Friday, August 02, 2013
Saratoga Race Course Notes
• McPeek may have double defense for G1 Travers
• Repeat John Morrissey winner Saginaw may race at Saratoga again in 2013; Hudson long-term objective
• Maiden winner Dancing House headed to G1 Spinaway
• Mylute's status uncertain; So Many Ways possible for G1 Test
• Weaver, G1 winner, enjoying strong start to meet
• Tagg returns to the Saratoga winner's circle with Confrontation
• NYRA.com to host exclusive bonus coverage following Saturday's G1 Whitney
McPeek is co-defending champion in the "Mid-Summer Derby," having trained Golden Ticket to a dead-heat victory with Alpha in 2012.
"We're likely to have one and possibly two horses in the race, yes," McPeek said. "They'll both be nominated."
Earlier in the meet, McPeek indicated he was considering a surface switch to the dirt for War Dancer, winner of the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on turf, for the Travers. The War Front colt is owned through McPeek's Magdalena Racing partnership.
McPeek was pointing Java's War to the Grade 1 Secretariat on grass at Arlington Park on August 17. Owned by Charles Fipke, the War Pass colt won the Grade 1 Blue Grass on Keeneland's Polytrack on April 13, was 13th in the Kentucky Derby, and fourth in his most recent effort, the Grade 2 Swaps over the all-weather track at Betfair Hollywood Park.
"Mr. Fipke and I have discussed it, and he was inclined to try him on the dirt again," McPeek said. "At this point, they're both doing well. We've still got to do the math. We've got to look at the past performances, we've got to see how the horses are training, make sure everybody's hitting on all cylinders, that they're drilling the feed tubs; all the details."
War Dancer and Java's War, who McPeek said do not typically breeze together, will go out around 7:30 a.m.
"I just think it's a good maintenance breeze, and it sounds like a good idea for both horses," he said.
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Win machine Saginawcame out of his title defense in the $100,000 John Morrissey in good shape, according to trainer David Jacobson, and may find another race toward the end of the Saratoga meet.
The 7-year-old gelding, owned by Jacobson with Drawing Away Stable, picked up his fifth straight victory in the Morrissey on Thursday and now is 21 for 40 in his career, becoming one of the most popular New York-breds on the NYRA racing circuit.
"He's got a little wear and tear, but nothing he's not used to overcoming," Jacobson said outside his Clare Court barn Friday morning. "Being here in Saratoga will make it that much easier. Saginaw will let us know [when to run him next]."
Jacobson said the primary goal for Saginaw will be the $150,000 Hudson at six furlongs, one of seven stakes races on New York Showcase Day, October 19 at Belmont Park.
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Kiaran McLaughlin said that July 31maiden winner Dancing House will be pointed to the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 1 for her next start.
The daughter of Tapit is out of Grade 1 winner and 2000 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Tout Charmant. Despite a turf-oriented female family, McLaughlin chose to run the Darley homebred six furlongs on the dirt for her first start.
"She trained so well on the dirt that we decided to run her on the dirt, and being that she won, we hope she never sees the turf," McLaughlin said, adding that turf is always a backup option if her dirt form weakens.
Entering Wednesday's race, McLaughlin had won with nine percent of his past 104 first-time starters, making Dancing House's win all the more impressive. The filly raced mid-pack under Irad Ortiz, Jr. before angling out and running past Claiborne Farm's Quilt.
"She ran very well and is going to improve," said McLaughlin. "She was in tight and was very professional."
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A decision is expected this weekend on a possible next start for Mylute, most recently eighth in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 27.
The 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy was the worst finish of a 13-race career for Mylute, who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness in his previous two starts.
"Mylute's plans are on hold right now," said trainer Tom Amoss of the 3-year-old Midnight Lute colt, who is owned by GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm. "He came out of the race fine. I think we'll make a decision on what's next for him, whether it be another race or a bit of a breather, probably Sunday or so."
Amoss had no explanation for the Jim Dandy, in which Mylute failed to make his typical late move and wound up next-to-last, beaten nearly 20 lengths.
"He got up here and, for the first week, it was hot. He was miserable," Amoss said. "He did not have a good week. But then the next week, the weather broke and he had a great week. I don't know how much all that affected him, or whether the track itself had something to do with it. I simply don't know. But, I can tell you in terms of soundness, he looks good."
Amoss said the Maggi Moss-owned So Many Ways, fourth in the Grade 1 Prioress on July 27, may come back in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test Stakes on August 24.
"Quite frankly, the only spot that's going to be available to us - and it's going to be Maggie's decision - is the Test. We'll have to see," he said. "The good thing about that race is it's seven-eighths; that's a good distance for our filly. I think you'll see a much more prepared filly than the one you saw the first week of Saratoga."
The Prioress was the first loss in three Saratoga starts for So Many Ways, who won the Grade 3 Schulylerville and Grade 1 Spinaway here last summer for previous trainer Tony Dutrow.
"She was a little temperamental [before the Prioress], more than she usually is, and she is a temperamental filly," Amoss said. "We've been able to control that pretty well, but I don't think we did a great job of controlling it in her most recent race, quite honestly. She just got a little upset in the paddock, a little hot.
"We're really good about having our horses calm, cool and collected. I don't know if she's going to run back here or not, but if she does, she's not going to be that kind of filly. We'll have done a better job of getting her ready than we did last time around."
So far at the meet, Amoss has failed to hit the board in three starts through 11 days. He will saddle Delaunay on Sunday in the Grade 1, $300,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, which attracted a field of five sprinters.
"We haven't had much luck up here so far," Amoss said. "Hopefully, our luck will change with Delaunay. Everyone keeps talking about how small the field is, but they ought to look at how good the field is. It's a strong group."
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No stranger to winning races at Saratoga, trainer George Weaver is off to a strong start in 2013.
A former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher, who have combined to win 607 races and 15 training titles at Saratoga, Weaver entered Friday's card tied for third in the standings with five wins from 11 starters (45 percent).
Weaver also had one second and one third (64 percent in the money) and purses of $378,423, which ranked fourth.
"You never know with Saratoga," Weaver said Friday morning. "When it gets started you hope you have some live horses and you do what you're supposed to do, but it's very tough to win up here. You have to catch the right horses to be in against and you have to have good trips. There are so many things that go into it, but things have fallen into place. We're very happy."
Weaver went 11-for-58 with purses of $543,259 at Saratoga in 2012, and won with seven of 52 starters in 2011, earning purses of $332,290.
"We have had very good meets here, but I think everybody has got the Saratoga meet in their minds and they want to come up here and win," he said. "They're thinking about it and everybody's watching. This is a place where everybody wants to have a favorable impression."
The biggest win for Weaver came on July 27, when Lighthouse Bay upset the Grade 1 Prioress at odds of 21-1 ($45.20). It was his first win at that level since Saratoga County took the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2004.
"That was awesome," Weaver said. "I'm ecstatic for myself, our staff, the owners, the filly herself, [jockey] Joe Rocco, Jr. That was very exciting. It's good to do that every once in a while. I know people know we can win races, but a lot of times if you don't come up with those stakes horses, people are like, 'Well, he's good, but he doesn't really develop top horses.'
"You have to get a top horse in your barn to develop one," he added. "It's good. That's part of the gratification of the win. People are going to look at our barn and say these guys have done a nice job developing this filly and brought her into this race and won a Grade 1 with her. It's nice."
Weaver indicated that the Grade 1 Test would be next for Lighthouse Bay, a 3-year-old Speightstown filly owned by Richlyn Farm.
"There's really not a whole lot of options," Weaver said. "Once you win a Grade 1, it's not like you go around trying to duck horses. The Test is a very prestigious race, it's right here, the timing's right. She's never run seven furlongs, but that's why they call it the Test. It's going to be a test."
Weaver's most recent win came in Thursday's fifth race with Rapid Burn, a 3-year-old Bernstein gelding who captured the one-mile maiden claimer by 2 ½ lengths on the inner turf as the favorite.
"We'll probably try to run him back here," he said. "He was in for a $35,000 claim yesterday. Depending on how things go, perhaps some type of starter allowance would be available. That might be a good way to run him without him having to be for sale and see if he wants to continue to improve. In the back of my mind, that's what we'll try to catch next time around."
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Veteran trainer Barclay Tagg, not known for cranking up horses for their first start, scored Thursday with Confrontation, a 7 ¼-length winner in the third race, a $50,000 maiden claimer.
Confrontation, a 3-year-old son of 2007 juvenile champion War Pass, ran six furlongs in 1:10.30 and became Tagg's first Saratoga winner since July 30, 2011.
Tagg last won with a first-time starter at Saratoga in 2010, and the veteran trainer said it took a lot of patience to get this one ready.
"I bought him at the Timonium sales two sales ago, and, of course, when you buy them out of the sale, and they've had a work in the sale, the owners think they can run right away," Tagg said. "Sometimes they can, but mostly they can't. The owners [Eric Dattner and Harry Astarita] held onto him the whole time. It got a little tenuous there for a while, but they stayed in there and it worked out. I'm happy for that."
Confrontation reminded Tagg of Showing Up, his two-time Grade 1 stakes winner, in the amount of time it took to get to the races.
"It took me until February of his 3-year-old year to run him, and he won first time out rather easily . . . and second time and third time," Tagg said. "I try to have them fit and ready so they won't get hurt. People talk about, 'Oh, this horse just needs one more work and then he'll be just perfect, and I can squeeze him a little more and tighten the screws,' and that kind of stuff. If they're fit, they'll do it, and if they're not fit, and if they can't do it, they're not going to no matter how fit you get them."
Tagg isn't sure what might be next for Confrontation, but he believes he has a strong team of turf runners for the Saratoga meet.
One of them, the 3-year-old Mills worked five furlongs in 1:00.62 on the Oklahoma turf training course Friday morning, the eighth best of 26 works at the distance. The son of Any Given Saturday has two wins and two seconds from his first four starts and hails from a superb female family that produced a slew of top-shelf stakes winners on the grass, including Miss Josh, Royal Mountain Inn, Highland Springs and Highland Crystal.
Tagg has Mills penned in for a run in the $100,000 Stroll, an overnight stakes race for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon turf course on August 14.
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NYRA.com will host a special live webcast for post-race coverage of Saturday's 86th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap. Beginning at 6 p.m., exclusive content will be provided by NBC analysts Jerry Bailey, Donna Brothers, Randy Moss, Laffit Pincay, III, and Kenny Rice. The webcast can be viewed on NYRA.com/SummeratSaratoga at the conclusion of live coverage on NBC.
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