Friday, July 25, 2008
PLETCHER HOPES THE WAIT WILL BE WORTH IT FOR WAIT A WHILE
Two summers ago, Wait a While ran one of the biggest races of her life at Saratoga Race Course when she swept to a nearly five-length victory in the Grade 2 Lake Placid on the turf, a performance which, along with her Grade 1 wins in the Yellow Ribbon and the American Oaks, helped earn her the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top three-year-old filly.
A year later, still competitive but not as consistent at finding the winner’s circle, she came back to Saratoga looking like her old self and ran her record here to 2-0 with a convincing win in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa over the firm inner turf course.
It won’t be an easy task.
Not only will the Diana be the first start since January for Wait a While, she will be facing an extremely tough field that includes a phalanx of graded stakes winners, including three other Grade 1 heroines in Bit of Whimsy (2007 Queen Elizabeth II Cup), Rutherienne (2007 Del Mar Oaks) and Vacare (2006 Queen Elizabeth II Cup).
“She has been training well,” said Pletcher of Wait a While, who has won 10 of her 20 starts and more than $1.8 million for Arindel Farm. “She prefers the courses at Hollywood Park and Saratoga, where she tends to perform extra well. At Belmont Park, even with firm turf, it’s not quite the same.”
Second to Precious Kitten in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood in her final start of 2007, Wait a While opened her 2008 campaign with another good-looking performance in winning the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Stakes at Santa Anita. However, she was sidelined with a stress fracture of her left tibia and after some time off, returned to training at Churchill Downs in late spring.
“She’s kind of an interesting filly,” said Pletcher, who has named Rafael Bejarano aboard for the first time. “She has a few little quirks, for instance, she is loaded into the gate blindfolded. We tend to let her do things her way. She is a bit of a tough filly to train, which is one of the reasons we kept her at Churchill Downs, where Kevin Wiley does a good job with her.”
With heavy rains pelting Saratoga the first two days of the meet, the turf course may not be quite as firm as Wait a While would like. Soft going is also a concern for trainer Christophe Clement, who will saddle the talented duo of Rutherienne and Vacare in the Diana.
“I hope the ground is not too soft for either filly,” said Clement. “Fortunately we have plenty of time and can make the call on Saturday morning.”
Rutherienne, a four-year-old daughter of Pulpit who began her 2008 campaign with a win in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, is coming into the Diana off a pair of third-place finishes in the Grade 3 All Along and the Grade 1 Gamely at Hollywood Park.
“She’s consistent, and has been doing well,” said Clement of Rutherienne, who has nine victories from 13 starts and earnings of more than $800,000 for Virginia Kraft Payson. “Garrett Gomez is flying in from California that day and will be riding her – he gets along well with her.”
Vacare, who was purchased in 2006 by Jon and Sarah Kelly and turned over to Clement after winning her first four starts, has run but once this year, finishing eighth behind Ventura in the Grade 1 Just A Game on Belmont Stakes day. However, she was beaten only four lengths in that race after racing wide throughout.
“I think she has improved from that race,” said the trainer. “She had a horrible trip in that. Since then she has been doing very well, and I think she will be competitive.”
Bit of Whimsy, who followed the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with a win in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere last fall at Churchill Downs, is 0-2 this year, having finished sixth in the Jenny Wiley and the Just A Game.
“She hasn’t shown me much this year, hopefully she’ll turn it around,” said trainer Barclay Tagg. “But this is one tough race.”
The field for Saturday’s 70th running of the Grade 1 Diana:
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Trainer
1 Bit of Whimsy Eibar Coa 120 Barclay Tagg
2 Dynaforce Kent Desormeaux 118 William Mott
3 Bayou’s Lassie Robby Albarado 118 Dale Romans
4 Wait a While Rafael Bejarano 120 Todd Pletcher
5 Vacare Edgar Prado 118 Christophe Clement
6 Criminologist John Velazquez 118 Shug McGaughey
7 Rutherienne Garrett Gomez 120 Christophe Clement
8 Forever Together Julien Leparoux 118 Jonathan Sheppard
9 Chestoria Cornelio Velasquez 118 William Badgett
10 Lady Digby Ramon Dominguez 118 H. Graham Motion
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