Sunday, August 16, 2009

SARATOGA RACE COURSE NOTES: Saturday, August 15, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux climbed aboard Summer Bird this morning as the Belmont Stakes winner put in his first serious work for the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.

With hundreds of “Breakfast at Saratoga” patrons and trainer Tim Ice looking on, the chestnut son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone went five furlongs in 1:01.97, breezing, the ninth-fastest of 20 moves at the distance.

Clockers for The New York Racing Association, Inc., caught Summer Bird in splits of :24 4/5 and :36 4/5, while Ice personally timed him in 1:01.68, galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.67.

“I wasn’t looking for a whole lot,” said Ice. “If he went slower or faster … as long as he was doing it on his own, that’s all that matters. “

Desormeaux declared the move to be “poetry in motion” and said he was very happy with the way the colt went.

“I was totally a passenger,” said Desormeaux. “He’s on target.”

Summer Bird, who finished second to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational in his most recent start, will work again next Saturday for the 1¼-mile “Mid-Summer Derby” on Saturday, August 29.

“Next week we’ll look for the same kind of work for him,” said Ice. “We’ll see how he comes back.”

Following his work, Summer Bird cooled out under the shedrow of the stakes barn, stopping once every circuit to eye the phalanx of reporters, photographers and cameramen recording his every move.

“He thinks he’s a movie star,” said Ice. “That’s what’s so great about a horse like him. He enjoys shipping, he enjoys people, nothing bothers him. That’s one of the advantages I have with this colt. Nothing gets to him.”

Ice, who estimated the colt to stand about 16.1 hands and weigh between 1,150 and 1,200 pounds, said Summer Bird was putting back some of the weight he lost after the Haskell on August 2.

“He lost a little bit of weight coming out of the Haskell, which I thought he would, running as hard as he did,” he said. “He’s putting weight back on. I’m not at all disappointed in the way he looks.”

In addition to Summer Bird, the Shadwell Travers is expected to draw the record-setting 3-year-old Quality Road, who was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby before being sidelined with a quarter crack; Derby winner Mine That Bird, and possibly Rachel Alexandra.

Quality Road, who set track records both in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and in his most recent start, the Grade 2, 6½-furlong Amsterdam here on August 3, will work Sunday morning at 8:45 a.m., said trainer Todd Pletcher.

Mine That Bird, who is stabled two stalls down in the same barn as Summer Bird, separated only by a tack room, will work Monday morning at 8:45 a.m. with Jamie Theriot aboard, according to trainer Chip Woolley.

Rachel Alexandra is also scheduled to work Monday at 5:50 a.m. over the Oklahoma training track with exercise rider Dominic Terry up, after which a decision is expected on her next start. The filly is nominated to four Grade 1 races at Saratoga: the $600,000 Alabama on August 22, the Shadwell Travers, the $400,000 Personal Ensign against older fillies and mares on August 30, and the $500,000 Woodward Stakes against older males on September 5.

* * *

Farnsworth Stables’ Gozzip Girl, who has developed into one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country in the shadow of Rachel Alexandra, likely will wait to run next in the Grade 1, $300,000 Garden City, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for her age group September 12 at Belmont Park, rather than attempt to win the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on the dirt August 22 at the Spa.

Trained by Tom Albertrani, Gozzip Girl has won four of her past five starts, including the Grade 1 American Oaks last time out at Hollywood Park, with the only loss being by a neck in the Grade 1 Ashland to Hooh Why on the Keeneland synthetic track.

“We’re nominated for the Lake Placid (a 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 turf stakes on August 21), the Alabama and the Garden City; we’re looking at all three of these races,” Albertrani said. “She’s still a little light (after the hard run in California). I want to give her some time before the race.”

Albertrani is tempted to try Gozzip Girl on the dirt but does not want to tamper with her form. The dark brown daughter of Dynaformer made her debut in a one-mile off-the-turf race last September at Belmont and finished well back. Once moved to the grass, her career took off.

“I don’t want to take a step back; she’s got a lot of confidence in herself. Outside of Rachel Alexandra… we’ve seen she’s one of the top fillies on grass, but on the dirt — we don’t know that. If she were to run well (on dirt), it opens up (things) for her as a broodmare prospect.”

Albertrani said that if Gozzip Girl does wind up in the Garden City, he would look at it as the beginning of a three-race series that continues with the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on October 17 at Keeneland and, if all goes well, culminating with a run against older fillies and mares in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

* * *

2008 Arkansas Derby winner Gayego returns to the race after a layoff of more than four months Monday in a six-furlong optional-claiming allowance against five other runners.

Purchased by Godolphin Stable and transferred to the barn of Saeed bin Suroor, Gayego was flown to Dubai this past winter where he won a Grade 3 stakes race, beating Diabolical, and then finished second March 28 to Two Step Salsa in the Grade 2, $1 million Godolphin Mile.

“He could probably use another work or two, but the other race for him up here is the Forego (Grade 1, $300,000 seven-furlong sprint on September 5), and we’ve got Pyro for that and Darley has Pass the Point,” said Rick Mettee, Godolphin’s North American racing manager and assistant to Suroor. “So why have three in that?”

Mettee said Gayego had no physical issues since returning from Dubai other than shedding a frog after returning to Belmont Park. Mettee said the horse has no long-term agenda.

“He can do so many things; he does six to nine (furlongs), dirt or Poly. It can get a little tricky, but the good thing is he’s got Poly form, too, and he acts like a horse that could go on the grass, too.”

Gayego will come back against Lantana Mob for trainer Michael Trombetta, Tend for trainer Albert Stall Jr., Knights Cross for Eddie Kenneally, Americanrevolution for Dale Romans, and Digger for Scott Lake.

Mettee also had Cocoa Beach and Pyro on the main track for a workout this morning.

With regular rider Ramon Dominguez aboard, Cocoa Beach breezed four furlongs in 48.97 seconds. The 5-year-old mare, who won the De La Rose stakes at Saratoga on August 5, is being pointed for the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa for fillies and mares running 1 1/16 miles on the turf course as part of the Shadwell Travers Day undercard.

“We’re happy with her,” Mettee said. “She came out of the De La Rose well and we would like to bring her back for the Ballston Spa.”

Last year, Cocoa Beach made her American debut at Saratoga in the Love Sign Stakes where Dominguez hand-rode her to a five-length victory. She followed that with a win in the Grade 1 Beldame, a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, and a win in the Grade 1 Matriarch.

Pyro, with Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero up, breezed 50.14 seconds over the main track.

“He’s not a great work horse, but I was still happy with it,” Mettee said. “Angel was pleased with him. He’ll probably have two more works before the Forego.

“We felt it was either this or the Woodward [Grade 1, $500,000, September 5]. We feel that seven furlongs might be a better trip for him than nine furlongs. Nine furlongs at Saratoga is pretty demanding right now. They get pretty tired coming down the lane.”

Coming off a nine-month layoff, Pyro finished second to Gold Trippi in the James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga on July 29. Last year at Saratoga, Pryo was second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and third in the Grade 1 Travers.

Mettee said Atomic Rain, currently stabled at Saratoga after his sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, will not be nominated for the Shadwell Travers and remains questionable for the fall.

“He’s up here and training every day,” Mettee said. “We may or may not run him at Belmont in the fall before he goes to Dubai. We’ll see what happens.”

* * *

Trainer Christophe Clement said that Coaching Club American Oaks winner Funny Moon is on target for next Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies running 1¼ miles.

Clement had Funny Moon, owned by Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely, on the track this morning for a gallop before going to the paddock for schooling. He will have her out on the track again tomorrow morning around 6:30.

“She’s on course for the race,” Clement said. “She has been training well for the race. She went out to the paddock after training this morning. I don’t know if I plan to breeze her. I may just have her gallop into the race. I have to think about it. If I do give her a workout, it will be an easy one.”

Funny Moon has won four of her six starts for $265,900. Her only off-the-board finish came in the Grade 1 Acorn where she finished eighth after being steadied at the half-mile pole.

* * *

Scott Lake and his wife, Jennifer Stisted, returned from their recent trip to Korea, where Stisted represented the United States in the Lady Jockey Invitation Race on August 9 at Busan Race Park

Stisted contested the lead early in the one-turn mile on a horse named Florida Native before falling to sixth behind the Japan-based winner.

“It was a great time,” Stisted said.

“The grandstand was beautiful and immaculate,” Lake said.

The two said they enjoyed fine hospitality and sampled the food, but drew the line at some of the fish dishes served at dinner.

“They couldn’t have treated you better, and we went to a Buddhist temple in the mountains,” Lake said.

Lake is back at the Spa, turning his attention to getting his 7-year-old Rahy gelding True to Tradition, who runs Monday against 10 others in the $70,000 Troy at 5½ furlongs on the Mellon turf.

Owned by Ben Mondello, True to Tradition was one of the top North American turf sprinter last year, taking the $250,000 Turf Monster at Philadelphia Park and the Grade 2 $500,000 Nearctic at Woodbine. He is 0-for-5, however, this year, and Lake said only now is the horse coming together after problem with quarter cracks and hoof abscesses.

“We had everything going right in the last race,” Lake said of True to Tradition’s good second to Linda Rice’s Awakino Cat on July 30 in the Quick Call Stakes. “Finally, going into the Saratoga race nothing went wrong. He came back and drank two buckets of water. You want to be optimistic (that he can regain past form), and say yes, but he’s a year older. This year, starting out from day one, has been trouble.”

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