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SARATOGA RACE NOTES

  • Edited NYRA Staff Release — Ridden to victory by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Nest broke the best in the field of five after her two inside foes, Butterbean and Society, stumbled at the break. Society vied for the lead in the first quarter-mile, but Nest was soon the pacesetter with Secret Oath pressing to her outside. The two matched strides in the turn and opened up on their rivals, briefly living up to the race’s billing as a rematch after Secret Oath bested Nest in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Nest would not be denied this time, making it look easy and opening up a 4 1/2-length advantage on her tiring rival at the stretch call. She romped down the stretch with little urging from Ortiz, Jr. and was wrapped up at the sixteenth pole, coming home an eye-catching 12 1/4-length winner for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

“She came out of it excellent – very good,” said Pletcher. “It was very impressive. She had kind of been touting herself that she was coming into the race in great shape and I’m delighted to see her run to the race she was training [for]. I’m very pleased.”

Pletcher said Nest showed her professionalism when the setup of the race was altered as the Steve Asmussen-trained Society stumbled.

“We figured Steve’s filly would be on the lead and that we would try to break well and establish some position in the first turn, which we were able to do,” said Pletcher. “So, she was never really able to take a breather the whole way, but she fended off a strong challenge from Secret Oath and looked good.”

Nest, who finished second behind stablemate Mo Donegal in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, could make another appearance against males in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27, though Pletcher said it’s likely she’ll stick with fillies and try the 10-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 20.

“We’re leaning towards [the Alabama]. I had a brief conversation [with her owners] though and we did not completely rule out the Travers,” said Pletcher. “She showed she can hold her own against [males] and we know the mile and a quarter suits her. So, we’ll keep it in the back of our mind. I’d say all things being equal, we’ll probably see her in the Alabama.”

After a memorable Saturday, Sunday was business as usual for Pletcher as he sent out a string of workers over the Oklahoma turf training track, including WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Grade 2 Pennine Ridge winner Emmanuel for his first drill at Saratoga. The bay More Than Ready colt worked a five-furlong bullet in 1:00.26 seconds, sailing over the firm turf in company with 4-year-old filly Mezcal [1:00.49].

Emmanuel, who made his turf debut in the Pennine Ridge, is pointing to the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 6, the middle leg of the Caesars Turf Triple Series that began with the Grade 1 Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational on July 9 at Belmont Park and ends with the Grade 3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby during the Belmont fall meet.

“It was excellent. I thought it was good – a good, solid work with a strong gallop out,” said Pletcher. “It puts him on target for the Saratoga Derby.”

Pletcher said Emmanuel continues to train forwardly after missing an expected start in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.

“He was doing great going into that and continues to do well,” said Pletcher. “He’s had two good breezes and he seems on target.”

Pletcher also noted that Grand Sonata, who finished a game fourth in the Belmont Derby, will also target the Saratoga Derby.

“That’s the plan. He shows up and runs hard every time,” Pletcher said of the Whisper Hill Farm homebred.

Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and Rock Ridge Racing’s Promise Keeper, winner of last year’s Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont, will point to the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s on August 6 at Mountaineer Racetrack.

***

Jack Christopher to cut back in distance, possible for G1 H. Allen Jerkens

Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud and Peter Brant’s Jack Christopher was handed his first career loss when running a game third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday, but trainer Chad Brown was nevertheless proud of the talented colt’s effort when stretching out to two turns for the first time.

The chestnut son of Munnings showed his usual prominent tactics off the flank of pacesetting longshot Benevengo. Jack Christopher assumed command around the far turn, but was unable to fend off rallies from the victorious Cyberknife and runner-up Taiba, finishing third beaten two lengths.

Brown said he plans on cutting Jack Christopher back to one turn for a possible start in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 27.  

“The horse ran really well and I thought he had a good trip,” Brown said. “He got a little quick on the final turn when they moved from [the half-mile in] 46 into [three-quarters in] 1:09. That probably emptied him a little bit. But all in all, it looked like it was a little too far. I was a little disappointed that he couldn’t kick on through the lane, but he tried hard. We just shipped him up to Saratoga. As long as he comes out of the race okay, I’ll cut him back and point to a race like the Allen Jerkens.”

But not all was lost for Brown at Monmouth Park, having saddled four stakes winners at the Jersey Shore oval on Saturday, including Adhamo [Grade 1 United Nations], Search Results [Grade 3 Molly Pitcher], Highly Motivated [Grade 3 Monmouth Cup] and Lemista [Grade 3 Matchmaker].

“I was proud of all the horses and my team to have them all ready on a big day like that,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of moving parts to get it done and they did fabulous. I’m proud of them all.”

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Louis Lazzinnaro’s Adhamo notched his first stateside victory in the United Nations following a trio of graded stakes placings, including a second to stablemate Tribhuvan in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont.

Brown said the Irish-bred son of Intello could target the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Invitational on August 27 at the Spa.

“He got the trip we were looking for and he’s been a work in progress. He looks to be continually improving and he finished off his race well on Saturday,” Brown said. “He shipped up here today, so we’ll see how he bounces out of it, but surely, I would like to point to that.”

Brown didn’t give any set plans for his three other stakes heroes, but did say Search Results could be “possible” for the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign on August 27.

Brown worked a handful of stakes-caliber horses over the Oklahoma training turf course on Sunday morning. Among the slew of workers was Peter Brant’s Regal Glory, who went five furlongs in 1:02.12 in company with graded stakes winner Virginia Joy.

Regal Glory, by Animal Kingdom, captured the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game on June 11 at Belmont Park last out and continues to target the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave on August 13 against males.

“More of the same, a little maintenance work. She continues to train on towards the Fourstardave the right way,” Brown said of his three-time Grade 1-wnning mare. “She has continually improved every year. She’s six now and we’ve had her since she was a baby and she has a lot of natural ability. She continues to improve year to year and she’s in the best form of her life right now.”

***

Cyberknife could target G1 Runhappy Travers following G1 Haskell conquest

Trainer Brad Cox reported that Cyberknife, winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, will be a likely candidate for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Al Gold’s Gold Square, Cyberknife registered a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his ground-saving trip under Florent Geroux, where he skimmed the rail in the stretch drive and out-finished a wavering Jack Christopher and a wide-charging Taiba to win by a head.

The Haskell was a second Grade 1 victory for the son of second-crop sire Gun Runner, following a 2 3/4-length win in the Arkansas Derby on April 2 at Oaklawn Park for trainer Brad Cox. Cyberknife arrived in Saratoga from Monmouth Park late Sunday morning.

“It’s on the table,” said Cox, who won last year’s Travers with eventual Champion 3-Year-Old Essential Quality. “We’ll see how he comes out of it and get him back up here and work him a few times and see how it goes. He’s always had talent. We’ve just been trying to get him to put it all together in the afternoon and Florent did a good job of getting him a good trip and he responded well.”

Cyberknife, a five-time winner of nine lifetime starts, finished an uncharacteristic 18th-of-20 in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs following his Arkansas Debry victory, but made amends six weeks later when capturing the Grade 3 Matt Winn over the same surface. He has banked earnings of nearly $1.6 million.

Cox said he believes Cyberknife’s Haskell victory propelled him to the cream of the 3-year-old crop.

“It definitely puts him in the mix,” Cox said. “Obviously, he has two Grade 1 wins this year and that’s huge. He just needs to continue to improve and move forward and if we’re able to win the Travers and have a good effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think we’ll be in the mix bottom line. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’ll see how it plays out.

“I think it’s a good crop,” Cox added. “I think earlier in the year there may have been some question as to how good they were, but they’ve come around. It seems to be a good group. No one has jumped up, but it’s a deep group for sure.”

Cyberknife, a $400,000 purchase from the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Select Sale, is out of the multiple stakes-winning and graded stakes placed Flower Alley mare Awesome Flower.

Cox breezed Godolphin’s Grade 1 winner Matareya over the Saratoga main track Sunday morning in company with graded stakes winner Tawny Port.

Matareya, a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, drilled through five furlongs in 1:00 flat – the fastest of 27 recorded works at the distance – while Tawny Port completed his move in 1:00.60.

A winner of three straight graded stakes events, including the last out Grade 1 Acorn, Matareya is targeting the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test on August 6 at the Spa. Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port, who won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown last out, will run in Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy.

“She breezed really, really well. I’m super pleased with how she’s doing and how she’s done since arriving here at Saratoga. I’m looking forward to the Test,” Cox said.

***

Olympiad works for G1 Whitney

Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods’ Olympiad breezed five-eighths in 1:01.21 Sunday over the Oklahoma training track in company with Gilded Age [1:01.32] in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 6. The nine-furlong test for older horses offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Keeneland.

NYRA clockers caught Olympiad through a quarter-mile in 25.20 and out six furlongs in 1:14.40.

“He had a good work this morning. I was happy with it,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Olympiad is in the midst of a five-race win streak dating to an optional-claiming score in January at Gulfstream that was followed by graded scores in the Grade 3 Mineshaft and Grade 2 New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds; and at Churchill in the Grade 2 Alysheba and the Grade 2 Stephen Foster last out. He earned a career-best 111 Beyer for his Stephen Foster effort.

Mott said he is pleased with how Olympiad is progressing towards his second shot at a Grade 1 after finishing fourth in the Cigar Mile Handicap in December at Aqueduct.

“He just keeps winning,” Mott said. “He’s stepped up in class; the races have gotten tougher, and he’s stepped up to the challenge every time.”

Grandview Equine and Don Alberto Stable’s Grade 3-placed Gilded Age, a sophomore son of Medaglia d’Oro, will enter Friday’s restricted $135,000 Curlin at nine furlongs on the main track.

Godolphin’s Nostalgic finished a distant third in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 CCA Oaks, while racing for the first time since a 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

“We got the Grade 1 placing – that was good,” Mott said.

Mott said he will consider the Medaglia d’Oro bay for the 10-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 20 at Saratoga.

Nostalgic was a first-out winner in October at Belmont ahead of a rallying fourth in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle which was won by CCA Oaks champ Nest over next-out winners Venti Valentine and Magic Circle. Nostalgic would capture an optional-claimer at Gulfstream Park three starts later on March 3 and followed with a smart win in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Gazelle over Venti Valentine ahead of a troubled trip in the Kentucky Oaks.

Also on the work tab Sunday for Mott were multiple graded-stakes winner Travel Column [48.07] and graded-stakes winner Cody’s Wish [49.39], who each breezed a half-mile over the Oklahoma dirt training track.

Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and Jerold Zaro’s Grade 1-placed Baby Yoda is a force to be reckoned with at Saratoga, boasting a perfect 3-for-3 record led by a galactic effort in September to best eventual multiple graded-stakes winning stablemate Olympiad by 4 1/4-lengths in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance tilt that garnered a 114 Beyer Speed Figure.

Last out, Baby Yoda drew off to a three-length score in a seven-furlong optional-claimer on July 16 here, registering a 98 Beyer.

Mott said he will take his time finding a next spot for the 4-year-old Prospective gelding.

George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess breezed a half-mile in 47.95 over the Oklahoma dirt training track Saturday as she looks to defend her title in the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls, a 12-furlong turf test for older horses on August 6 at the Spa.

***

Robin Sparkles registers career-best 93BSF in G3 Caress score

Michael Schrader’s Robin Sparkles made the grade not just for herself, but for her conditioner Bruce Brown as well, with a gate-to-wire score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Caress, a 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.

The 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Elusive Quality improved her lifetime record to 16-9-2-3, surpassing the half-million mark in earnings which also saw her earn a new career-high 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

Brown said the win was more than welcome after years of hard work and dedication from him and his team. He said the family celebrated in style at one of the more popular restaurants in the region.

“It was a great day. We went to the Wishing Well,” Brown said. “She came out of the race good.”

Robin Sparkles has now given her connections a few options to think about for the remainder of the season, with the possibility of it culminating in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint to be contested at 5 1/2-furlongs in November at Keeneland.

“I think as long as she continues to maintain her form [it’s possible] and like I said, she’s really coming into her own, so you never know,” Brown said. “Everything is going to get tougher the further along down the road we go here, but it’s good to enjoy this one for now.”

Between now and November, there are multiple spots that suit Robin Sparkles’ running style, including the $150,000 Smart N Fancy, a 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint older fillies and mares here on August 20 which would keep her at what appears to be her preferred distance and track.

Also under consideration is the Grade 3, $300,000 Franklin, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares 3-and-up on October 16 at Keeneland, the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships. 

However, Brown said he would prefer to stay local for now. “Definitely the race here just because she really seems to love it here and we get 28-days so it’s good timing,” Brown said. “I think that’s the plan as of now. We’ll see how she comes out of this but that’s what we will point for next.”

Robin Sparkles was bred in New York by Hibiscus Stables and earned $110,000 in her Caress victory, bringing her total purse earnings to $530,668. .

***

Butterbean to target G3 Remington Park Oaks

Magdalena Racing and William Klimashousky’s Butterbean is in good order after stumbling badly at the break and checking in last-of-5 in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course.

“She came out of the race okay. She went down on her head coming out of the gate and kind of lost confidence in herself, I think,” said Jake McEntee, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek.

McPeek reported via Twitter following the CCA Oaks that the 3-year-old daughter of Klimt would resume training and target the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks on September 25 for her next start.

McEntee said that jockey Julien Leparoux did not feel anything was amiss.

“Julien said she was fine. She felt good and just what happened at the start happened,” said McEntee.

Butterbean boasts a 9-3-4-0 lifetime record and as McPeek said in his tweet is, “still the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks winner.” 

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