Sunday, August 21, 2011
SARATOGA RACE COURSE NOTES; Saturday, August 20, 2011
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Dale Romans sent out his star 3-year-old Shackleford for his final serious work Saturday morning in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 27.
Romans had jockey Jesus Castanon up for the five-furlong work as his partner and chief exercise rider Tammy Fox was busy taking their daughter, Bailey, to her first day of college.
Back at the barn, Shackleford, winner of the Preakness Stakes and second to Travers rival Coil last out in the Haskell Invitational, looked nothing short of robust. He dove into a vigorous roll in his favorite dirt pit, got up to paw at the ground, and then dove back down.
“I thought it went perfect today,” Romans said. “We just wanted him to break off nice and easy and finish strong. He finished great and galloped out really good. I couldn’t be happier with the way he did it.”
Romans said he has been trying lately to figure out how the main track has been playing. He said that Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley recently told him he believed the backside favored speed while the stretch appeared more tiring.
“He finished very strong, and I haven’t seen that in a lot of my horses working here,” Romans said. “It seems like down the stretch has been a little bit slower than the backside to me. We wanted him to ease off and finish good, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Castanon, who regularly gallops Shackleford when the colt is not working, agreed.
“He has been feeling pretty excited every time I take him to the track, and he did it pretty good,” he said. “He has really relaxed a lot better. He really likes this place a lot. He’s ready.”
Romans said Shackleford likely will get a couple days off now, with some schooling in the paddock and starting gate. Then he just will gallop up to the 1 ¼-mile Travers.
“He’s not going to get any more fit than he is right now,” Romans said. “All the big work is done; we just have to make sure he goes into the race happy.”
Shackleford wasn’t the only top horse Romans had out on the main track Saturday morning. His brother Jerry Romans’ ace sprinter Sassy Image turned in an effortlessly fast five furlongs in 58.66 seconds under regular rider Robby Albarado.
No other worker at the distance came even close, with the next-fastest clocking being 1:00.03 by the Grade 3 Comely winner Hot Summer.
Sassy Image, a 4-year-old chestnut daughter of Broken Vow is on track for a run in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina at seven furlongs on the Travers Day card. Already this year, Sassy Image has scaled the heights, winning the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby card; the Grade 3 Winning Colors, also at Churchill Downs; and the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder Race Course in her most recent start.
“Sassy was phenomenal,” Romans said of the work.
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Saturday morning at Monmouth Park, Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice had his final tune-up for the August 27 Travers, breezing four furlongs in 48:60, 25th- fastest of 95 workouts at the distance.
“Everything was great and he’s right on schedule for the Travers,” said trainer Kelly Breen.
The 3-year-old son of Roman Ruler finished third, beaten 2 ½ lengths, in Monmouth’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 31 behind Coil and Shackleford.
Jose Valdivia, Jr., who was on board for the George and Lori Hall-owned gelding’s Belmont Stakes victory, rode for Saturday’s work. Ruler On Ice went in company with Pants On Fire, winner of this year’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds and Grade 2 Pegasus at Monmouth. Both horses are owned by the Halls and trained by Breen.
The trainer added that he still does not know when he might ship in for the Travers.
“I don’t know when he’s going to come in,” Breen said. “We are playing it day by day. He has run over plenty of different racetracks.”
Also working for the Travers Saturday morning were Prince of Wales runner-up Bowman’s Causeway, who breezed five furlongs on Saratoga’s main track in 1:00.05, third-fastest of 37 at the distance, and Grade 2 Jim Dandy runner-up Moonshine Mullin, who covered the same distance in 1:00.60 over the dirt training track at Woodbine.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher, anticipating a busy day, said he hasn’t made a final decision when Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo, respective contenders for next Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers and Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop, will head to the track Sunday morning. He did guarantee at least one of them will breeze at 6 a.m. with the other going out in the same set or at 8:45 a.m.
“I anticipate we’ll have a lot of breezes tomorrow,” said Pletcher. “At least one of them, possibly both of them, will be breezing at 6 a.m.”
Stay Thirsty, second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, enters the 1 ¼-mile Travers off a four-length victory in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy on July 30 at Saratoga. The seven-furlong Foxwoods King’s Bishop will be the third start of 2011 for Uncle Mo, who was named last year’s Champion Two-Year-Old Male and hasn’t raced since finishing third in the Grade 1 Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial in April.
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With an eye on the sky, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott continued to ponder whether to send out Raison d’Etat for his final pre-Travers breeze on Sunday or Monday.
Mott said he’d likely make a final decision Saturday afternoon. Regardless of the day he chooses, Mott said Raison d’Etat will likely breeze on the Oklahoma training track at 9:30 a.m.
Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Raison d’Etat was second in the Curlin on July 29 at Saratoga.
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Trainer Tony Dutrow said this morning that G1 Travers hopeful J W Blue would breeze sometime Sunday morning for his final serious work in preparation for the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
“I looked at the weather report yesterday, and it looked good,” said Dutrow. “In a perfect world, the ideal day to breeze was Sunday. With the weather being good, that’s when we’ll go.”
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Top 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace will take on the boys in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles on September 3 at Saratoga, owner Rick Porter confirmed Saturday morning.
Winner of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap in April at Oaklawn Park and runner-up last out to arch rival Blind Luck in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, Havre de Grace will attempt to follow in the footsteps of the great Rachel Alexandra, who in 2009 beat males in the Woodward and was named Horse of the Year.
“Our ultimate objective is to get Horse of the Year,” Porter said. “All along, that’s what [trainer] Larry [Jones] and I have talked about.”
Porter would have run Havre de Grace, a daughter of the late sire Saint Liam, in the Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign against fillies and mares had trainer Jerry Hollendorfer chosen to ship Blind Luck across the country for the race. When Blind Luck was declared for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Porter said he believed he needed to do something equally as bold.
“I’m sure Blind Luck is trying to get Horse of the Year, and Tizway [winner of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 1 Whitney] is trying to get Horse of the Year. I thought if we could beat the boys in this race, with who’s running in it, we might be in a little better position,” Porter said. “With Blind Luck going in the Pacific Classic, we’d be behind the eight ball if she was fortunate enough to win it, and we’d have a heck of a time catching up to her.”
Possible opponents for Havre de Grace in the Woodward include Whitney runner-up Flat Out, Friend Or Foe, Rule, Duke of Mischief and Mission Impazible.
“If you look at the numbers, they are very inconsistent,” Porter said of his potential rivals, “but they are all capable of jumping up and running a huge number. That’s what we have to hope one of them doesn’t do. We thought it was a good time to take a shot at them, and we’re hoping we’re not making a mistake. Rachel has been the only other filly that’s won [the Woodward]. If we can get in Rachel’s class, we’ll be up in the sky.”
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Socialsaul will shoot for his fourth straight victory as he joins stablemate Preachintothedevil in heading a field of nine New York-breds for Wednesday’s $100,000 Albany at 1 1/8 miles.
Trained by Gary Contessa, Socialsaul came from just off the pace to post a mild upset in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes last time out, winning by 1 ¼ lengths and ending Preachintothedevil’s bid to add the second leg of the Big Apple Triple to his victory in the Mike Lee on June 26 at Belmont Park.
Javier Castellano rides Socialsaul, 2-1 on the morning line, from post position 6 while Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Preachintothedevil, who drew post position 7 at 3-1 on the morning line, for the first time.
Sailmate brings a two-race win streak into the Albany, having broken his maiden at Belmont Park on May 7 facing state-breds and then winning a first-level allowance at a mile a month later. David Cohen will ride the John Kimmel trainee, the third choice at 7-2 on the morning line, from the outside.
Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Alstom, Bound by Humor, Sky Music, Pin Number, Bigger is Bettor, and This Hard Land.
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Asked which of his three nominees – Beau Choix, Gathering Cloud and Radical Sabbatical – he planned to run in Friday’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, trainer Barclay Tagg demurred. Asked about Bernard Baruch himself, the trainer had considerable insight.
“I like Bernard!” Tagg said. “He was riding in a stagecoach one time out West and it had a couple million dollars in it, and they got held up by bandits – this is true – and he stuffed it under the seat. They made everybody get out and they took all their rings, all their jewelry, took all their trunks off and opened up the trunks, stole everything they had and rode off, and he still had his $2 million under the seat.
“He was a pretty smart guy – an adviser to eight presidents. His father was a country doctor in Camden, South Carolina, drove a horse and buggy and had a little black satchel and went house to house. Bernard Baruch discovered the baths up here, the warm springs, and his father had always talked about hydrotherapy for people, so he developed the springs and everything so his father would have something to do in his old age, and meantime he helped develop the race track and everything else, so that’s why they called that race the Bernard Baruch.
“I read two books about him. It took two books just to cover his life. There was a library in Cockeysville, Maryland, and I went by it on my way home every night. One afternoon, I left early and I was sitting in there reading books and I came across these two books and took them both home. Anyway, I nominated three horses to it and I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ve always wanted to win the Bernard Baruch.”
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Trainer Shug McGaughey said Saturday that Grade 2 Virginia Derby winner Air Support would likely be pointed for the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap, 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park on October 8. The 3-year-old son of Smart Strike, a three-time graded stakes winner on turf, had been under consideration for the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park on August 13, but McGaughey opted to skip the race.
“I’m going to point him, I think, for the Jamaica,” the trainer said. “I think [the Virginia Derby] took a lot out of him and I think I made the right decision [not to run in the Secretariat]. I just couldn’t really get a good feel for it, so I just said, ‘Let’s shut it down for awhile.’ Now, I can breathe a little bit easier and don’t have to rush.”
Air Support has worked once since the Virginia Derby, a half-mile move on August 1 over the Oklahoma turf that went in 48.32. McGaughey didn’t rule out a start before the Jamaica, but said the Grade 1 was the goal.
“Nothing was wrong with him,” McGaughey said. “but I just couldn’t get a good enough feel where I could put him on an airplane and take him out there and run him in a Grade 1, and I’m satisfied with that decision.
McGaughey also revealed that Seal Cove, winner of the Gleaming overnight stakes at Saratoga on August 8, would aim for the Grade 3, $100,000, 1 1/8-mile Saranac on Sunday, September 4.
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Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero will be at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday as the seventh race will be named, “Randy’s Race for Healthy Kidneys.” The Northeast Kidney Foundation will be in the community outreach booth during the day collecting donations. The booth is located outside of the jockey’s room in the Saratoga backyard. Romero will also be available for interviews throughout the day.
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