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Summer Bird schools in advance of Jockey Club

Summer Bird schooled in the paddock (Photo courtesy of NYRA)

After standing in the gate, Belmont S. (G1) and Travers S. (G1) winner SUMMER BIRD (Birdstone) opened up through the stretch during his gallop at Belmont Park Wednesday morning, and schooled between races in the afternoon as trainer Tim Ice put the finishing touches on the colt's preparations for Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (G1).

The 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, the centerpiece of "Super Saturday," will be the chestnut colt's first meeting with older horses, among them Whitney H. (G1) and Woodward S. (G1) runner-up MACHO AGAIN (Macho Uno) and Suburban H. (G2) winner DRY MARTINI (Slew Gin Fizz).

"I think he's up to it," Ice said. "He's had seven races, and now is as good a time as any to face them. He looked super this morning, and he is doing excellent."

QUALITY ROAD (Elusive Quality), who set track records in two of his past three races and finished third to Summer Bird in the Travers, also appear to be flourishing in the days leading up to the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"He's always been kind of a push-button horse, but we're really pleased with the way he's training," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He's traveling well and doing everything you'd like to see a horse do leading up to a big race."

Although Quality Road is based at Belmont Park, the Jockey Club Gold Cup will be his first race over the oval.

"He's run well everywhere he's raced -- Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, and Saratoga -- so I don't think it's going to make a difference one way or another," Pletcher said. "We're hoping for fast conditions, and we're ready to go."

Pletcher added that both CAPTAIN'S LOVER (SAf) (Captain Al) and UNBRIDLED BELLE (Broken Vow) will be in the $600,000 Beldame S. (G1).

"We like the way (Captain's Lover) breezed on dirt and like the way she came out of it," he said. "The options were to keep her here or ship to Keeneland and run on a synthetic surface, so we figured we'd take what's in front of us."

Pletcher will also be saddling Michael Tabor's MUNNINGS (Speightstown) on Saturday in the $400,000 Vosburgh S. (G1). The three-year-old has been no worse than third in five starts this year, most recently finishing third as the favorite in the King's Bishop S. (G1).

"He's been very consistent all year," Pletcher said. "He ran hard in the King's Bishop and Haskell (Invitational [G1]) on a surface he really didn't care for. We're hoping for him that it doesn't rain."

Following a victory this year in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) at Churchill Downs and an epic confrontation with Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) in the Woodward at Saratoga, Macho Again has proven to be one of the top handicap runners in the country.

"He's a top horse, championship caliber," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "We plan to ship in tomorrow (Thursday). We're looking forward to running."

After a head loss to Rachel Alexandra in a thrilling Woodward, Stewart knows how his four-year-old stacks up against the cream of the three-year-old division, but he did not want to make any predictions about facing Quality Road and Summer Bird.

"We'll just see," said Stewart, who has worked Macho Again just once since the Woodward. "You're talking about the Belmont and Travers winner."

ASIATIC BOY (Arg) (Not for Sale) will be making his fourth American start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, having finished second in the Stephen Foster and the Suburban H. (G2) and fourth to Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward in his most recent start.

"He's a neat horse, a nice horse," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of the six-year-old. "The weights have not been in his favor the last couple of races, and he's been a notch below those who have been beating him. But he's deserving of a chance."

McLaughlin had considered entering Grade 3 winner ETCHED (Forestry) in the race as well but elected to send him to the Meadowlands Cup (G2) on October 16 instead. The trainer added that stakes victor KEEP LAUGHING (Distorted Humor), seventh in the Forego S. (G1), remained possible for the Vosburgh.

"We'll see how the entries go tomorrow," McLaughlin said.


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