Saturday, August 18, 2012


SARATOGA RACE COURSE NOTES: Friday, August 17, 2012


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Godolphin Racing’s Alpha turned in his final serious work for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on Friday at Saratoga Race Course, covering a half-mile over the main track in 48.91 under exercise rider Rob Massey.

“He worked well,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “I had him galloping out in 1:01 and 4/5. Officially I think they said 1:02 and 1/5, but he went great and all systems are go. Saturday is normally the day we work, but last week we worked Thursday because of weather and there’s chance of rain again today. The track had some moisture in it, but he handled it well.”


The work was Alpha’s second since winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at the Spa on July 28. Last week, the Bernardini colt breezed four furlongs in 48.33 over the main track for the 1 ¼-mile Travers on August 25. Though Alpha’s major preparations are now complete, McLaughlin said he is unlikely to focus much on the rest of the field.

“I paid attention to Paynter not showing up, that was important for us,” McLaughlin said with a smile. “Otherwise, I know the horses that are coming, looks like an eight- to 10-horse field and we just have to wait and see how we draw. We’re doing well and we’ll get there ourselves. I don’t worry too much about everybody else.”

Expected for the Travers in addition to Alpha are Atigun, Five Sixteen, Hansen, Liaison, Neck ‛n Neck, Nonios, Stealcase, Street Life and possibly Fast Falcon. NYRA Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes said Friday that previously expected European invader Cogito would skip the race.

* * *

Fast Falcon worked five furlongs in 1:00.54 Friday morning over the main track at Saratoga Race Course, after which Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said it was very likely the colt would be entered in next Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers.

“He worked super and galloped out strong,” Zito said. “I just want to call [owner] Richard Pell and make sure we’re on the same page, but I’m fine with it. He’s going to be a long shot, which I like.

The 3-year-old son of Awesome Again was most recently seventh over a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. He finished second behind Teeth of the Dog at Belmont Park in both the Grade 2 Dwyer on June 30 and the Easy Goer overnight stakes on June 9.

“It was a slow pace, and I don’t think he liked it,” said Zito about the disappointing Jim Dandy performance. “He wasn’t himself. This is what makes an interesting story about a long shot. That’s what I’m here to do.”

Zito has run 26 horses in the Travers, winning the race in 2004 with Birdstone, and finishing second five times and third thrice.

Jockey Junior Alvarado worked Fast Falcon this morning and will ride in the Travers, according to Zito.

* * *

A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Neck ‘n Neck is expected to turn in his final breeze for the Travers on Sunday or Monday, trainer Ian Wilkes said Friday.

“We’re going to work him Sunday or Monday,” said Wilkes. “I’m leaning more towards Monday, but we have to keep an eye on the weather.”

Neck ‘n Neck was beaten two lengths by Alpha in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy last month and is expected to face many of the same horses in next week’s Grade 1 Travers, but for the moment, Wilkes isn’t worrying too much about his competition.

“I just need to get one spot better, don’t I?” he asked rhetorically outside his Clare Court barn.

“I can’t worry about the other horses right now,” he added. “We’ve got eight days, we’ve got another work to get through, and I’ve got to just worry about him.”

Neck ‘n Neck came out of the Jim Dandy well and is, according to his trainer, in good shape heading towards the Travers. “He’s fine. No problems,” said Wilkes. “His works have been good and I’m very pleased with him.”

* * *

The last time Trinniberg raced at Saratoga, he was the longest shot in the field, sent off at nearly 70-1 in last year’s Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful. His return to the Spa in next Saturday’s Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop likely is to be quite different, with three graded stakes wins since then, including the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct Racetrack in April and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park in June.

The son of Teuflesberg breezed three furlongs from the gate under regular rider Willie Martinez in 35.56 seconds on Friday morning, the second-fastest at the distance over the main track. Trinniberg worked in company with Nick Rules.

“I didn’t want him to go to the gate by himself,” explained Shivananda Parbhoo, the colt’s owner. Trinniberg is trained by Parbhoo’s father, Bisnath Parboo.

Though Trinniberg has no history of gate problems, Parbhoo wanted him to get “a little sharper” for his upcoming start.

“He’s a front-runner,” he said. “They’re going to have come catch him, and this is what I wanted, just to get him on edge a little more. He went really fast, which is good.”

Trinniberg is coming off a neck loss in the Grade 3 Carry Back on July 7 at Calder Race Course, a race in which he dueled with eventual winner Fort Loudon to the wire. Despite the early speed in that race, Parbhoo said his horse came back fine.

“We were not totally ready for that race; I wasn’t even supposed to run in it,” he said. “But we’re based in south Florida [at Calder] and we helped them out. Unfortunately, we got beat.”

* * *

Wertheimer and Frere’s Medolina suffered the first defeat of her career in last month’s Grade 2 Lake George, but even though she finished fifth, she was beaten only by about two lengths, in a race in which more half than the field had troubled running lines. On Sunday at Saratoga Race Course, she’ll try to turn the tables against much of the same company in the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid.

“Her trip was decent in some respects,” Pletcher said of the Lake George. “but I think she was sort of stuck in an unusual spot, where there was one kind of runaway speed horse [Elusive Rumour], and she was sort of lost in the middle of that and the ones behind her.

“I think the Lake Placid is interesting in that she might find herself on the lead, which could be an interesting way for her to run.”

Medolina, a 3-year-old filly by Aragorn, won her first two starts by coming from off the pace; in her third victory, she stalked closer to the leader.

Despite the loss in the Lake George, Pletcher was reasonably pleased with his filly’s performance.

“She ran well, she wasn’t beaten far, and we’ll just try again,” he said.

Pletcher is set to send out another talented filly next Friday, as multiple Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent is on track to make her first start for the trainer in the Grade 1 Ballerina.

Winner of the Grade 1 Test here last year when trained by Mike Puype, Turbulent Descent was sold to Mrs. John Magnier and transferred to Pletcher after her lone start this year, a win in the Desert Stormer Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in June

“We wanted to focus on the Ballerina because seven-eighths seems to be her optimal distance, and she seems to run well fresh. It’s the plan we laid out, and, knock on wood, it’s gone well so far. She’s scheduled to work tomorrow.”

* * *

After a 3-year-old season of good but not great racing last year, Monmouth-based trainer Grant Forster decided his filly Brushed by a Star might benefit from taking a long winter vacation.

“We figured we’d give her time off and see what she can grow into,” Forster said. “She’s a very big filly, close to 17 hands, and we always thought she’d be better with age. She was kind of like a 6-foot-6, 13-year-old high school basketball player last year.”

Forster clearly knew what he was doing, and now he has a horse who previously struggled to get through first-level allowance conditions running at Saratoga on August 26 in the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign Invitational, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.

Brushed by a Star, a daughter of Eddington out of the Broad Brush mare Brush Hour, won just once in 11 starts last year. She began her 4-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in a sprint at Churchill Downs and since has reeled off three authoritative victories.

The most recent two were front-running scores in the Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows and then a 1 ½-length win the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher on July 29 at Monmouth Park.

Not only has Brushed by a Star begun to win, she has been getting to the lead quickly and running away from the opposition.

“Her race in Monmouth [on July 2, 2011] when she finished second, Channing Hill gave her a really good, strong gallop warming up, and she was closer up that day,” Forster said. “Other horses may be quicker from the gate, but she comes out of the turn and is on top.”

With the formidable speedster Love and Pride, trained by Todd Pletcher, signed up for the Personal Ensign, Forster believes his filly likely will lay off the pace “and at some point take on Love and Pride on the backstretch.

“Hopefully, she can continue to keep going up, up, up,” he said. “We’re going way up this time. She always hinted at being a lot better. She’s obviously trained strong and her confidence is sky-high. We’re not excited about running against Royal Delta, but it’s probably going to be a small field and a big chance to get a Grade 1 placing.”

Owned by Team Forster, a group that includes ex-NHL goaltender Gary “Suitcase” Smith, Brushed by a Star will arrive at Saratoga on Monday and stay in the barn of trainer Eoin Harty.

* * *

Wilmer Garcia, a seven-pound apprentice who was 12th in the jockey standings with eight wins through Thursday, is content with the way his first Saratoga meet has transpired so far but also remains dedicated to his pursuit for constant self-improvement.

“I want trainers to say, ‘He’s a good kid, he’s a hard worker,’ but I know I can do better,” said Garcia, a 20-year-old who was born in the Bronx but spent most of his childhood in Puerto Rico. “The trainers and jockeys are trying to teach me. ‘Put your [rear] down, keep your head over their neck, look between their ears,’ things I’ll do better with practice.”

While growing up in Puerto Rico, Garcia helped take care of the Paso Fino horses on a relative’s farm. After graduating from mechanic school, Garcia returned to the United States when he was 18 and worked as a cleaner until he had saved enough money to purchase his first car. He aspired to become a jockey, and he started at the ground level by working as a hot walker and groom for Penn National-based trainer Norman Pointer and later rode 2-year-olds in Ocala, Fla. for trainer Mark Casse.

“I like speed horses, so I started by myself,” said Garcia. “This is what I like.”

Garcia’s rode in his first race last November at Penn National and began to split time between that venue and Aqueduct Racetrack in March. In April, he made New York his primary circuit and won 12 races from 191 mounts during the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park.

Former jockey Richard Migliore, who mentors NYRA’s apprentice riders, commended Garcia for how his commitment to learning as much as possible.

“Wilmer has improved tremendously since I first met him in March, and he’s a great kid,” said Migliore. “He’s improved as much as I’ve ever seen a rider improve over that length of time. He’s going to continue to improve because he has the right attitude and is willing to listen. He’s a great listener and is able to take criticism well.”

Instead of being daunted by the Saratoga riding colony – which features Hall of Famers Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez, two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez, Javier Castellano, Jose Lezcano, and Joel Rosario – Garcia appreciates the opportunity to compete against many of the world’s best riders.

“People talk to me and ask me if it’s tough [riding in New York], but I never say I can’t,” said Garcia. “I’m giving it my best effort to show that I can do it, too. I’m trying my best to keep it going. It’s a little tough, but this is what I like to do. I can do more and I can keep learning.”

* * *

Irad Ortiz, Jr., 20, injured his right ankle at the starting gate prior to the start of Friday’s third race at Saratoga Race Course and was taken to Saratoga Hospital for X-rays. His mount was the 3-year-old filly Corinzia, who was scratched from the race.

The native of Puerto Rico entered today’s card tied for ninth in the jockey standings with 9 wins, including his first two Grade 1 scores – Questing in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and Poseidon’s Warrior in the Vanderbilt.


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