July 13, 2024

Book’em Danno takes WooYdy Stephens; Baby Yoda earns first stakes win in True North

Book'em Danno winning the Woody Stephens (G1) at Saratoga (Photo by Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta)
Book'em Danno winning the Woody Stephens (G1) at Saratoga (Photo by Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta)

Saturday’s Belmont S. (G1) at Saratoga undercard featured a pair of graded sprints on the main track, the $500,000 Woody Stephens (G1) for three-year-olds and $350,000 True North (G2) for older horses.

Last seen finishing a head second to Forever Young in February’s Saudi Derby (G3), Atlantic Six Racing’s Book’em Danno returned stateside with a game win in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens. The Derek Ryan-trained gelding launched a bold bid on the far turn to take a clear lead in upper stretch, and Book’em Danno dug in courageously to hold 8-5 favorite Prince of Monaco safe by a half-length.

The New Jersey-bred son of Bucchero notched his first graded victory and fourth overall stakes win. Starting as the 2.85-1 second choice under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Book’em Danno was timed in 1:21.30.

“They were going fast,” Ortiz said of his trip. “The horse relaxed. When I started moving, he started finding really well on the turn. He started responding really, really good on the turn so that helped a lot. Turning for home, I was still in a hold, then I asked him, and he gave me a good kick at the end. That was great. He is a nice horse.”

Barksdale and Frost Free hooked up early, opening up nearly eight lengths on the rest of the field through opening splits of :21.37 and :43.08. Book’em Danno didn’t get away fast from his innermost post but advanced to stalk the action in the next pack of runners, and he began to make serious headway midway on the far turn, driving to a widening lead after straightening for home.

Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Best Pal (G3) winner Prince of Monaco, unraced since a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in early November, rallied fast after angling wide into the stretch. Nutella Fella, unraced since winning the Hopeful (G1) last September, also closed well in the final furlongs, winding up another 1 1/4 lengths back in third at 20-1.

It was nearly seven more lengths back to Reasoned Analysis, who was followed by Valentine Candy, Be You, Imagination, Maximus Meridius, Nash, Barksdale, and Frost Free.

After winning a restricted maiden event last August, Book’em Danno reeled off open wins in the Smoke Glacken S. at Monmouth Park and Futurity S. at Aqueduct. He sustained his first setback in his last juvenile appearance, finishing a close second in the Nashua S. at Aqueduct, and the dark bay returned this season with a 12-length romp in the Pasco S. at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-January.

Book’em Danno opened a sizable lead in upper stretch of the Saudi Derby at a one-turn mile, and Forever Young needed a dramatic all-out rally to get up in the final strides. That rival came back to win the U.A.E. Derby (G2) and finish a troubled head third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Sprints are Book’em Danno’s best game, and he made a case for superiority among three-year-old sprinters winning the Woody Stephens.

“He ran a hard race (in Saudi Arabia),” Ryan said when asked about the comeback. “We give him a little break after Saudi. The plan was always this race. I know it was in the press that we were going here or there, but it was always the plan. I already knew I was coming here. It was the whole plan for his summer campaign and hopefully, back to the desert in the spring.”

Book’em Danno hails from the Ghostzapper mare Adorabella, who is also the dam of multiple Parx stakes winner Girl Trouble. The stakes-winning offspring were both bred in the Garden State by Gregory Kilka and Bright View Farm.

“He’s just a racehorse,” Ryan said of Book’em Danno. “He’s a cool horse. I get on him myself. I galloped him here Thursday. I schooled him in the paddock yesterday. He just takes everything in. He’s a cool horse.”

In the 6 1/2-furlong True North, Baby Yoda surprised with a convincing win at 9-1, pressing the pace in second before drawing clear off the far turn. The six-year-old gelding went on to score by six lengths under Eric Cancel, stopping the teletimer in 1:14.62.

Bill Mott trains the Florida-bred son of Prospective for Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, and Jerold Zaro, and Baby Yoda earned his first stakes triumph while moving his career record to 25-9-4-4.

Unplaced under allowance conditions in his first two starts this year at Gulfstream, the dark bay began to turn things around when upsetting a deep allowance/optional claimer at Aqueduct on May 3, scoring by a neck at 17-1. Baby Yoda kept advancing Saturday with a visually impressive performance.

Ninetyprcentmaddie rallied for second at 16-1, a length better than last-out Churchill Downs (G1) winner and odds-on favorite Gun Pilot. Next came Rotknee and Twenty Four Mambo. Gun It, who established splits of :21.94 and :44.04 before giving way, and Accretive completed the order.

A promising sprinter earlier in his career, Baby Yoda counts a runner-up in the 2021 Malibu (G1) and a second in the 2022 Kelso (G2) among his four stakes placings and has now earned $737,220. He’s the first stakes winner out of his dam More Than Speed, a daughter of More Than Ready.