July 17, 2024

Decorated Invader reverts to mile in Hill Prince; five set for Knickerbocker

Decorated Invader threaded the needle in the Pennine Ridge (NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

Fifth as the 4-5 favorite in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby Invitational, Decorated Invader looks to rebound back at a mile in Sunday’s $150,000 Hill Prince Stakes (G2). The feature for 3-year-olds was postponed, along with the $150,000 Knickerbocker Stakes (G2), from the Oct. 12 holiday card in anticipation of a rainy forecast at Belmont Park.

Hill Prince Stakes

Decorated Invader is 3-for-4 at this trip, including his signature win in last season’s Summer (G1) and a tour de force in the June 20 Pennine Ridge (G2) over the same Widener course. Although successful in the July 18 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at 1 1/8 miles, he was more workmanlike. After failing to punch effectively on the slight step up in trip for the Saratoga Derby, the Christophe Clement trainee figures to recover his former touch on the cutback.

“He didn’t run great going a mile and three sixteenths,” Terry Finley of co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds said, “but he only got beat three-quarters of a length. We aren’t necessarily thinking about going past 1 1/8 miles because it’s not in front of us at the moment.

“With Christophe, Gio Ponti is a good comparable. He was an incredibly talented horse and Christophe and the owner (Castleton Lyons) did a great job in managing him. The good thing with these types of horses is that you have good comparables. You can see the good moves and the ones that didn’t work.”

Decorated Invader will have to spot his rivals six pounds, however, as the 124-pound highweight.

The Tom Bush-trained Get Smokin, who nearly wired the Hall of Fame, also aims to regroup after trailing in the Saratoga Derby. Buy Land and See captured last fall’s Awad at this course and distance, and figures to prefer the stretch-out from a third in the 5 1/2-furlong Mahony at the Spa. Trainer Steve Klesaris had entered him in the James Murphy on Preakness Day but scratched. British-bred Assiduously represents Chad Brown but has yet to clear his entry-level allowance condition.

Mike Maker has a third of the field with Texas Turf Mile hero Bodecream, third in the Saranac (G3) in his first start for the barn; James Murphy ninth Chocolate Bar; and recent Kentucky Downs maiden winner Glynn County. Starting Over, just claimed for $75,000 out of his maiden score, takes a class hike in his first outing for Robert Falcone.

Todd Pletcher’s Money Moves, last seen finishing 13th in an ambitious Kentucky Derby (G1) tilt, is the main-track-only hope.

Knickerbocker Stakes

Earlier on the card, Brown has two of the five runners in the Knickerbocker in Devamani and Olympico. Both take the blinkers off following their respective third- and fifth-place efforts in the Lure at Saratoga – a 33% winning move for Brown.

Olympico has gone winless since his upset score in the 2019 Fort Marcy (G3), but he was second in this race last year. Devamani came close to graded success earlier this season, missing by a nose in the Feb. 8 Tampa Bay (G3) and a neck in the upgraded Fort Marcy (G2) at this same 1 1/8-mile trip on the Belmont inner.

Also coming out of the Lure is fourth-placer Breaking the Rules, who had won two straight allowances for Shug McGaughey. The Phipps blueblood beat Devamani in one and Digital Age in the other, and his profile as a relatively unexposed Grade 3-placed stakes scorer suggests he could up his game still.

Juddmonte homebred Seismic Wave is another looking for a graded breakthrough after going close, notably in last summer’s course-and-distance Pennine Ridge (to Demarchelier) and the July 4 Poker (G3). The Bill Mott trainee was most recently a distant second in an off-the-turf allowance Aug. 27 at the Spa.

En Wye Cee is bred on the same cross as Decorated Invader, being by Declaration of War and out of an Arch mare, yet makes only his second turf start here. The Pletcher runner was a fast-finishing, near-miss third going a mile at Saratoga, and he came back to dominate an off-the-turf allowance Aug. 29.