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SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2014

Racing Headlines

Del Mar resumes turf racing August 9, but without claiming races or sprints

Del Mar plans further adjustments to racing on its turf course following  injuries on the new surface, which had been expanded and installed this past winter to replace its previous course that was more than 50 years old.

The changes, which will take effect immediately, will consist of the following items:

  • No turf sprints will be conducted
  • No races for claiming horses will be written for the turf
  • Because of the provisions stated above, overall turf racing will be reduced by approximately one-third at the meet, allowing for additional aggressive maintenance
  • Renowned surface expert Dr. Michael (Mick) Peterson has been enlisted as a track consultant
  • Pre-race inspections of all racehorses will be enhanced
  • All racing at Del Mar will be conducted on its Polytrack main track through next Friday; turf racing is scheduled to return Saturday, August 9
  • "We are doing everything within our power to ensure a safe turf course," DMTC President and CEO Joe Harper said. "Our riders and our trainers have told us that it is a safe course from the start and they continue to support us in that regard. Preparing to resume turf racing next week will allow our crews to perform additional safety measures."

    Following the injury to a horse on the course Thursday, Del Mar announced that it would not conduct any grass racing through the current weekend. During that time -- and into the coming week -- track crews will further aerate the course and include additional watering on it in an attempt to provide additional softening to the surface.

    Del Mar's executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins said that the adjustments the track is making take all their earlier safety precautions yet another step ahead.

    "Our turf sprints put extra stress on the course and by not running claiming horses on it we expect to be working with our very best horses," he said. "We'll aggressively aerate more, water more and -- with the goal of returning to grass racing next weekend -- we'll have the inner turf rail out to 24 feet, basically racing our horses over a fresh surface."

    Del Mar has six different moves with its inner turf rail, going in 6-foot increments from zero to 30 feet. Earlier in the meet it had raced at zero, 6 and 18 feet.

    Del Mar Thoroughbred Club officials noted that they had begun consultations with renowned surfaces expert Dr. Michael (Mick) Peterson, the executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, working in conjunction with the track's turf superintendent Leif Dickinson.

    "I am aware of the Del Mar turf course and all signs are that it is a safe one," Peterson noted. "The measurements and readings I've seen indicate they are well within proper parameters. I've worked with Leif (Dickinson) in the past and have great confidence in his ability to do things the right way."

    Further, steps are being put in place to provide enhanced pre-race inspections of all racehorses, something the track and state veterinarians conduct on racing days. All racehorses go through four different veterinary inspections -- first in the morning, then on three other occasions throughout the day -- prior to racing in the afternoon.

    Del Mar officials also stated that they will continue to work with the California Horse Racing Board safety stewards -- in conjunction with their own safety steward -- to be positive that all possible avenues have been explored in providing safety on the course.

    Those same officials said they will continue full communication with their partners in racing in Southern California, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers and the Jockeys Guild.

    Del Mar's 36-day meeting is scheduled to run through Wednesday, September 3.

    Wise Dan's options include Woodward on dirt

    Wise Dan has had three works since his colic surgery, and his fourth could come on the dirt Saturday (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
    Not wanting to rush the two-time reigning Horse of the Year, trainer Charles LoPresti has elected to bypass the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap on August 9 with Wise Dan and await the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward, or Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile.

    Wise Dan, a Morton Fink homebred, has won the one-mile Fourstardave the past two years but was forced off his training schedule when he had surgery for colic in May less than two weeks after winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

    He has breezed three times on the turf since having surgery. After touring four furlongs in :50 2/5 on July 11 at Keeneland, he shipped to Saratoga and continued working over the Oklahoma training course. He went four furlongs in :49 on July 18 and five furlongs in 1:03 3/5 on July 25.

    Both the Bernard Baruch and the Woodward are scheduled for August 30 at Saratoga. The Baruch is a 1 1/16-mile turf race, while the Woodward is contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The Woodbine Mile, a turf race, is scheduled for September 14 at Woodbine near Toronto.

    "I feel like I'm playing catch-up to try to make (the Fourstardave)," LoPresti said. "He's basically had two half-miles and a five-eighths. He worked good the other day, but I'd really have to set him down again (to make the Fourstardave).

    "If I waited for the Bernard Baruch, the Woodward or the Woodbine Mile, it would give me a little more time. I'm really just tightening the screws."

    Wise Dan is one of two horses to win the Fourstardave twice, and no horse has won the race three times.

    "When I bring that horse over to run, I want him to be 150 percent, and I feel like I'm really trying to squish everything in to get to the Fourstardave," the trainer added. "I really want to run in the Fourstardave. I'd love to win it three years in a row. I'm not worried about any of the horses running in it, but I'm worried about my horse."

    Wise Dan has won 12 straight races on the turf, dating back to the 2012 Fourstardave. His only losses during that span came in the 2012 Stephen Foster Handicap on the dirt and in the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile, which was transferred to Keeneland's Polytrack. Wise Dan won the 2011 Clark Handicap on the dirt.

    With Wise Dan having demonstrated the ability to be effective on multiple surfaces, LoPresti said he doesn't want to rule out the possibility of running the seven-year-old gelding in the Woodward.

    "What if he starts working good on the dirt or something?" LoPresti said. "I'm probably leaning more in favor of the Bernard Baruch, but I would never rule the (Woodward) out."

    LoPresti said he is considering breezing Wise Dan on the dirt on Saturday but won't make a final decision until then.

    "I want to see what the weather is going to do," LoPresti said. "I'll watch him in the morning, get him out and see how he is, and then I'll make my decision."

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    Trading Leather enters Arlington Million calculations; Magician confirmed

    Godolphin's Trading Leather is considering the transatlantic trip for the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 16, according to the International Racing Bureau. The winner of last year's classic Irish Derby is exiting a lackluster performance in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 26 at Ascot, but has five Group 1 placings prior to that effort to back up his formidable class.

    Trained by breeder Jim Bolger -- whose wife, Jackie, campaigned the charge before he was sold to Godolphin at the end of the 2013 season -- the son of European champion juvenile Teofilo has excelled at or around the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Million, including a valiant second in the Eclipse behind Mukhadram on July 5 and a solid runner-up performance to Declaration of War -- who would go on to finish third in the Breeders' Cup Classic -- in last year's Juddmonte International Stakes at York as a sophomore.

    A lover of fast ground, the bay four-year-old has rarely performed well with too much give in the turf and, similar to fellow Million probable Magician, did not relish the surface at Ascot last time. It would not be the first time that a European defied the form of a King George and flourished on American soil after a battle.

    Coolmore's Magician, after being labeled possible in Thursday's notes, is now probable according to the International Racing Bureau. Representatives at Ballydoyle -- trainer Aidan O'Brien's home base -- have confirmed such. Coming off a poor performance in the King George, the son of Galileo will be looking to regain the form that saw him annex the Breeders' Cup Turf in fine style in 2013 at Santa Anita.

    In other Ballydoyle news, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier's Festive Cheer is now under consideration for the $400,000 American St. Leger. The son of stamina-infusing champion sire Montjeu is exiting a prep in the Meld Stakes at the Curragh over 1 1/4 miles -- well short of his best distance -- and has shown class in the past. Last year, the bay colt was third, beaten less than four lengths, to Trading Leather in the Irish Derby at that same course. Earlier this year, the four-year-old was thought of highly enough to contest the Dubai Sheema Classic, finishing off the board.

    Superfecta bettors everywhere can enjoy a sigh of relief as it was confirmed Friday morning by trainer Andrew Balding -- by way of the International Racing Bureau -- that Pearl Bloodstock's Side Glance will be returning to the United States for a fourth time for the Arlington Million.

    The seven-year-old gelding finished fourth in the Woodbine Mile in 2011, third in last year's Million and third in the United Nations last out at Monmouth Park on July 6. The nearly black son of Passing Glance went off at odds of 7-1, 24-1 and 5-1, respectively.

    Carrying his form well over the last few seasons on multiple continents, the talented and consistent English-bred and -trained charge has earned more than $2.4 million, while winning eight of 36 starts. His best performances have come on good-to-firm ground over 1 1/4-mile trips, including a victory in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington Racecourse in Australia last November.

    The 38th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Secretariat Stakes is shaping up as a fine affair, with players from multiple regions of the United States, as well as Europe. One who may be overlooked is Ninety North Racing Stable's Sheldon, a talented son of late stallion Purim, who himself won the Arlington Classic in 2005.

    "We are planning on coming if we get into the race," trainer Jimmy Toner said. "He's a nice colt. The question has always been waiting for the distance with him. He needs more ground and I knew he would be a nice colt once he stretched out."

    Last out, the game chestnut was an unlucky fifth -- beaten a dissipating 4 1/2 lengths -- in the Belmont Derby Invitational behind Mr Speaker at Belmont Park.

    "He could have won that day. He ran a good race after he got checked twice in the stretch. I think he could have been right there, otherwise.

    "I had told Junior (Alvarado, jockey) to stay out of trouble, but if he would have followed Mr Speaker up the inside, he would have been OK," Toner continued. "I'm not going to say he would have won, but he would have been right there."

    Though Sheldon has only a maiden win to his credit -- and it took him seven tries to do so - he has always been highly regarded. In his second start, after closing stoutly to finish a length third in his maiden debut, he raced in the Pilgrim Stakes. Unfortunately, he ran into Bobby's Kitten that day and finished sixth.

    "I think you can do that with a two-year-old," Toner said. "I knew he was good and wanted to go farther. We were taking a shot. Just like in the Belmont Derby -- we took a shot and now we're regrouping. He will love the distance of the Secretariat and is a 'next year' kind of horse. When he gets to those 1 3/8-miles and 1 1/2-miles events, he'll be tough."

    It will not be the first time Toner and Ninety North came to Chicagoland with a talented turf sophomore. In 2007, they took down the Hawthorne Derby with Bold Hawk.

    "Bold Hawk was one of those ones who was exceptional. Actually, he was a mean horse," Toner laughed. "I went to visit him the other day and he was still tough. You never thought he was going to make it, but he did.

    "Sheldon is 'Sheldon' -- he's a horse who has a lot of personality; he's in a world of his own and is kind of funny. You know him when you come into the barn -- it's like, 'that's Sheldon'. He takes care of himself and is a neat horse."

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    Champion She's a Tiger retired, to sell at Fasig-Tipton

    She's a Tiger will sell in November at Fasig after being retired (Benoit Photos)

    Champion She's a Tiger has been retired from racing and will take up residence at Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, until the Fasig-Tipton November Sale, it was reported on Friday. Campaigned by Mark DeDomenico, Allen J. Aldrich, Lisa Hernandez and Stuart Downey, the bay lass exits the track with a 3-3-0 mark from seven starts and $727,657 in career earnings.

    She's a Tiger grabbed attention the second she set hoof to track, taking her racing debut by nine lengths at Pleasanton last June. The Tale of the Cat filly followed up with victory in the Landaluce at Hollywood Park, then traveled to Del Mar for a close runner-up effort in her graded bow in the Sorrento.

    She remained at the San Diego venue for her next start, the Del Mar Debutante, where trainer Jeff Bonde added blinkers to her tack. The equipment change paid dividends as She's a Tiger recorded a half-length score.

    "The blinkers definitely made a difference today," Bonde asserted after the Debutante. "She was dominant over horses up north, but when we came down here she was kind of pricking her ears and looking around. She got stronger and when we added those she got more focused.

    "She was very professional in the paddock. A lot of Tale of the Cats can get a little hot but she's got such great mentality."

    She's a Tiger stretched out for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Chandelier at Santa Anita next and just missed by a head to set herself up for a run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over that track and trip on November 2.

    In the Breeders' Cup, She's a Tiger just held off Ria Antonia on the wire of but was disqualified for a slight bumping incident right before the wire, which resulted in the runner-up being elevated to victory by the stewards. The pair had hooked up in the lane after She's a Tiger set the pace, with each filly drifting back and forth a bit. However, the stewards ruled that She's a Tiger's drifting caused the bump right before the wire and that it resulted in Ria Antonia losing her momentum for a second.

    That and the close nose finish saw She's a Tiger being disqualified from her gutsy win in the Breeders' Cup, but two months later she earned an even bigger prize when honored with an Eclipse Award as the 2013 champion two-year-old filly.

    The bay miss didn't reappear in competition until May, where she ran a subpar seventh in the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. That would end up being her final race as a date with the auction ring now awaits.

    Bred by Dr. Rodney Orr in Kentucky, She's a Tiger is out of the stakes-winning Cahill Road mare Shandra Smiles, who found fame when producing multiple Grade 1 winner and $1.4 million earner Smiling Tiger.

    Shandra Smiles is herself a half-sister to Grade 3 runner-up Traci Girl as well as the stakes-placed Elusive Quality duo Draw Fire and Calidad. This female family is also responsible for Group 1 diva Escaline and Grade 2 king Love That Mac.

    She's a Tiger brought $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

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    Falling Sky chooses Vanderbilt

    Falling Sky had been cross-entered to a 1 1/16-mile stakes on the West Virginia Derby undercard at Mountaineer (Adam Coglianese Photography)
    Trainer George Weaver on Friday confirmed that Falling Sky, who was cross-entered in the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga and Mountaineer Racetrack's $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, will run in the Vanderbilt.

    The Vanderbilt is a six-furlong race, while the West Virginia Governor's is 1 1/16 miles. Falling Sky is a Grade 3 winner at seven furlongs and at 1 1/16 miles.

    "We're obviously looking at the best interests of the horse for his next race and for his campaign," Weaver said. "They took entries for the West Virginia races before they took entries here. It didn't hurt to enter and take a look, and then we could evaluate the competition there and make a decision on where we're going to run. After evaluating everything we decided to stay here and see if he can handle the six-furlong distance."

    Falling Sky, a four-year-old owned by Newtown Anner Stud and Joseph Bulger, is entering the Vanderbilt off a half-length victory in the Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap, a seven-furlong race on June 21 at Parx Racing. He won the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint in February before finishing seventh in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap in March and 10th in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes in May.

    At three, Falling Sky won the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes and was last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby while in the barn of John Terranova.

    "(Falling Sky) came to me last summer, and he's always been an athlete," Weaver said. "It was clear to me why he was on the Derby trail; he has always acted like a talented colt.

    "We thought when he was sent to me that we would most likely focus on one-turn races, and we still feel that way, although we might try a two-turn race under the right circumstances. His two big races were at seven furlongs, so the six furlongs is a little bit of an experiment."

    Among his Vanderbilt rivals is Bahamian Squall, who was runner-up here a year ago.

    After a hard eight-race campaign in which he flashed elite status, Bahamian Squall received a long rest -- from last December to July -- courtesy of trainer David Fawkes. Now, rested and ready with a single prep race under his belt, the four-year-old son of Gone West is back Saturday for a second try at the Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

    Bahamian Squall only won once last year, defeating sprint champion Trinniberg in the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder, but he earned $353,310. His campaign included a second to Justin Phillip in the Vanderbilt, a second in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, and a sixth-place finish -- beaten just three lengths -- in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

    "He's training great, and he needed the last race," Fawkes said of Bahamian Squall, who likes to stalk the pace. "He had a nice work the other day (five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 on the main track July 26). It wasn't a fast work, but he didn't need that. He galloped out real strong.

    "I'm expecting him to run great. If he can come back and run the race he ran last year (in the Vanderbilt), I think he can win."

    Bahamian Squall is 8-1 on the morning line for the Vanderbilt.

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    NYRA announces probables for upcoming Saratoga stakes

    Bobby's Kitten is expected in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography/Chelsea Durand)
    The likely fields are firming up for next week's stakes at Saratoga -- Wednesday's John's Call, Thursday's Birdstone, Friday's Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, the Grade 2 Fourstardave August 9 and the Grade 2s for juveniles on August 10, the Adirondack and Saratoga Special.

    Winning Cause is likely to headline the 1 5/8-mile, $100,000 John's Call on Wednesday. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Alto Racing, he enters the turf marathon off a fourth-place finish in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations at Monmouth Park. The four-year-old son of Giant's Causeway was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths in the United Nations, which marked his Grade 1 debut.

    In four prior starts this year, Winning Cause has two second-place finishes and a third, including a runner-up finish in the Red Bank at Monmouth. Two starts ago, the chestnut colt finished third in the Monmouth behind impressive winner Speaking of Which and next-out winner Hangover Kid.

    Trainer Shug McGaughey is likely to be represented by Tricky Hat in the John's Call. Tricky Hat is winless thus far in 2014, with a second-place finish in an allowance race and a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn to his credit.

    The improving Holiday Star is probable for trainer Graham Motion. The four-year-old gelding finished a late-closing third in the 1 1/2-mile Cape Henlopen at Delaware Park in his most recent outing.

    Also probable for the race are Bohemian Dance, Ducks Dock and Horvat Clan, while Manacor, Manchurian High, and Seton Hall are possible.

    Dirt marathoners will gather Thursday for the $100,000 Birdstone at 1 3/4 miles, headed by Repole Stable's Micromanage, who missed by a neck when second in the Brooklyn Handicap at 1 1/2 miles. The Birdstone is also expected to attract the veteran gelding Don Dulce, who would be making his 38th career start; Shadwell Stable's Irsaal, who will be making his first stakes appearance since finishing third in the Easy Goer in June 2013 at Belmont; and More Hundred Acre, making his stakes debut. Peyton and Seton Hall are questionable.

    Friday's $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame will likely see Bashart, who broke his maiden and won the With Anticipation last summer at the Spa; Bobby's Kitten, winner of the Penn Mile on May 31; Can'thelpbelieving, who beat older horses in an allowance on opening day; the Irish-bred Craftsman, who took the Nick Shuk Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park last time out; Long on Value and So Lonesome, most recently second and third, respectively, in the Manila at Belmont Park; and Smooth Daddy, making his graded stakes debut.

    Multiple Grade 2 winner Silver Max, who is rapidly closing in on the $2 million mark in earnings, makes his second start of 2014 in next Saturday's $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at a mile on the inner turf. Trained by Dale Romans, the five-year-old son of Badge of Silver was a front-running victor in the Firecracker on June 28 at Churchill Downs; in his only appearance at the Spa he took the Bernard Baruch over a yielding course last summer.

    The Fourstardave also is expected to attract Jack Milton and Big Screen, who were first and second, respectively, in the Poker on May 26 at Belmont; Grand Arch, no worse than third in 14 career starts and winner of the King Edward at Woodbine last time out; Sayaad, who stretched his winning streak to three with a lifetime-best 104 BRIS Speed rating in the Forbidden Apple on July 4 at Belmont Park; and Seek Again, who in three American appearances won the Hollywood Derby in December 2013, finished second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in May at Churchill Downs, and checked in third in the Manhattan on June 7 at Belmont.

    A trio of sensational debut winners at Belmont Park are likely to contest the $200,000 Adirondack for two-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs next Sunday.

    Leading the charge is the Leah Gyarmati-trained Wonder Gal, who was unveiled in the Lynbrook for New York-breds at six furlongs. After lagging behind the early pace, Wonder Gal made a powerful move around the far turn and drew off in the stretch to win by 14 1/2 lengths.

    Cavorting won by a similarly large margin in her debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The bay filly broke sharply and went straight to the front, leading the field gate to wire en route to an 11-length score in a six-furlong maiden race.

    Pletcher sent out the third, Angela Renee, to a 2 1/2-length debut win on June 27 in a five-furlong dash. Angela Renee, owned by Siena Farm, is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 victor To Honor and Serve.

    Also probable for the race are Take Charge Brandi, runner-up in the Schuylerville on opening day at the Spa; Vivian Da Bling, winner of the fillies' division of the TTA Sales Futurity in her latest outing; and Phoenix Park, who debuted a winner in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint on June 9 at Parx.

    Coco's Wildcat and Empressive Humor are possible.

    Tough-luck loser of the Sanford, Mr. Z, and 8-5 favorite in the Sanford, Nonna's Boy, are likely to meet each other again in the $200,000 Saratoga Special also at 6 1/2 furlongs next Sunday.

    Mr. Z, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, missed by a neck in the Sanford despite a rough stretch run, while Nonna's Boy moved early into a quick pace and tired to finish fourth, beaten two lengths.

    Texas-bred W V Jetsetter is probable to join the Sanford for trainer Bret Calhoun. W V Jetsetter is coming off consecutive victories at Lone Star Park, including a 1 1/2-length score in the TTA Sales Futurity for colts and geldings.

    In addition to Nonna's Boy, Pletcher is likely to send out Blame Jim, who broke his maiden impressively for owner Mike Repole on July 19 at Saratoga, and Stanford, who enters off a maiden win on June 29 at Monmouth Park.

    Others probable for the Saratoga Special are Cleveland Sound, I Spent It, Rod McLeod and Tizcano. Lord Tyrion is possible.

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    Trainers' group proposes gradual elimination of raceday medications

    The following group of North American trainers has proposed the gradual elimination of raceday medication in the United States, according to a press release issued Friday afternoon.

    Under the proposal, no two-year-olds would receive race day medication beginning in 2015, and no horses of any age would receive race day medication starting in 2016. 

    In addition, this group is supportive of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium's efforts to approve model rules for 26 controlled medications by the RCI board of directors.   

    Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas commented in support of the proposal.

    "We believe it's time to take a proactive position regarding the administration of raceday medication," Lukas said. "American racing has always been a global leader, and it's time to restore confidence in our game and in our international standing."

    Here is the complete list of trainers in alphabetical order:

    Thomas Albertrani
    Roger Attfield
    Christophe Clement
    Jose Corrales
    David Donk
    Neil D. Drysdale
    Jeremiah C. Englehart
    Eoin Harty
    Neil Howard
    Michael E. Hushion
    D. Wayne Lukas
    Richard E. Mandella
    Claude R. McGaughey III
    Kiaran P. McLaughlin
    Kenneth G. McPeek
    H. Graham Motion
    William I. Mott
    Todd A. Pletcher
    Kathy Ritvo
    Jonathan E. Sheppard
    Albert M. Stall, Jr.
    Dallas Stewart
    Barclay Tagg
    William Van Meter
    George Weaver

    Later Friday, Breeders' Cup Chairman Bill Farish and Breeders' Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel issued a statement in response to the trainers' initiative:

    "On behalf of the Board of Directors of Breeders' Cup Ltd., we want to acknowledge and applaud the courage of the trainers who have recently pledged their support for the gradual elimination of the use of authorized medications on raceday in the United States.  

    "The Breeders' Cup has long advocated for policies that would bring the U.S. in line with other major international racing jurisdictions and we fully support this group of prominent trainers. 

    "We believe a broad coalition of tracks and owners also share this view and we are committed to provide support, financial and otherwise, to an effort to implement on a national basis phasing out raceday medications.  

    "We look forward to participating in this initiative to create a workable plan with others in the industry, including the forward-looking trainers who are signatory to this statement, all of whom are longtime supporters of the Breeders' Cup."

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    Waya attracts overflow field

    Inimitable Romanee, who beat Tabreed at level weights when stealing the Long Island, must give her eight pounds on Sunday (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography/Joe Labozzetta)
    Sunday's $100,000 Waya Stakes proved popular at the Saratoga entry box, with no fewer than 16 distaffers signing on for the 1 1/2-mile inner turf test. Twelve comprise the main body of the field, leaving three on the also-eligible list and a single main-track-only hopeful.

    Inimitable Romanee, the 123-pound highweight, is one of a trio from the Graham Motion barn. Formerly a stakes bridesmaid in the New York-bred ranks, the Maria's Mon mare finally found her niche when stepped up to this trip in last November's Long Island Handicap. She scored by theft that day, but proved that she could get the job done from off the pace in both the February 15 The Very One at Gulfstream Park and the April 14 Bewitch at Keeneland. Inimitable Romanee exits a disappointing last in the June 28 New York over 1 1/4 miles, and looks to put that flop behind her with regular rider Alan Garcia.

    Motion's other two, Concise and also-eligible Auld Alliance, are both coming off the July 5 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park. Concise brought better form to the table and ran accordingly, rallying for third and promoted to second via disqualification, while Auld Alliance never seriously threatened. A fast-closing fourth in the Lake Placid here last summer, Concise went on to finish third to Alterite and Discreet Marq in the Garden City. She tries 1 1/2 miles for the first time, which could bring out the best in the Lemon Drop Kid filly. Concise picks up Luis Saez and projects a ground-saving trip from her inside post.

    Trainer Christophe Clement is responsible for a grand total of four entrants -- Tabreed, Levanto, also-eligible Cushion and the main-track-only Lady Cohiba, who captured the off-the-turf Glens Falls at the Spa last season.

    Tabreed capped 2013 by closing gallantly for second to the loose-on-the-lead Inimitable Romanee in the Long Island, her only previous attempt at this distance. Unraced until the July 12 Modesty, the daughter of Sakhee was a better-than-appears eighth, beaten all of two lengths after a slow start and a wide trip. Tabreed, who gets in with only 115 pounds, also gets a rider switch to Joel Rosario.

    Levanto has the stamina, but her class remains an open question. Successful in a pair of handicaps at the Curragh last year, she failed to place in her two stakes attempts in Ireland. Levanto made an inauspicious U.S. debut in a June 15 Belmont allowance, fading to a tailed-off last, but she has since trained forwardly.

    In contrast, Cushion has already established herself of stakes quality by placing in three listed events in England, including a near-miss to Seal of Approval at this trip. The daughter of Galileo and European champion Attraction seamlessly transferred her game to the American sod, rolling to an emphatic allowance score at Belmont June 28. If she draws in, Cushion rates as a solid threat.

    Gulsary (right) missed by a head to Praia in the Keertana, and now gets an extra furlong to turn the tables (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
    Another Galileo mare, Gulsary, has been crying out for added ground, and at last gets it for the first time since her French days. Purchased by Glen Hill Farm for $266,760 at Arqana in early 2013, she has placed in four stakes since arriving stateside and joining Tom Proctor. Her closest calls have come in her last two, going down by a head to Praia in the May 17 Keertana at Churchill and falling just a neck shy in the Modesty.

    Brazilian classic winner Viva Rafaela has also been knocking on the proverbial door. The likely front runner in the Waya, the Todd Pletcher trainee has popped up in the same series of graded stakes as Inimitable Romanee this season, and their head-to-head rivalry is all square at two apiece. Viva Rafaela has yet to find a way to win one of these, however.

    Fitful Skies, who nearly landed the E.P. Taylor in her North American premiere last October, has run well below that level in her two appearances in 2014. Although her ninth in the April 12 Jenny Wiley could be excused, on the basis of the inadequate 1 1/16-mile trip, her fading fourth in the May 24 Sheepshead Bay is less explicable. Freshened in the interim, the Godolphin runner hopes to regain her form for Kiaran McLaughlin.

    Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard sends out Angel Terrace, a badly-hampered fourth in the 2013 Waya, and blueblood also-eligible Cat's Claw. Augustin Stable's homebred Angel Terrace tuned up with a third in the restricted Northern Fling over a mile on Presque Isle's Tapeta. Cat's Claw, the first on the also-eligible list, has booked her ticket to stakes company off maiden and allowance scores at Belmont. The Dynaformer filly is bred to excel in these conditions, as a three-quarter sister to Point of Entry.

    Rounding out the field are English Class, an English Channel mare who was fourth in a blanket finish to the July 6 Dance Smartly at Woodbine; Always Kitten and Angegreen, who were most recently elevated to third and sixth, respectively, in the Robert G. Dick; and the aforementioned Praia.

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    We Are disqualified from Prix Saint-Alary win

    George Strawbridge's homebred three-year-old filly We Are  has been disqualified from her victory in the Prix Saint-Alary on May 25 and a May 1 Saint-Cloud conditions race after returning abnormal levels of testosterone related to an ovarian tumor. Connections have said they will not appeal the decision by France-Galop.

    We Are, who carried an unbeaten record through her first three outings for trainer Freddy Head, was amongst the favorites for the Prix de Diane on June 15, but was ruled out of that classic after Head expressed displeasure with the Dansili filly's condition. The tumor was detected shortly thereafter and surgically removed.

    Due to the unusual source of the testosterone, Head and Strawbridge will not be held responsible or charged.

    "It is terrible news," Head said. "She never missed a day and was very sound. She had those three races in six or seven weeks and had never been stopped. We were obviously aiming her at the Prix de Diane, but then this happened."

    Head also offered a positive update on We Are.

    "She's back on track now and will be back in full training next week," he said. "Deauville is obviously out of the question now, but I'd hope to run her in the (Group 1) Prix Vermeille (at Longchamp on September 14) -- we'll see."

    Head noted that We Are was unlikely to target the Breeders' Cup, but could point toward the October 5 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, with the Hong Kong International meeting in December a possibility thereafter.

    James Wigan, racing manager to Strawbridge, told Racing Post that Strawbridge was "shocked," but taking the decision sportingly.

    "It was a shock to Mr. Strawbridge at the time," Wigan told the trade daily. "They've taken quite a harsh view of things (to disqualify), but it is totally the correct decision even though they've not made any allowances for the fact that it was endogenous production of testosterone. Mr Strawbridge has been in racing a long time and is very much a gentleman and decided to accept the outcome, and hopes the filly can reassert herself."

    With We Are's disqualification, The Aga Khan's Vazira has been promoted to victory in the Prix Saint-Alary, becoming the third Group 1 winner from the first crop of her sire.

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    Take Cover runs himself in Nunthorpe field with King George score

    Trainer David Griffiths celebrated the biggest winner of his burgeoning career after Take Cover plundered the Group 2, £100,000 King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on Friday.

    "I am delighted -- unbelievable, unbelievable," Griffiths said. "We have always said that he was good and he is that quick that he just burns them off and just keeps going. It's phenomenal to have a first Group winner.

    "Andrew from (owner) Norcroft Park Stud likes to give them a lot of time and the family have all improved with age. I think, arguably, he might be getting better. It sounds daft to say it at seven but he might be."

    Take Cover traveled well in the five-furlong contest off a furious pace set by Caspian Prince before being sent for home by jockey Andrea Atzeni. Challengers were spread right across the track but Take Cover held on by a neck from Extortionist up his inside, with a short-head back to 9-2 favorite Moviesta.

    "He has got a lot of speed, likes the quick ground and battles well. I wasn't sure whether I had won or not because I was so far away from the others. Thankfully, I did," Atzeni stated. "The plan was to make the running but the other horses were going quite quick in front and took the lead. I hit the front at the two but he is one of those horses that, once he gets his head in front, he is hard to get by.

    "He has got plenty of speed and will be a top sprinter. I don't think that I have ever sat on anything as quick as him."

    Griffiths, who rode more than 60 winners on the Flat, started training in 2010 and has made no secret of how highly he rates Take Cover, who is now on course for the Group 1, £265,000 Nunthorpe Stakes at York on August 22. The improving seven-year-old son of Singspiel is a 12-1 chance for that five-furlong prize with Paddy Power and William Hill.

    "He likes York and, as long as we get him back and everything is fine, then hopefully we will hopefully go for the Nunthorpe," Griffiths said.

    Extortionist and Moviesta, separated by only a short-head, are also expected to show back up for the Nunthorpe later this month. For Extortionist, it was a second narrow defeat in four outings, alternating with two victories.

    "We're very happy with ours," said the three-year-old's trainer, Olly Stevens. "In these five-furlong races it can be a case of whose turn it is. In them you need all the luck, particularly here.

    "I'm not sure this is really his track, he looked quite flatfooted down the hill, and then he had to keep switching out. There's only one more five-furlong race in Britain above Group 3 level this season, so we'll be off to York and maybe his turn will come."

    Moviesta has not won since taking the King George last year, but trainer Bryan Smart was thrilled with the four-year-old's effort on Friday.

    "He's back to his best," Smart noted, "and he'll finish the season well for us. You need all the luck here and if he hadn't drifted he'd surely have won.

    "The way he quickens is awesome and although he hasn't won yet this season he's showed us today that he's still got it. York will be next, and then the Prix de l'Abbaye, and we'll just hope that the ground isn't too soft in France."

    Glorious Goodwood's Friday program got underway with Pether's Moon gaining an overdue first win of the season in the Group 3, £60,000 Glorious Stakes. The Dylan Thomas four-year-old now has prizes abroad on his radar, including a tilt at the Caulfield Cup in Australia, after holding off 2012 St Leger winner Encke to take Friday's prize by 1 1/4 lengths despite not looking entirely at home on the downhill run into the straight.

    "He didn't seem to come down the hill that well and I wasn't that happy watching it," trainer Richard Hannon said. "(Jockey Richard) Hughsie had to get after him and it looked like he was beaten but then he came on the bridle. But the horse deserved that, it was nothing more than his due and, without sounding arrogant, he's better than he looked there. We like him a lot and he's very much one we'd like to keep as he's still growing into his frame.

    "This was nothing more than he was due. He ran very well at Ascot and Newmarket, all the big meetings, and he deserved this. He always looks like he will quicken more than he actually does and I don't think this track really suits him."

    "He deserves to win a race as he has hit the goalpost a few times," Hughes added. "He stays well but, if you hit the front too soon, he pulls up as you could see there."

    Hannon and Hughes celebrated their third wins of the week in the Glorious and consolidated their positions at the top of the Racing UK leading trainer and jockey leaderboards, respectively.

    Trainer Charlie Appleby was delighted with Encke's comeback second in the race. The Kingmambo five-year-old, who was having his first start since denying Camelot of the Triple Crown in the St Leger at Doncaster in September 2012, traveled smoothly under William Buick but had no answer to the strong run of Pether's Moon.

    "I was delighted with Encke -- really, really happy," Appleby said. "He showed all of his old enthusiasm and ability there. William said that he gave him a great feel all the way round. He had his ears pricked, handled the ground and handled the track."

    "It was a great comeback from Encke. He traveled well and showed that all the enthusiasm is still there," Buick agreed.

    A return to Goodwood for the Group 2, £100,000 Celebration Mile on August 23 is in the cards for Wannabe Yours following his victory in the Group 3, £60,000 Thoroughbred Stakes Friday.

    The three-year-old son of Dubawi, homebred by Kirdford-based Normandie Stud Ltd., had to overcome trouble in running but, once in the clear, came with a strong run under Buick to deny Hors de Combat by a neck.

    Wannabe Yours is now unbeaten in three starts this season, having taken a maiden at Nottingham and a handicap at Doncaster.

    "It's tough breeding them and then, when you own and breed, it's special to have a group winner at Goodwood and you live locally," trainer John Gosden remarked.

    "Wannabe Yours is a very smart horse. His last run last year didn't go right but he has won and won and won this year -- he won by nine lengths last time in a competitive handicap. This is the last one mile, three-year-old group race of the year in Europe, so we have been waiting for this race since Derby Day and it has been the right thing.

    "Mile races are going to be his game and obvious race now would be the Celebration Mile back here."

    A step back up to Group 1 company beckons for J Wonder following her last-gasp success under Jimmy Fortune in the Group 3, £60,000 Oak Tree Stakes going seven furlongs in the penultimate race at Goodwood Friday afternoon.

    The three-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand, trained by Brian Meehan, looked set for a big season when capturing the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury in April but found the step up in class and trip too much for her in her latest two starts. She finished seventh in the French One Thousand Guineas and filled that same position in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, after racing keenly on both occasions.

    J Wonder settled better in the Oak Tree Stakes while dropping back in trip, and came with a strong run inside the final furlong to cut down long-time leader Muteela, who was sent off the 7-4 favorite, by a neck.

    "J Wonder was wonderful today. Jimmy gave her a beautiful ride and knows her inside out -- he rides her nearly every week," Meehan said. "She was very good in the Fred Darling but things did not work out in the French Guineas or in the Coronation. She got a little fired up going to gate and things like that but she was wonderful today.

    "There is the Matron Stakes, the Sun Chariot and the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland has also been mentioned. Now she's back where she belongs, there are all sorts of options."

    Watering will take place Friday night on a similar program as to the last two nights as Glorious Goodwood prepares for his final day.

    Goodwood's Clerk of the Course Seamus Buckley has consulted eight weather forecasts and they all predict different outcomes. There might be a passing shower and up to two millimeters of rain could be delivered on the course Saturday.

    "Two millimeters would be insufficient to maintain the going at good to firm, which is our aim," Buckley explained. "Therefore, we will water overnight on the bends and in the straight. It is imperative to get some water on the course as we don't want rain falling on firm ground (Saturday).

    "There have been plenty of thrilling finishes today and everything has gone well. We are now looking forward to tremendous racing on the fifth and final day of Glorious Goodwood."

    Buckley has looked after the course at Goodwood for 20 years and, much to his surprise, the final race of Glorious Goodwood on Saturday has been re-named Seamus Buckley's 20th Glorious Handicap in his honor.

    Buckley only found out Friday morning and, in typical English understatement, said, "That is very good."

    Buckley started as grounds manager at Goodwood Racecourse, added assistant clerk of the course to his responsibilities in 1998 and became clerk of the course in 2006.

    "Obviously, it is the 20th year that Seamus has been responsible for the track at Glorious Goodwood," remarked Adam Waterworth, managing director of Goodwood Racecourse. "We did not feel that the moment could go without mention -- hence (Saturday's) new race title -- and the plan is for the Duke of Richmond to make a presentation to him.

    "This week has again proved that Seamus invariably gets the ground right and Goodwood Racecourse is difficult to deal with because of its situation on top of the Downs.

    "What a star Seamus is and, if you spoke to trainers and jockeys, I think you would find that they agree."

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    Borderlescott, still going strong at age 12, seeks second Stewards' Cup

    At the age of 12, Borderlescott is the oldest horse running at Glorious Goodwood this week and will be making his eighth appearance at the five-day meeting.

    In a career spanning 11 seasons, Borderlescott has run 77 times, winning 14 races and amassing career earnings of £786,243. His Glorious Goodwood record reads two wins, a second and a third from eight outings and there would not be a more celebrated result should he triumph again in Saturday's Stewards' Cup.

    The son of Compton Place, who was purchased for a mere 13,000 guineas at DBS Sale in October, 2003, sprung to prominence as a four-year-old in 2006. After a head defeat in a listed race at Fairyhouse in July, he made his Glorious Goodwood debut in the Stewards' Cup as a strongly fancied 10-1 chance and produced a smooth performance to win decisively by a neck.

    That victory was the highlight of Robin Bastiman's training career but the best was still to come. Borderlescott came within a short-head of becoming the first back-to-back winner of the Stewards' Cup since Sky Diver (1967 & 1968) when second to Zidane in 2007. Remarkably, he nearly defied top-weight and a rating of 110 when third, beaten three quarters of a length, to Conquest the following year.

    Borderlescott took his form to a new level next time out when getting the better of a top-class field in the rearranged Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at Newmarket in August 2008.

    The bay gelding returned to Glorious Goodwood in 2009 and was warm favorite for the Group 2 King George Stakes over five furlongs. Sent off at 9-4, the draw conspired against him and he did much the best of those from a low draw to finish fourth. This set him up nicely for a defense of his Nunthorpe Crown and he didn't disappoint, scoring by a neck to become the first dual winner since Sharpo (1981 & 1982).

    Kieren Fallon was in the plate when Borderlescott lined up in 2010 King George, and the Goodwood faithful backed him into 9-2 favoritism. He produced a brilliant performance and scored easily by a half-length under a confident waiting ride from the champion jockey.

    Unfortunately, Borderlescott struggled with injury over the following 12 months, only running five times.

    His two most recent performances at Glorious Goodwood have yielded a respectable ninth in the 2012 Stewards' Cup and an 11th in last year's King George.

    Borderlescott will enter Saturday's contest off a close fifth in a York handicap on July 11.

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    Toronado likely headed to France after Sussex second

    Dual Group 1-winning miler Toronado has exited his second-place finish in Wednesday's Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in good order, according to trainer Richard Hannon.

    Toronado went down by a length to the John Gosden-trained Kingman while attempting to defend his Sussex title, and Hannon admitted that Al Shaqab Racing's four-year-old son of High Chaparral was simply beat by a better horse on the day.

    "Toronado has come out of it fine -- we're very proud of him," Hannon told Racing UK. "I think the race was run to suit us -- I don't think we were unlucky or anything. We got first run, we were handier, we were just beaten by a very good horse -- he's a star."

    Hannon added that Toronado would likely travel to France for his next target.

    "He'll stay at a mile," the conditioner said. "He might go for the (Group 1) Jacques le Marois (on August 17 at Deauville) or the (Group 1) Moulin (de Longchamp on September 14) -- basically avoid that Gosden bloke!

    "We might have another go at (Kingman) somewhere -- we probably will and you can't say the result might be different, but we'll see."

    Hannon also noted that Michael Daniels' Windshear, second in Wednesday's Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, will go to the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster on September 13.

    "He didn't come down the hill (at Goodwood) very well, he got a bit unbalanced, but Doncaster is a lovely flat track," Hannon said. "The straight is two furlongs further and he looks like he'll appreciate that. He's had quite a hard time of things lately -- he's basically been to every major meeting so we'll give him a little bit of a break and then bring him back for the Leger."

    Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's Darwin, third in the Sussex, could resurface in that course's Group 2 Celebration Mile on August 23. Trainer Aidan O'Brien noted that he is seeking fast track targets for the Big Brown colt.

    "He loves fast ground," O'Brien said. "(The Sussex was) the first time he's ever got that ground. I couldn't be happier with him. We always thought he was a smart horse. He could go back for something like the Celebration Mile."

    Darwin, a $1.3-million purchase by Demi O'Byrne at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale, made his first two starts in New York for trainer Todd Pletcher later that year. He has won three of eight starts since being transferred to Ireland last year, including the Minstrel Stakes last July.

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    Story to Tell, Bad Read Sanchez square off again in Best Pal

    Story to Tell and Bad Read Sanchez, the top two from the July 13 Willard L. Proctor Memorial at Los Alamitos, will renew rivalry in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Best Pal at Del Mar. The 6 1/2-furlong dash is the primary stepping stone to the meet's crowning race for juveniles, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on September 3.

    The Dan Hendricks-trained Story to Tell brings a two-for-three mark. Victorious in his May 23 debut at Santa Anita, the Bluegrass Cat colt ran a green second in the Santa Anita Juvenile on June 22. The winner, Wake Up Nick, has since dominated Wednesday's Graduation Stakes at Del Mar for the California-bred set.

    Story to Tell learned from that experience next time in the Willard Proctor, where he kicked clear under confident handling by Joe Talamo. His 1 1/4-length margin doesn't tell the whole tale, for he was very much in hand. The $200,000 Barretts March purchase aims to keep progressing here, but Talamo might have some tactical decisions to make from his rail draw.

    Bad Read Sanchez went off as the 4-5 Proctor favorite, thanks to a 10-length rout in his unveiling at Santa Anita June 20. The Doug O'Neill trainee didn't show the same flair second time out, however, and got embroiled in a bumping match between foes in the stretch. The son of hot freshman sire Warrior's Reward had no answer to the powerful punch of Story to Tell, settling for second.

    But just as Story to Tell improved off his first stakes try, so might Bad Read Sanchez. The Reddam Racing colorbearer is also better drawn in post 4 this time, compared to the rail in the Proctor, which led regular rider Mario Gutierrez to ease back early and angle around.

    O'Neill has another entrant in Henry's Holiday, a 3 1/4-length debut winner who was a rallying fourth in the 5 1/2-furlong Santa Anita Juvenile. By Harlan's Holiday and out of a Victory Gallop mare, the closer should benefit from the added ground on Sunday. Tyler Baze is back aboard.

    Rowdy Dylan, a $280,000 buy at Barretts March, looks well on his way to better things for trainer Peter Miller. A slow-starting second on debut to Holiday Camp, who was later the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Juvenile, Rowdy Dylan came right back to demolish a July 12 maiden at Los Alamitos by 7 1/4 lengths. He didn't get away cleanly that day either, but figures to grow out of that babyish tendency. Regular pilot Edwin Maldonado will guide the nicely-bred son of Sky Mesa.

    Trainer Mark Casse is double-handed with Skyway, another son of Sky Mesa, and Conquest Bigluck E. Skyway boasts the only Polytrack experience of any member of the Best Pal field -- a 6 3/4-length debut score at Keeneland on April 5. Not seen again until the June 28 Bashford Manor, John C. Oxley's colt had a troubled trip at Churchill Downs and wound up third. Stewart Elliott retains the mount on the stalking type.

    Conquest Bigluck E swept from off the pace and got up in time in his June 5 premiere at Churchill. For this initial stakes foray, the Conquest Stables runner picks up the services of Hall of Famer Mike Smith.

    Although Conquest Bigluck E has yet to race on synthetic, he is from the first crop of two-time champion Lookin at Lucky, who turned the Best Pal/Del Mar Futurity double en route to his first Eclipse Award in 2009. Lookin at Lucky has gotten off to a tremendous start at stud, and if Conquest Bigluck E prevails, the father/son duo would make Best Pal history. Only one winner of this race has gone on to sire a winner: Flying Paster (1978) was emulated by his son Creston (1993), when the race was known as the Balboa.

    Highway Boss is the most experienced of the group with four starts under his belt. The Molly Pearson trainee opened his career at Turf Paradise, finishing third in a trial on April 16 and a belated fifth in the May 4 ATBA Spring Sales Stakes. Two-for-two since moving to California, he broke his maiden for a $50,000 tag at Santa Anita June 6 and narrowly scored in the July 6 Everett Nevin at Oak Tree at Pleasanton. This marks a stiffer class test for the Street Boss gelding, who teams up with Tiago Pereira from post 8.

    Los Alamitos maiden winner Two Six Wins represents freshman sire Midshipman, the champion two-year-old colt of 2008. Trained by Mike Pender, Two Six Wins gave way badly in his first try, but stuck on determinedly in his follow-up. He'll need to take another step forward to be competitive on Sunday.

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    Seven to line up in Nassau

    Saturday's Group 1 Nassau Stakes on the fifth and final day of Glorious Goodwood is the mid-summer highlight for Europe's leading fillies and mares. Run over nearly 10 furlongs, the £200,000 contest boasts an outstanding roll of honor with star performers such as The Fugue, Midday and Ouija Board all scoring since the turn of the century.

    This year's renewal will see a field of seven go to post, all of whom will be chasing a first Group 1 success. Sir Michael Stoute is the most successful current trainer with seven triumphs and will be represented by Mango Diva, who was last seen out when taking the Kilboy Estate Stakes at the Curragh on July 20.

    Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, who recorded back-to-back successes with Peeping Fawn (2007) and Halfway to Heaven (2008), is relying on last year's Irish Oaks runner-up Venus de Milo. The Duke of Marmalade four-year-old comes in on the back of a second to Thistle Bird in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on June 29.

    John Gosden has established a £500,000 lead in the trainers' championship and is seeking a hat-trick in the Nassau, following on from Winsili (2013) and The Fugue (2012), with the lightly-raced pair of Group 3 heroine and Lancashire Oaks runner-up Sultanina, and Newbury listed scorer Eastern Belle.

    International interest comes in the shape of the Aga Khan-owned Narniyn, representing leading French handler Alain de Royer-Dupre. The four-year-old recorded four consecutive victories between 10 and 11 furlongs, including two successes at Group 3 level, before coming home fourth in her first start against Group 1 company in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud going 12 furlongs on June 29.

    Completing the line-up is the Ed Dunlop-conditioned course scorer Amazing Maria and the Richard Hannon-trained Lustrous. Amazing Maria captured a maiden and the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last season, while Lustrous was second in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot but only seventh in the Irish Oaks last out.

    "Lustrous has plenty on her plate in the Nassau Stakes," Hannon reported on his website. "She ran as well as we could have hoped in the Irish Oaks -- she split the Epsom Oaks runner-up (Tarfasha) and Irish One Thousand Guineas winner (Marvellous)."

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    Palace Malice faces stern test in nine-horse Whitney

    Palace Malice stretches back out nine furlongs following a sensational win in the Met Mile (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photo)

    A terrific winner of the June 7 Met Mile and unbeaten from four starts this year, Palace Malice will attempt to enhance his outstanding resume in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will face a talented group of eight rivals in the 1 1/8-mile event at Saratoga, which serves as a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    "I think you certainly have to put the Whitney up there as one of the most coveted prizes in American racing," Pletcher said. "It's a historic race. It's the focal race for older horses at our most prestigious meet. It carries a lot of weight for championship honors. It's a race we hold in very high regard."

    A four-year-old son of Curlin, Palace Malice earned his first stakes victory in last year's Belmont Stakes. Other highlights of his sophomore season included a win in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga and a runner-up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but Palace Malice had something to prove this season after concluding 2013 with a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    He's established himself as the front-runner for Horse of the Year honors.

    "He really is (an iron horse)," Pletcher said of Palace Malice, who made 10 starts last year. "He's an uncomplicated horse. He's hearty, he stays in the feed tub, you can train him however you want. I think he actually thrives on action."

    Palace Malice returned to the races this year with a hard-fought head decision in the March 8 Gulfstream Park H. and has performed spectacularly since then, registering a 113 BRIS Speed rating for his 4 3/4-length triumph in the New Orleans H. prior to a 9 3/4-length romp in the Westchester. The bay Kentucky-bred squared off against an all-star field at the tricky one-mile distance last time in the Metropolitan H. and showed his class in the final furlongs, driving to a one-length win over Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile hero Goldencents.

    Will Take Charge really came on last fall & trainer D. Wayne Lukas is looking forward to the second half of 2014 for the Eclipse Award winner (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    "We ran him back pretty quickly in New Orleans after his first start of the year," Pletcher said. "It was back in three weeks and we were concerned about that, and he actually ran enormous that day. I think he likes the action. We were worried about the Met Mile, drawing the one hole and carrying top weight, and he's just gotten more professional."

    Owned by Dogwood Stables, Palace Malice will break from post No. 5 with regular rider John Velazquez and is listed as the even-money favorite on the morning line.

    "Mr. (Cot) Campbell and Dogwood (Stable) have supported me for a long time and it's great to have a horse of this caliber for them," the trainer added.

    Will Take Charge, last year's champion three-year-old male, will make his first start against Palace Malice this year and breaks from the innermost post position. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee finished in front of his rival three times from five starts last season, with each owning one win, and Will Take Charge's biggest career victory, the Travers at Saratoga, came at the expense of Saturday's favorite. A son of Unbridled's Song and out of the outstanding broodmare Take Charge Lady, Will Take Charge will be seeking his second stakes win of 2014.

    "I hate to have an upset stomach this early in the morning," Lukas said about drawing the rail. "Not good. I never really have much luck on the rail in any big race, not really in (a race) of this magnitude."

    A top performer in the first half of 2013, Itsmyluckyday is hitting his best stride at age four, winning three straight stakes in facile fashion (Equi-Photo/Aubrey Therkelsen)

    After concluding 2013 with a head score over Game On Dude in the Clark H., the chestnut colt opened the year with a pair of respectable seconds against Grade 1 foes in the Donn H. and Santa Anita H. Will Take Charge returned to the winner's circle in the April 12 Oaklawn H. but took a step back in the May 2 Alysheba, checking in sixth. He rebounded from that disappointment with a rallying second in the June 14 Stephen Foster and will attempt to carry his momentum forward in the Whitney. Luis Saez, who was replaced by Gary Stevens in the last two starts, regains the mount.

    Will Take Charge ran 11 times last year and will be making his sixth appearance of 2014.

    "He's thrived on it," Lukas said when asked about the rigorous schedule. "He's done really well. It was last year when we saw a real change in him when he came up here. He got into the feed tub, he trained well. I think he has an affinity for this racetrack. You can say the same thing this year. I think he's put on weight since we last ran him.

    "We're the champion until someone dethrones us. We're the champion, we earned it last year, we're not making apologies for anything. I really think it's wonderful that we decide (championships) on the racetrack, not in the press box, not by guys on television. We get them out there, we get them all on the track, we've got a wonderful field here. It's probably going to be the first of many through the fall. John Nerud told me years ago, 'Championships are always decided in the fall, never in the spring.'"

    Will Take Charge is the early 4-1 second choice and shares 124-pound highweight duties with Palace Malice.

    Itsmyluckyday will enter the Whiney on the upswing for conditioner Eddie Plesa Jr. Runner-up in last year's Preakness, the Lawyer Ron colt has reeled off three convincing stakes wins since returning from a nine-month layoff earlier this year with a fourth in the Gulfstream Park H., most recently posting a sharp 1 1/2-length tally in the July 6 Salvator Mile. He was flattered when the runner-up and third-place finishers, Bradester and Valid, came back to run one-two in reverse order in last Sunday's Monmouth Cup, and Itsmyluckyday earned his top Speed rating of the year last time (103).

    Departing, a four-time stakes winner at age three, will be seeking his first Grade 1 triumph (Coady Photography)

    The speedy colt retains the services of Paco Lopez and Itsmyluckyday is 12-1 on the morning line.

    "I think the speed is on the inside of me, which is probably a good thing," Plesa said of drawing post 4. "I'm just real pleased with the way the horse is going, and I'm pleased to be able to come up there and see what we have. It's going to be his sternest test, no ifs, ands or buts about that, but he deserves an opportunity and he's training up to it great."

    Departing is listed as the 6-1 third choice. A four-time stakes winner at age three, the War Front gelding came back this season with a nice win over allowance/optional claiming opponents at Churchill Downs on April 30. The Al Stall Jr. charge loomed large turning for home in the Stephen Foster before weakening slightly in the final furlongs, finishing two lengths back in third, but that tough effort could benefit him. Departing shows a nice series of works for his third start of 2014.

    "It's almost the same training pattern as he did last year for the West Virginia Derby," Stall said of the gelding's preparations. "He flourished and won that race by almost 10 lengths. He's going to step into a tougher race than the West Virginia Derby. He seems to thrive up here, even though he has never run over the racetrack. We sure love the way he gets over it.

    "We think he's a Grade 1 type of horse. The Stephen Foster was his second race in 8 1/2 months and his first race around two turns (this year). He went from just an allowance race into that race. I think he acquitted himself quite well. He had the lead between calls in the stretch, and he got a little heavy right there toward the end. It did knock him down, but I think it built him up a little bit. I think he's ready for a big race in his third off the layoff."

    Moreno, who finished a nose second in last year's Travers, brings plenty of speed to the Whitney equation from post 2. The Ghostzapper gelding exits an encouraging effort for trainer Eric Guillot, finishing second in the July 5 Suburban, and will keep Junior Alvarado in the saddle. Moreno has been installed as the 10-1 co-fourth choice.

    Romansh, winner of last year's Curlin at Saratoga via disqualification, is also 10-1 on the morning line. The Tom Albertrani trainee captured the Excelsior at Aqueduct earlier this season and recorded a good third to Palace Malice in the Met Mile two starts back. The four-year-old son of Bernardini will look to make amends for a fifth as the favorite in the Suburban last time.

    Grade 2 hero Last Gunfighter, a seven-time stakes winner for Chad Brown, drew the far outside post with leading rider Javier Castellano and comes next on the morning line at 15-1. Rounding out the field at 20-1 are Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for the win in the 2012 Travers; and Suburban third-placer Prayer for Relief.

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    Competitive dozen line up for Test

    Fiftyshadesofgold will try to take the gold in Saturday's Test (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    A strong field of 12 sprinting sophomore fillies has been entered in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test Saturday on the Whitney undercard, and any number in the seven-furlong affair could find themselves in the Saratoga winner's circle at the end.

    One of the more well-known names of the bunch is Fiftyshadesofgold from trainer Bret Calhoun's barn. The My Golden Song filly was a dominate winner of her two initial starts last year, including Churchill Downs' Debutante, and closed out her juvenile campaign in the Adirondack Stakes at the Spa. She ran a good fourth that day after being in tight and steadied twice, and was eventually elevated to third via disqualification.

    Fiftyshadesofgold made her three-year-old bow at Sam Houston, taking a state-bred stakes by 2 1/2 lengths, then was tried at a route in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks. The gray lass reputed herself well in second behind current star filly Untapable but was cut back to seven furlongs for a nice win in the Eight Belles instead of trying the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks next out.

    Fiftyshadesofgold led down the backstretch most recently in the Acorn at Belmont Park but was caught and passed by three runners to finish fourth. She'll get a jockey switch from Mike Smith to Robby Albarado in the Test.

    Sweet Reason is another who's garnered a fair amount of attention, capturing the one-mile Acorn on June 7, and will cut back to seven furlongs for the first time on Saturday since a 5 3/4-length romp in last September's Spinaway over a sloppy, sealed Saratoga track. The Leah Gyarmati pupil is actually two-for-two at the Spa, having broken her maiden debut by 6 1/4 lengths on a similar sloppy surface before going on to be second in Belmont's Frizette and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

    The bay daughter of Street Sense began her sophomore campaign with a win against optional claiming rivals on March 7 at Aqueduct and has competed just twice more, running third in the Gazelle and scoring in the Acorn.

    Sweet Reason (left) and Sweet Whiskey (right) will renew their rivalry on Saturday (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

    "She's really turned a corner this year with her breezes," Gyarmati said. "She's never been this kind of work horse and now every time she works she's been right there. She's just growing up."

    Sweet Reason may be poised to take another step forward, according to Gyarmati.

    "She's just doing better and she's happier," Gyarmati said. "She loves it here, so that should be a good sign for August 2, we hope."

    Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard for all three of Sweet Reason's 2014 starts and retains the mount on Saturday.

    Sweet Whiskey gave Sweet Reason a run for her money in the Acorn and completed the "Sweet" exacta that day. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the bay miss has finished off-the-board just once in her seven-race career. Like Sweet Reason, she broke her maiden at Saratoga in her first outing then finished fourth to that rival in the Spinaway. A second in the Matron completed her juvenile season but she opened her three-year-old term by taking the Old Hat at Gulfstream Park.

    Sweet Whiskey has placed in her other three starts this year, including the Beaumont at Keeneland, and keeps jockey John Velazquez aboard as she seeks to the turn the tables on a number entered in the Test.

    Miss Behaviour has been working up a storm at Laurel Park to prepare for the Test (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

    Miss Behaviour is one of those to hand Sweet Whiskey a defeat this year, and in turn has been beaten herself by others in this field. The Jump Start filly will break from the far outside post 12 and brings a win in the Miss Preakness as well as placings in the Victory Ride and Stormy Blues into the Test. Javier Castellano has the call on the Phil Schoenthal pupil.

    "(The Victory Ride) is tough to gauge," Schoenthal noted. "You want to give her an excuse because the pace was so fast, so maybe that's why she flattened out."

    Seven furlongs presents a unique challenge to Miss Behaviour, who was been farther than 6 1/2 furlongs only once in her career in the one-mile Delta Princess. Trying to coax an extra half-furlong out of his filly, Schoenthal has changed her training regimen leading up to the Test.

    "She's sharp right now," he said. "I spent the past month training her a lot harder than I normally do. I've been training her like a route horse, and she's responded well."

    Street Story got the best of Miss Behaviour in the Victory Ride last out and is riding a two-race win streak. The Steve Asmussen charge has proven to be inconsistent thus far in her career but still boasts four wins from eight career starts. Joel Rosario will be in the irons.

    Southern Honey dropped her first two starts but has been unbeatable since breaking her maiden in April at Keeneland. The Rusty Arnold-trained daughter of Colonel John earned a very nice 101 BRIS Speed figure last out when capturing the Winning Colors at Churchill and has posted a pair of nice moves over the track in preparation for this one. Julien Leparoux stays aboard.

    Princess Violet could rebound in this spot after a well-beaten second in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose last out. The bay daughter of Officer romped in her prior two starts sprinting against state-bred foes, earning a 99 BRIS Speed rating in one of those, and keeps Jose Ortiz in the pilot's seat. Thank You Marylou could also benefit from a cut back in distance after facing top quality rivals at route distances. The Mike Maker trainee was an easy winner of the seven-furlong Any Limit in her season opener and gets Rajiv Maragh in the saddle for the first time here.

    Bird Maker was well-beaten in her last try against graded rivals, but that came in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle and the Ian Wilkes filly has since captured a six-furlong optional claimer under the Twin Spires by 11 lengths. She's not competed since that May 25 race but has been working at Saratoga since July 9. Tea Time and unbeaten Little Alexis both enter the Test off stakes wins and own comparable numbers to the field's best on Saturday, while Red Velvet completes the Test off a fourth in the Victory Ride.

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    Happy hoping to have it his way in Alfred G. Vanderbilt

    The speedy Happy My Way will be tested for class in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

    Happy My Way, with four impressive victories in his last five starts, can prove he is one of the top sprinters in the country with a victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

    Trained by Joe Orseno, the four-year-old Wilko gelding turned in a breakout performance last December when beating second-level allowance foes at Gulfstream. After a minor setback in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, where he finished second, Happy My Way has reeled off three straight, including 5 3/4-length scores in the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream and the Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.

    "He's a very fast horse, but because of his breeding we tried to do something different with him," Orseno said. "We tried him going longer and we tried him on the grass, but he wants to be fast, and you can see what happened when we started running him in sprints."

    Unraced since that May 17 dash over the Vanderbilt distance of six furlongs, Happy My Way is a threat to lead throughout under Joe Bravo. On paper, only two rivals seem like a serious threat to keep Happy My Way honest. Bakken, a veteran of only four starts, won his first two starts gate-to-wire and pressed the pace in the True North Handicap last time before settling for second in his first start since December.

    "It was a good performance for his first start off the layoff, and it should have him a lot tighter for this one," said trainer Chad Brown.

    The other, Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship hero Falling Sky, is cross-entered Saturday to a stakes at Mountaineer.

    A fast, contested pace would help a number of contenders. Bahamian Squall, runner-up in the 2013 Vanderbilt following a score in the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder, recently returned from a seventh-month layoff. Third in the $90,000 Housebuster at Gulfstream on July 5, the David Fawkes charge figures to be much sharper second time off the bench.

    Palace, who counts wins in the True North Handicap and Fall Highweight Handicap, is another threat from mid-pack. He enters off a distant second-place finish in the seven-furlong Belmont Sprint Championship to Clearly Now, who finished up seven furlongs in a blistering 1:19 4/5.

    Capo Bastone upset the course-and-distance King's Bishop at odds of 28-1 last August, but the Todd Pletcher trainee has done little of note since. Lemon Drop Dream, winner of the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn, was second to Happy My Way at Pimlico but only fifth in a grass stakes at Evangeline Downs last time. Vyjack, a dual graded stakes winner around two turns as a three-year-old, shortens up after being eased in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap on July 5.

    Dayatthespa is one of several Chad Brown-trained graded stakes winners returning to action on the turf at the Spa (Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Grade 1-winning New York-bred Dayatthespa will put her perfect record over the Saratoga turf on the line Saturday in the $100,000 De La Rose going a mile on the inner course. Unraced since finishing fourth in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park in December, the five-year-old City Zip mare has a won a stakes each of the last two Saratoga meets -- the $100,000 Riskaverse in 2012 and $150,000 Yaddo for state-breds last year.

    Restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a graded stakes in 2014, the De La Rose has attracted another graded stakes veteran in Pianist. Like Dayatthespa, Pianist is trained by Chad Brown, who saddled the mare to Grade 3 wins in the Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico and Athenia at Belmont last term.

    Other leading contenders are the Bill Mott-trained Filimbi, a French stakes winner who beat allowances foes when last seen May 21; Ready Signal, a two-time stakes winner at Gulfstream earlier this year; Baffle Me, fifth in the 2013 De La Rose prior to winning three stakes at Belmont and Gulfstream; Alaura Michele, third in the Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx last time; and Joy, an 11-1 upset winner of the $95,000 Perfect Sting over yielding ground at Belmont on Independence Day.

    Big Blue Kitten, who notched Grade 1 scores last season in the United Nations at Monmouth and Sword Dancer at Saratoga, headlines the $100,000 Lure over 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf. Subsequently second by a nose in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Big Blue Kitten has not been out since finishing a sub-par eighth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in November.

    Restricted to horses that have not won a graded stakes in 2014, the Lure has also attracted the Grade 3 turf winners Swift Warrior and Rogue Romance; 2013 Bernard Baruch runner-up Paris Vegas; 2013 Knickerbocker runner-up Plainview; and the capable New York-bred performer Kharafa.

    Among those entered for the main track only is Alpha, dead-heat winner of the 2012 Travers and outright victor of the 2013 Woodward.

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    Baffert, Hollendorfer, Sadler runners comprise Hirsch field

    Iotapa will earn a BC Distaff berth with victory in the Hirsch (Benoit Photos)

    Iotapa, winner of the June 14 Vanity at Santa Anita in her last start, and multiple Grade 2 heroine winner Fiftyshadesofhay top a field of seven entered for Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar. The race is a "Win & You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

    Three trainers -- John Sadler, Jerry Hollendorfer and Bob Baffert -- account for all seven entrants, with Sadler and Hollendorfer putting in three each. In addition to likely favorite Iotapa, who is exiting 10-length romp in the Vanity, Sadler has entered More Chocolate and Legacy in the nine-furlong event. Hollendorfer's trio is Doinghardtimeagain, Broken Sword and Parranda.

    Baffert conditions Fiftyshadesofhay, who readied for this contest with a five-eighths move in 1:00 3/5 on Monday over Del Mar's Polytrack and will be reunited with jockey Martin Garcia. The two last paired up to be sixth in the Santa Margarita, and will try to replace that poor performance with a win on Saturday. Fiftyshadesofhay followed up the Santa Margarita with victory in the Ruffian at Belmont Park and was last seen a one-paced third in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs in mid-June.

    Iotapa will be making her Del Mar debut in this spot under jockey Joe Talamo. The Afleet Alex four-year-old has been unplaced just once in her 11-race career, with that coming two back on May 3 at Churchill Downs in the Humana Distaff. She's also scored in the Santa Maria and placed in the Santa Margarita and Santa Monica this season.

    More Chocolate, who will be making her seasonal bow on Saturday, hasn't visited the winner's circle since taking the 2013 La Canada. Since then the Malibu Moon mare has run second in the Santa Margarita, Vanity Handicap and this contest last August, all Grade 1 contests. She was last finishing seventh in the Goldikova in November and gets a rider switch to Victor Espinoza.

    Legacy is the lesser of the Sadler entrants and will be making just her fourth start against stakes foes in this spot. The Sightseeing four-year-old was a well-beaten second in the Santa Lucia and sixth in the Adoration at Santa Anita over the spring, but enters Saturday's contest off a nose victory in the July 6 Cypress at Los Alamitos.

    Parranda was four-for-six last fall and early this spring in Florida before heading west (Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Parranda will be trying something other than turf for only the second time in her career in the Hirsch. The English Channel chestnut was fourth in her prior effort in an off-the-turf optional claimer at Monmouth Park for former trainer Rodolfo Garcia, and has gone 2-0-1 in three grass starts since transferring to Hollendorfer and the West Coast.

    The Florida-bred five-year-old captured the Wilshire in April, ran third in the Gamely a month later, and most recently posted a neck victory in the Royal Heroine. Elvis Trujillo, aboard for that latter gutsy effort, stays in the saddle.

    Hollendorfer's other two runners, Doinghardtimeagain and Broken Sword, will break side-by-side under Mike Smith and Rafael Bejarano, respectively.

    Doinghardtimeagain scored in the Great Lady M. last out in just her second start of the year. The Ministers Wild Cat four-year-old has competed three times at Del Mar -- running second in her career debut, finishing fourth in the Fleet Treat last July and fading to ninth in the Del Mar Oaks last August.

    The lightly raced Broken Sword was fifth in her only attempt at Del Mar in August 2013. The Broken Vow filly broke her maiden by 11 lengths in the 2012 Juan Gonzalez Memorial at Pleasanton but wouldn't visit the winner's circle again until taking back-to-back wins in an optional claimer and the Bayakoa late last year at Golden Gate and Hollywood Park, respectively.

    Broken Sword hasn't raced since a fifth in her seasonal bow, the January 19 La Canada, but has recorded three straight bullet works recently, including a half-mile in a best-of-60 :46 1/5 at Del Mar on Monday.

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    Candy Boy hoping to make his own mark in WV Derby

    Candy Boy, shown winning the Robert B. Lewis, was runner-up in the Los Alamitos Derby last time (Benoit Photos)

    A vintage year for California-based three-year-old colts could become even more memorable if Candy Boy makes a successful invasion of Mountaineer for the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Saturday.

    The 1 1/8-mile feature, which attracted a field of nine, is the highlight of an all-stakes, nine-race card that is traditionally Mountaineer's lone foray into daytime racing during its extended Thoroughbred meet.

    In the shadows of such standouts as California Chrome, whom he chased in the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, and champion Shared Belief, who he finished second to last out in the Los Alamitos Derby, Candy Boy will attempt to earn his first stakes win since taking the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in February and follow-up on the success of Bayern in last weekend's Haskell Invitational.

    It will not be an easy task. Tapiture has three graded stakes wins to his credit, including a 4 1 /4-length tally in the Southwest at Oaklawn in February. Last time, the Tapit colt rebounded from a poor showing in the Kentucky Derby to claim the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs by two lengths.

    Vicar's in Trouble, the Louisiana Derby winner, could be the most dangerous of the three. The Mike Maker trainee did not show his customary foot as the 7-5 favorite in the Iowa Derby last out, and ultimately faded to third over a sloppy track. If able to outbreak the other speed, which have less class, Vicar's in Trouble could replicate the form that produced two graded stakes wins at Fair Grounds last winter.

    The big three all raced in the Kentucky Derby, though none were much of a factor. Candy Boy finished 13th and Tapiture 15th after meeting trouble in the first turn, while Vicar's in Trouble also was roughed up en route to trailing the field of 19.

    Tapiture is a three-time graded stakes winners for trainer Steve Asmussen (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    The remainder of the field all have form to find. For Goodness Sake has landed in a tough spot for his stakes debut, but daylight maiden and allowance wins during the Churchill spring meet mark him as a progressive sort. Classic Giacnroll finished second in the Jerome back in January, but has picked up only minor checks against easier since.

    Divine View, runner-up against allowance foes at Delaware Park last time, and the Louisiana-bred stakes winner Gold Appointment, complete the field along with extreme outsiders Only I Know and Key for Success.

    Moonshine Mullin, whose five-race win streak includes back-to-back wins in the Churchill Downs' major spring stakes for older horses, the Stephen Foster Handicap and Alysheba, headlines the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's at 1 1/16 miles.

    Likely to keep the ex-claimer on his toes is multiple Grade 3 winner Falling Sky, who stretches back out after taking the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and Donald LeVine Memorial in two of his last four starts.

    A swift pace might aid Carve, last-out winner of the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, and the classic-placed Mylute, unplaced twice behind Moonshine Mullin at Churchill Downs and in the Suburban Handicap last time.

    Noted sprint star Delaunay figures to be an overwhelming favorite in the $100,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial over six furlongs. The Tom Amoss-trained seven-year-old has won numerous stakes throughout the Midwest and Louisiana, highlighted by graded scores in the Churchill Downs and Aristides in Louisville.

    Moonshine Mullin recently hit a peak upsetting the Stephen Foster Handicap (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    Mico Margarita , who's finished behind Delaunay in their two recent outings, is back to oppose. Other possible contenders include multiple stakes veterans Star Harbour, Res Judicata, Ghost Is Clear, Russell Road and Lucy's Bob Boy.

    A more contentious race might be the $100,000 West Virginia Secretary of State. The six-furlong dash for fillies and mares includes the venerable seven-year-old Winning Image, a prominent force on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, and Flattering Bea, who landed the Sugar Maple at Charles Town in April and was runner-up in this event last year.

    The Kentucky invaders Sweet Cassiopeia, Aireofdistinction, and Anahauc also merit respect.

    The $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates, at one mile and 70 yards on turf, features Regally Ready, a past winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint who has developed into a capable miler in the region. He earned back-to-back wins at Churchill Downs in May, including the $64,000 Opening Verse.

    Free World, hero of the $207,000 Centaur at Indiana Downs last season, was a solid fifth in the Firecracker at Churchill last time and might prove tough to catch. Coalport, a multiple stakes winner campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, is another leading contender in his second start off a layoff.

    The top two finishers from Mountaineer's version of the Firecracker, a $75,000 stakes for fillies and mares run on July 2, highlight a contentious renewal of the $100,000 West Virginia Senate President's Cup at one mile and 70 yards on the turf. La Malaguena and Sassy Kitten were separated by a neck in that heat, but will need their running shoes on to cope with graded stakes-placed veterans Moment in Dixie and Queen's Award, as well as Canadian invader Surtsey and the capable pair of Quiet Success and Soft Whisper.

    Delaunay is one of several graded stakes winners running on the Mountaineer program (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    Recent maiden winners Tapitsphere and Gotta Get Paid should attract plenty of support in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile over six furlongs, but the respective Churchill and Indiana Grand graduates figure to be challenged by the swift Arlington-based colt Creaky Cricket, and Hashtag Bourbon, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver who could improve off his debut third at Churchill.

    A. P.'s Glory figures to be an overwhelming favorite to follow up her 7 1/2-length Arlington debut victory with a score in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies, also at six furlongs. Another daylight maiden winner, Brennan, exits an eight-length romp at Penn National, while Churchill maiden winner Rachel's Ready was never involved after a slow break in the $108,000 Debutante last time.

    Uncle Todd, who has won three straight by a combined margin of 21 1/4 lengths, will try and outgun 10 rivals in the $100,000 West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup going 4 1/2 furlongs. Among those hoping to keep pace with that one are Amarish, Debt Ceiling, No Distinction, Beat Seattle, and Grade 3 turf winner Berlino Di Tiger.

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    In brief

    Elizabeth J. Valando's homebred Free as a Bird (Hard Spun) completed a stakes hat trick on Friday when taking the $100,000 Caress S. at Saratoga by three parts of a length. Sent off the 8-5 favorite in the nine-distaffer field off a pair of close Belmont stakes victories, the Ian Wilkes pupil bided her time near the back of the field under jockey Joel Rosario before coming three wide on the turn and rallying to finish 5 1/2 furlongs on the good turf in 1:01 4/5. Free as a Bird was in front when taking the License Fee on May 11, then raced midpack prior to her neck triumph in the June 8 Intercontinental last out. "She broke a little further back than I thought," Wilkes said. "She was always traveling; I thought it would be a good test for her. I think she's very comfortable with horses in front of her. She finished strong. The filly's been doing extremely well. This year, she's stepped her game up. She's matured, she's a five-year-old, and just getting a little better. You learn something every time you run. At least she's not one-dimensional and has to be close. She can close from out of it. It just depends on the pace. We'll probably look next to the 5 1/2-furlong (Smart n' Fancy on August 25)." The chestnut mare improved her career mark to 6-4-5 from 19 starts and has banked $383,208 lifetime...

    Breeders' Cup Sprint hero Secret Circle (Eddington) turned four furlongs in :48 1/5 on Friday over Del Mar's Polytrack in just his second work since April. The Bob Baffert-trained five-year-old made his seasonal bow off his Breeders' Cup triumph a close runner-up effort in the February 2 Palos Verdes (G2), but hasn't been seen in competition since. He was entered in the Count Fleet Sprint (G3) at Oaklawn on April 10, but was scratched before even making it to race after being given a tranquilizer when becoming fractious prior to boarding the Tex Sutton flight from California to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the morning before the race. The scratch was necessary because the medication would not have cleared the horse's system in time. Dual champion Beholder (Henny Hughes) posted three panels in :39 3/5 Friday in her first move since finishing a close fourth as the even-money favorite in the June 7 Ogden Phipps H. (G1). That was only the second time the multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire finished worse than second in her 14-race career, with the other also coming as a fourth when making her 2012 debut. Stakes diva Diversy Harbor (Curlin) clocked a half-mile in :49 4/5 for trainer Tom Proctor. The three-year-old miss was fourth in the San Clemente H. (G2), second in the American Oaks (G1), third in the Honeymoon (G2) and second in the Providencia (G3) in her past four efforts. Jojo Warrior (Pioneerof the Nile) sped five-eighths in a bullet, best-of-50, :59 4/5. The bay miss, who took her maiden debut by 3 1/4 lengths last September at Del Mar, is exiting a front-running, 5 1/4-length romp in the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita on June 21...

    Reigning Canadian champion older male Alpha Bettor (Alphabet Soup) has been installed as the 8-5 favorite in his three-peat attempt in Sunday's C$150,000 Seagram Cup (Can-G3) at Woodbine. The Danny Vella charge has won the past two renewals of this 1 1/16-mile Polytrack event in the same fashion, rallying from just off the pace, and he prepped with a 2 1/4-length allowance score over Pender Harbour (Philanthropist) and Ultimate Destiny (Dance to Destiny). While Alpha Bettor figures to have their measure again, he faces a more formidable opponent in Sky Captain (Sky Mesa), who just extended his winning streak to three in the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day (Can-G3). Last year's Ontario Derby (Can-G3) victor, His Race to Win (Stormy Atlantic), was a one-paced third in the Dominion Day, but could prosper on the cutback in trip. Earlier on the program, front-running maiden winner Mel's Ring (Where's the Ring) is the one to beat in the C$125,000 Nandi S. for Ontario-sired juvenile fillies...

    Trainer Freddy Head has issued an upbeat bulletin on Prix Jean Prat (Fr-G1) winner Charm Spirit (Invincible Spirit), and noted that he would not shy away from a rematch with Kingman (Invincible Spirit) in the Queen Elizabeth S. (Eng-G1) at Ascot on October 18. "He's a very nice horse -- he's very tough and improving," Head said. "I like him a lot. Maybe we'll aim him at the Queen Elizabeth at Ascot -- that could be his target. I think we might bypass the summer with him, then keep him fresh for the end of the season." Charm Spirit finished fifth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, behind Night of Thunder (Dubawi) and Kingman in the May 3 Two Thousand Guineas prior to winning the Prix Paul de Moussac (Fr-G3) on June 7 and July 14 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly. "We won't be scared of Kingman if he turns up -- we weren't too far behind him in the Guineas," Head added. "Charm Spirit wasn't well that day, either. He didn't enjoy the journey over and looking at him in the paddock I didn't think he looked in great shape. He's improved a lot since then."...

    Wetherby Racecourse, which earlier this year announced a wish to stage a limited amount of Flat racing, has been allocated its first Flat fixture for Sunday, April 26, 2015. Following the conclusion of the first stage of racecourse fixture moves during the development of the 2015 Fixture List, the British Horseracing Authoritiy (BHA) confirmed that Wetherby has been successful in its application to hold Flat racing next year. This follows the staging of a series of trials over a variety of distances on the Flat at Wetherby on June 10. The West Yorkshire racecourse, founded in 1891, will retain its focus on Jump racing. "We are delighted to have been allocated our first Flat raceday on Sunday, April 26 next year," stated Jonjo Sanderson, chief executive & clerk of the course of Wetherby Racecourse & Conference Centre. "The rationale behind the introduction of Flat racing at Wetherby is to try and grow our business and attract a new customer base to Wetherby, as well as achieving a greater utilization of the excellent equine and customer facilities that the racecourse has to offer. This should not be seen as a step towards the end of Jump racing at Wetherby -- in fact the opposite. Any Flat racing fixtures we secure will be supplementary to our core activity of Jump racing and provide vital support to Wetherby's Jump race program." Wetherby has been scheduled to stage between 14 and 19 fixtures annually over the last 25 years, all of which were Jump fixtures...

    Following the trail older sister Kayla blazed seven years earlier, Desiree Stra has ventured from Australia to America to ride as an apprentice on the Southern California circuit with Del Mar being the first stop. Desiree, 27, is three years younger than Kayla and the daughter of Alex Stra, a trainer in Australia. Like Kayla, she learned to ride and started her professional career there, getting on her first horse at age seven and first Thoroughbred at 14. She rode her first winner as a professional, a horse named Young Tearaway, in the Hawker Cup in 2012. Punting Form statistics show her with 23 career wins from 310 starts. Desiree has been here only three weeks and has ridden three races without a win. "I did fairly well down there and I thought it would be pretty cool to follow in my sister's footsteps and give it a try," she said. "It's a working holiday, but I've got a one-way ticket so I plan to stay awhile and see what happens. I want to get to know my little nephew, he's growing up pretty quickly." Kayla Stra is the mother of Brys Baldwin, nearly two-years old...

    Chili lovers -- from those who prefer it hot and spicy to those who are willing to go really HOT and unbelievably SPICY -- will be beating a path to Del Mar Saturday when the track presents its annual Western Regional Chili Cookoff with free samples for all. There will be a record 50 chili cooks on board throughout the afternoon, serving up their special concoctions starting at 2 p.m. (PDT) alongside the Seaside Stage concert area on the western end of the grandstand. A fine sampling of cold brews from beer tents throughout the area also will be available. The cooks will be vying for $2,500 in prizes, as well as a new 42" television. Additionally, there will be a Salsa Contest as part of the festivities. Following the cookoff after the races, the track will present fan favorites Weezer in concert on the Seaside Stage...

    The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and Dunkin' Donuts on Friday announced the last call for entries in the all-new "Travers Day VIP Experience" contest. The contest offers Dunkin' Donuts guests the exclusive chance to win a true VIP experience for the 145th running of the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on August 23. Individuals can enter the contest by enrolling in Dunkin' Donuts' new DD Perks Rewards program at DDPerks.com using the promo code RACE. Six grand prize winners will each receive -- a pair of tickets to a VIP Suite at Saratoga Race Course on Travers Day, August 23; parking, food and beverage; a tour of the paddock; and a pair of $100 Dunkin' Donuts cards. Six first prize winners will each receive four Clubhouse seats to Saratoga during the final week of the meet and a $50 Dunkin' Donuts card. Thirty runner-up winners will receive a $50 Dunkin' Donuts card. Contest entries must be submitted by Sunday. Participants are required to be 18 years of age or over and a New York resident to enter. For more information, call 518-584-6200 or visit nyra.com...

    Racing fans are invited to join jockeys and trainers Sunday night at Harrah's Resort in Valley Center for a no limit, hold 'em poker tournament that will raise funds for the Relay for Life's fight against cancer. There is a $40 buy-in for the tournament with $20 going into the prize pool and $20 toward a tax-deductible donation. The buy-in gives each player $5,000 in chips. There will be a celebrity bounty arrangement in place where anyone who knocks out the celeb at their table wins a special prize. Busses will leave Del Mar following the races at 7:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (PDT) from the Valet Parking area across from the Clubhouse/Turf Club gates. They will return from the resort at 10:30 p.m. and midnight. Those who stay the night -- and Harrah's will offer a 30 percent room discount to those who do -- will have bus transportation back to Del Mar at 10 a.m. Monday morning.

    Carryover Watch

    For Saturday or Next Raceday

    WOODBINE:   High 5 -- $102,900
    MONMOUTH:   Pick 6 -- $74,300
    GULFSTREAM:   Pick 6 -- $50,000
        Pick 5 -- $17,862
    ARLINGTON:   Pick 9 -- $10,475

    Features

    HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

    AUGUST 1, 2014

    A Tale of Two Turf Courses (With apologies to Charles Dickens and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio)

    by Dick Powell

    It might not be the best of times nor the worst of times (depending on how you are betting) but the two turf courses at Saratoga have serious differences. Not enough to call for a revolution filled with beheadings but if you are sitting on a pile of losing pari-mutuel tickets, wondering what happened, this might help.

    In the past two years, there have been an amazing 250 races run on the turf at Saratoga. 120 of them were run on the wider, Mellon turf course, named after one of horse racing's finest patrons of the turf, Paul Mellon of Rokeby Stable fame. 130 of them were run on the inner turf course, which doesn't have a title name but might be the scene of many results where you are called it some colorful names.

    About 20 years ago, I did a study of the two turf courses and found radical differences. Twenty years later, little has changed.

    On the Mellon turf course, an amazing 47 favorites have won the 120 races for a healthy win percentage of 39.16 percent. The average win mutuel odds was only $5.43 to 1 so the average win mutuel payoff for the 120 races run on the Mellon turf course was $12.86.

    Part of the Mellon turf course playing so much to form is its wide turns allow horses to overcome poor trips and rally with less traffic congestion. The inner turf course, with its narrower configuration, figures to be the opposite and according to the data, it is.

    There have been 130 races run on the inner turf course and only 35 favorites have won for a win percentage of only 26.92 percent. When you do pick a winner on the inner turf course, you are rewarded with an average mutuel payoff of $14.34.

    Field sizes are comparable but you would not think that the inner turf course averages 9.22 starters per race while the Mellon turf course averages 8.71 starters per race. Somehow, you would think the opposite would be the case.

    As far as betting strategy, it makes sense to spread out more in races on the inner turf course than the Mellon. On the inner turf course, bad trips seem to prevail and upsets occur more than expected so it's tough to go strong with one or two horses. Three or four might be more like it.

    On the Mellon turf course, a strong favorite figures to have less of a chance of being hindered with traffic problems so you can bet them with more confidence. The sample size of 250 turf races certainly is statistically significant and it reflects prior research that I have done.

    What does Saratoga have that Del Mar does not? Easy! Bad weather!

    If you are up here or watching on a simulcast, you have seen three of the last four days lose all turf racing due to torrential rains. With at least five turf races scheduled each racing day, a rainy day means a lot of races off the turf and at least there have been enough of them to build up some data.

    In 2013, we had weather never seen before with only 22 races washed off the turf in 40 days of racing. Part of that trend continued into this year with no weather issues in the first eight days of racing, but last Sunday and Monday's turf races were all lost so we have had 10 races washed off the turf in 10 days of racing this year.

    Even with only an average field size of 7.25, favorites only won 31.25 percent. The average win mutuel was $11.08 so the races that have been taken off the turf are playing a little less to form than expected.

    RACING ON TV

    Saturday, August 2   Whitney (G1)
        Test (G1)
        5 - 6 p.m.
        NBC

    all times Eastern

    RACING ON RADIO

    Monday thru Friday   At the Races w/ Steve Byk
        10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
        Sirius 93 - XM 209
         
    Thursdays   Brisnet.com 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.
        HRRN
         
    Saturday, August 2   Whitney H. (G1)
        5 - 6 p.m.
        Sirius 93 - XM 208/HRRN website
         
    Monday-Tuesday, August 4-5   Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale
        6 - 9:30 p.m.
        Sirius 93 - XM 208/HRRN website
         
    Friday, August 8   Racing Hall of Fame Inductions
        10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
        Sirius 93 - XM 208/HRRN website

    all times Eastern

    Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

    SPOT PLAYS

    For Saturday

    TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
    Arlington Park   (7th) Sandia Crest, 8-1
        (10th) Superstar Leo, 7-2
    Belterra Park   (2nd) Hellcat Senior, 4-1
        (5th) Top Suite, 5-1
    Canterbury Park   (6th) Belleoftheprairie, 4-1
        (8th) Country Fine, 9-2
    Charles Town   (4th) Northern Cherokee, 4-1
        (6th) Gold Raptor, 8-1
    Del Mar   (2nd) Half Dome Dude, 7-2
        (3rd) Image of Joplin, 5-1
    Delaware Park   (2nd) Pomeroy's Package, 9-2
        (3rd) Flatter Me Up, 7-2
    Ellis Park   (4th) Wise Crossing, 6-1
        (9th) Gridlock, 6-1
    Emerald Downs   (3rd) Gavinator, 3-1
        (6th) Timeonurhands, 6-1
    Evangeline Downs   (2nd) Tsavo, 7-2
        (4th) Wildcat's Tune, 6-1
    Finger Lakes   (3rd) Shelby Dean, 9-2
        (4th) Northern Warrior, 5-1
    Gulfstream Park   (7th) Sophia's Pride, 5-1
        (8th) Happy Runner, 4-1
    Indiana Downs   (4th) Is Silver Good, 3-1
        (6th) Rowdy Miss, 5-1
    Louisiana Downs   (6th) Four Leaf Chief, 5-1
        (10th) Coushatta Man, 9-2
    Monmouth Park   (7th) Enduring Star, 6-1
        (9th) Enchanted Dreams, 3-1
    Mountaineer   (1st) Super Siete, 8-1
        (3rd) Winning Image, 3-1
    Parx Racing   (4th) Hard to Handle, 9-2
        (6th) Sabbath Bay, 6-1
    Penn National   (2nd) Green Lane, 3-1
        (5th) Grace is a Beauty, 3-1
    Prairie Meadows   (1st) Quean Hawk, 5-1
        (3rd) J T Raider, 4-1
    Saratoga   (3rd) Firespike, 4-1
        (5th) Pride of Stride, 6-1
    Suffolk Downs   (7th) Blues Singer, 4-1
        (8th) Chaotic Bull, 6-1
    Thistledown   (5th) Diamond Appeal, 4-1
        (8th) Burning Sky, 4-1
    Woodbine   (6th) Gracious Geisha, 4-1
        (9th) A Better Breeze, 3-1

    HIGHLIGHTS

    For Saturday

    DEL MAR (5:05): $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch S. (G1), 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16m (8TH).
    GULFSTREAM PARK (1:15): $75,000 Soaring Softly S., 3&up, f&m, 1mT (9TH).
    LOUISIANA DOWNS (3:50): $150,000 A. L. (Red) Erwin S., 3yo, c&g, 1mT (3RD); $150,000 Rasberry S., 3yo, f, 1mT (5TH); $100,000 Super Derby Prelude S., 3yo, 1 1/16m (8TH); $75,000 Louisiana Cup Distaff, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16mT (7TH); $75,000 Louisiana Cup Turf Classic, 3&up, 1 1/16mT (9TH); $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies, 2yo, f, 6f (1ST); $50,000 Louisiana Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, 3&up, f&m, 6f (2ND); $50,000 Louisiana Cup Sprint, 3&up, 6f (4TH); $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile, 2yo, c&g, 6f (6TH).
    MONMOUTH PARK (12:50): $60,000 My Frenchman S., 3&up, 5 1/2fT (11TH).
    MOUNTAINEER (2:00): $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2), 3yo, 1 1/8m (8TH); $200,000 West Virginia Governor's S., 3&up, 1 1/16m (7TH); $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile S., 2yo, 6f (1ST); $100,000 West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup S., 3&up, 4 1/2f (2ND); $100,000 West Virginia Secretary of State S., 3&up, f&m, 6f (3RD); $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies S., 2yo, f, 6f (4TH); $100,000 West Virginia Senate President's Cup S., 3&up, f&m, 1m 70ydsT (5TH); $100,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial S., 3&up, 6f (6TH); $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup S., 3&up, 1m 70ydsT (9TH).
    PRAIRIE MEADOWS (7:30): $85,000 Donna Reed S., 4&up, f&m, 1m 70yds (9TH); $85,000 Ralph Hayes S., 4&up, c&g, 1 1/16m (10TH); $80,000 Iowa Breeders' Oaks, 3yo, f, 1m 70yds (7TH); $80,000 Iowa Breeders' Derby, 3yo, c&g, 1 1/16m (8TH); $75,000 Iowa Cradle S., 2yo, c&g, 6f (4TH); $75,000 Iowa Classic Sprint S., 3&up, 6f (5TH); $75,000 Iowa Sorority S., 2yo, f, 6f (6TH).
    SARATOGA (1:00): $1,000,000 Whitney (G1), 3&up, 1 1/8m (10TH); $500,000 Test (G1), 3yo, f, 7f (9TH); $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1), 3&up, 6f (8TH); $100,000 De La Rose S., 4&up, f&m, 1mT (7TH); $100,000 Lure S., 4&up, 1 1/16mT (11TH).
    WOODBINE (1:00): $125,000 Eternal Search S., 3yo, f, 1 1/16m (8TH).

    *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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