Third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and second in the Florida Derby (G1), Hofburg would be a top contender in Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2), Saratoga’s main prep for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) later in the meet. But since he lacks a graded stakes victory past a mile, Friday’s restricted $100,000 Curlin became an option for one of the most promising 3-year-olds in training and the 1 1/8-mile race could serve as the Tapit colt’s steppingstone toward the Spa’s centerpiece event on August 25.
“Sometimes they can get a really nice horse in the Curlin,” said trainer Bill Mott, who added Hofburg could be cross-entered to the Jim Dandy. “We want to have the option. Our focus is on the Travers at 10 furlongs.”
Only five horses would line up against the odds-on favorite in the Curlin. Owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms, Hofburg started once as a juvenile and graduated when opening 2018 in a March 3 maiden at Gulfstream Park. He followed with a rallying second to Audible in the Florida Derby, registering a 104 BRIS Speed rating finishing nearly eight lengths clear of third, and then experienced a less-than-favorable trip rallying belatedly for third in the Kentucky Derby.
The chestnut was bet down as 5-1 second choice in the final leg of the Triple Crown but Hofburg never made much of an impact behind a moderate pace in the Belmont Stakes, getting up late to edge Vino Rosso for show. He still managed to net a 106 BRIS Speed, a number that towers over his Curlin opposition.
“He’s doing good,” Mott said. “We got a useful work (Sunday) and he galloped out good. He was strong this morning walking the shedrow. He’s been eating well enough. He held up well throughout the Triple Crown races and he seems as though he’s improved since.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the mount.
Reride switches back to dirt after a fifth in the grassy Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury. By Candy Ride, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt opened the year with wins in the Big Drama at Delta Downs and Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park. He traveled overseas for the lucrative U.A.E. Derby (G2) but didn’t have much chance on the speed-favoring desert track, closing from midpack to be a well-beaten third.
Jose Ortiz will take over the reins and Reride may be forward Friday in a field lacking early pace.
Asmussen will also send out the late-running Zing Zang, who is unplaced from four previous stakes attempts and will need to improve significantly upon a recent third versus allowance foes to challenge.
Madison’s Luna flashed potential earlier in the season, winning the 6-furlong Hutcheson (G3) by five lengths in his second career start in late March. Trainer Phil Bauer tried the Tapit colt on turf following a pair of well-beaten efforts in the Pat Day Mile (G3) and Woody Stephens (G2) and Madison’s Luna offered a fine showing recording a close second on June 24. The gray sophomore is eligible to build upon the encouraging performance if he handles the stretch out in distance with Julien Leparoux.
Last-out maiden scorer Nicodemus has been sold to new connections and the son of Candy Ride will jump straight to stakes competition for new conditioner Linda Rice, who also has Long Branch runner-up American Lincoln entered. Manny Franco rides Nicodemus and Junior Alvarado will be up on American Lincoln.