• Saratoga Snacks to step up, stretch out for Empire Classic
• Jacobson pondering Showcase Day options for Saginaw, Fiddlers Afleet, Great Gracie Dane; Gee Linz confirmed for Joseph A. Gimma
• Sailmate breezes in 1:00.66 for Empire Classic; Agilion (Gimma) and Kibosh (Ticonderoga) also to represent Kimmel barn
• Compliance Officer to be joined by Strong Impact in Mohawk; Meet the Mets on target for Bongard
The 1 1/8th-mile Empire Classic headlines Belmont Park’s New York Showcase Day, which will be conducted October 20 and feature seven stakes for New York-breds.
Owned by Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, Saratoga Snacks started his 2012 campaign by showing strong early speed to win a first-level allowance for New York-breds going six furlongs on May 31 at Belmont. Trying a second-level, 6 ½-furlong optional claimer for statebreds on August 10 at Saratoga, the ridgling had a comfortable lead in midstretch, swerved outward after jockey Ramon Dominguez dropped his left rein, and recovered to win by 2 ¾ lengths.
Facing open company for the first time in an entry-level allowance on September 15 at Belmont, Saratoga Snacks contested the pace and drew clear to take the one-mile event by four lengths.
Sciacca said Saratoga Snacks will receive a class test in the Empire Classic but is entering the race in top form.
“He’s put a couple of good races together, and the first time we stretched him out to a mile he ran very well,” said Sciacca. “He’s got himself together. He’s a big, good-looking horse. He worked good yesterday. That was his last major work [before the Empire Classic]. He ended up going [four furlongs in] 46 and 4/5, out in 59 4/5. He’s hitting everything right. He’s going to be tough. He’s going to bring a good race.”
Sciacca said he is confident Saratoga Snacks will handle the extra furlong of the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic based off feedback from Dominguez.
“I asked Ramon if he thinks he’ll go a mile and an eighth and he said, ‘No, I don’t think he will, I know he will,’” said Sciacca. “For someone like Ramon to say that, that’s pretty good. He said the horse just doesn’t get tired. He does everything right. I think going a mile and an eighth he’ll be close to the front or on the front.”
* * *
David Jacobson has a strong contingent for New York Showcase Day, but the trainer said he hasn’t made a final decision on races for many of his contenders.
Leading the group is Saginaw, who has won eight of his last nine starts, including his last three. He is under consideration for both the six-furlong, $150,000 Hudson or the 1 1/8-mile, $250,000 Empire Classic. The 6-year-old gelding has four stakes wins to his credit, including a half-length decision over Empire Classic contender Lunar Victory in the Promenade All overnight stakes on September 23 at Belmont.
“We’re leaning toward the Hudson, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if we ended up in the Empire Classic,” said Jacobson, who owns Saginaw in partnership with Drawing Away Stable. “We’ll try to pick the best spot. His best races have come after we have shortened him up, so we’re definitely leaning in that direction. There are some tough horses [going to the Empire Classic]. Lunar Victory is a nice horse.”
Gary Barber’s Fiddlers Afleet, a two-time stakes winner this year who was third in the Promenade All, could also appear in either race, Jacobson said.
“Fiddlers Afleet is like our utility player,” said Jacobson. “We’ll see where we’ll place him. He can go short, he can go long, he does everything. We haven’t decided [on a race for him]; we’ll see how the races fill.”
Great Gracie Dane, a 5-year-old mare claimed by Jacobson for $50,000 for Drawing Away out of a runner-up effort in a New York-bred optional claimer on the dirt on September 19, is aiming for either the $150,000, seven-furlong Iroquois or the $175,000 Ticonderoga at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, the trainer said.
Gee Linz, a 2-year-old filly, is locked into the $125,000 Joseph A. Gimma at seven furlongs. Claimed for $50,000 out of a debut win at Saratoga in August, she won a starter allowance/optional claiming race by 2 ½ lengths on September 26 at Belmont in her lone start to date for Jacobson and Drawing Away.
* * *
Trainer John Kimmel had hoped to have Sailmate accompanied by 2010 Empire Classic winner Friend Or Foe in this year’s edition of the 1 1/8-mile race, but the 5-year-old isn’t quite ready to return from a 14-month layoff.
“Even though Friend Or Foe would put in a good effort and is doing very well, he’s only had one five-eighths breeze,” said Kimmel. “To have him ready for that race would be too mean, so I’m probably just going with Sailmate.”
A 4-year-old son of Friends Lake, the consistent Sailmate has been competitive facing fellow state-breds in three consecutive stakes, and is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Saginaw, Lunar Victory, and Fiddlers Afleet in the Promenade All on September 23 at Belmont.
“If you watch his last race, he had a pedestrian trip,” said Kimmel of Sailmate, who is owned by GoldMark farm. “He was buried down on the inside until the eighth pole, and when he got out he came on pretty strong.”
This morning, Sailmate breezed five furlongs in 1:00.66 in what will be his final serious move for the race.
“The horse breezed beautifully this morning; he’s sitting on ready,” said Kimmel. “He was undefeated [in four starts] on this track prior to his last race, and in retrospect, for $85,000, to not ask him for his best was probably a good thing. He came out of the race in good shape and should move forward. He’ll be getting a break in the weights, and I’m looking forward to the race.”
Kimmel added that Agilion, third facing colts last time out, will breeze tomorrow for the seven-furlong, $125,000 Joseph A. Gimma for 2-year-old fillies, and that Kibosh will be pointed to the $175,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
The daughter of Discreet Cat, who will be making her stakes debut in the Ticonderoga, was switched to turf four starts back and is 2-1-0 since.
“Hessonite and Gitchee Goomie look like they’re head and shoulders above everybody, but maybe a 3-year-old with a weight break might sneak up there,” said Kimmel of Kibosh, who carries the colors of Chester and Mary Broman. “She finished full of run in her race going seven-eighths and won at a mile. I think she deserves a chance.”
* * *
Compliance Officer will be joined next Saturday by speedy stablemate Strong Impact as he looks to defend his title in the $175,000 Mohawk at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, trainer Bruce Brown said this morning.
The 6-year-old Compliance Officer enters the Mohawk off a second-place finish behind Lubash in the Ashley T. Cole at Belmont, which came on the heels of a third behind Lubash and Minnie Punt in the West Point at Saratoga.
“His last couple of races, the pace hasn’t been like what it was last year,” said trainer Bruce Brown of Compliance Officer, who is 7-2-1 from 11 starts since being claimed for La Marca Stable last May. “So, I am going to put Strong Impact in there to make sure the pace is honest. Often times with a rabbit, you think the horse doesn’t have a shot. But I think if no one goes with [Strong Impact], he could possibly settle down and win the race.”
Strong Impact, also owned by La Marca Stable, will be making his stakes debut in the Mohawk. Claimed for $35,000 last August, the 6-year-old gelded son of A. P Jet has been no worse than third in seven subsequent starts, including two victories and two seconds in open company.
“He’s got so much speed I don’t think we have much choice other to be in front,” said Brown.
Also on Showcase Day, Brown will saddle Meet the Mets in the seven-furlong, $125,000 Bertram F. Bongard for 2-year-olds. The Grand Slam colt broke his maiden going 5 ½ furlongs at Saratoga Race Course, and last time out yielded late to finish second in a first level allowance.
“He came out of his last race great,” said Brown of the Gold Square color-bearer. “He was a little rank the first part and made the lead a little sooner than he needed, and then didn’t really know what to do when he made the lead. But he is developing nicely with racing and training, so I expect big things from him.”