“The weather has nothing to do with whether we run in the Whitney or not,” Howard said. “I want to talk to Mr. Farish and look over our options. We might go in the Whitney, but we may decide on an overnight race instead. We’ll just wait and see.”
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Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens has been a fixture at Saratoga Race Course for almost 60years - his history and prestige is only matched by the track itself.
“I’ve been coming here since 1946,” explained Jerkens, who tried his hand at steeplechase riding before taking out his trainer’s license in 1950. “But I didn’t come every year - I missed ’67 and ’68 and the first four years of the 80s.”
When Jerkens did venture upstate, however, he made it count. He got the nickname “The Giant Killer” because of his knack for sending out horses to beat seemingly unbeatable opponents.
His most well known upset was right here at Saratoga when he beat Triple Crown winner Secretariat with Onion in the 1973 Whitney. To this day, that still remains his favorite memory of the track that has been so good to him.
When asked how Saratoga has changed from 1946 to 2008, Jerkens said: “It’s just changed like the rest of the world has. Nothing more than that - just like everything else.”
Jerkens will saddle Tizbig in the upcoming Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Sunday - the traditional prep for Saratoga’s most famous race, the Grade 1 Travers Stakes presented by Shadwell Farm on Saturday, August 23rd. For a man who has received almost every award and accolade possible for a trainer, his first Travers win would be a welcomed addition to an already brilliant record at Saratoga.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will run Alwajeeha in Friday’s Grade 2 Lake George for three-year-old fillies on the turf and Abraaj in Saturday’s Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at six furlongs, said that he could possibly have two runners in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap at seven furlongs here on August 30.
“Rain or shine, Abraaj will run in the Vanderbilt,” McLaughlin said. “If he runs well, he’ll probably go into the Forego. Lucky Island is going to train up to the Forego.
“I’m lucky to have two good horses like that for the same owner, because it gives us options.”
All three horses are owned by Shadwell Stable. Lucky Island, an Argentina-bred, has won five of six career starts, and all four starts this year.
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Trainer Pat Kelly is, rightfully so, still beaming with pride over 10-year-old Evening Attire, who won the Greenwood Cup Stakes at Philadelphia Park on July 19. Evening Attire’s 8 ¼-length victory in the 1 ½-mile race broke a 16-year-old track record and automatically landed the gray into the newly-created Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita on October 25.
It was Evening Attire’s 15th victory in 69 starts and his first win outside of New York moved his career earnings to just under the $3 million mark. Evening Attire’s final time was 2:29.90 on a fast main track, topping the previous track record of 2:31 set by Laugh a Minute on Jan. 4, 1992.
“He’s doing fine,” Kelly said. “He’s tired, but he ran hard and it was a hot day down there. That’s what surprised me the most. I didn’t know who he would handle the heat.
“I really don’t know what will be next for him. He’s so classy and he’s been so good to us. He pretty much picks his own spots, and when he’s ready to run, he lets us know it.”
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Trainer Steve Asmussen, who arrived in Saratoga Tuesday evening, is looking forward to the possibility of a successful opening week at the Spa.
“I’ve got some very nice horses and, hopefully, they’ll run well,” said Amussen, who will saddle Copper State in Saturday’s Grade 1 Go for Wand, Pyro in Sunday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy, Devereux in Monday’s Grade 2 Amsterdam and possibly Student Council in the Grade 1 Whitney on Saturday.
“I talked with (owner) Ro (Parra) about at least entering Student Council,” said Asmussen. “Fortunately, we have until Saturday to decide whether to run.”
Asmussen, who will be shuttling back and forth between Kentucky and Saratoga this summer, reported that 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin came out of Monday’s work – his first since finishing second in the Grade 1 Man o’War Stakes on July 12 – in good order. The Man o’War was his first start on turf, and was meant to be a gauge of Curlin’s ability to handle the surface for a possible start in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October. The result was inconclusive.
“He’s going very well,” said the trainer of Curlin, who was clocked in 51.47 over a sloppy, sealed track at Saratoga.
Asmussen said he has had several discussions with owner Jess Jackson about Curlin’s next start, but that nothing had been decided.
“I have no idea if anything is eliminated,” he said.
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With a barn liberally sprinkled with regally-bred two-year-olds and stakes horses, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who has been coming to Saratoga since 1985, is looking forward to a “competitive” meet this year.
“There are some two-year-olds who will be starting later in the meet that could be okay, plus we have a couple of three-year-old maidens I am looking forward to running,” said McGaughey, referring to a son of Storm Cat out of Educated Risk named Bet the Limit and a Giant’s Causeway colt who is a half-brother to Pine Island named Offshore.
Among the two-year-olds who should be making their debut at Saratoga is the first foal out of Storm Flag Flying, the McGaughey-trained Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top two-year-old filly in 2002. The colt, by A.P. Indy, is named Colors Flying.
“Like I said, I don’t think I have any superstars among the two-year-olds, but then again, I could have said the same thing about Storm Flag Flying before she ran,” said the trainer.
This weekend, McGaughey will be saddling Receipt in Friday’s Grade 2 Lake George and Criminologist in Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana.
“They’re not going to be 6-5 but I think they’re both going to have a chance,” he said.
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Residing in the unique, oversized, trapezoidal corner stall in John Kimmel’s barn in the annex at the Spa is a strapping, 17-hands tall chestnut colt named Premium Gold, a three-year-old son of Mineshaft that the trainer thinks could make his presence known later this year.
“I thought we’d get him into a race at Belmont at the end of the meet, but it didn’t fill,” said Kimmel of Premium Gold, who is out of the Unbridled mare Boom Town Girl. “We sent him to Monmouth and he won for fun. He’ll be running here on August 10th going a mile and an eighth, which should be a very good spot for him.”
In the maiden race at Monmouth, Premium Gold ran off to a 6 ½-length victory under Eddie Castro, covering the mile and one sixteenth in 1:44.87.
“He’s a beautiful mover, but mentally, he was a little slow to come around,” said Kimmel, who owns Premium Gold with his father, Caesar, George Kline, and Michael Matz. “I really think he is a horse with a future.”
Kimmel’s stable colors – bright blue diamonds with his initials J-C-K in yellow – are a familiar sight at Saratoga. But what does the “C” stand for?
“Everyone thinks it’s Caesar,” said Kimmel, “but actually, it’s Clark.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott returned to Saratoga where he will defend his title after finishing with 27 wins last year. While Mott has talented horses in his stable, he knows that winning his 10th Saratoga title will depend on more than that.
“We have nice horses here, but it’s all about timing,” Mott said. “It changes from year to year. The conditions change. Horses change. All you can do is adapt to those changes. There are trainers here who have loaded stables. Someone is going to have a great meet.”
Mott’s horses on today’s Opening Day card were to have been Zayat Stables’ Pious David and Zensational, both of whom were scratched from the second race.
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Wood Memorial winner Tale of Ekati was on the Saratoga Race Course main track this morning around 6 o’clock for a workout leading up to the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 3.
With exercise rider Kristin Troxell, Tale of Ekati, who had been recovering from an injury suffered during his sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.07 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5.
“He was pretty sore after that race,” said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. “It has been a problem for him for a while. I was glad he went out there early instead of later because the track became sloppy.”