• Successful Dan has strong gallop for G1 Whitney
• Contessa confirms Rydilluc for G2 Hall of Fame
• Dance to Bristol to return to Spa for G1 Ballerina
• Sportech Caress draws well-matched field
The son of Badge of Silver ranked among the leading 3-year-old turf horses in the country last year, reeling off six straight wins - three of them in graded stakes - culminating with a score in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.
Romans shut down Silver Max last year after a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October at Keeneland. The colt was slow to return to form this year, finishing off the board in his first two starts before finally scoring in an ungraded off-the-turf stakes with a four-horse field June 1 over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Following that race, Romans tried Silver Max in the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap on the dirt and watched him finish a distant third.
The Oceanport was a return to grass racing and a return to form.
"We freshened him up last year, and he had a rocky start to the year with the off-the-turf race at Churchill," Romans said. "I tried him back on the dirt just to see, but we got back to a distance he likes and got back to the surface he likes, and he ran big."
In the Oceanport, Silver Max broke from his inside post and ran an opening half-mile in 47.08 seconds and then turned on the jets and ran his next half in 46.77 for a mile in 1:33.85. He finished 5 ¾ lengths in front of Howe Great, with a winning time of 1:40.02 for the mile and a sixteenth.
"That's how he's won every race he's won," Romans said. "He makes it look like he's got an easy lead because he's a couple lengths in front, but he went three-quarters in 1:09. He went 1:33. There aren't many going to be able to run with him. I like him on the lead because he's one of the few horses that can go that fast and keep going. He's a good colt."
The Bernard Baruch, like the Oceanport, is run at 1 1/16 miles.
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Hours before drawing post position 1 in the field of eight for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap, Successful Dan had a strong open gallop down the stretch of the main track for trainer Charles LoPresti.
A 7-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, Successful Dan is making his 14th career start and first at Saratoga Race Course in the Whitney.
"He's had two good works over the track," LoPresti said. "We let him run down the lane a little bit this morning, so he's basically had three good trips over it. He's been galloping strong over it, and he hasn't missed a beat."
Owned by Morton Fink, Successful Dan has posted two bullet five-furlong works at Saratoga, going 1:00.61 on July 20 and 1:00.15 on July 26. LoPresti made a similar move earlier in the meet with Turallure, who was second by a head in a $95,000 allowance optional claimer here on July 24.
"I took him over to the turf, and he ran down there a quarter [mile] and out in three-eighths," LoPresti said. "I just kind of want to get it on their minds a little bit. You don't want to do too much to take it out of a horse.
"For me, I don't like to see horses work real close to a race, a black-letter work. My work should have been done a couple works ago, and it's worked out great. I've caught good racetracks, and the weather's been good. He's where I want him. If he shows up and he's the horse he used to be, he'll be tough."
Fourth in his most recent effort, beaten 15 lengths by Fort Larned in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 15, Successful Dan has hit the board in 11 of 13 starts, including eight wins.
"I feel really good about him," LoPresti said. "The horse is really, really good right now. He's really good. He's on top of his game. I couldn't ask him to be any better."
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Gary Contessa on Friday confirmed Rydilluc for the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds on August 9.
Rydilluc, a two-time stakes winner, is looking to get back on track after dead-heating for eighth as the favorite when competing over "good" turf in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on July 13. Contessa had considering running Rydilluc in the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 17 at Arlington Park before deciding to keep the colt at Saratoga for the Hall of Fame.
"He ran a mile and a quarter in the Virginia Derby, and he didn't run well," said Contessa, who trains Rydilluc for a partnership headed by Leonard Green. "I'm quite certain it was because of the soft turf. His body language was completely wrong. He didn't show up that day. Rather than go to [the Secretariat in] Chicago, where it rains every other day, and wonder about the turf, I decided to stay home."
The Virginia Derby was Rydilluc's first loss in five starts on the grass. Previously, he had won the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park and the inaugural running of the Penn Mile at Penn National.
"Everybody gets beat, that's the thing about this business," said Contessa. "Zenyatta is a rarity, and horses like her. When they keep winning, winning, and winning, it's a rarity. When you have a horse who wins that many in a row and suddenly you have a change in track condition, you wonder. Let's face it, soft turf is to a turf horse what slop is to a dirt horse; either you like it or you don't like it. You don't know until you do it. It was a rock-hard turf course [in the Penn Mile], and, hopefully, we get a nice, hard turf course here. I'd say I'm leaning towards scratching if it's raining and it's a yielding a turf course because that's why we're pretty certain he didn't show up [in the Virginia Derby]."
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Dance to Bristol, neck winner over Classic Point in the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap on Monday, came out of the race "super" and is on course for a return to Saratoga to contest the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina at seven furlongs on August 23.
"We just left this morning," trainer Ollie Figgins III said on Wednesday morning. "I'll breeze her, maybe twice, at Bowie. If all goes well, we'll be back up there five or six days before the race."
Dance to Bristol has won nine of 17 starts with seven second-place finishes. She has scored in six straight starts, the past two being the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses at Belmont Park and the Honorable Miss.
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Fillies and mares will sprint 5 ½ furlongs on the turf when they compete in a wide-open edition of the $100,000 Sportech Caress on Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
The tepid favorite on the morning-line is Sounds of the City (3-1), who will attempt to give owner Richard Santulli and owner Alan Goldberg, who took the Grade 1 Diana on Saturday, another stakes win at the Spa. Sounds of the City seeks a breakthrough win, having placed in three stakes, including a third-place finish in the Klassy Briefcase on July 14 at Monmouth Park in her most recent start.
Jose Lezcano will ride Sounds of the City from post position 2.
Vincent Tew's Spun Cap, the 7-2 second choice, ships in from the Thoroughbred Center in Kentucky and looks to rebound off a seventh-place finish in The Very One Stakes on May 17 at Pimlico. She was second in the Giant's Causeway in April at Keeneland in her prior start to The Very One.
Silverette, trained by Dale Romans for Paul Pompa, Jr., will try turf for the first time in the Sportech Caress. She enters the race off sharp efforts at Monmouth Park: a victory in the Red Cross in May and a second in the Blue Sparkler on June 22.
"It's her first time sprinting on the turf," Romans said. "She's doing good. She's got a lot of turf pedigree, and she should run well."
Robby Albarado has the assignment aboard Silverette, who was installed at 4-1 on the morning line and drew post 8.
The field also includes Madame Giry, Lion Down by Me, Double the Energy, Rosa Salvaje, and Queen Chatanika. Holiday Soiree and Well Kept were entered for the main track only.