fine form to their names and should help ensure the mile and a half race is a memorable one.

Venus de Milo is back for a second tilt at the Yorkshire Oaks, having finished runner-up to The Fugue twelve months ago. The four-year-old comes into her latest assignment off the back of a third place in the Nassau Stakes earlier this month at Glorious Goodwood.

Tapestry was last seen a month ago, running a fine race to be second to stable mate Bracelet in the Irish Oaks.

"Both of them seem to be in good form since their last run. Obviously, we are hoping that they run well," O'Brien said.

The supporting feature on the second day of the Ebor Festival is the Lowther Stakes, a Group 2 event for juvenile fillies at six furlongs. Few renewals of the Lowther have looked as strong as this year's, with a trio of classy fillies forming a triumvirate of intense intrigue in Cursory Glance, Anthem Alexander and Tiggy Wiggy.

All went to Royal Ascot, with the former dominating subsequent Sorrento winner Sunset Glow and the re-opposing Patience Alexander in the Albany Stakes and Anthem Alexander besting Tiggy Wiggy by a neck in the five-furlong Queen Mary Stakes two days earlier.

Tiggy Wiggy has since won Newbury's Super Sprint by six lengths over five furlongs, while Anthem Alexander and Cursory Glance have stayed away from the races. Cursory Glance's trainer Roger Varian said, "She looks great and has been training nicely. This looks a very strong renewal, but Cursory Glance goes there in good form. I am confident that she is a top filly and can build on her Royal Ascot win."

Pat Smullen is on Anthem Alexander and is similarly confident despite the fact that his mount is burdened with a three-pound penalty.

"She's excited me since the first day I sat on her," he told PA Sport. "I can't see the extra furlong being an issue, she battled all the way to the line at Ascot and she was going on again. It's a very good renewal and she's got to give three pounds to everything, so we'll find out how good she really is. I certainly wouldn't swap her, put it that way."

Trainer Richard Hannon Jr. is mildly concerned about Thursday's distance for Tiggy Wiggy.

"Obviously the six is the question mark, but she looked as if she wanted the longer distance when outpaced at halfway at Royal Ascot," he explained. "This has been the target since she blitzed her rivals in the Super Sprint at Newbury last time and, though she has electric early pace, she definitely settles better than she did earlier in the season so she gives herself every chance of staying the six."

Despite the gravity of the proven fillies, respect is due to the unexposed Sulaalaat after her emphatic four-length success in a Nottingham maiden over this trip at the end of July.

"She has always been highly regarded. This is a big step up from a maiden, but she has shown both with the manner of that success and in her homework that she is a very talented filly with a very good turn of foot and she deserves to try her luck at this level," trainer Brian Meehan commented.

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Bayern arrives at Saratoga

Grade 1 winner Bayern, 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $1.25 million Travers, arrived at Saratoga Race Course around 4 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday afternoon.

Bayern and multiple Grade 2-winning filly Fiftyshadesofhay, running in Friday's Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign, walked the courtyard of trainer John Terranova's barn following the trip from California.

"It was very good, an easy ship," said Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. "That's one good thing about this horse; he's a good traveler. It doesn't seem to faze him."

Bayern worked four furlongs Tuesday in :47 2/5 on Del Mar's Polytrack, the second-fastest of 34 moves at the distance. The son of Offlee Wild will break from post 2 in the 10-horse Travers, looking for his third consecutive victory and second in a Grade 1.

A convincing winner of the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park June 7, the dark bay colt exits a 7 1/4-length romp in the July 27 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

"He's doing very good. We wouldn't have come otherwise," Barnes said. "If you're going to come 2,500 miles, you have to make sure that they're hitting on all cylinders. Everything seems good."

Barnes said Bayern will have a light gallop on Saratoga's main track Thursday morning.

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Six new members elected to Jockey Club

The Jockey Club has announced the election of six new members: Ian G. Banwell, Everett R. Dobson, Helen Groves, Roy Jackson, William Shively, and Frank Stronach.

Banwell and his wife, Caroline, own St. George Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, and race their horses as St. George Farm Racing. Banwell, the CEO and owner of Round Table Investment Management Company, became involved in Thoroughbred racing as a result of a boyhood friendship with veterinarian Bryan Boone. He is a member of the Keeneland Board of Directors and races many horses in partnership with G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

Dobson has owned and raced Thoroughbreds since 1996. He owns Cheyenne Stables and a commercial breeding operation, Candy Meadows, as well as a minority investment in Three Chimneys Stallions. In 1989, he founded Dobson Communications Corporation which became one of the largest wireless service providers in the U.S. before its sale to AT&T in November 2007.

Groves, a direct descendent of Richard King of the legendary King Ranch in Texas, breeds and raises Thoroughbreds and also owns several ranches and raises Quarter Horses. She is an accomplished equestrian and a former director of King Ranch Incorporated. Her father, Robert J. Kleberg Jr., was a member of The Jockey Club and a founding Director of The Keeneland Association. Her daughters, Helen Alexander, Emory Hamilton, Caroline Forgason, Henrietta Alexander and Dorothy Matz, have been actively involved in the Thoroughbred industry as well.

Jackson and his wife, Gretchen, began breeding racehorses in 1978 at Lael Farm, located in the midst of steeplechase and show horse country in West Grove, Pennsylvania. Roy Jackson, after his career in the management end of professional baseball ended in 2004, began devoting his full attention to breeding and racing in the United States and Europe. Lael Stable campaigned the popular 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Shively and his wife, Donna, purchased Dixiana Farm in Lexington in 2004, Woodlynn Farm (later renamed to Woodland Farm) in 2006, and Domino Stud in 2009. He is a Keeneland director and a member of the Breeders’ Cup. He is Chairman and CEO of Tower Hill Insurance Group in Gainesville, Florida, a group of five property and casualty insurance companies. Tower Hill is a leading provider of homeowner’s insurance in Florida.

Stronach, who owns the commercial breeding operation Adena Springs, has been involved in Thoroughbred racing for more than 40 years. He has earned eight Eclipse Awards as the nation’s outstanding breeder and four others as outstanding owner. The Stronach family and Adena Springs have bred and/or campaigned more than 200 stakes winners, including winners of two of the three U.S. classic races and all three classics in Canada. He is the Founder and Honorary Chairman of The Stronach Group, which operates Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, the Maryland Jockey Club, Golden Gate Fields, and Portland Meadows.

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Close Hatches looking to stay on top in Personal Ensign

Close Hatches (pink cap) edged Personal Ensign rivals Princess of Sylmar and Antipathy in the Ogden Phipps (Jamie Newell/

Having risen to the top of the older female division this season, Close Hatches will attempt to maintain her position on Friday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga over 1 1/8 miles.

In the shadow of Beholder and Princess of Sylmar in 2013, Close Hatches has started her four-year-old campaign with three straight wins, including a narrow score in the $1 million Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 7. In that 1 1/16-mile heat, which pitted last year's leading three-year-old fillies in their first rematch since the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Close Hatches prevailed by a neck over Princess of Sylmar, with Beholder only a length behind in fourth.

It's been 2 1/2 months since the Ogden Phipps, a victory that followed wire-to-wire scores in the Apple Blossom Handicap and Azeri, both at Oaklawn Park. However, trainer Bill Mott is not concerned about the layoff.

"She's always run pretty good off the bench," Mott said. "Her works have been good, and I think we've got enough in her. She's always run very well when she's had time between races."

Princess of Sylmar, a clear leader in the three-year-old championship race before her loss to Beholder in the Breeders' Cup last November, captured a minor stakes at Aqueduct prior to her loss to the Ogden Phipps. Last time, she was a 1-5 favorite in the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap, but was beaten nearly three lengths by a loose-on-the-lead Belle Gallantey.

"She just missed in the Phipps," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Princess of Sylmar. "She ran a big race (in the Phipps) and didn't get a proper set-up in the Delaware Handicap and maybe didn't run her 'A' race, but she has been training exceptionally well and we believe she is sitting on a good effort."

Princess of Sylmar will wear blinkers for the first time on Friday.

Antipathy rebounded from her Ogden Phipps loss to take last month's Shuvee Handicap (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Belle Gallantey took advantage of a paceless affair at Delaware Park, but probably yields early control of the Personal Ensign to Antipathy, who was a surprise third in the Ogden Phipps, a neck behind Close Hatches at 30-1. The late-blooming A.P. Indy filly followed up that stakes debut with a two-length score in the Shuvee Handicap, contested over a muddy Saratoga strip on July 27.

"We need some racing luck and for her to run her 'A' race (to win the Personal Ensign)," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "It's a tough group, but we're happy to be in there, and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, we'll have a good day. I think she (belongs among the best in the division). She missed by only a half-length in the Phipps and came back and won."

Stanwyck was runner-up in the Shuvee and also placed in the Apple Blossom, Santa Margarita and Santa Maria earlier this year. The well-built daughter of Empire Maker earned her signature win last October in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Belmont, but has seen her bids flatten out in the final furlong of recent starts.

Fiftyshadesofhay, whose graded stakes scores include the May 11 Ruffian and 2013 editions of the Black-Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks, returns to dirt following a fourth-place finish in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar.

The stellar Personal Ensign field is rounded out by the speedy, Todd Pletcher-trained Majestic River, who exits a 2 1/2-length score in sub-standard renewal of the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

The supporting feature is the $100,000 Tale of the Cat, a six-furlong dash for older horses that have not won a graded stakes in 2014. Grade 2 victors Bahamian Squall and Bern Identity are joined by stakes winners Traffic Light, Sensational Slam, and Royal Currier, as well as General George Handicap runner-up Tenango.

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Makari seeks another big win in New York Turf Writers Cup

Makari (right) won his U.S. debut, the A.P. Smithwick Memorial, by a nose (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

A thrilling and emotional victory by English import Makari in last month's A.P. Smithwick Memorial has put the seven-year-old gelding in line for a sweep of Saratoga's leading steeplechase stakes when he faces eight rivals in the Grade 1, $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup on Thursday.

Makari's photo-finish win in the July 31 Smithwick over Demonstrative was the first winner trained by Elizabeth Voss Murray, the daughter of legendary trainer Tom Voss, who passed away in January and whose stable Elizabeth Voss Murray inherited.

A winner in five of his final seven starts in England, mostly in low-level chases, Makari was nonetheless backed down to 9-2 for his U.S. debut. He proved more than adequate to the task, besting a field that included last year's divisional champion Divine Fortune.

The latter will not return for the about 2 3/8-mile Turf Writers Cup, but otherwise the race looks very much like the Smithwick. Demonstrative, who ran his best race in more than a year when beaten a nose by Makari, captured this race by a length in 2012 over Charminster, who enters this renewal off a neck loss against optional claiming company on July 30 in his first outing in 14 months.

Grade 3 winner Pleasant Woodman, third by 7 1/4 lengths after setting the pace in the Smithwick, is joined by Italian Wedding and All Together, sixth and fourth in the Smithwick, respectively. That pair finished one-two in the Turf Writers Cup last season, with Italian Wedding the victor by a length.

Novice stakes winners Barnstorming and Staying On, both also-rans in the Smithwick, will line up Thursday as will For Non Stop, a nine-year-old who won by more than 27 lengths in his U.S. debut at Stone Mountain, Georgia, in April, and followed with a third-place finish behind Divine Fortune in the Iroquois, a Grade 1 event at Percy Warner Park in Nashville

The flat feature on Thursday's program is the $100,000 Union Avenue, a six-furlong dash for New York-bred fillies and mares. Risky Rachel, the 2012 Union Avenue winner, and multiple stakes winner Sunny Desert are the probable favorites.

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In brief

Heart to Heart was easily recognizable in Saratoga's Better Talk Now (NYRA/Adam Mooshian/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Terry Hanilton's Heart to Heart (English Channel) made all the pace in Wednesday's $100,000 Better Talk Now at Saratoga, earning his first stakes victory with a three-length decision. Left unopposed through opening splits of :23 2/5, :47 and 1:10 3/5, the three-year-old colt widened his advantage through the final furlongs and completed a mile in 1:33 4/5 on the firm turf. John Velazquez was up for trainer Brian Lynch on the Ontario-bred, who was exiting a third in the July 20 Toronto Cup at Woodbine, and Heart to Heart has now won two of three on turf. His overall record reads 10-3-1-2, $196,489. He scored as the 7-2 third choice among seven sophomore rivals. Multiple stakes winner Storming Inti (Stormy Atlantic), the 2-1 favorite, wound up sixth...

Dual Breeders' Cup champion Beholder (Henny Hughes) is back in training at Del Mar after suffering a minor injury when she finished fourth in Belmont Park's Ogden Phipps (G1) on June 7. Beholder's third work since an August 1 return was a five-furlong bullet in :58 4/5 at Del Mar on August 11. She went five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 on Tuesday. "She went a little too strong in her (August 11) work, so we eased up a little this time," trainer Richard Mandella said. Beholder is on track for the $300,000 Zenyatta (G1) on September 27 at Santa Anita, a race she won last year...

Starstruck (Galileo) and Irish Mission (Giant's Causeway) ran one-two, respectively, in the Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth Park on July 27, and on Saturday the pair will line back up against one another in the $100,000 Violet S. (G3) over the same turf course and nine-furlong distance. Starstruck proved best by 1 1/4 lengths to defend her title in the Matchmaker in what was a first win since her 2013 victory in the same race. In the six races between those two races, the five-year-old chestnut also ran fourth in the Rodeo Drive (G1) and Cardinal H. (G3) as well as third in the Marie G. Krantz Memorial H. and Bayou H. Kerwin Clark retains the mount for trainer Larry Jones. Irish Mission took the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders' S., as well as the Woodbine Oaks in 2012 en route to being named the Canadian champion turf female and three-year-old filly for that year. Those two are her only stakes wins, but the chestnut mare would go on to place in the Queen's Plate, Nassau (Can-G2) and Orchid (G3) for trainer Mark Frostad. She was transferred to Christophe Clement for her five-year-old season and has thus far placed in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and Belmont Gold Cup Invitational as well as the Matchmaker. Irish Mission is primed for a return to the winner's circle and gets Julian Pimentel in the irons on Saturday. Others in with a chance in the Violet include last-out Dance Smartly (Can-G2) heroine Overheard (Macho Uno), Grade 3 victress Nellie Cashman (Mineshaft) and Eatontown (G3) runner-up Triple Arch (Arch)...

Daring Kathy (Wildcat Heir) tops a 10-filly field entered at Woodbine for Saturday's C$150,000 Ontario Colleen (Can-G3) going a mile on the turf. The David Fawkes trainee had a three-race win streak, including a pair of stakes wins in the Honey Ryder and Starfish Bay, snapped when third last out in the Lake George (G2) at Saratoga on July 23. The three-year-old bay is 4-3-0-1 on turf thus far and gets Justin Stein in the irons for Saturday's test. A competitive group of sophomore fillies has been assembled for the Ontario Colleen, and Executive Allure (Bold Executive) is just one of them. The dark bay miss will attempt to keep her current three-race win streak, including a last-out win in the July 12 Passing Mood, going with Eurico Da Silva aboard. Beaumont (G2) heroine Ready to Act (More Than Ready) enters the Ontario Colleen off her first loss of the year when third in the Penn Oaks on May 31 while Bison City runner-up Hot and Spicy (Tale of the Cat) returns to the turf for the first time since taking her maiden debut in March at Gulfstream Park. Earlier on Woodbine's Saturday program, seven turf distaffers will line up in the C$100,000 Flaming Page at 1 1/2 miles on the green, including Savvy Hester (Heatseeker), third by a head most recently in the Dance Smartly (Can-G2)...

Stanley Gold has been a dominant force during the summer meeting at Gulfstream Park, saddling the winners of $459,315 in purses -- more than $200,000 higher than the earnings of his closest rival in the trainer standings. The private trainer of Jacks or Better Farm has been particularly prominent in stakes competition during the summer months, sending out four winners and three second-place finishers from 12 starters. Gold will attempt to continue his success in Saturday's $75,000 Forty Niner S., a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds, with Best Plan Yet (Hear No Evil), a colt with a history of stakes success, just not recently. After establishing dominance in the Florida Stallion Stakes last year with a victory in the In Reality division, the bay has been winless in six starts this year, although the first three races were against some of the top three-year-olds in the country in the Gulfstream Derby, Holy Bull (G2) and Fountain of Youth (G2). With his pedigree, Gold has good reason to think that Best Plan Yet's future may well be in turf racing; he made his turf debut at Tampa Bay Downs in April with an encouraging third-place finish against stakes company. "I thought he ran well in that race, that's why I was so disappointed with his next race," Gold said. The bay returned in the June 14 English Channel two back but could only manage a wide-running sixth over the good going. "Sometimes they just don't perform. We're going to throw it out and try again," Gold stated. "Hindsight might tell you after this race (if he didn't handle the softer turf). Sometimes they don't like a particular turf course." Best Plan Yet went back to the main track on June 28, finishing a distant fourth behind Wildcat Red (D'wildcat) in the Quality Road S., and has been training sharply for his return to turf in the Forty Niner. He's slated to meet Ex Pirate (Malibu Moon) defeated Best Plan Yet in his turf debut but hasn't visited the winner's circle in two tries since. The Kirk Ziadie-trained gelding just returned to competition with a well-beaten sixth earlier this month at Gulfstream following a three-month break. Multiple stakes winner Bolita Boyz (Act of Duty) and dual stakes-placed Breitling Flyer (Ghostzapper) are also in with a chance...

Ten distaffers have been entered to go 1 3/8 miles over Del Mar's turf in Friday evening's $90,000 CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California H. Topic (Discreet Cat) captured last year's running by 3 1/4 lengths following a third-place effort in her stakes bow, the American Oaks (G1), but has been unable to visit the winner's circle since. The Neil Drysdale-trained four-year-old came close last out in the Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3), finishing second after having the lead in the stretch, but was disqualified and placed ninth in that 11-furlong contest. Charlie Em (Kheleyf), Customer Base (Lemon Drop Kid) and Perfecta (Pleasantly Perfect) will be facing off once again after finishing in that order in the Possibly Perfect H. on June 26...

Click here to view Tuesday evening's Night School with the weekly Night School Rewind. Read all of Tuesday night's interaction as well as register in the archives to be eligible for weekly and seasonal prizes. Week 25 of Night School was entitled "Toteboard Clues." Topics included the truth about the morning-line and how to consider it; early and late money; examining will-pays to preview the odds; and more. The 90-minute live-chat featured Jeremy Plonk and Brian Nadeau. The SiriusXM radio simulcasts of Night School will resume the Tuesday after Labor Day for the 14-week Fall Semester.

Carryover Watch

For Thursday or Next Raceday

ARLINGTON:   High 5 -- $58,216
    Pick 6 -- $56,669
GULFSTREAM:   Pick 6 -- $50,000
    Pick 5 -- $14,583



AUGUST 21, 2014

by John Mucciolo

A trio of graded stakes races took the spotlight during the fifth week of racing at Saratoga Race Course.

Alabama S. (G1): Repole Stable's STOPCHARGINGMARIA (Tale of the Cat) was roused to the lead at the top of the lane and gamely dug in through the stretch to secure a three-parts of a length score with John Velazquez in the irons. The top sophomore filly from the barn of Todd Pletcher endured 1 1/4 miles on the fast main oval in 2:05.

Sword Dancer Invitational S. (G1): Flaxman Holding LLC's homebred MAIN SEQUENCE (Aldebaran) picked up steam in early stretch and exploded late in earning a head tally under a well-time ride from Rajiv Maragh. The Graham Motion concluded 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf course in 2:24 3/5 in posting a second straight Grade 1 score on U.S. soil.

Lake Placid S. (G2): Besilu Stables' CROWN QUEEN (Smart Strike) was always well-placed before being asked for run in the lane and she responded with a half-length win under Velazquez. The blue-blooded filly finished off nine furlongs on the firm turf oval in 1:47 4/5.

Track Stats

A total of 61 races were held at the Saratoga Springs, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 30 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 56 percent of the wins during the week. From 33 races on the main oval, seven animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (21 percent), while four of the 28 races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (14 percent).

We thought both ovals played fairly to most or all types, with a well-balanced week of racing on both surfaces. Six of the seven dirt wire jobs came in sprint runs, while three of the four grassy wire-to-wire winners came in route events.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin made us look good in saddling a trio of winners last week, including a pair that went off at nice prices. Continue to tab this barn going forward. Conditioner Chad Brown unveiled a few nice prospects on the turf but has a long way to go to reel in Todd Pletcher in the trainers' race.

Irad Ortiz Jr. is now within eight of reeling in Javier Castellano and bagging his first jockeys' win at Saratoga, and this fine young rider is capable for sure. His 20 percent win rate is excellent at this competitive meeting, and he also tops the earnings mark with more than $3.1 million in purses brought in.

Meet Totals

RACES:   283
DIRT:   151
TURF:   132
FAVORITES:   99 (36 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   64 (22 percent)
TURF WIRE:   29 (24 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   42 (30 percent)


Wednesday (8/13)

6TH -- ZEE BROS (Brother Derek) showed big early speed and while he was no match for the very sharp winner, this was a nice try for the stakes winner in his 2014 debut. Tab the Seth Benzel pupil for improvement in his subsequent outing.

9TH -- SPRING TO THE SKY (Langfuhr) didn't mind the move to the main oval on this occasion when leading throughout in a fine sprint score over a Grade 1 winner. The Bruce Brown trainee has won two in succession and is back in very good form, obviously.

Thursday (8/14)

5TH -- The John Kimmel-trained BAR OF GOLD (Medaglia d'Oro) overcame a tardy start to roll past this field late in a fine debut tally beneath Junior Alvarado. The juvenile filly won for a conditioner not know for his prowess for first-time starters, so we envision this one being a nice prospect going forward, especially as the distances increase.

6TH -- BLOFELD (Quality Road) was stuck chasing lone speed to midstretch but never gave way en route to a strong one-length debut tally for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The well-backed colt, who was hammered to 1-2 odds at first asking, was professional and we think he might become a nice one with a hint more seasoning.

SIGNATURE CAT (Discreet Cat) opened up a huge early lead and stayed on well throughout in a pretty sharp debut offering for trainer Eric Guillot. The homebred shouldn't be a maiden for long.

Friday (8/15)

2ND -- UPSTART (Flatter) swept to the lead in early stretch and left little doubt late in posting a fine 5 1/4-length score in this debut for Richard Violette. The juvenile ridgling should make a ton of noise with fellow Empire State-bred runners with any kind of progression off of this.

9TH -- WEEKEND HIDEAWAY (Speightstown) shot to the lead soon after the start, shrugged off a test at the top of the lane and finished up well to post a two-length stakes score for Phil Serpe. The four-year-old colt is fine form current form and loves this venue -- we hope he gets one more race under his belt at the meeting.

Saturday (8/16)

4TH -- We have no idea what CAN'T HAPPEN HERE (Desert Party) beat in this debut run, but we're confident that this is a nice prospect going forward. The Chad Brown trainee tracked in fourth early, took the lead nearing midstretch and finished up well in a fine first offering. The juvenile colt got his final five-sixteenths in a superb :28 4/5 and could be a serious player this season, and beyond.

Sunday (8/17)

5TH -- RING KNOCKER (Birdstone) dueled on the front and was passed in early stretch, but she dug deep and made it a race all the way to the finish while being more than nine lengths clear of the third-place finishers. The Tom Albertrani pupil should be graduating soon after a pair of fine tries at this venue.

Monday (8/18)

3RD -- Trainer George Weaver had CYCLOGENESIS (Stormy Atlantic) geared up for this debut and it showed, as the juvenile colt powered home in posting a pretty easy win under Corey Lanerie. The Kentucky-bred is cut out to run longer and potentially handle the turf, so he should have a lot of options going forward.

A Look Ahead

The Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers S. (G1) on Saturday is the centerpiece of the Saratoga meet, and the stellar Travers undercard features a trio of graded runs -- the Grade 1, $500,000 King's Bishop Stakes, the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Stakes and the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa Handicap.

A big race is on tap Friday, with Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar squaring off in the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign Stakes.



Click here for the monthly August Calendar

Thursday, August 21
New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase (NSA-G1), Saratoga, $150,000, 4&up, 2 3/8mT.
Union Avenue S. (r), Saratoga, $100,000, 3&up, f&m, 6 1/2f.
Friday, August 22
PERSONAL ENSIGN S. (G1), Saratoga, $500,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/8m.
Tale of the Cat S. (r), Saratoga, $100,000, 3&up, 6f.
CTT & Thoroughbred Owners of California H., Del Mar, $90,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 3/8mT.
Hong Kong Jockey Club H., Hastings Park, $50,000, 3yo, f, 1 1/16m.
Richmond Derby Trial, Hastings Park, $50,000, 3yo, 1 1/16m.
Red Earth S. (r), Remington Park, $50,000, 3&up, 7 1/2f.
Saturday, August 23
TRAVERS S. (G1), Saratoga, $1,250,000, 3yo, 1 1/4m.
BALLERINA S. (G1), Saratoga, $500,000, 3&up, f&m, 7f.
KING'S BISHOP S. (G1), Saratoga, $500,000, 3yo, 7f.
BALLSTON SPA S. (G2), Saratoga, $250,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16mT.
DEL MAR H. (G2), Del Mar, $200,000, 3&up, 1 3/8mT.
VIOLET S. (G3), Monmouth Park, $100,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/8mT.
Ontario Colleen S. (Can-G3), Woodbine, $150,000, 3yo, f, 1mT.
Forty Niner S., Gulfstream Park, $75,000, 3yo, 1 1/16mT.
Turning for Home S., Parx Racing, $75,000, 3&up, 1 1/16mT.
Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial H., Remington Park, $75,000, 3&up, 1 1/16mT.
Albuquerque Journal S. (r), Albuquerque Downs, $60,000, 3yo, 6f.
Bank of Albuquerque S. (r), Albuquerque Downs, $60,000, 3yo, f, 6f.
Carlos Salazar S. (r), Albuquerque Downs, $60,000, 3&up, f&m, 6 1/2f.
Casey Darnel Pony Express S. (r), Albuquerque Downs, $60,000, 3&up, 5 1/2f.
Lineage Classic S. (r), Albuquerque Downs, $60,000, 3&up, 1 1/16m.
Frank Gall Memorial (r), Charles Town, $50,000, 3&up, 7f.
Sunday, August 24
PACIFIC CLASSIC (G1), Del Mar, $1,000,000, 3&up, 1 1/4m.
DEL MAR MILE (G2), Del Mar, $250,000, 3&up, 1mT.
PAT O'BRIEN S. (G2), Del Mar, $250,000, 3&up, 7f.
LONGACRES MILE (G3), Emerald Downs, $200,000, 3&up, 1m.
CLIFF HANGER S. (G3), Monmouth Park, $100,000, 3&up, 1 1/8mT.
Seaway S. (Can-G3), Woodbine, $150,000, 3&up, f&m, 7f.
Albany S. (r), Saratoga, $250,000, 3yo, 1 1/8m.
Fleet Indian S. (r), Saratoga, $200,000, 3yo, f, 1 1/8m.
Funny Cide S. (r), Saratoga, $200,000, 2yo, 6 1/2f.
Seeking the Ante S. (r), Saratoga, $200,000, 2yo, f, 6 1/2f.
West Point S. (r), Saratoga, $150,000, 3&up, 1 1/16mT.
Yaddo S. (r), Saratoga, $150,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16mT.
Emerald Distaff S., Emerald Downs, $65,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/8m.
Monday, August 25
Smart N Fancy S., Saratoga, $100,000, 3&up, f&m, 5 1/2fT.
Wednesday, August 27
Muskoka S. (r), Woodbine, $200,000, 2yo, f, 6 1/2f.
Simcoe S. (r), Woodbine, $200,000, 2yo, c&g, 6 1/2f.
Generous Portion S. (r), Del Mar, $150,000, 2yo, f, 6f.
Algoma S. (r), Woodbine, $125,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16m.
Elgin S. (r), Woodbine, $125,000, 3&up, c&g, 1 1/16m.
Halton S. (r), Woodbine, $125,000, 3&up, 1mT.
Kenora S. (r), Woodbine, $125,000, 3&up, 6f.
P.G. Johnson S., Saratoga, $100,000, 2yo, f, 1 1/16mT.
ITOBA Stallion Season C&G S. (r), Indiana Downs, $75,000, 3yo, c&g, 1m.
ITOBA Stallion Season Fillies S. (r), Indiana Downs, $75,000, 3yo, f, 1m.


Current Meetings
ARLINGTON:   May 2 - Sept. 28
BELTERRA PARK:   May 8 - Oct. 19
CANTERBURY PARK:   May 16 - Sept. 13
CHARLES TOWN:   Jan. 2 - Dec. 31
DELAWARE PARK:   May 17 - Oct. 22
DEL MAR:   July 17 - Sept. 3
ELLIS PARK:   July 3 - Sept. 1
EMERALD DOWNS:   April 12 - Sept. 28
EVANGELINE DOWNS:   April 9 - Aug. 30
FINGER LAKES:   April 18 - Dec. 5
FORT ERIE:   May 27 - Sept. 30
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS:   Aug. 15 - Sept. 14
GULFSTREAM PARK:   July 1 - Jan. 5
HASTINGS PARK:   April 27 - Oct. 26
HAZEL PARK:   June 29 - Oct. 11
INDIANA DOWNS:   May 6 - Nov. 1
LOUISIANA DOWNS:   May 2 - Sept. 21
MONMOUTH PARK:   May 10 - Sept. 28
MOUNTAINEER PARK:   March 1 - Dec. 20
NORTHLANDS PARK:   May 2 - Oct. 25
PARX RACING:   Jan. 1 - Dec. 31
PENN NATIONAL:   Jan. 2 - Dec. 27
PRESQUE ISLE DOWNS:   May 11 - Sept. 25
REMINGTON PARK:   Aug. 15 - Dec. 14
SARATOGA:   July 18 - Sept. 1
SUFFOLK DOWNS:   May 3 - Sept. 29
THISTLEDOWN:   April 18 - Nov. 16
WOODBINE:   April 12 - Dec. 7
Upcoming Meetings
BELMONT PARK:   Sept. 5 - Oct. 26
CHURCHILL DOWNS:   Sept. 5 - 28
KENTUCKY DOWNS:   Sept. 6 - 24
LAUREL PARK:   Sept. 5 - Dec. 31
MEADOWLANDS:   Sept. 18 - Nov. 1
SANTA ANITA PARK:   Sept. 26 - Nov. 2
ZIA PARK:   Sept. 6 - Dec. 2

At a Glance
Avg. Winning Odds: 4.44 - 1
Favorite Win%: 38%, Favorite Itm%: 77%
Daily Double67.93
Pick 3510.26
Pick 43,139.40
Pick 58,621.30
TRACK BIAS MEET(05/17 - 08/18)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 65 32% E Outside
6.0fDirt 96 35% E Middle
1 MileDirt 33 15% E/P Mid/Out
1m 70yDirt 47 38% E Rail/Ins
Turf Sprint 32 41% E Inside
Turf Routes 50 26% E Rail/Ins
TRACK BIAS WEEK(08/12 - 08/18)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 5 0% E/P Middle
6.0fDirt 7 43% P Inside
1 MileDirt 3 67% E Rail
1m 70yDirt 2 50% E Rail/Ins
Turf Sprint 4 50% E Ins/Mid
Turf Routes 4 75% E Rail/Ins
Who's HOT, Who's NOT
HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Smith Hamilton A. 14 6 3 2 4.62 2 15%
Pecoraro Anthony 9 3 1 4 3.94 2 19%
Preciado Guadalupe 2 2 0 0 1.90 1 16%
Rigattieri John 3 2 0 0 3.00 2 24%
Morgan Carla L. 5 2 0 0 8.52 1 14%
HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Cintron Alex 16 6 2 2 6.30 2 20%
Cedeno Carol 14 4 0 1 14.66 2 12%
Chiappe Ricardo 15 4 2 2 7.37 3 14%
Centeno Daniel 9 3 1 1 4.83 0 19%
COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Romero Rodolfo 14 0 1 1 23.29 0 8%
COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Avg. Winning Odds: 5.26 - 1
Favorite Win%: 37%, Favorite Itm%: 72%
Daily Double86.26
Pick 3742.98
Pick 44,692.97
Pick 522,853.14
Pick 6 Jackpot467,628.18
Pick 8602,352.90
Super High Five6,602.63
Z-5 Super Hi-59,770.90
TRACK BIAS MEET(06/25 - 08/17)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 111 43% E Rail/Ins
6.0fDirt 392 35% E Rail/Ins
1 MileDirt 268 25% E Rail/Ins
1 1/16mDirt 91 24% E/P Inside
Turf Sprint 171 29% E Middle
Turf Routes 507 18% P Rail
TRACK BIAS WEEK(08/11 - 08/17)
Distance #
5.5fDirt 5 40% P Middle
6.0fDirt 7 29% P Rail/Ins
1 MileDirt 6 33% E Rail/Ins
1 1/16mDirt 2 0% E/P Rail/Ins
Turf Sprint 1 100% E Inside
Turf Routes 11 9% E/P Rail/Ins
Who's HOT, Who's NOT
HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Kaplan William A. 9 4 1 1 9.93 2 12%
Wolfson Milton W. 5 3 1 0 5.88 1 11%
Nicks Ralph E. 7 3 0 1 6.17 3 19%
Loza, Jr. Efren 3 2 0 1 2.43 1 35%
Richardson Tim 5 2 0 0 12.04 0 6%
HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Gonzalez Santiago 11 3 0 1 15.15 1 14%
COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Dorochenko Gennadi 31 0 5 0 27.60 4 9%
Lutchman Padarath 16 0 1 1 51.25 0 8%
Rose Barry R. 13 0 2 1 45.84 0 3%
Persaud Randi 10 0 1 2 21.42 0 7%
COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
'13-' 14
Jara Fernando 13 0 1 1 13.22 1 13%
Argueta Ever 12 0 2 0 57.90 1 5%


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 Thursday

Arlington   (1st) Little Elhayq, 4-1
    (2nd) Wonforthemoneyhon, 4-1
Belterra Park   (2nd) Speak the Word, 7-2
    (8th) Duvali, 8-1
Canterbury   (3rd) Tundra Leap, 4-1
    (5th) Stephen's Pride, 5-1
Charles Town   (2nd) My Reward, 7-2
    (4th) Secretaryofdefense, 3-1
Delaware Park   (2nd) Lockport, 3-1
    (4th) Artful Lady, 5-1
Del Mar   (1st) Compulsive, 4-1
    (8th) Gospel Music, 9-2
Evangeline Downs   (3rd) Imatopcat, 10-1
    (10th) Matou, 4-1
Finger Lakes   (3rd) Officer's Shadow, 5-1
    (5th) No It's Not Me, 4-1
Gulfstream Park   (6th) Ararat, 10-1
    (10th) In Rhythm, 4-1
Indiana Grand   (1st) Lawyer Charles, 7-2
    (6th) Couldn'tklairless, 5-1
Louisiana Downs   (2nd) U Hush, 4-1
    (5th) Early Pass, 5-1
Penn National   (2nd) Still Shea to Me, 3-1
    (3rd) Filled With Wonder, 8-1
Presque Isle Downs   (1st) Alexander Thegreat, 3-1
    (8th) Hey Judy, 8-1
Remington Park   (7th) F C Lifestyle, 7-2
    (9th) Unbridled Eltempo, 7-2
Saratoga   (3rd) Bryce Bryce Baby, 8-1
    (10th) Beauty Surprise, 3-1


For Thursday

ARLINGTON (2:00): $33,000 alw, 3&up, 1 1/8m (8TH).
BELTERRA PARK (1:30): $14,000 alw, 3&up, 5 1/2f (6TH).
CANTERBURY (7:40): $35,000 alw, 3&up, 6f (6TH).
CHARLES TOWN (7:00): $27,000 alw, 3&up, 7f (7TH).
DELAWARE PARK (1:15): $33,000 ocl, 3&up, 7 1/2fT (6TH).
DEL MAR (5:00): $77,000 alw, 3&up, 1 3/8mT (7TH).
FINGER LAKES (1:10): $17,600 alw, 3&up, 1 1/16m (7TH).
GULFSTREAM PARK (1:15): $39,000 ocl, 3&up, f/m, 1m (9TH); $39,000 ocl, 3&up, 5fT (8TH).
INDIANA GRAND (2:05): $36,000 alw, 3&up, f/m, 6f (7TH).
LOUISIANA DOWNS (3:50): $25,500 ocl, 3&up, 5 1/2f (4TH).
REMINGTON PARK (8:00): $30,000 alw, 3&up, 7 1/2fT (8TH).
SARATOGA (12:25): $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-G1), 4&up, 2 3/8mT (1ST); $100,000 Union Avenue S., 3&up, f/m, 6 1/2f (6TH).

*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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