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Palace fells The Lumber Guy; Havana smokes in debut

Antonino Miuccio's Palace profited from a taxing early pace to spoil the comeback of 4-5 favorite The Lumber Guy in Friday's $100,000 Chowder's First Stakes at Saratoga. A 12-1 chance who was employing the turf-to-dirt angle for Linda Rice, Palace stormed three lengths clear in a triumphant stakes debut.

The Lumber Guy, last year's Vosburgh Invitational hero and Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up, had not raced for six months. Remaining in Southern California after the Breeders' Cup, he was transferred from trainer Michael Hushion to Neil Drysdale. But the New York-bred didn't enjoy his time out west, winding up seventh in both the December 26 Malibu and the February 23 San Carlos, and went back home to Hushion.

Friday's 6 1/2-furlong stakes for state-breds appeared a logical spot for The Lumber Guy's return, and the Grade 1-winning sprinter was the class of the field. As N. F.'s Destiny blasted an opening quarter in :21 3/5 on the fast track, The Lumber Guy chased in second, with 9-5 second choice Night Maneuver lapped alongside in third. Palace bided his time six lengths off the pace in fourth.

The Lumber Guy put his head in front through a half in a torrid :44 2/5. N. F.'s Destiny commenced a retreat, but Night Maneuver was still looming a threat turning into the stretch, and Palace began to gain ground for Cornelio Velasquez.

Although The Lumber Guy kept on stubbornly to fend off Night Maneuver, the odds-on choice was weary by the time that Palace arrived on the scene. Palace swept to the fore in midstretch, reached the six-furlong split in 1:09 1/5, and finished up in 1:15 3/5. The son of City Zip sparked a win payout of $27.

The Lumber Guy was a game runner-up, one length to the good of Night Maneuver. Spa City Fever, Even Got Quiet and a tailed-off N. F.'s Destiny rounded out the order under the wire. Socialsaul, Spa City Fever's entrymate, was scratched.

Bred by the Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust in the Empire State, Palace was sold for $160,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS March. The bay was first trained by Bill Mott for WinStar Farm. When dropped in for a $20,000 maiden claiming tag in his fourth start, he scored by 11 3/4 lengths.

His current connections claimed him out of that romp at Belmont last October, and Palace went on to win three straight for his new barn -- first- and second-level allowances for state-breds and a starter/optional claimer in open company. After a couple of close seconds, he captured a July 14 turf sprint at Belmont and most recently checked in fourth to the up-and-coming Console in a similar event at the Spa on August 7. His winning stakes debut advanced his scorecard to 12-6-2-2, $262,050.

Palace is a half-brother to the stakes-placed Retriever. Their dam, the winning End Sweep mare Receivership, is in turn a half-sister to Grade 2 star French Park.

In Friday's opener at Saratoga, Todd Pletcher unveiled yet another exciting juvenile in Havana, who flirted with the track record in his wire-to-wire victory.

No secret as the 2-5 favorite in his debut, Havana was a $575,000 Barretts March purchase on behalf of Coolmore principals Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith. His freshman sire Dunkirk stands at Coolmore's North American arm, Ashford Stud, near Versailles, Kentucky.

Havana broke on top with John Velazquez, Kendall's Boy prompted, Chomsky tracked in third, and that order held throughout the 5 1/2-furlong maiden. Following an opening quarter in :22, Kendall's Boy tried to ratchet up the pressure on the leader through a half in :44 2/5, but Havana simply found another gear and pulled away. The favorite extended his margin to 2 3/4 lengths while sizzling in 1:02.64, just .13 off the track record.

The rest were strung out behind Havana. Kendall's Boy was himself 4 1/4 lengths clear of Chomsky, who had 6 1/2 lengths on fourth-placer Mischieviously.

"He's been working really good in the morning," Velazquez said. "We all liked him, and we were all wishing that when it comes to the races that he could do the same thing he's been doing in the morning. He did it, so we're very proud.

"We thought we had a fast horse, and we didn't want to give him such a hard race. There was another horse in the race (Kendall's Boy) that obviously ran fast enough to be with him the first part of the race.

"I didn't want to abuse him down the lane, but I had to make sure to keep his mind on running. I had to spank him and make him run away from that other horse, but he did it well. He definitely is a very good horse. We like him; I just didn't think that we were going to have to give him a hard race right off the bat."

"Looking at the worktab of the horse who was second (Kendall's Boy)," Pletcher said, "he looked like he had been training very well. It didn't surprise us (Havana) broke alertly and showed speed, and I was happy to see him put in the performance he did.

"He's trained well enough and he ran well enough today that something like the Champagne (Grade 1 on October 5 at Belmont Park) might make sense."

Havana was bred by Harvey A. Clarke Racing Stable in the Bluegrass State and initially brought $50,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. He is out of the winning Kyle's Our Man mare Missy Turtle, making him a half-brother to the Canadian stakes-placed Among the Willows. Havana's second dam, multiple stakes heroine Redding Ridge, has produced Grade 2-placed stakes victor Egg Head as well as stakes scorer Chief J Strongbow. Further back, this is the family of multiple Grade 3 queen Bara Lass.

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