• King Kreesa breezes on turf for Fourstardave
• Shirreffs says Mr. Commons, scheduled to breeze on Sunday, benefited from Fourstardave prep race
• Pletcher could double down in G2 Adirondack, Saratoga Special; "Kitten," "Llama" work for G2 Hall of Fame
• Wise Dan heads probables for G2 Fourstardave; fields taking shape for G2 Adirondack, G2 Saratoga Special
• McPeek 'War Horses' breeze in company
• Romans wants to keep Silverette on grass following Sportech Caress victory
• Van Berg book signing next Saturday
Out shortly after the track opened at 5:30 a.m., Wise Dan went four furlongs in 49.59 seconds, galloping out five-eighths in 1:02 according to NYRA clockers, ranking 29th of 48 horses at the distance.
The move came one week after a sizzling five-furlong work over the Oklahoma training track turf course in 57.38 seconds, after which trainer Charles LoPresti was undecided whether to give Wise Dan another breeze before the one-mile Fourstardave.
"I just wanted to do something easy with him," said LoPresti, who trains the 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding for owner Morton Fink. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I didn't want to take him to the turf again. I just wanted a nice, easy work for him, just something to keep him ticking over to next week."
LoPresti said he wasn't concerned about the time of the work but is more focused on how Wise Dan is coming into his return to Saratoga. Wise Dan began his seven-race win streak, which includes five Grade 1 victories, in last year's Fourstardave.
"He's perfect," LoPresti said. "He could have gone so much faster, but we didn't want him to do that. He did that last week. That was the work that prepared him for this race. This was just something to tick him over."
LoPresti is following a similar schedule this year with Wise Dan, whose older half-brother, Successful Dan, is running in today's Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap. A graded stakes winner on three surfaces, including Grade 1 wins on dirt and turf, Wise Dan also was nominated to the Whitney.
"I think he would be very hard to beat in the Whitney," LoPresti said. "I just feel that way. He's trained well over this track."
* * *
Also on the worktab for the Fourtstardave was King Kreesa, who will step up in class off wins in Belmont Park's Grade 3 Poker on July 4 and Kingston for New York-breds on June 1.
With Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, King Kreesa breezed four furlongs on the Oklahoma turf course in 47.29 seconds in company with stablemate The Big Deluxe.
"It was a nice breeze, and Irad was real happy with him," said trainer Jeremiah Englehart. "He puts a lot into his training, so I wasn't too worried about him needing to get a lot out of the work."
Owned by Gerald and Susan Kresa, King Kreesa set the pace in both his 2 ¼-length Kingston victory and 1 ½-length Poker triumph. Although King Kreesa was on the lead in those races, Englehart believes the 4-year-old doesn't need it and will let the gelding race wherever he is most comfortable in the Fourstardave.
"He's much more mature in his races this year; he allows Irad to settle him," said Englehart. "The trainer in me wants to believe he can race off the pace, but everybody has been telling me he does his best when he races on the lead. I'm a little biased, but I think he'll be OK just off the pace. I'd be stupid to say I know he'll be fine racing off the pace, so we'll just let him do his thing."
Englehart acknowledges that the Fourstardave will be a stern test for King Kreesa, a four-time stakes winner who is 5-3-2 in 14 starts.
"I have a lot of respect for what Wise Dan has accomplished," said Englehart. "The nice thing about horse racing is that there are a lot of variables, and we feel like this is our time to take a chance."
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Trainer John Shirreffs on Saturday said he is looking forward to running Mr. Commons in the Fourstardave based off how the 5-year-old exited his fifth-place finish in an optional claiming race on July 24 at Saratoga.
"He's eating well, he's training great, the rider is commenting that he came out of that race with a lot of energy," said Shirreffs. "It looks like this next race should be really good."
A two-time Grade 2 winner on the turf, Mr. Commons finished 1 ½ lengths behind Seal Cove in the optional claimer. It was Mr. Commons first start since the St. George Farm Racing color-bearer finished third in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile in April at Keeneland. The 5-year-old was scratched out of the Grade 3 Jaipur in June at Belmont after the race was transferred to the main track.
"His last race was a good comeback race, probably better than his placing indicated," said Shirreffs. "I'm looking forward to running him. He needed a race - he had one work in a month (a four furlong breeze on July 17 at Belmont Park). We had a lot of bad weather and the timing was never right, but the nice thing is he came out of this race really well. He recovered quickly. The whole point of the allowance race was to get him ready for the Fourstardave. We knew he would need a prep race."
Shirreffs added that he wants Mr. Commons to get an outside trip in the Fourstardave.
"When those horses came outside of him [in the July 24 race] he didn't really like that," said Shirreffs. "If we can get the outside and make a run, I think he'll do very well."
Mr. Commons will breeze on Sunday, according to Shirreffs.
* * *
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a quartet of juveniles on Monday morning for their final works in preparation for likely starts next Sunday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special and the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack.
Maiden winners Ari the Adventurer and Stopchargingmaria are penciled in for the 6 ½-furlong Adirondack, while Danza and Corfu are under consideration for the Saratoga Special.
Owned by Stonestreet Stable, Ari the Adventuruer was a 6 ¾-length winner on July 11 at Belmont Park, earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure for covering 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.05, while Stopchargingmaria earned an 85 Beyer for her victory in 1:04.69 on opening day at Saratoga.
"I thought they both ran extremely well first time out," said Pletcher, who has won the Adirondack three times, including last year's edition with Kauai Katie. "I thought they were both professional, came away from the gate in good order and were pretty straightforward."
In his maiden win, Danza, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, was a three-quarter length winner on July 12 at Belmont, completing 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.54 and earning a 68 Beyer.
"I thought Danza's race was better than the numbers suggest," said Pletcher, who is seeking his first Saratoga Special victory. "It was a long way back to third, and I thought it was a good professional first out."
Corfu, who carries the colors of Michael Tabor, was a front-running winner of his debut on July 25 at the Spa, completing the five furlongs in 58.27.
"He survived a significant speed duel and should improve for having run," said Pletcher.
On Saturday morning, Pletcher sent out Charming Kitten, most recently second in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby, and Grade 3 Hill Prince winner Notacatbutallama to work a half-mile in 50.02 in preparation for the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes on Friday.
"They both worked well," Pletcher said.
* * *
Next Saturday will see the return of reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan to Saratoga's turf as he heads the field for the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at a mile.
Among those likely to challenge Wise Dan, whose victory in the 2012 Fourstardave was the start of his seven-race winning streak, are King Kreesa, who enters off back-to-back victories in the Kingston for New York-breds and the Grade 3 Poker at Belmont Park; Lea, runner-up to Wise Dan in the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill Downs on June 29 last time out; Mr. Commons, fifth as the favorite over "good" turf in an optional claimer at the Spa on July 24; Skyring, most recently sixth in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 6 at Monmouth Park, and Za Approval, second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile last time out.
Willyconker is questionable, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.
Sunday features a pair of traditional stakes for 2-year-olds: the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack for fillies and the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special, both at 6 ½ furlongs.
Expected to line up for the Adirondack are Ari the Adventurer, Charmed Hour, Designer Legs, Debutante Stakes winner Fiftyshadesofgold, Stopchargingmaria, Thank You Marylou, Untapable, and Who's in Town.
Recent maiden winners Candy Dandy, Danza, Lunarwarfare and Mr. Viber are probable for the Saratoga Special, with Breitling Flyer, Corfu, Twang and Grade 2 Sanford winner Wired Bryan questionable.
* * *
One day after celebrating his 51st birthday, trainer Ken McPeek sent out his prospects for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers for a work in company over the Oklahoma training track.
Breezing together, Magdalena Racing's War Dancer went four furlongs in 49.03 seconds, and Charles Fipke's Java's War went in 49.41. The works were the fourth and fifth quickest of 53 on the track Saturday morning.
War Dancer, a son of War Front, is coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on the grass, while Java's War exits a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Swaps at Betfair Hollywood Park. Java's War won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in April on the Keeneland Polytrack.
"They worked good," McPeek said. "War Dancer worked super. Java got a little late in the work, but, for the most part, it was a good, solid breeze. They're going to work back next weekend. Just want to stay steady and make sure they eat up."
* * *
It's always gratifying when a plan comes together, and trainer Dale Romans was feeling pretty good Saturday morning after Silverette's impressive victory in Friday's $100,000 Sportech Caress.
"That was a good one," Romans said. "We talked about her just the other day. I thought she would win. She worked good on the turf, and her pedigree was screaming for turf. It was a fast race."
Making her grass debut after winning three of nine starts on dirt, 4-year-old Silverette won the 5 ½-furlong Caress by a neck over Spun Cap, running through fractions of 21.39 seconds, 43.70 and 55.19, hitting the wire in 1:01.27. The final time was just .68 seconds off the track record set by Fiddlers Patriot in 2010.
"There was one [horse, Rosa Salvaje, who finished seventh] that went in front of her, but she didn't last long," Romans said. "I've never seen those [fractions] anywhere, period. She's a pretty special filly. It's nice when it happens like you expect it to happen."
Romans indicated Silverette would be pointed to the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap on September 2 at Parx Racing, with an eye on the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint November 2 at Santa Anita.
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Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg will be at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 10, to sign his new book, "JACK, From Grit To Glory, A Lifetime of Mentoring, Dedication and Perseverance," a biography written by Chris Kotulak. The signing will be conducted near the paddock beginning at 1 p.m.
The book is filled with many anecdotal recollections from a variety of horsemen and is a chronological account of the tremendous hardships and accomplishments Van Berg, 77, faced in his career and personal life.
Van Berg was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1985 and is the son of Marion H. Van Berg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970. A living legend and the last of a vanishing breed of horse trainers, Jack Van Berg is known for his gruff voice, John Wayne-like swagger and benevolent nature.