• Orb returns to worktab, Cigar Mile a possibility
• 'Snacks' breezes, Sciacca torn between Empire Classic and Hudson
• Jockey Rice keeping it all in the family
• Probables for all seven stakes on Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund
Velazquez breezed Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice four furlongs in 48.40 on the training track, then took the reins aboard Point of Entry for a 1:01.74 five-furlong breeze around dogs on the inner turf course
When Velazquez rides Palace Malice in the Breeders' Cup Classic, he will replace fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who has opted to ride Game On Dude. Palace Malice, trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, will enter the Classic off a second to Ron the Greek in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational on September 28 at Belmont.
"I thought Palace Malice was his normal, very good self," said Pletcher. "A good work and a strong gallop out."
Velazquez has been aboard Phipps Stable homebred Point of Entry for all but two of his nine wins, including five of his six graded stakes scores. Point of Entry, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, hasn't competed since undergoing surgery for a condylar fractured detected by his connections after he picked up his fifth Grade 1 triumph in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June at Belmont. His Sunday breeze was his first on the turf since he returned to the worktab on September 14.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey admits he doesn't have a lot of time to prepare Point of Entry for the Breeders' Cup Turf, but likes the progress he has seen from the 5-year-old.
"He worked very well," said McGaughey. "I think we're on the right track. He galloped out good and strong and finished up good."
Also on the worktab for the Breeders' Cup was Graydar, who turned in a 1:01.32 five-furlong move with exercise rider Hector Ramos aboard for Pletcher and owner Twin Creeks Racing Stable. Graydar is targeting the Breeders' Cup Classic off a victory in Belmont's Grade 2 Kelso Invitational Handicap on September 28.
"Graydar also was very good," said Pletcher. "A strong five-eighths for him. Hopefully, we're making progress towards the Breeders' Cup Classic with both [Graydar and Palace Malice]."
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Working towards a possible start in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap on November 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Kentucky Derby winner Orb returned to the worktab Sunday morning, breezing a half mile in 49.77 over the main track at Belmont.
"I thought he worked fine," said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey of the Malibu Moon colt, most recently eighth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 28. "I asked him for :50, he went in :49 and change; 25 and change, 24 and change, and galloped out in 1:02. I'm trying to get him started again and go from there."
Orb has run twice at a mile, finishing fourth in a maiden race at Belmont a year ago and breaking his maiden at Aqueduct last November.
"I'll make up my mind in a couple of weeks," said McGaughey. "I'll just fool with him and see where it takes us."
The trainer added that 2-year-old standout Honor Code, runner-up in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne on October 5, could work next week as he begins preparations for the Grade 2 Remsen on November 30 at Aqueduct.
"I've got plenty of time," said McGaughey. "I might work him next weekend, but he's not going to run until November 30, so I don't have to pound on him."
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Trainer Gary Sciacca was pleased with Saratoga Snacks' final serious work this morning leading up to Saturday's Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund, but has yet to decide whether he will run in the $250,000 Empire Classic at 1 1/8 miles or the $150,000, six-furlong Hudson.
"It's tough," said Sciacca, whose charge traveled four furlongs on the training track in 47.68 and was clocked by Sciacca galloping out six furlongs in 1:13. "He's going to run in one of them. I just don't know which one."
A 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat owned by Bill Parcells' August Dawn Farm, Saratoga Snacks is 6-2-1 from nine lifetime starts, including victories in the Shy Groom and Alex M. Robb Stakes. Second in last year's Empire Classic to Lunar Victory, he most recently finished third over a muddy track as the favorite in the John Morrissey on August 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
"He got banged around in that race; he should have been an easy second," said Sciacca. "He came back body sore. I've always had trouble with his feet, so a month ago I put glue-on shoes on him, and that's made a world of difference. He trains like a different horse. He came back good today; he hardly drank any water, which is a pretty good sign."
Sciacca said he would discuss the pros and cons of each race with Parcells before they are drawn on Monday.
"One's $250,000, one's $150,000," said Sciacca. "The Empire Classic is 1 1/8 miles and he's coming off a 2 ½ month layoff. There's not much speed in the Empire; there's plenty in the [six-furlong] Hudson. If either race were seven furlongs or a mile, I wouldn't hesitate. One's a little short, the other's a little long. I don't know what I'm going to do. It would be nice to come back and win the Empire Classic."
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Her father Wayne is a horseman. Her father's father Clyde is a horseman. Her aunt Linda is a horseman. So it's no surprise that like her brothers, Taylor Rice wound up in the family business. The difference being, instead of training horses, she's riding them.
"I'm the only one in my generation who's small enough to ride," said Rice, 25, who began riding professionally at Presque Isle Downs in August and moved her tack to Belmont Park earlier this month. "My whole family is involved with horses, and I've always been around horses, so there was never any question this would be the field I went into."
After graduating Florida State University with a degree in international relations, Rice worked for her father for a year and on the farm breaking horses until she felt ready to take out her jockey's license. She won on her first mount, piloting Giggle Fit, trained by her brother Kevin, at Presque Isle Downs on August 4, and won eight more races before relocating to New York.
"Since Presque Isle was closing, I needed to go somewhere, and why not start at the top?" said Rice, a seven-pound bug. "My aunt has been here for 20 years, and this is her turf. Right now I'm seeing if it's a fit for me. I'm not sure if it's the right time to start my bug, but I'll take a stab at it."
So far, Rice has only had a handful of mounts, with her best finish a third aboard Zeke's Surprise on October 10. Her focus, however, is laying the groundwork for the fall/winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack, long a mecca for apprentice riders.
"That's the incentive for coming," she said. "I'm just waiting it out right now, and getting on as many horses as I can in the mornings."
And listening to the advice of her family.
"They all rode before they got too big," said Rice with a smile. "They all give me pointers, and always have something insightful to share."
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Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund next Saturday at Belmont Park will feature seven stakes and 10 total races for New York-breds. The marquee event is the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
Readtheprospectus, a winner of seven straight, heads the group of probables for the Empire Classic. A 4-year-old gelding trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, Readtheprospectus enters the Empire Classic off a pair of stakes scores at Belmont: a 1 ¼-length triumph in the Commentator Handicap and a half-length decision in the Spite the Devil overnight stakes on September 19. Probable him to join him are fellow stakes winners Awesome Vision, Bigger Is Bettor, and Socialsaul, as are Moneyinyour Pocket and Warrioroftheroses, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Saratoga Snacks is possible.
Kharafa will attempt to retain winning form in the $200,000 Mohawk, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up. The 4-year-old gelded son of Kitalpha posted his first stakes win in his most recent start when he took the Ashley T. Cole by a head on September 15. Lubash, and Hear the Footsteps, second and third, respectively, in the Ashley T. Cole, also are probable for the Mohawk. Likely to join them are Abilio, Barrel of Love, 2011 Mohawk winner Compliance Officer, Idle American, Lawyer Jim, comebacking Grade 1 victor Mission Approved, and Street Game.
Fillies and mares have their own 1 1/16-mile turf race, the $200,000 Ticonderoga, which is expected to attract Harbor Mist, Inimitable Romanee, Jitney, Lady's Lunar Luck, Mystic City, Sally's Dream, Wholelottashakin, and Yes It's Pink. Dreaming of Cara and Effie Trinket are possible.
Mine Over Matter will be joined by stablemate B Shanny when he aims for a title defense in the $150,000 Hudson for 3-year-olds and up. Both Mine Over Matter and B Shanny are trained by Michael Hushion. Also probable for the six-furlong dash are Cay to Pomeroy, Flying Zealous, Moonlight Song, Night Maneuver, and Palace. Saratoga Snacks is possible.
Willet, who won the $150,000 Iroquois by 9 ¼ lengths last October, is back for more in 2013. The 5-year-old mare owned in partnership by trainer James Iselin and Charlotte Assoulin has won two consecutive stakes: the Union Avenue presented by Northeastern Fine Jewelry and BALL Watch Company in August at Saratoga Race Course and the Princess Dixie overnight stakes on September 27 at Belmont. The probables also include Galiana, Here's Zealicious, Miss Valentine, and Shesabronxbomber.
Wired Bryan, victorious in the Grade 2 Sanford in July at Saratoga, heads the group of probales for the $150,000 Bertram M. Bongard, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds. In his most recent outing, he captured the New York Breeders' Futurity by seven lengths on September 28 at Finger Lakes Racetrack. Slated to face him are Captains Toews, Carolinian, Empire Dreams, Fox Rox, Noon Shadow, Ogermeister, So Lonesome, and Sol the Freud.
Juvenile fillies will compete in the $150,000 Joseph A. Gimma. Abbie's Butterfly, Court Dancer, Daddy's Lil Saint, Miss Narcissist, and Nutmeg are probable for the seven-furlong race. Skye Saratoga is possible.