Paynter, second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes to Union Rags, won the Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park and two days later spiked a fever. Baffert had the colt examined at the Mid-Atlantic Equine Center in Ringoes, N.J., and later shipped him to Belmont Park.
“We talked yesterday and this morning about it,” Baffert said from Del Mar. “It was going to be tough. I wouldn’t be able to get a work into him, and it would be too much. We’ll just get him right and get him back to full steam and nominate him everywhere.”
Baffert still has Arnold Zechter’s Liaison on track for the 1 ¼-mile Travers. The Indian Charlie colt worked five furlongs in 1:00.38 on Saratoga’s main track this morning.
“Liaison is doing well,” Baffert said.
Expected for the Travers as well are Jim Dandy winner Alpha and runner-up Neck n’ Neck; Street Life and Five Sixteen, first and second in the Curlin; Haskell runner-up Nonios and third-place finisher Stealcase; and Hansen, most recently fourth in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, along with Cogito, Atigun, and possibly Teeth of the Dog, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.
Five Sixteen breezed for the Travers this morning, covering five furlongs in 1:00.35 over the main track, while Atigun went four furlongs in 48.55 over the Oklahoma training track.
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With his connections seriously considering the Grade 1 Travers, Stealcase breezed six furlongs in 1:12.53 on the Saratoga main track on Monday with regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.
“We were looking for a big work, and he delivered that,” said Norman Casse, son and assistant of trainer Mark Casse. “He went out three quarters in 1:12 and seven eighths in 1:25. You really can’t work better any better than that, so it seems like we’re on track for the Travers at this point.”
Stealcase, who seeks his first stakes win, was third, beaten 8 ¼ lengths by Paynter, in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park after hitting the gate at the start.
“We’ve had several good horses this year, including one [Prospective] who actually made the Derby,” said Casse. “Stealcase has always been our favorite 3-year-old from the very beginning. It just seems like he’s his own worst enemy, and he hasn’t really put everything together. Even in the Haskell, had he broke better, he probably would have finished second. I don’t think we would have beaten Paynter that day, but we were going to be a lot closer. He’s always been knocking on the door; we’re just waiting for him to put it all together one time.”
Casse said Stealcase gets distracted but noted the John Oxley color-bearer has improved since they outfitted him with blinkers this spring.
“He actually was standing perfectly in the gate at Monmouth Park, and I was watching him down on the apron,” said Casse. “As soon as the crowd roared a little bit when all the horses got in the gate and he was on the outside, and he turned his head to look at the crowd and broke awkwardly.”
Stealcase has competed once at Saratoga, a fourth in his 2011 debut.
“He’s always liked this racetrack,” said Casse. “He’s only had one start over it, and it was his first start as a 2-year-old. He broke badly and the race was compromised from the beginning. He’s spent the last two summers up here and has never not worked well, so we know he likes the surface.”
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Live Oak Plantation’s Zo Impressive was one of three contenders for the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile Alabama on the worktab on Monday, turning in a 1:01.90 five-furlong breeze on the main track.
“She worked very well this morning,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “It looks like she’s keeping in good form, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Zo Impressive, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn in May at Belmont, will attempt to turn the tables on Questing in the Alabama. In the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21, Zo Impressive was second to Questing by 4 ¼ lengths.
“I don’t think [Zo Impressive will] have a problem with [the Alabama’s 1 ¼-mile distance],” said Albertrani. “It looked like she was finishing in the last eighth of a mile in the Coaching Club. She was gaining a little bit late in the race. Maybe that was from [Questing] starting to get tired and drifting out, but I don’t see why she wouldn’t go a little further. She’s been very consistent; she’s been 1-2 in all of her starts. Hopefully she’ll run her race again.”
Also breezing on the main track was Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, who went four furlongs in 1:02.78 with jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard. Sea Island earned a bullet for her 48.20 four-furlong breeze on the Oklahoma training track.
Grace Hall, winner of the Delaware Oaks, arrived in trainer Tony Dutrow’s Saratoga barn from Delaware Park on Monday. Dutrow said Grace Hall will jog tomorrow.
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Spurious Precision emerged from his Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special victory in good order and will make his next start in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne Stakes on October 6 at Belmont Park, trainer Rick Violette confirmed Monday.
“All is well so far,” said Violette, who trains the colt for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. “He walked this morning, and he was a little tired. Our plan is to chill out a bit and have him ready for the Champagne, hopefully have a fresh horse again going into the fall. It pays being nimble though – sometimes horses just don’t cooperate with the best-laid plans.”
Violette originally had planned to send Carried Interest, a gutsy debut maiden winner at Belmont on July 5, to the Saratoga Special, but that horse turned up with a sore shin and will be rerouted to the Grade 2, $300,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful on September 3, Violette said. Instead, Spurious Precision filled in for his stablemate – also campaigned by Klaravich and Lawrence – to wheel back from a July 21 maiden victory. Pressed on the lead through early fractions of 21.35 and 44.02 in yesterday’s race, Spurious Precision drew clear to win by five lengths under Alan Garcia.
“He broke so sharp, it’s awfully difficult to tap on the brakes at that point and give up what came to him so easily, but they certainly put high pressure on him,” Violette said. “We got pressed real hard by Southern Honor, and as soon as we put him away, Drum Roll pounced, so there was no breather there. I thought the scratch [of morning-line favorite Shanghai Bobby] actually might have hurt me. As much as he was a really nice horse, he would have been the speed to point at. I think [Spurious Precision] will be fine stalking, given his first race, so I think we’ll be able to turn down the pilot light a little bit. He’s actually probably better running at horses.”
Violette was equally impressed by the way the son of High Cotton handled himself off the racetrack on Sunday.
“He’s very cool,” the trainer said. “In the paddock he was so quiet you were hoping he was OK, and in the winner’s circle he was the same way, it looked like he hadn’t run.”
The colt’s good temperament was one of the things that made him attractive to Violette at the 2012 OBS April Sale, where the colt fetched $105,000 from de Meric Sales, Agent.
“He was a really well-balanced, good mover, and seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders, kind of in a plain brown wrapper,” Violette said. “Nick de Meric was the consigner and his son actually found [Spurious Precision] in a field in Ocala somewhere. Tristan [de Meric] was there to look at some other horses and he kept saying ‘Who’s that, who’s that?’ and the guy said ‘Eh, he’s a cheap one.’ He said ‘Well, do you mind if I take a look at him?’ and pulled him out of the field. That’s a pretty good story. I’m very friendly with the de Merics; they’re a wonderful family, and Tristan obviously displayed some talent [picking out Spurious Decision]
Violette added that Carried Interest will likely begin galloping next week for his Hopeful engagement.
“He’s going to jog for another week or so,” Violette said. “I’ll just jog the pants off him. The shin, knock on wood, is really good, and we’ll start galloping him in another week. He’ll be fit enough to head over across the street [for the Hopeful]. We’re sparing nothing, it’s just that jogging doesn’t pound on the shin quite as much as galloping does, that’s all. Actually, it will be perfect, going to the Hopeful with him, but if the Hopeful had [still] been a Grade 1, we might not have run [Spurious Precision] yesterday. It does alter plans.”
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Kauai Katie returned from her victory in Sunday’s Grade 2 Adirondack in “excellent” condition, trainer Todd Pletcher reported this morning.
“Really good,” said Pletcher of the 2-year-old Stonestreet filly.
Kauai Katie is now 2-for-2 at the Spa, having broken her maiden on opening day, but it is unlikely she will try to turn the hat trick in the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 2.
“Chances are we don’t run her three times this meet, but nothing is etched in stone,” said Pletcher.
The trainer added that Drum Roll, who finished fourth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special after pressing the pace behind Spurious Precision, also returned in good form and is possible for the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful on September 3.
“He seemed to come back well,” said Pletcher. “He tried hard. It was a good effort for his second start.”
Pletcher sent out several workers for upcoming turf stakes, including Turbo Compressor (4f, turf, 47.22) for Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational and Disposablepleasure (4f, turf, 47.33) for Sunday’s Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid. Medolina, who is also heading to the Lake Placid, went a half-mile in 50.03.
Turbo Compressor, 3-0-1 from five starts this year including a front-running victory in the Grade 1 United Nations last time out, will be making his first start at 1 ½ miles in the Sword Dancer
“He worked well,” said Pletcher. “He seems to be handling 1 3/8 miles fine, so 1 ½ miles would seem to be in his scope.”
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It was a busy morning for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who sent out Grade 1 Sword Dancer probables Al Khali and Newsdad to work a half-mile in 50.22 and five furlongs in 1:02.11, respectively. Royal Delta worked five furlongs in 1:00.66 for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 26, and To Honor and Serve breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 for a possible start in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 1.
“Royal Delta had a very good work,” said Mott of the 4-year-old filly, who heads into the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign off victories in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap and the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. “I think 1:01 and change would have been fine, but she went along pretty well. She went off the right way and finished up nice, too. We’re two weeks away, so a decent work was in order.”
To Honor and Serve, the 2011 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap winner, has made three starts this year, taking the Grade 3 Westchester, then finishing third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and fourth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, all at Belmont Park.
“There is a very good possibility To Honor and Serve could run in the Woodward,” said Mott. “He’s starting to act better; more like himself. With the weather being cooler, he’s eating better and acting better.”
While Ron the Greek, second in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, will await the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, Mott said Whitney third-place finisher Flat Out could start in the Woodward.
“He’s not definite, but he’s a definite maybe,” said Mott.
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Regally Ready, victor of the 2011 Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, will make his second North American start following a campaign in Dubai in Wednesday’s $100,000 Troy, a 5 ½-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds and up.
After winning the Turf Sprint, Regally Ready dead-heated for third in the Grade 3 Daytona in January, was 13th in a Meydan conditions race and 14th in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in March, and fourth in a five-horse field in the Arlington Sprint on July 7. He was made the 7-2 third choice on the morning line for the Troy as he looks to regain top form.
Julien Leparoux will ride Regally Ready from post position 2 for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Vinery Stables.
The 9-5 morning-line favorite is Bridgetown, who won the 2011 Troy by 6 ¾ lengths. In his most recent start, Bridgetown was third in the Willard Straight on July 21 at Saratoga
Perfect Officer, second in the Troy, is the 3-1 second choice.
The field also includes Wekiva Wachee, Night Officer, Artest, Freudian Dilemma, and Zeb. Saginaw, Zero Rate Policy, and Crossbow were entered for the main track only.