“She looks great,” said Baffert. “She’s a little tired today. She ran great – her race before [Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Prioress on July 5] was pretty impressive and this race was extremely impressive. Plus, you know, the Test is a very important race so she stamped herself yesterday.”
“Last year, she was so fast that she was running her competition into the ground,” he said. “She’d just go pedal to the metal from the gate, but now she’s learning to relax and that’s the key. Now, she’s relaxed and not going out there :21 and change. And, she’s relaxing, so she’s finishing really well. Before she wasn’t finishing - she’d just get out there in front and they’d come to her but she’d always find the wire in time.”
Baffert plans to give Indian Blessing a few weeks to recover before deciding on future plans, which could include the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Friday October 24th.
“The Breeders’ Cup is in California (Santa Anita) this year,” Baffert said. “She has won on synthetic, but I think she’s more effective (on the dirt). She likes the dirt.”
* * *
The Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs on Travers Day, August 23rd may have gained a runner in Porte Bonheur, winner of the $80,000 Flanders Stakes on Saturday.
The $250,000 purchase by Johanna Murphy-Leopoldsberger stalked pacesetter More Happy before jockey Ramon Dominguez came through along the rail and drew away to win the six-furlong race by two lengths over favorite Lovely Isle.
This was the third winner in five starts at the Spa for trainer David Duggan, who had been an assistant to trainers Eoin Harty, John Kimmel and Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale.
For Porte Bonheur, it was her third career win in six starts as she finished the Flanders Stakes in 1:10.57. As a two-year-old, after finishing a disappointing eighth in her debut at Saratoga, Porte Bonheur broke her maiden and win the Open Mind Stakes at Belmont Park .
“Everything has seemed to fire at the right time,” Duggan said. “She’s a good filly. In her last race, she got into some trouble. She came back and trained well. That’s why we took a shot here. She was ready.”
After Porte Bonheur’s fourth-place finish in the Xtra Heat Stakes over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track, Duggan gave her seven months off.
“I wanted to give her the time off,” Duggan said. “I didn’t want to race her over the winter because I thought we had a decent filly. We wanted to bring her back here and see how she made out. I was thinking about going for the Victory Ride. That seems to be the next logical spot. If she comes out of this race fine, that’s where we are thinking about going.”
Roy Jackson’s Precious Kitten and Stronach Stables’ Spring Waltz worked together this morning over the Saratoga Race Course main track for Hall of Fame trainer Robert Frankel. Both Precious Kitten and Spring Waltz completed six furlongs in 1:12 3/5, handily.
Precious Kitten, who has not raced since winning the Grade 1 Gamely at Hollywood Park near the end of May, is considered a candidate for the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 3/16 miles over the Arlington Park turf course next Saturday.
Spring Waltz, a winner of four straight races that included the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream Park before finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in her last start, had been entered with stablemate and defending champion Ginger Punch for the Grade 1 Go for Wand here at Saratoga last Saturday. Ginger Punch won to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita on October 24th, while Spring Waltz was scratched.
Spring Waltz may be under consideration for the Grade 1, $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter here on August 22.
* * *
Godolphin’s Songster, who was retired to stud after a minor injury in 2007 but then put back in training when it was discovered that he had fertility issues, worked 51.24 on Saratoga’s main track this morning.
“We’re hoping that he can kind of pick up where he left off,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “Today was his first breeze. He went an easy half and he got a little tired, so we’re a good month away probably from seeing him run again. Most likely, we’ll be looking a money allowance race probably some time in September or a possible overnight stake maybe for his first time back.”
Songster has his work cut out for him if he is going to pick up where he left off. The speedy son of Songandaprayer won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont as a three-year-old and the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap as a four-year-old on his way to four wins and three seconds in his first eight starts for a career bankroll of $367,740.
* * *
Trainer H. Graham Motion is eyeing a return for Icabad Crane, who beat only one horse – Big Brown – in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
“I really have no excuses for him,” Motion said. “It just wasn’t his day. After that race, we decided to take it easy with him.”
Saturday morning, Icabad Crane breezed five furlongs in 1:03.40 on the all-weather track at Fair Hill, Maryland.
“Again, we’re just going easy with him right now,” Motion said. “Our plan is to try to run him in the Albany.”
The $150,000 Albany for three-year-old New York-breds at nine furlongs is the last leg of the OTB’s Big Apple Triple. The first two legs of the series – Belmont Park’s Mike Lee and the New York Derby at Finger Lakes – were both won by Tin Cup Chalice.
If Tin Cup Chalice wins the Albany, he will be the first horse to win the $250,000 bonus from the New York State Breeding and Racing Program for sweeping the series.
Also on Saturday, Motion sent out the ageless Better Talk Now, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40. The 9-year old, who ran third behind Red Rocks and 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Man o’War on July 12, is expected for the 34th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at a mile and a half on the turf here on Saturday, August 16.
A fan favorite, Better Talk Now won the Sword Dancer in 2004. John’s Call, the 2000 Sword Dancer winner, is the only 9-year-old to win this race.
Joining Better Talk Now are 13 other invitees to the Sword Dancer: Champs Elysees (GB), Curlin, Dancing Forever, Embossed (IRE), Equitable, 2007 Sword Dancer winner Grand Couturier (GB), Hostess, Interpatation, Presious Passion, Red Rocks (IRE), Strike a Deal, Sudan (Ire) and Telling.
The list of alternate invitees will be released on Monday, August 11.
* * *
Defending Horse of the Year Curlin, one of 14 horses invited to the Sword Dancer, part of the “Win and You’re In” series that holds an automatic berth for the victor in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, is scheduled to work Monday morning as his owner, Jess Jackson, and trainer, Steve Asmussen, finalize their plans for the colt’s next start, which could be another race on the turf or a return to dirt.
Jackson will announce Curlin’s next racing engagement Tuesday in a NTRA Communications National media teleconference at 1 p.m.
* * *
Along with trainer Carl Nafzger and jockey Edgar Prado, also being inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame Monday morning at the National Museum of Racing across Union Avenue from Saratoga Race Course are equine stars Inside Information and Manila from the contemporary category and, from the historical category, Ancient Title.
Inside Information, the Phipps’ homebred who was the champion older filly of 1995, fashioned a stellar record of 14 victories from 17 starts for her Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The daughter of Private Account, never worse than third, suffered the only loss of her championship season at Saratoga, when she stumbled badly at the start of the Grade 1 Ballerina and was second to Classy Mirage.
“She had a wonderful record,” said Ogden Mills Phipps of Inside Information. “She had the two qualities of speed and endurance. She could carry that speed over a distance of ground, which is what made her special.”
From June 1986 through July 1987, grass specialist Manila won nine consecutive graded stakes wins, a streak that came to a halt in the 1987 Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. His next start would be his last, and he redeemed himself with a 1 ½-length victory in the Arlington Million, leaving him with a record of 12 wins from 18 career starts and nearly $2.7 million.
Ancient Title, one of the “iron horses” of the 1970s, competed for seven seasons, primarily in California, and won 24 of 57 starts. Among the gelding’s 20 stakes victories was the 1975 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.
Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela, 73, who rode five-time Horse of the Year Kelso, was unable to travel to Saratoga Springs for the event and had a special induction ceremony in Santa Anita, near his home in Arcadia, Cal. last month.