“He was pretty awesome,” said trainer Charles Lopresti of the 5-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry. “On the backstretch, I wasn’t sure if he was going to get there, or get bogged down in the inside. But Johnny [Velazquez] said he was never worried.”
Now, with an eye toward a possible run at Horse of the Year honors, Lopresti is confronted with a myriad of options for the Morton Fink color-bearer.
“He can go wherever,” he said. “In 2 ½, three weeks, we’ll breeze him on the dirt here. He’s starting to like the dirt track here, and we could look at the [Grade 1] Woodward [on September 1]. It’s not a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup, but it’s not all about ‘Win and You’re In.’”
Two turf races – the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch, also on September 1, or the Woodbine Mile on September 16 – are others options, said Lopresti.
* * *
Grace Hall, one of four Grade 1 winners pointing to Saturday’s Alabama, had her final serious work prior to the 1 ¼-mile race this morning, breezing four furlongs at Delaware Park in 49.40.
“She had a really good workout in company eight days ago, and she came into today’s workout very well; she was the same Grace Hall,” said trainer Tony Dutrow of the 3-year-old Empire Maker filly. “She worked by herself, from the 4 ½ [furlong pole], with a strong gallop out, and went from the half-mile pole to the wire in :49 2/5. We’re feeling very good about her. She seemed to come back to the barn and cool out in excellent shape.”
Grace Hall, who won last year’s Grade 1 Spinaway for owner Michael Dubb, is scheduled to arrive at Saratoga late Monday morning, said Dutrow.
“We’ve chosen this path because we had her experience being at Saratoga the whole meet last year,” said Dutrow. “We’re happy with how she’s prepared for the Alabama and the choices we’ve made. I don’t feel like we’re swimming in uncharted waters.”
Grace Hall has been first, second or third in all eight career starts, including victories this year in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks. She also finished second in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream and third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks behind Believe You Can, who is also pointing to the Alabama.
Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks winner Questing, Grade 1 Mother Goose winner Zo Impressive, Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner In Lingerie, Grade 3 Iowa Oaks winner Uptown Bertie, Grade 3 Railbird winner Via Villaggio and the Shug McGaughey-trained Sea Island, impressive winner of an optional claimer on July 26, are among those expected for Saturday’s race.
“The Coaching Club was a big race, the Kentucky Oaks was a big race, and this is a big race,” said Dutrow. “You have four Grade 1 winners anticipated in running, and the winner of this race will make a bold statement as to the division.”
* * *
Unbeaten Shanghai Bobby was scratched from today’s Grade 2 Saratoga Special with a fever, trainer Todd Pletcher said this morning.
Owned by Starlight Racing, Shanghai Bobby was the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 6 ½-furlong race for 2-year-olds off a one-length victory in the Track Barron overnight stakes on June 27 at Belmont Park, and a four-length debut score in April at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“Shanghai Bobby, unfortunately, had developed a temperature when we came in at 4:30,” said Pletcher. “[His temperature] was 101.9. We monitored it this morning, and by 10 o’clock it was over 103. We were forced to treat him at that time and scratch. It was unfortunate with the timing, considering how well he had trained up to this point.”
Pletcher said the colt could still make the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful on September 3 if he recovers promptly.
The trainer also reflected upon the career of Awesome Maria, a seven-time graded stakes winner who was recently retired with an injury to her right-front tendon.
“We scanned it and it had a little tear in it,” said Pletcher. “After consulting with Anna Ford and Mrs. Robsham, we decided to play it conservatively. She was a terrific filly for us, a top-level performer at 2, 3, and 4. We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to train her. We’ll miss her. She’s a lovely mare from Mrs. Robsham’s foundation broodmare. I would expect her to be as good of a broodmare as she was on the racetrack.”
Awesome Maria, whose top win came in the 2011 Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap, concluded her career with a third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 21.
On the worktab for Pletcher on Sunday were Grade 1 Alabama hopeful In Lingerie, Grade 1 Woodward contender Stay Thirsty, Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop hopeful Doctor Chit, and recent acquisition Mildly Offensive.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s In Lingerie, winner of the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and third in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, covered four furlongs in 48.70 seconds, breezing.
Stay Thirsty, owned by Mike Repole, breezed five furlongs on the Oklahoma training track in 1:01.69, with his workmate, Archwarrior, being clocked in 1:01.47.
“He seems to be rounding into form,” said Pletcher of Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Grade 1 Travers winner who was fifth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 7. “He breezed very well this morning. We have a few more works to go, but at this point we are on schedule [for the Woodward on September 1].”
Archwarrior, an unraced 2-year-old for Alto Racing, was scratched out of a maiden race yesterday.
“We think very highly of [Archwarrior], and we were concerned about starting him on a sloppy racetrack,” said Pletcher. “We hope to get him back in [a race] in the near future. He’s a big, strong colt, and he seems to be training very well.”
Doctor Chit and Mildly Offensive breezed four furlongs in company on the training track, with both receiving times of 48.60.
Owned by Nicholas Brady’s Mill House, Doctor Chit was second in the Grade 2 Amsterdam on July 29. The Foxwoods King’s Bishop will be contested August 25.
Mildly Offensive’s workout was her first since she was purchased by new owner WinStar Stable and transferred to Pletcher’s barn. The 4-year-old filly sprinter was a stakes winner in Southern California for owner Warren B. Williamson and trainer Carla Gaines.
“We don’t have any plans [for Mildly Offensive] at the moment, but we’ll look at a couple more breezes and go from there,” said Pletcher.
On Saturday, Turbulent Descent, who is targeting the Grade 1 Ballerina on August 24, breezed four furlongs on the training track in 1:00.80 for Pletcher and new owner Coolmore Stud.
* * *
Via Villaggio worked five furlongs Sunday morning in 1:03.60 at Del Mar and is ready the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies on August 18 at the Spa.
The daughter of Bernardini won the Grade 3 Railbird at seven furlongs in May at Betfair Hollywood Park. In her most recent start, on July 14, Via Villaggio finished second to Grace Hall in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, her first race on dirt since she began her career last fall making two starts on California fair circuit tracks.
“We’re definitely coming,” Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “It was a very nice work, nice and easy. Our rider, Corey Nakatani, worked her and we’re all ready to go.”
Via Villaggio is expected to arrive at Saratoga on Tuesday.
* * *
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Sunday morning he would run both Al Khali and Newsdad on August 18 in the Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational, provided they get the firm turf they prefer.
Al Khali was third in the race last year, taken up sharply in deep stretch in close quarters as winner Winchester swept to the lead on the outside. Jockey Alan Garcia filed an objection after the race, but no change was made to the order of finish.
Newsdad has won two of three starts at the Sword Dancer’s 1 ½-mile distance, including a two-length victory in March in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park.
After finishing fifth in a 1 ½-mile turf stakes race at Keeneland, Mott gave Newsdad a break and returned with him for a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Man o’ War on July 14 at Belmont Park.
“He had a little vacation,” Mott said. “We’re looking for him to run a little better race this time. He had a good winter; he ran a bunch of times. He’s had a race back in him, and hopefully he’s a little more primed than he was last time.”
* * *
Sensational Suburban Handicap winner Mucho Macho Man returned to the work tab for the first time since his July 7 victory with a bullet five-furlong breeze on the Oklahoma training track Sunday morning.
Under regular exercise rider Nick Petro, the 4-year-old Macho Uno colt was timed in 47 seconds by NYRA clockers, the fastest of 37 horses.
“He’s very good,” said Kathy Ritvo, who trains Mucho Macho Man for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. “He loves to train. He really relaxes, and he had a good work today.”
Though it was his regularly scheduled work day, Mucho Macho Man had one small adjustment made to his routine on Sunday, a remnant of the recent rainy weather.
“Instead of working at 5:30 [a.m.] like we usually do, I waited for the track to dry a little at 7:30,” Ritvo said. “We got a little traffic, but he worked good. There were two horses in front of him for someone else, and he came up on the inside of them and finished well.”
Mucho Macho Man captured the Grade 2 Suburban by 2 ½ lengths over Hymn Book at Belmont Park, running the nine furlongs in 1:46.58. It was his third win in four starts this year, including the Sunshine Millions Classic and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
The $750,000 Woodward will be run Saturday, September 1. It will be the second lifetime start at Saratoga for Mucho Macho Man, a veteran of all three Triple Crown races in 2011 who was third in a maiden race here on August 21, 2010.
In all, Mucho Macho Man has six wins, three seconds, four thirds and $1.3 million in purse earnings from 16 career starts.
“He’s serious about his work now,” Ritvo said. “He’s always been pretty serious, but he has really come into his own. He’s a June 15th foal, so it’s going to take him some time to mature. He’s always been a pretty smart horse; he’s just starting to grow into his body and put on a lot of muscle.
“What I love about him is he’s professional and he’s consistent,” said Ritvo. “You put the bridle on to go over in the afternoon, and he just settles right down. He’s a gentleman. It’s a lot of fun to watch him run.”
* * *
On Monday, Saratoga Race Course will conduct a two-mile race for the first time since 2009, with the allowance/optional claiming event on the dirt for 3-year-olds and up attracting eight betting interests and nine total starters.
Carded as the eighth race, the two-mile race has a scheduled post time of 4:55 p.m. and carries a purse of $87,000.
The 8-5 morning-line favorite is Bridge Loan, trained by Todd Pletcher for Starlight Racing. The son of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker was second in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer on July 28 after finishing fourth in the Easy Goer in June at Belmont.
“I think he’s kind of a big, galloping sort that’s bred for it, so it might open up some options if the winter stakes program at Aqueduct has some of those mile and five-eighths type of races,” said Pletcher. “I like it. I think either he’s going to handle [the distance], or he won’t, but that’s sort of his style is just a good, steady clip. Hopefully he’ll settle and keep going. It’s not the first time they’ve had [a race like this] up here.”
Javier Castellano will ride Bridge Loan from post position 4.
David Jacobson trains the coupled entry of Springcourt and Ea, with the entry made the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Both Springcourt and Ea are owned by Drawing Away Stable and Jacobson.
“There aren’t many horses who can go that distance. A mile and an eighth is cool, for two miles it takes a special horse, so we’ll see what I got. You never know [if your horse will get the distance] until you try it. [Springcourt and Ea] were the two logical horses based on their past performances to give me my best shot. They’re special races. It will almost be like winning a stakes race [if Springcourt or Ea were to win].”
Springcourt, who has one win in 12 starts, enters Monday’s race off a fourth in a conditioned claiming race on August 1.
“He seems to always run well,” said Jacobson. “He is a plodder; that’s his kind of running style. It will be interesting to watch.”
David Cohen has the mount aboard Springcourt from post 5.
Ea, who has placed in three stakes in his career, got up by a nose to win an off-the-turf conditioned claiming race last Monday.
“I think he’s improving, and I’m really excited to see how he runs,” said Jacobson.
Ea will depart from post 9 with Ramon Dominguez in the irons.
The field also includes Elder Skatesman, Sensor, Tap Attack, Sumo, Red Letter Day, and Veiled Prophet.