Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fire…Fire…Poster Child

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 26,2011--It’s going to be easy to root for trainer Kelly Breen to win Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell with Pants On fire or Ruler On Ice--or both the way he tells it.

The why of it is easy: Breen is a refreshingly guileless horse trainer who was thrust into the national spotlight when he crossed the river from New Jersey to win the Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice who splashed his way into history over the sloppy ground.

It was an upset of the highest order, of course, and it divided the 2011 Triple Crown into threes.

On Tuesday, at about the time the Model Rules Committee of the Racing Commissioners International were discussing the pros and cons of race-day medication with horsemen in Saratoga, Breen, talking about both his 3-year-olds, unwittingly became the “poster boy” for Lasix--why it shouldn’t be banned from the sport.

His remarks came out of nowhere on the NTRA conference call meant to advance this weekend’s upcoming major events; the aforementioned Haskell, Saratoga’s G2 Jim Dandy and Del Mar’s G1 Bing Crosby, featuring the West’s fastest gun, Smiling Tiger.

At first, Breen was asked to compare the two colts, saying that “’Ruler’ is the better worker, he was always there, but ‘Pants’ is extremely laid back but he’s been acting precocious lately. The 3-year-old picture is open and these races are going to decide it. I just hope my horses show up.” Then this:

“Pants is doing so well. I was shocked when he wasn’t [rated] with the top horses. We call him Rodney Dangerfield around the barn because he gets no respect.

“He had some trouble in the Derby but that wasn’t really him. We had to up his Lasix a little bit because apparently he did bleed in Derby. I don’t know how the Breeders’ Cup could ban Lasix [for 2-year-olds, beginning in 2013].

Pants On Fire wouldn’t be racing without Lasix. I don’t want Pants to be a poster child for it but he’s a top horse when he gets Lasix. [No Lasix hurts the racehorse, it will hurt owner, hurt the bettor.

“We’re going to Churchill Downs where they race under the lights. I don’t think the bettors are that concerned about it.

“When he bled in the Derby we could have kept it on the down low. But I talked it over with [owners] George and Lori. He was second choice in Kentucky Derby, somebody had to put their money, we owed to public to tell them.”

In Saratoga, meanwhile, the conference went predictably in that there was nothing near a consensus of agreement, even among veterinarians and medical experts. Some felt that Lasix use was a human treatment for pulmonary disease; others believe all race-day medication should be banned.

Horsemen, predictably, support the continued use of Lasix as a therapeutic and economic necessity for the treatment exercised induced pulmonary edema. There doesn’t seem to be a viable compromise between the positions.

Second Season Sophomores, On Your Mark, Get Set...

Entries for the Haskell will be taken Thursday morning with most of the attention focused on Preakness winner Shackleford and the Breen duo. In Saratoga Wednesday, seven were entered in Saturday’s Jim Dandy.

Under the allowance conditions, Blue Grass winner-Belmont third Brilliant Speed carries 121 pounds while Dwyer winner Dominus and Peter Pan winner shoulder 121. Gotham winner-Belmont second Stay Thirsty gets in with 119.

“He’s been taking a backseat to Uncle,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, “but he can do a lot for himself by stepping up in the Jim Dandy and the Travers.” Stay Thirsty is the 5-2 early line favorite.

Will high-weight Brilliant Speed be cranked up to run his career race, trainer Tom Albertrani was asked on Tuesday’s call.

“He’s ready to run this week but he’s not as cranked up as we would want him to be. We want him to peak in the Travers. The race over the track is the main thing,” said Albertrani of the 7-2 co-third choice.

Winter Memories...Wow

Never mind that Winter Memories should be undefeated, suffering her only loss with a rough trip placing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, or that she now has won four graded stakes in six career starts.

Don’t take it from me. Here’s how the official chart footnote reads:

“Winter Memories, was unhurried at the rear of the field while saving ground, moved a bit closer while continuing to save ground on the far turn, was taken further in hand while waiting off heels approaching the quarter-pole, swung four wide into the stretch, was roused with strong hand urging in the vicinity of the three-sixteenths pole, closed with a rush down the outside of the course, drifted in while blowing by Bellamy Star outside the sixteenth pole and drew away while eased up in an impressive performance.”

Indeed, never mind she’s the best 3-year-old turf filly in America; she just might be the best turf filly of any age in the country. And I’m not convinced that she isn’t still learning how to run. If that’s the case, trainer Jimmy Toner will figure it out. He did her mom, Memories of Silver, and he’ll do it again with her.

Written by John Pricci

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