When the son of Scat Daddy failed to deliver in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, trainer Steve Asmussen changed gears. On Friday, Daddy Nose Best will attempt to strengthen his credentials as a quality turf runner when he takes on eight others, with one Main Track Only, in the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds at a 1 1/16 at Saratoga Race Course.
Daddy Nose Best, the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, broke his maiden last year at first asking on the same Saratoga grass he will race over in the Hall of Fame. Two races later – despite being rank, bumped and four wide – he finished a close-up sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf.
Asmussen moved Daddy Nose Best back to the grass after the Preakness; in his next and most recent start the colt finished fourth, beaten just three-quarters of a length as the favorite in the Grade 3 American Derby on July 14 at Arlington Park.
In that 1 3/16-mile race, Daddy Nose Best raced just two lengths off a creeping 50.56-second opening half-mile and a mile time of 1:40.18. The winner, Cozzetti, raced even closer to the pace and just got up by a neck, while the two pace-setters never tired.
“He was in a no-man’s land there,” Asmussen said of Daddy Nose Best. “It was danged if you do, danged if you don’t [tackle the leaders]. Nobody went by anybody that day. He had a nice breeze last Monday [five furlongs in 1:03 2/5 around the “dogs” on the Oklahoma turf course], and I like how he comes out of his turf races better.”
Meet-leading jockey Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount.
Trainer Philip Gleaves has shipped Csaba (pronounced CHA-ba) to Saratoga from his base at Calder Race Course in Florida. The son of red-hot turf sire Kitten’s Joy has failed to win in two tries on grass, but the defeats were by small margins to stakes winners Summer Front and Howe Great.
Gleaves trained the hard-hitting handicap horse Mambo Meister and dearly wanted Csaba to win the inaugural running of the stakes race named in his honor in May at Calder but was beaten by a half-length. In his most recent start, Csaba rode the rail and ripped off an 8 ¼-length victory on the dirt at Calder in the El Kaiser Stakes, earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He’s graded-stakes placed on the grass this past winter at Gulfstream Park and coming off a nice win at Calder,” Gleaves said. “You’d think his pedigree – with Kitten’s Joy and War Chant [as broodmare sire] – screams turf, and we thought we’d give him another chance.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux will ride the 4-1 third choice.
Another Hall of Fame entrant without a turf victory but a good chance to win is Spring to the Sky for trainer Bruce Brown. The son of Langfuhr has competed on the grass in his past two starts –the Grade 3 Hill Prince in June at Belmont Park and the Duluth Stakes on the third day of the Spa meet – and both times was defeated by Summer Front despite powerful efforts.
Jockey Javier Castellano takes over the mount on the 12-1 shot.
“He breezed great, unbelievable,” Brown said after Spring to the Sky work five furlongs in 59.08 seconds on the Oklahoma training turf course, the best of 10 works Friday at the distance.
Spring to the Sky was 37-1 in his turf debut and 19-1 last out when third in the Duluth. Brown discounted the Hill Prince, run at a mile after a six-furlong dirt race.
“I wasn’t training him to run long; he got pressed and hung in there,” Brown said. “I brought him up here early and trained him on the grass, and he just got better and better. His odds should come down. He’s from the family of [1999 female turf champion] Soaring Softly. He’s good on dirt, but he floats on the turf.”
Spring to the Sky likes to run on the pace and likely will have to deal with the speedy Yari, a gelded son of First Samurai in the barn of trainer Chad Brown. Yari has a record of 3-2-0 from five grass starts, and he picked up his first win on the grass in March in a $35,000 maiden-claiming race. The Hall of Fame will be his first try in a stakes race.
“We didn’t know what he was when he came in – dirt, turf, long, short,” Brown said. “It’s always a surprise when they can break out of the maiden claiming ranks and into stakes company.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas shows up with the coupled 3-1 entry of the formidable Skyring and the tireless campaigner Optimizer.
The former was a gate-to-wire winner of the James W. Murphy Stakes on the grass Preakness Day at Pimlico and a close-up third in the American Derby, just ahead of Daddy Nose Best. Optimizer, meantime, has competed in seven graded stakes races this year, including all three Triple Crown events. In his most recent start, he was fourth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on the turf at Colonial Downs.
Optimizer broke his maiden on the grass at Saratoga last year in his first career start at 27-1.
The field will be completed by Quick Wit, 8-1, fifth in the American Derby for trainer Dale Romans after a sharp allowance score on the turf at Churchill Downs, and Shkspeare Shaliyah, 20-1, winner last October of the Grade 3 Pilgrim on the grass at Belmont Park for trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal.
Raconteur, 5-1 on the morning line, is entered Main Track Only.