“It wasn’t nearly as fast as last week. I didn’t want him to go nearly as fast as last week,” said trainer Eoin Harty of Endorsement, who on July 23 breezed five furlongs in a bullet 58.96. “I’m not sure what the official time was, but he did it very easily and came back very well. I don’t think his fitness is in question.”
Harty said he anticipates the Casner Racing color-bearer to be forwardly placed in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race.
“I don’t know what’s in there, but I envision myself being on the lead as long as possible,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s long enough.”
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It was an interesting morning for Grade 1 Whitney candidate Fort Larned, whose final breeze in company for Saturday’s race included an encounter with another horse galloping in close proximity to the rail near the half-mile pole.
Working with stablemate Cape Glory, the pair wound up on either side of the galloper, with Fort Larned going through along the inside and Cape Glory on the outside, said trainer Ian Wilkes.
Fort Larned was clocked in 58.69, the second-fastest of 42 works at the distance, while Cape Glory checked in at 1:00.75.
“It probably made us work a little faster, having to run through the hole, but everything is fine,” said Wilkes. “He’s a fast horse.”
Fort Larned, an E Dubai colt owned by Janis Whitman, has earned identical triple-digit Beyer speed figures of 108 in three of his last four starts, including his three-length victory over Successful Dan in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on June 30.
“I don’t have to do the running, so I’m not nervous, but it’s always exciting when you have a horse good enough to compete in a Grade 1 at Saratoga,” said Wilkes.
Brian Hernandez will ride Saturday, Wilkes said.
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Emma’s Encore signaled her readiness for Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Prioress with a 47.53 four-furlong breeze on the main track Monday morning.
“She did about as good as you can hope,” said her Hall of Fame trainer, Allen Jerkens. “She felt pretty good. I don’t think the track is lightning fast. Anyway, that’s it. We wanted her to work good.”
Owned by Brenda Mercer and Peter Berglar, Emma’s Encore enters the Prioress, a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, off a 39-1 upset in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 7, her first win in a graded stakes. Jamaican Smoke, Tu Endie Wei, and Agave Kiss, respectively second, third, and fifth in the Victory Ride, are expected to face Emma’s Encore again in the Prioress.
“[Emma’s Encore will] have to do even better if she’s going to get this one,” said Jerkens. “If she runs in this one, we won’t run in the Test [Grade 1, August 25]. You never know how the track is going to play, if it’s going to be playing speed. That’s why they don’t win them all, but you got to take a chance. If she could do it, it’d be some feather in her cap, a Grade 1.”
Jerkens won the Prioress, previously contested at Belmont, in 1993 with Classy Mirage and in 2003 with House Party.
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Trainer David Jacobson will on Wednesday send out the formidable uncoupled duo of Saginaw and Fiddlers Afleet in the $100,000 John Morrissey, a 6 ½-furlong race for New York-breds.
Saginaw, who won five straight earlier this year, will look to rebound off a last-of-six performance in Belmont’s Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 28, his first start in a graded stakes. His winning streak included scores in the Carr Heaven overnight stakes on April 29 and the Affirmed Success on May 19, also at Belmont.
David Cohen will ride Saginaw, owned by Drawing Away Stable and Jacobson, from the rail. The 6-year-old gelding was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
Gary Barber’s Fiddlers Afleet, who since 2010 has raced in six different states, won the Chasin’ Wimmin’ on July 6 at Belmont, his first race for Jacobson. The 6-year-old was fourth in the Carr Heaven and third in a Betfair Hollywood Park optional claimer in May under the tutelage of trainer John Sadler.
John Velazquez picks up the mount on Fiddlers Afleet, 4-1 on the morning line. The tandem will leave from post position 5.
Bandbox, a three-time stakes winner, returns to New York for trainer Rodney Jenkins after having finished second in a Laurel Park optional claimer in January, the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap in May at Pimlico, and the Wild and Wonder Stakes on June 30 at Charles Town. The last time he was in New York, the 4-year-old was sixth in the Vodka overnight stakes in December at Aqueduct. The Vodka top two, Dr Disco (15-1) and Law Enforcement (20-1), were also entered in the John Morrissey.
Owned by Hillwood Stable, Bandbox will depart from post 3 under Rosie Napravnik as the 3-1 morning-line second choice.
The Morrissey field also includes Head Heart Hoof, Uncle T Seven, Be Bullish, and Mine Over Matter.
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Divine Fortune will try for a third straight victory Thursday in the Grade 1, $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial, one of two steeplechases on the 11-race card.
Trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, the 9-year-old Royal Anthem gelding has competed twice this year, taking an allowance race in April and finishing second in the Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle in May. Sheppard will also saddle Iroquois third-place finisher Nation Builder in the 2 1/16-mile race, with the entry tabbed as the 9-5 favorite.
Owner Irvin Naylor will send out a four-horse entry headed by Via Galilei, who this year has won the Grade 3 David L. Ferguson Memorial Stakes at Colonial Downs and the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap at Middleburg. Also part of the entry, 2-1 on the morning line, are Tax Ruling and Decoy Daddy, fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Iroquois, and European import The Jigsaw Man, making his American debut.
Completing the field are All Together, Country Cousin, Dynaski, Left Unsaid, and Spy in the Sky, who won the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup in 2009.
Mabou, who won last year’s Turf Writers Cup, will compete over fences in the first race, a 2 1/16-mile optional claimer.
* * *
Thursday’s 11th race, a 1 1/16-mile turf event for New York-bred maiden 2-year-olds, attracted 16 entries, including four also-eligibles and a pair of main-track-only entrants. One name in particular stands out, and that is the moninker of No. 7 Notacatbutallama.
Notacatbutallama, a first-time starter from the barn of Todd Pletcher, will carry the colors of Repole Stable, the leading owner at Saratoga Race Course the past two years. His name was inspired by a game of Taboo owner Mike Repole played with friends and family members the evening after his charge Stay Thirsty won the 2011 Grade 2 Jim Dandy.
When playing Taboo, one team member is given a card with an assigned word. He or she gives his teammates clues about the word without using the word itself or five related words that are listed on the card. With those restrictions in place, his or her teammates must guess what the assigned word is before time expires.
“The word was ‘dog,’” Repole recalled. “So the person giving the clues says, ‘Not a cat, but a…’ My wife [Maria] was on the guessing team and shouts out, “LLAMA!’ If you gave me 100 animals to guess, ‘llama’ wouldn’t make anyone’s list, but it was Maria’s first guess. So that’s where Notacatbutallama got his name.”
Notacatbutallama is not the first Repole Stable horse whose name was inspired by Maria Repole. Three – Noshoppingmaria, Stopspendingmaria, and Stopshoppingmaria – were named in honor of her spending habits. Other horses named for his family members include Benny the Waiter (his father), Lights Off Annie (his mother), Nonna Mia (his grandmother), and Gerard Loves Beer (his brother). On Friday, Repole Stable will be represented by Midnight Taboo in race 5.