Friday, June 14, 2013

Infinite Magic Slight Favorite in Wide-Open Hill Prince

ELMONT, N.Y. – Following a disappointing start on the dirt, Infinite Magic will return to the grass when he competes as the slight morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Hill Prince at Belmont Park.

The Hill Prince, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds is the eighth race on Saturday’s 10-race card. It will be preceded by the Grade 3, $150,000 Bed o’ Roses Handicap, which was carded as race 3.

Infinite Magic began his career in England, winning two of five starts, all over synthetic surfaces. Subsequently purchased by Team Valor International and sent to the United States, Infinite Magic won an entry-level allowance by a nose on April 14 at Keeneland and was never involved when he finished a distant last in the Grade 2 Peter Pan over Belmont’s sloppy main track on May 11.

On Saturday, he’ll make his fourth consecutive start for a different trainer, having raced for Jeremy Noseda in England, H. Graham Motion at Keeneland, and Bobby Ribaudo in the Peter Pan. He’ll compete for Rick Mettee, the former Godolphin Racing assistant who was recently hired by Team Valor as their trainer, in the Hill Prince.

Since the Peter Pan, Infinite Magic has been training with Mettee at Fair Hill.

“He’s an uncomplicated little horse and is very easy to handle,” said Mettee of the son of More Than Ready. “Graham described him that way, and Bobby reiterated that. The Peter Pan didn’t take much out of him. They were just taking a shot on the dirt because if he were to run well, he could have gone in the Belmont Stakes. Probably running in the slop in his first start on the dirt didn’t help. He came out of the race good, and we tried to find a race sooner for him, but races weren’t filling. We always had the Hill Prince as a fall-back plan.”

Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado, who rode Infinite Magic at Keeneland and in the Peter Pan, has the return assignment in the Hill Prince. Infinite Magic will leave from post position 2 at 7-2 on the morning line.

One week after winning the Belmont Stakes with Palace Malice and Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards with Forty Tales, trainer Todd Pletcher will try to take down another graded stakes for 3-year-olds when he sends out Red Rifle and Notacatbutallama in the Hill Prince.

Red Rifle is unbeaten in two starts, having won his debut in March on the dirt at Gulfstream Park and an allowance contested over Keeneland’s Polytrack on April 13. He won both races by two lengths. The Hill Prince will be his first start on the grass.

“We were looking for an opportunity. We felt like with a little bit of turf pedigree that this could be an option for him,” said Pletcher, who trains Red Rifle WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing. “Once we worked him on the grass, we liked what we saw. You’re always concerned when you try a surface for the first time, and you always know you’ll have to step up after winning your first two starts. We like what we’ve seen with him and hope he can take a step up in class.”

Javier Castellano will be aboard Red Rifle once again when the Giant’s Causeway colt leaves from post 9 at 6-1 on the morning line.

Mike Repole’s Notacatbutallama, a two-time stakes winner on the turf as a 2-year-old, enters the Hill Prince off a third in the James W. Murphy on May 18 at Pimlico.

“We thought he ran fairly well in the Murphy,” said Pletcher. “It was sort of a tricky race with the horse losing his rider on the first turn and he got in a little bit of traffic there. I thought he ran well, but more importantly, I think he moved forward for having had the run. There wasn’t much pace, and it seemed like the Pimlico turf course was friendly toward front runners Preakness weekend.”

Notacatbutallama will depart from post 12 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Like Red Rifle, he was installed at 6-1 on the morning line.

Joha, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, will make his 3-year-old debut in the Hill Prince.

After taking the Breeders’ Futurity by one length in October at Keeneland, Joha was eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita and ninth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, his lone start on the dirt, at Churchill Downs in November.

Trained by Michael Maker as a juvenile, Joha will now race for Tom Albertrani.

“I couldn’t be happier with him,” said Albertrani. “He’s been on all different surfaces. The Hill Prince is a good race to start him back in. Whether it comes up firm or soft, I think he’s pretty versatile. We have a lot of options with him. By the way he has been training, he certainly seems fit enough. We thought another work or two probably wouldn’t hurt us, but based off his last few works here I feel he’s ready for a race.”

Luis Saez takes over on Joha, who drew post 6 and was tabbed at 8-1 on the morning line.

Shadwell Stable’s Sayaad will stretch out, switch surfaces, and step up in class when he competes in the Hill Prince, having won a six-furlong allowance on Keeneland’s artificial surface by one length on April 13.

“This will give us a good indication of where we really fit in as a 3-year-old,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s training great. It’s a competitive race, so this is a really good spot to try it out. He trains relaxed, but I think stretching out from the rail he’ll be forwardly placed. It’s totally up to the jockey.”

Sayaad, 15-1, drew the rail. Jose Espinoza was named to ride.

Another 3-year-old slated to step up in class is Chamois, winner of two straight on the turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Chamois, a Jon and Sarah Kelly homebred, broke his maiden in his second start by 1 ¾ lengths in December, then was freshened over the winter. In his comeback race, he stalked the pace and kicked to the lead in the stretch to prevail by a half-length.

“He’s been ready to run,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “He’s a nice horse. I don’t know whether he’s a graded stakes horse, but I have no other place to run him. A mile might be a little short. I trained his dam [Meridiana]. She stayed and comes from a family with a lot of stamina.”

Junior Alvarado has the call aboard Chamois, who drew post 5 at 15-1 on the morning line.

The field also includes Play It Loud, Special Skills, Michael With Us, Red Rocker, Bernie the Jet, and Shining Copper.

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