“There is a slim chance that Shackleford might show up in the Vanderbilt,” said trainer Dale Romans. “A lot depends on how he breezes at Churchill tomorrow. It has been in the back of my mind for a while.”
Romans previously indicated that the 4-year-old son of Forestry would await the Forego, but he has seen signs that the 2011 Preakness winner might be ready sooner.
“He’s starting to come out of his shell and I don’t think it will be as taxing on him as the one and one eighth miles of the Whitney,” Romans said. “He’s a horse that likes to run, and if nothing else, it would be a good prep for the Forego. He only has three or four more races left in his career, so we might as well get them.”
If Shackleford does run in the Vanderbilt, it would be the first time in his career trying six furlongs. Because he was not nominated for the race, he would need to be supplemented for $8,000.
* * *
Trainer Reade Baker said Grade 1 Whitney Handicap candidate Hunters Bay and Grade 1 Prioress probable Tu Endie Wei will work tomorrow morning at Woodbine and ship to Saratoga on Monday morning for their engagements in next Saturday’s races.
“Everything’s a go,” Baker said from Toronto. “We’ll have to find out what the weights are for the Whitney before we know for sure.”
Winner of three straight at Woodbine, including the Grade 3 Dominion Day at 1 ¼ miles and the Grade 3 Eclipse at 1 1/16 miles, the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper hasn’t run past a mile in the United States since breaking his maiden at Belmont at 1 1/16 miles in May, 2010.
“We’ve always ended up sprinting in Florida; we’ve never had the chance to go long,” he noted, adding that the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 3 and the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 6 were long-term objectives for Hunters Bay en route to the Breeders’ Cup.
Tu Endie Wei, 4-1-0 at Woodbine, was making her first start on dirt when she finished third in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont.
“I think that she’ll end up running her best races on dirt, not Polytrack,” Baker said of the 3-year-old Johar filly. “Given that she had some mucus that day and got shuffled at the start, that might have been the best race of her life.”
He indicated that Tu Endie Wei likely would make one more start before the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Baker said he would like Tu Endie Wei and Hunters Bay to be stabled near Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, whose longshot Emma’s Encore won the Victory Ride.
“He and I went out to dinner the night before the race, and he was moaning about not being in the right race with her,” said Baker. “He led me down the garden path.”
* * *
Trainer Michele Nihei reported that Artest, who rallied from sixth to win Thursday’s 5 ½-furlong Quick Call by 1 ½ lengths on one week’s rest, emerged from his quick turnaround in fine form.
“Most of the credit has to go to [owner] Dennis Narlinger,” she said. “I’m not the type of person to wheel horses back like that. We really wanted to see if this horse wants to be a closing sprinter. It’s been a little frustrating, because he’s the type of horse that screams talent in the mornings. This morning, the horse was like ‘See? I told you this is what I wanted to do!’”
Nihei said the 3-year-old Hard Spun colt possibly could face older horses in the 5 ½-furlong Troy on August 15.
“At the moment we need to see if we can keep him on a progressive racing schedule,” said Nihei. “The Troy is three times as far away as the Quick Call was from his last race; we’ll look at anything short on the grass.”
Nihei added that Upgrade, winner of the Grade 3, seven-furlong Jaipur at Belmont Park on June 8, was under serious consideration for the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 11.
“It’s a mile, but I like the way he’s been training the past few days,” she said. “It’s a challenging spot for him. But he’s on schedule for it if that’s where we decide to go.”
Grade 1 Jamaica winner Prince Will I Am, unraced since the 2011 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap, continues to train well for a return to racing, said the trainer. A third workout is upcoming for the 5-year-old Victory Gallop ridgling, who last Sunday went a half-mile in 49.58.
“We had been looking at the [August 3] John’s Call, but that may be a little bit ahead of his schedule,” said Nihei. “If not, then we’ll look at something for when we get back to Belmont, or maybe at Keeneland.”
* * *
Among those pointing to next Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss is the well-traveled 5-year-old mare Island Bound, a former claimer who earned her first graded stakes victory on June 2 when she rallied from seventh to win the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs. Subsequently fifth in Belmont’s Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses in her only off-the-board outing of 2012, the daughter of Speightstown likely will have her final prep for the six-furlong race on Sunday, said trainer Ian Wilkes.
“She’s really turned the corner this year,” said Wilkes. “Last year we were running her for a $30,000 tag. All of a sudden, this year she got good. She’s doing well up here, as well. I think in her last race, the inside post hurt her. They went the first quarter in :23, and that kind of left me in the jackpot.”
Owned by Robert T. Manfuso, Island Bound is 3-3-0 from seven starts this year with earnings of $155,075.
Michael Aro might not be a name a lot of race fans recognize, but the 55-year-old trainer has been a pretty good sleeper over the years at Saratoga. In the late 1990s, he shipped in to the Spa four years in a row, winning each time with a tough claimer named Champagne for Lisa.
In 1990, he won the third race on Alabama Day with Keynote Speaker at 25-1.
Aro is the son of a jockey who rode on the Maryland small-track circuit before he got too big, and he cut his teeth as a horseman under the top New England trainer J.J Kelly in the 1980s at Rockingham Park. He keeps a stable of about 14, including steeplechasers, at Parx Racing, and has his sights set on Saratoga again this year.
On Thursday, he plans to run a steeplechaser and then show up for a bigger challenge August 3 with Winning Image for the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss, a six-furlong sprint stakes for 3-year-olds and up.
“The only thing I’ve done at Saratoga so far is make a few bucks,” Aro said Friday morning. “Keynote Speaker, Champagne for Lisa, she was a nice claiming mare. I’ve had a few winners.”
Winning Image, owned by Martin Scafidi, has won two stakes races this year, both at Parx, and finished third in her most recent start, the $150,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes on June 23 at Delaware Park.
As usual that day, Winning Image was on the lead, but gave way to third in the stretch.
“That jockey tried to fix running water,” joked Aro, referring to regular rider Jose Caraballo, who retains the mount for the Honorable Miss. “I think she’ll be on top of her game this time. She worked awful fast the other day (four furlongs in 47.39 seconds on July 25). She’s very competitive; she gives 110 percent all the time.”
Winning Image has only been off the board in one of her past seven starts, a seventh-place finish behind Nicole H in the Correction on February 4 on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.
“This past winter she came up with a lung infection and that was her only bad race,” Aro said.
Four of Winning Image’s seven wins have come at Suffolk Downs and the other three were in stakes races at Parx.
Aro believes the 5-year-old Southern Image mare is ready to win at her third track. “She gets up two or three, relaxes, and that’s it,” he said.
* * *
Though concerned that the 1 1/8 miles of tomorrow’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy might be too short for Atigun, trainer Ken McPeek said that the Istan colt didn’t have to win to move on to the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 25.
“We’d like to see him come running late,” he said of Atigun, most recently third behind Union Rags and Paynter in the Grade 1, ½-mile Belmont Stakes. “And if he doesn’t win, as long as he’s competing and gaining ground late, that’s fine.”
McPeek said he was unconcerned about the potential pace dynamics in the Jim Dandy.
“I never try to guess,” he said. “I’ve seen races where you expected a ton of pace and there was none, and races where you didn’t think there’d be any and there was plenty.
We’re going to let him run his race and if it sets up for him, fine.”
McPeek added that Atigun has been doing well since the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
“It was a good, solid race,” he said. “He came out of it fine and easy, no problems.”
* * *
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is conducting a free drawing over Facebook in which three fans will win a print commemorating the respective wins by Curlin and Rachel Alexandra in the 2008 and 2009 Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga Race Course.
The Woodward was a critical piece in the Horse of the Year campaigns for both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. The name of their foal will be announced later today after the Curlin Stakes, the eighth race on the card.
Entries for the contest will be accepted until 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Contestants must “like” NYRA on Facebook to be eligible to win.
Those who get three friends to sign up will be entered to win a secret prize.