• Contessa hopes good trip will lead to Hudson victory for Night Maneuver; Carolinian remains on dirt for Bertram M. Bongard
• 'The Llama' gets the nod for Mohawk from Pletcher; Forty Tales eyes next Saturday's G3 Bold Ruler 'Cap, Royal Lahaina, Fantasy of Flight target G3 Turnback the Alarm H.
• So Lonesome, Wholelottashakin face differing challenges on Empire Showcase Day for Bush
First race post time at Belmont Park for Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund is 12:20 p.m.
Shakeira, a 4-year-old owned by Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables who was second in the 2012 Ticonderoga, seeks her second stakes win, having taken Belmont's Mount Vernon in June. In three subsequent starts she has finished sixth in the On the Bus overnight stakes and fifth in the Yaddo in August at Saratoga Race Course before being nosed out by Sally's Dream in a starter allowance/optional claimer on September 15 at Belmont.
"She'll have to come with one of her 'A' races," said Brown. "She's run them before. Even her race last year in the Ticonderoga when she was second to Hessonite was a really good race. If I were to get the same race out of her this year I'd be very happy, and I think that will put her pretty close at the finish. She seems to be sitting on a good race, I'd say."
The following week, Brown will send out Street Secret in the Grade 3, $200,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap on October 26. Street Secret, who placed in stakes in France and Germany before being purchased by Peter A. Putsch, finished in a dead heat for third in the Miss Liberty in May at Monmouth Park, her second start in the United States. She has competed three times on the dirt in restricted stakes since the Miss Liberty, winning the Open Mind in June at Belmont and finishing second in both the Alada in August at Saratoga and the Parlo on September 19 back at Belmont.
"She has been doing really well since we put her on the dirt, and we're looking forward to trying a graded stake on the dirt," said Brown of the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry. "She had been running on the turf over in France. She had always trained well on the dirt, and her pedigree suggested she could possibly handle the dirt. When the opportunity came to try her on the dirt, we went for it, and it has worked out well so far."
Brown added that plans remain undetermined for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warning's Bakken, a 3-year-old who debuted a 6 ½-length winner on Sunday in a six-furlong maiden race. Bakken, a son of Distorted Humor, is a half-brother to graded stakes winners Chace City and Justwhistledixie.
"We were cautiously optimistic he would run an impressive race," said Brown. "You never know until you lead them over there. He ran fast and my gut tells me to give him time after that figure, although he didn't look like he was extended to do it. He's a horse with an enormous amount of ability, as you can see, and, hopefully, we can develop him into a stake horse."
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Although Night Maneuver hasn't won a stakes in two years, Gary Contessa, believes the 4-year-old is one of the leading contenders for the $150,000 Hudson on Saturday's Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund.
Night Maneuver, who won the Bertram M. Bongard on Showcase Day in 2011 as a 2-year-old for trainer Carlos Martin, was claimed by Contessa for $62,500 in June out of a neck victory in an optional claiming event at Belmont. Since then, he has added an optional claiming score in July at Saratoga and finished third in a pair of overnight stakes, the Chowder's First in August at the Spa and the Spite the Devil on September 19 at Belmont. He'll be cutting back from one mile in the Spite the Devil to six furlongs in the Hudson, which also attracted Chowder's First winner Palace and 2012 Hudson victor Mine Over Matter.
"He's a nice old horse," said Contessa, who trains the gelding for his wife, Jennifer, as well as Darlene Bilinski and Harry S. Patten. "He's a war horse. He runs, on his good day, as fast as [the other Hudson entrants] do. This is kind of a logistic race in which I think whoever is in the right place at the right time is probably going to win it. Maybe there will be way too much speed and the horse who sits back and makes one run is the horse who is going to win it. Maybe nobody goes and the horse who goes to the lead wins it. Usually races that are this deep turn out to be jockey races."
Rajiv Maragh has ridden Night Maneuver in his past four starts, and Contessa said he will leave the final decision on tactics to the jockey.
"I haven't given him any instructions on this horse and I haven't had any complaints, but I would like to see him take a hold of him and let the three or four horses that want to be up near the lead go, and we'll be laying in the second tier right behind them," said Contessa. "That's the way I would want it, but I'm not going to tell him that, and if he decided to use him to be closer I wouldn't have any major complaints. But I think being close to the pace hurt us a little bit in our last start."
Contessa also entered Carolinian in the Bertram M. Bongard for 2-year-olds. Owned by Dogwood Stable, Carolinian broke his maiden on the turf in his fourth start, a seven-furlong maiden special weight, by 6 ¼ lengths on September 12 at Belmont, then came back to take an optional claimer on the dirt by one length on September 26.
"I've always thought he was a hair better on the turf," admitted Contessa. "I wouldn't mind trying him in [a] turf race. He's a fast, solid horse. I trained his sister, Margaret Lilian, and she could run only on the grass. I had the opportunity to breeze [Carolinian] on the grass in Saratoga, and he looked like a million dollars."
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After an "enthusiastic" week of training, multiple graded stakes winner Notacatbutallama was confirmed for tomorrow's $200,000 Mohawk on Empire Showcase Day presented by the Fund, trainer Todd Pletcher said this morning.
"All is well, and we are planning to run," said Pletcher of the 3-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt, most recently fourth in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap on October 5.
Notacatbutallama, who this year has won the Grade 3 Hill Prince, the Grade 3 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and the Solar Splendor overnight stakes, is the only stakes representative on Showcase Day from the Pletcher barn, although it also will send out maidens Gloria Victoria (race 5) and Bottleofredorwhite (race 6).
Next weekend, however, the trainer looks to have a strong hand in both the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap for sprinters and the Grade 3 Turnback The Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles, the final two graded stakes of Belmont's fall meet.
The stakes-winning Forty Tales, most recently fourth in both the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont and the Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop at Saratoga, gets some class relief in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler. Victorious in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards on Belmont Stakes Day and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, Forty Tales had been under consideration for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
"When we decided not to do to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, this became the most logical option," said Pletcher of the Bold Ruler. "Seven-eighths is probably his ideal distance."
In the Turnback the Alarm, Royal Lahaina and Fantasy of Flight will be making their first starts for Pletcher, who won the race in 2009 with Unbridled Belle and in 2006 with Indian Vale.
Owned by James Riccio, Royal Lahaina most recently finished second in the Lady's Secret at Monmouth Park for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, while Fantasy of Flight was seventh in the Grade 1 Ballerina for owner Sanford Robbins and trainer Michelle Nevin.
"We've had Royal Lahina for five or six weeks now and she's been training well," said Pletcher of the 5-year-old Chapel Royal mare. "There haven't been a lot of options for her, so we've been targeting this for a while now.
"It's a similar situation with Fantasy of Flight," he added of the 5-year-old Tiznow mare, who in her only start beyond a mile was second by a half-length in an optional claimer at Aqueduct in March, 2012. "Most of her races have been shorter, but we're going to try her at 1 1/16 miles."
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In his only start for trainer Tom Bush, So Lonesome finished second by a length as the favorite in a six-furlong optional claimer on September 26. The Freud colt, who broke his maiden at Saratoga for Dale Capuano, will take a big step up in Saturday's Empire Showcase Day presented by The Fund when he faces graded stakes winner Wired Bryan in the $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard at seven furlongs.
"Wired Bryan looks like the best bet of the day," said Bush of the favorite, who won the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga and the New York Breeders' Futurity at Finger Lakes, both at six furlongs. "You wonder if he's more effective shorter, but against these kinds of horses the seven-eighths is probably no problem at all. This horse of mine, he's big and tall and leggy and more ground would probably be better for him. He's going to have to come up with a good one, but we have the champ [Javier Castellano] in the saddle, so that should help."
The Ticonderoga for turf fillies and mares presents a different sort of challenge for Wholelottashakin, most recently second by a neck in the John Hettinger on September 15. The 1 1/16-mile race drew a closely matched field of 10, headed by Effie Trinket (3-1), Shakeira (7-2) and Inimitable Romanee (4-1), with Wholelottashakin the fourth choice at 5-1 from post position 10.
"It would be nice if you had one to beat but you have four or five," said Bush, who will give a leg up to Irad Ortiz, Jr. "Plus, we're going to have to ride her out of there to get a spot for her, because the post is not good with that turn. I'm hoping we can get over and not give up a lot of ground. I hate being wide all the way down the backside. She seems like she's wanted to lay a little closer, but that's not going to be as easy to do from that post. It will be a jockeys' race."