July 16, 2024

Focus Group heads field of 11 in Sycamore

Focus Group and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Pan American Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 30, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

He’s the 125-pound highweight and morning line favorite for the $150,000 Sycamore (G3) on Thursday, but Focus Group enters the 1 1/2-mile grass stakes at Keeneland with something to prove.

Although starting the season on a winning note in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream in late March, Focus Group has dropped four straight in the interim. Only once, in the Bowling Green (G2), was he judged an outsider by bettors. Unplaced in the Man o’ War (G1) and United Nations (G1) at short odds, Focus Group showed more in the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) last out, rallying for third after being pinched back at the break.

Trainer Graham Motion, who has won the Sycamore three times, will be represented by Nakamura, who was elevated from fourth to third in the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel last time. Demoted from third to fifth in that race after missing the win by a neck was Grade 3 winner Postulation.

Mike Maker has a pair for the Sycamore in Space Mountain and Marzo, both former claimers. Space Mountain shipped west last month to register a 9-1 upset of the $100,000 Remington Green over nine furlongs and has yet to run to this far. Marzo, claimed for $62,500 at Kentucky Downs August 31, enters off a second-place effort in an $80,000 optional claimer going a mile at Churchill Downs. He, too, has yet to travel this far, but has a little back class having placed twice in stakes late last year.