Da’ Tara worked well yesterday, going a half-mile in 50.66 on the Oklahoma Training Track. Friday, Zito has decided to try something new for Anak Nakal. He sent him to the turf course.
Although it is too early to know where he will be running next, Anak Nakal will work again over the turf next week. Da’ Tara will remain on the path towards the “Mid-Summer Derby,” the 139th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes presented by Shadwell Farm on Saturday, August 30. Zito said that the Tiznow colt is “right on target” for the 1 ¼-mile Travers, the nation’s oldest stakes for three-year-olds and Saratoga’s centerpiece race.
According to New York Racing Association Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes, Acai, Colonel John, Harlem Rocker, Macho Again, Mambo in Seattle, Pyro, Tale of Ekati and Tres Borrachos are probable for the Travers, along with Da’Tara. Questionable at this point are Amped, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, You and I Forever, Tiz Now Tiz Then and the filly, Music Note.
The second- and third-place finishers of last Sunday’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, Coal Play and Cool Coal Man, are back in Saratoga for training. Wearing the same silks as Da’ Tara, Coal Play almost held off Big Brown for a win in the Haskell, which would have been the second upset win over Big Brown by Zito and owner Robert LaPenta.
According to Zito, Coal Play needs more time in training before picking out a definite spot for his next run. Cool Coal Man, winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, has also resumed training, and although Zito suggests anything is possible with this horse, he will continue training on the dirt.
One of Zito’s more exciting three-year-olds is Truth Rules who, unfortunately, had to scratch from the Haskell Invitational.
“He was training better than anyone,” Zito said. “But he had a temperature that knocked him out a little; he was all set for the Haskell.”
Right now, Zito would like to point him to the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for three-year-olds at nine furlongs on Labor Day, Monday, September 1.
“He’s interesting; he could be any kind of horse,” Zito said. “There are still plenty of races left in New York in the fall. He is a horse with a promising future that just gets better every time.”
Ron Winchell’s Pyro, who was beaten a half-length by Macho Again in the Jim Dandy is expected to work six furlongs on Monday morning on the Oklahoma training track in preparation for the Travers.
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Trainer Barclay Tagg reported Saturday morning that Aqueduct’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Tale of Ekati, fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes here on July 2y, was “still on track” for the Travers.
“He’s training well, he’s looking good,” said Tagg.
Tagg said the next work for the son of Tale of the Cat, who was second in last year's Sanford at the Spa, will most likely be on grass.
“I have his shoes off to let his feet air out a little,” explained Tagg. “So, whenever that comes up next.”
With four winners as the meet approaches its midpoint, Tagg was not displeased with how his stable is doing.
“No matter how hard you work, you need a lot of luck,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky.”
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Music Note, who defeated stablemate Little Belle to win the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, is under consideration for the Travers, Rick Mettee, North American racing manager for Godolphin Stable, said Saturday morning.
“As of right now, both are being pointed toward the (Grade 1) Alabama (August 16),” he said. “But Music Note is definitely nominated to the Travers.”
Both Music Note and Grade 1 Ashland winner Little Belle are scheduled to breeze five furlongs Sunday morning, said Mettee, after which trainer Saeed bin Suroor will decide where they will next run.
“Music Note is pretty consistent, while Little Belle is not the best work filly,” said Metee, noting that it will be the first breeze for Music Note since the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Grade 1 Mother Goose. “We certainly want to run one of the two fillies in the Alabama – we don’t want to miss that race, which looks to have a small field.
“Without Big Brown, the Travers looks like it might have 12 horses, and that’s a consideration.”
The last filly to win the Travers was Lady Rotha in 1915.
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Trainer Eoin Harty reported Saturday morning that Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John is scheduled to arrive in Saratoga on August 20 for his engagement in the Travers. Third in the Swaps Stakes in his first start since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, Colonel John worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Del Mar on August 6.
“He’s in top shape,” said Harty. “If there’s a plane in between now and then, I may put him on that.”
The trainer said that Tiz Now Tiz Then, third in the Jim Dandy, was nominated to the Travers but would most likely start in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on September 1.
Two major Grade 1 races will be featured at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 16: the 128th running of the $600,000 Alabama for three-year-old fillies at a mile and a quarter, and the 34th edition of the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap for three-year-olds and upward at a mile and a half on the turf.
If Music Note runs in the Alabama, she is likely to have a rematch with Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell.
Zayat Stables LLC’s Mushka, who won the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct as a two-year-old last year, is also considered a probable for the race. In her first start this year, Mushka was third in an allowance race at Saratoga on July 25.
Others still under consideration for the Alabama are Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan winner Sweet Vendetta for WinStar Farms LLC and trainer Gary Contessa, and Stonerside Stable’s Skylighter.
Better Talk Now, the 9-year-old fan favorite owned by Bushwood Stables, is looking for his second Sword Dancer victory after winning his first in 2004. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.46 at Fair Hill, Md. this morning for trainer H. Graham Motion and will be making his 46th career start on Saturday.
A tremendous field is taking shape for the Sword Dancer, with 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks (IRE) being targeted for the race after defeating Horse of the Year Curlin in the Grade 1 Man o’War last month at Belmont Park. Trained in Ireland and the United Kingdom by Brian Meehan, Red Rocks will be saddled here by Mark Hennig. The 5-year-old Red Rocks went five furlongs on the firm Oklahoma Turf Course in 1:01.88 on Friday morning.
“He’s been doing great,” Hennig said. “He seems to have adjusted to the American method and style of training. He didn’t have to do a lot of training before his last race here. He came in, got out of quarantine on Thursday, trained Friday, and raced Saturday and that was it. So, he’s had to go out and train and come to a new place here, and he’s handled it all really well.”
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Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier (GB) is expected to come back for the Sword Dancer after winning the race last year for trainer Robert Ribaudo. Grade 1 Manhattan winner Dancing Forever is looking to make the race for Hall of Famer “Shug” McGaughey, who trains for the Phipps Stable.
Grade 1 United Nations winner Presious Passion is also on the strong list of invitees for this race, which includes Champs Elysees, Equitable, and Telling. Hostess, a 5-year-old mare who has finished behind Mauralakana in her last two races, and Embossed are considered questionable for the Sword Dancer.
The alternate list of Sword Dancer invitees will be posted on Monday.
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The 92nd running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Adirondack Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 6½ furlongs starts the fourth week of the Saratoga meet on Wednesday, August 13.
Garden District and Simplify, first and third, respectively, in the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs in their last start, are candidates for the Adirondack. They are expected to meet the undefeated Bold Union, recent winner of Belmont Park’s Astoria.
Also being pointed to the Adirondack are Doremifasollatido, Golden Artemis, Mani Bhavan and Pretty Prolific.
The juvenile colts and geldings will have their race on Thursday with the 105th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Saratoga Special at 6½ furlongs. Run Away and Hide, winner of the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 1, is likely.
Lyin’ Heart, second to Screen Your Friend in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes, is also a probable for the Saratoga Special. Other candidates include recent maiden winners Break Water Edison, Dueling Alex, Heir to the Stone, Join in the Dance and Renaldothewizard.
Proud Jefe, winner of the Brian Barenscheer Juvenile Stakes at Canterbury Park, and Medaglia d’Onore are also being considered for the race.
Grade 3 Virginia Oaks winner I Lost My Choo, who was scratched from Thursday’s Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallion Series, will try Friday’s 25th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake Placid Stakes for three-year-old fillies at a mile and an eighth over the Saratoga turf course.
Another likely for the Lake Placid is Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Sands Point winner Raw Silk. Also expected are European imports Rose Grace and Zaskar, as well as Backseat Rhythm, Encanto Park, Much Obliged and Namaste’s Wish. Value Steam is questionable for the race.
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Exercise rider Oscar Gomez was taken to Saratoga Hospital Saturday morning complaining of pain in his ribs after a spill on the main track at Saratoga around 9 a.m.
Gomez had just finished breezing a two-year-old filly named Matty Mae four furlongs in 48.90 when she suddenly fell while galloping out. The filly was unhurt.
“He was dazed and said his ribs hurt,” said Matty Mae’s trainer, Linda Rice. “We’re not exactly sure what happened to the filly but she was able to get up and walk back home.”
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Thursday’s Grade 2 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase was won by High Action. The 2007 Smithwick winner, Mixed Up, unfortunately, was scratched. Now nine years old, Mixed Up will likely not race again this year.
“Ever since last year he’s had some little nagging soundness problems,” said Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. “And it’s always been, up until three days before the race, something you can sort of live with. He wasn’t quite 100 percent, but it wasn’t something that you couldn’t run him.”
Mixed Up seemed to be holding it together before the Smithwick. He worked five furlongs in 1:00.46 on the firm Oklahoma turf course on August 4.
“After he had a strong work on Monday, three days before the race, he was definitely worse the next day,” Sheppard said. “His right front leg had an inflamed area, we called in the vet and he said we better scan it. The horse had a small tear in the top of suspensory, and they recommended four to six months off.”
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Starforaday, winner of the Maryland Sprint Handicap back in May, worked five furlongs this morning in 58.29 on the Oklahoma Track. Trained by Gary Contessa, the 5-year-old is likely to run next week.
“I’ve been training horses on the Oklahoma track forever, because that’s my track of preference, and I’ve never seen a horse work as good as he did, but he’s a hell of a horse.” Contessa exclaimed, clearly pleased with this morning’s work.
Starforaday has been taking it easy since experiencing feet issues.
“He won the Maryland sprint championship, and then he came back and injured his foot in his last start, and he didn’t really fire. He quarter cracked his foot very badly, and we have not had him right until today. And if he cools out of this okay today, he will be in a race next week, either a stakes or an allowance.”
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Louie Olah was the beloved silks man for the New York Racing Association for 41 years. His death at the age of 79 on March 8 marked the end of a “colorful” life for a man who won his first race in 1946, retired from riding in 1966 and took care of the owners’ silks thereafter.
On Monday, August 11, NYRA will dedicate the Saratoga Race Course silks room to the memory of Louie Olah in a special ceremony at 10:30 a.m. outside of the room, which is located behind the jockeys’ room.
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Members of Saratoga’s jockey colony will face a team from the New York State Police on Monday, August 11 in an annual charity softball game to benefit the Disabled Jockeys Fund and Clifton Park-based Catie Hoch Foundation, which helps children while they are in treatment for cancer.
The game will take place at the East Side Recreation Field in Saratoga Springs, NY, and gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Horse owner Bill Parcells, executive vice president of football operations for the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, will throw out the honorary first pitch at 6:30 p.m. and the game will begin at 7 p.m.
Cost is $5 per person; $20 for a family of five or more. The first 200 paid admissions will receive a free 8 x 10 photograph of the jockeys, while supplies last.
Ric Mitchell of B 95.5 FM will be master of ceremonies.
For more information, contact John Steve of the State Police at (518) 457-9609 or Gina Peca at the Catie Hoch Foundation at (518) 877-7359.