Friday, September 28, 2012

BELMONT PARK NOTES: Friday, September 28, 2012

ELMONT, N.Y. – After more than a year off, Sean Avery came roaring back to win the Affiliate Stakes on September 8 at Belmont, and now will line up Saturday in the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational as part of the “Super Saturday” card.

“The horse has got a ton of heart, and he’ll give you 110 percent every time you lead him over,” trainer Allen Iwinski said of the son of 1994 sprint champion Cherokee Run. “He couldn’t be training any better, and he couldn’t be any sounder than he is now. The owners set a goal to try to get him to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Iwinski, who earned his first Grade 1 as a trainer when he saddled Sean Avery to victory in the 2011 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, shopped for weeks for a return spot before settling on the six-furlong Affiliate. In the race, Sean Avery came from off the pace to put away three other runners – including Vosburgh entrants Zero Rate Policy and Royal Currier – to win by 2 ¼ lengths and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

Overall, Sean Avery is 7-1-2 from 11 career starts, having won four of five starts in 2011 before being sidelined with a tendon injury after the Vanderbilt.

While the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is the main goal, Iwinski is on edge and ready for the Vosburgh.

“When he won the Vanderbilt, it was my first Grade 1 win,” said the trainer, “and I was elated and it was so exciting, and he’s come back as good as or better than he’s ever been. If he wins, it will be the biggest purse I’ve ever won as a trainer. If he jumps up to win the Vosburgh and comes back in good order, and we’re getting ready to go to California, it will be another milestone just getting to the Breeders’ Cup.”

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Trainer Christophe Clement said he hopes a change in race dynamics will help Summer Front earn his first Grade 1 victory when he competes in the $400,000 Jamaica Handicap on October 6 at Belmont.

Belmont is the site of Summer Front’s lone graded stakes victory, a half-length triumph in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 16. The Waterford Stable representative returned to take the Duluth overnight stakes on July 22 at Saratoga Race Course, then finished third in the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 18 at Arlington Park after racing just off a slow pace, leading into the stretch, and yielding late to Bayrir and Finnegans Wake.

“I thought [in the Secretariat], even though he finished third, he lacked a bit of racing luck,” said Clement. “He was closer to the pace than I would have liked, and the race was a little bit against him.”

The Secretariat was Summer Front’s first loss in six starts on the turf. Four of his five victories on the grass have come in stakes.

“He was unbeaten on the turf until he went to Chicago. I got him beat, as usual,” Clement quipped.

Clement said he plans to breeze Summer Front on the turf this weekend.

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Trainer Tom Bush said Friday that Grade 3 Saranac winner Unbridled Command is under consideration for the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap on October 8 at Belmont Park and that a decision will be made after a work this weekend.

“I want to work him first, and I’ve got to figure out when that’s going to happen,” Bush said. “The latest has got to be Monday because this race is Saturday. Then we can take a breath and figure out whether it’s the right race for the horse.”

With Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Dullahan and Grade 3 winner Summer Front likely both pointing for the Jamaica, Bush is well aware of the level of competition.

“Dullahan, he’s an unbelievable horse,” said Bush. “He hasn’t won on the turf, but he’s run fast numbers on it even when he didn’t win, so he’ll be tough. Summer Front and Unbridled Command are very close on the numbers, but Summer Front has run against a lot better horses than Unbridled Command has ever run against, and that probably means more than the numbers. I would love to just walk him across the street and run, but I’m not sure it’s the right race for the horse.”

Whether or not the Lakland Farm representative runs in the Jamaica, Bush is very pleased with Unbridled Command’s recent development.

“He’s matured a lot,” Bush said. “You can tell. He’s a horse with some confidence and he’s going the right way, and he’s coming out of his races healthy. All those things are real positives. He showed up [in the Saranac]. We needed to improve to run good in there, and fortunately we improved. Whether we can improve more than that, I don’t know.”

Bush added that multiple New York-bred stakes winner Beautiful But Blue, who finished third in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga Race Course and most recently was third in the Charles Town Oaks, could make her next start in the $125,000, seven-furlong Iroquois on New York Showcase Day, October 20.

“I think that’s probably what we’ll do,” Bush said. “[Owner] Chester [Broman] wants to do that. Seven-eighths helps us, and she likes the big turns. If Agave Kiss shows up there and runs her ‘A’ race, she’ll be tough, and Risky Rachel is tough, too.”

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Three Grade 1 races kick off the three-day holiday weekend, with the $400,000 Jamaica Handicap for 3-year-olds on the turf as well as the $400,000 Frizette and $400,000 Foxwoods Champagne, both “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge races for juveniles, highlighting Saturday’s card.

Heading the probables for the 1 1/8-mile Jamaica is Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, who upset Game On Dude to win the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on August 26 at Del Mar, running his record to a perfect 3-for-3 on synthetic surfaces for trainer Dale Romans. The Jamaica would be the Even the Score colt’s fourth start on grass, over which he is 0-2-1.

Also likely for the Jamaica, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are the Irish colt Amira’s Prince, who would be making his American debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; European import Cogito, most recently second in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam-Grand Prix de Maisons Laffitte; Shkspeare Shaliyah, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Pilgrim, and Summer Front, third in the Grade 1 Secretariat last time out. King Kreesa, Optimizer, and Unbridled Command are possible.

Undefeated Shanghai Bobby, winner of the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful, looks to extend his record to 4-for-4 in the Foxwoods Champagne, the winner of which earns an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on November 3. Also targeting the one-mile race are Hopeful runner-up Fortify; maiden winners Archwarrior and Goldencents, and European maiden Chief Havoc. Grade 2 Sanford winner Bern Identity, third in the Hopeful last time out, and Keep the Canoli, winner of an optional claimer on September 14 at Laurel, are questionable.

Stonestreet Stables’ sensational Dreaming of Julia, who has won her two starts by a combined margin of 26 ¾ lengths, heads the probable starters for the one-mile Frizette. My Happy Face, an eye-popping 21 ¼-length maiden winner at the Spa, and Woodbine-based Nancy O, a maiden who was most recently third in the Grade 2 Natalma, are also likely. Recent maiden winner Carameaway and Grade 1 Spinaway runner-up Sweet Shirley Mae are possible.

Sunday’s card is highlighted by the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim and the Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Grillo, both “Win and You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf. Likely for the 1 /16-mile Pilgrim are Grade 2 With Anticipation winner Balance the Books; the Irish-bred Cerro, a maiden winner in Italy; Notacatbutallama, fourth in the With Anticipation; recent maiden winners Noble Tune, Quinzieme Monarque, Read the Proposal and Sonofasamurai, and Special Skills, placed second after winning the Nick Shuk Memorial at Delaware Park.

Among the 2-year-old fillies likely for the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo are Watsdachances, who took the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga in her American debut; Effie Trinket, winner of the restricted Aristie on the main track at the Spa; Kitten’s Dumplings and Summer of Fun, fourth and 10th, respectively, in the Grade 2 Natalma at Woodbine, and recent maiden winners Buckingham Bull, Sustained, and Three Hearts.

Among the probables for the Columbus Day feature, the $150,000 Pebbles for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf, are Ainsley, Channel Lady, and Ski Holiday, with Disposablepleasure possible.

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