Edited NYRA Press Release –- While Grade 1 Preakness Stakes runner-up Midnight Bourbon will likely take his show on the road, red-hot Silver State could give Winchell Thoroughbreds some noteworthy representation on Belmont Stakes Day in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon, a son of Tiznow, will eye prestigious races in the mid-to-late summer like the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 17 at Monmouth Park or the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 30 at Saratoga, said Winchell Thoroughbreds racing and bloodstock advisor David Fiske.
“He came out of the Preakness great, but he may have put the groundskeepers out of a job he was eating so much grass,” Fiske quipped. “He shipped back to Churchill and has been jogging great. There aren’t any big target races after the Belmont prior to the Jim Dandy or Haskell, so we’ll focus on those races for now.”
Silver State would bring a five-race win streak to New York for the Met Mile for Winchell and Asmussen. Owned by Winchell in partnership with Willis Horton Racing, the 4-year-old Hard Spun colt was given an extended break following a run in the series of Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds Race Course last year and has done no wrong since returning to action.
Following two allowance triumphs at seven furlongs at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, Silver State began building a prominent resume with a trio of stakes victories at Oaklawn Park this winter, capturing the Fifth Season on January 23, the Essex on March 13, and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 17.
“We’ve got the Met Mile under consideration,” Fiske said. “He went seven-eighths in 1:21 and some change when he won at Churchill, so we feel that anything around seven-eighths to a mile and an eighth would be within his ability.”
Should he make the trip to New York for the Met Mile, Silver State would aim to give Asmussen his third victory in the prestigious race. He previously won back-to-back editions with Bee Jersey  and Mitole .
Fiske added that dual graded stakes-placed Whiskey Double could ship to Belmont Park later in the summer for the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer on July 5 if performs well in a Thursday allowance race at Churchill Downs. The son of Into Mischief was second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct before finishing third to stable mate Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs
He Smoked ’em
Get Smokin, trained by Tom Bush for Mary Abeel Sullivan Revocable Trust, set a controlled pace to capture Saturday’s $100,000 Seek Again by three-quarters of a length in the one-mile Widener turf test for older horses at Belmont Park.
With Junior Alvarado up, the 4-year-old Get Stormy chestnut reached the half-mile in an easy 48.61 seconds on the firm turf and had plenty in reserve to fend off Flavius, who had tracked in second throughout. Get Smokin covered the mile in 1:33.96 to earn a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
Bush said he was pleased with how Get Smokin finished under confident handling by Alvarado.
“I think he was holding him at bay,” said Bush. “Junior is a rider with very good hands and he can feel what he’s got with a horse and that helps. He’s a terrific rider and played a big part of it. In those big races, you need that magic in every direction.”
The victory made amends for an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 9, when Get Smokin faltered after being pressed on the front end by Somelikeithotbrown, who exited that effort to win the Grade 2 Dinner Party on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico.
Although often the horse to cut out the fractions, as he did to win the Grade 2 Hill Prince at Belmont in October, Get Smokin tracked the speed of Proven Strategies before taking control at the stretch call of a victorious seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay on February 6.
“He might not have to have the lead, but he wants to be up close,” said Bush. “He laid second at Tampa when the other horse wanted the lead desperately, and he handled that alright. So, if we have to have a target at some point in the future, I think he’ll be able to handle it.”
Bush, who trained Get Stormy to nine stakes wins from 2009-12, said he is hopeful that Get Smokin will continue to improve.
“As he matures even more, we’re hoping he’ll get stronger and that his numbers will go up. He did get a very kind half a mile yesterday, but his finish was amazing,” said Bush. “Get Stormy was the same way. He broke his maiden late in his 2-year-old year and then we gave him some time off. He didn’t run again until the spring and each year he got stronger and stronger. He won Grade 1s at 4, 5,and 6, so he just got better and better. He was a very nice horse.”
Bush said Saturday’s effort should set Get Smokin up for a start in the Grade 3, $250,00 Poker going one mile on June 20 at Belmont.
Pecatonica, a homebred for Dr. Doug Koch’s Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, N.Y., breezed five-eighths in 1:01.10 on the Belmont inner turf Sunday in preparation for the $125,000 Mount Vernon, a one-mile turf test for older fillies and mares on New York Breeders’ Showcase Day on Memorial Day.“She went quite well. I was tickled to death with that,” said Bush. “She went 12s most of the way. She went 24 and change and a short 37 and I took her in a minute and three-fifths. Around the dogs, I thought that was a solid work. The turf is quite fast but working by herself I was pleased with that.
“I don’t get to breeze her much on the grass because she’s not nominated to stakes races, but I was happy to get her out there,” added Bush.
The lucrative Memorial Day card features six stakes for horses bred in the Empire State, led by the $200,000 Commentator at a mile for 3-year-olds and up and the $200,000 Critical Eye at the same distance for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward. A quartet of $125,000 stakes round out the day, including the Kingston, Mike Lee, Bouwerie and the Mount Vernon.
A 5-year-old daughter of Temple City, out of the Quiet American mare Sheboygan, Pecatonica notched a frontrunning nose win in her seasonal debut on May 7 in a state-bred optional-claiming mile over good Belmont turf.
“She ran good for us. I’m not sure about running her back that close, but she’s got good energy and she’s eating well,” said Bush. “After the work today, I’m planning on running her in the Mount Vernon unless she changes my mind.”
Bush said the dark bay mare, who boasts a record of 15-4-1-2 with purse earnings of $171,609, is a pleasure to train.
“I’ve trained for Berskshire Stud for at least 25 years,” said Bush. “He’s a good friend, a good owner and a really good breeder. They have a beautiful farm and raise good horses.”
Happy Saver returns Friday; Mind Control transferred to Pletcher
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher expressed excitement for the 4-year-old debut of Wertheimer et Frere’s undefeated Happy Saver, who is entered in Race 3 on Belmont’s Friday program – a one mile allowance optional claiming event.
The son of Super Saver last raced in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in September at Belmont, where he defeated subsequent Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide.
Following some down time at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, Happy Saver began working regularly at Palm Beach Downs in early April before shipping to Pletcher’s division in Saratoga. His most recent breeze was a five-furlong work in 1:01.70 on May 21 over the Saratoga main track.
“I’m happy to get his season underway. Hopefully, we’ve done enough with him to have him ready, but I’m looking forward to getting him going,” Pletcher said.
Happy Saver will face a compact-but-salty field that includes stakes-placed Three Technique and recent winner Locally Owned.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has piloted Happy Saver to three of his four wins, retains the mount from post 3.
Pletcher recently added a new member to his already stellar stable in Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winner Mind Control, who is targeting the Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses on July 4 offering a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Mind Control, a five-time graded-stakes winner for his former trainer Gregg Sacco, posted both his Grade 1 wins at the Spa, capturing the 2018 Hopeful as a juvenile and added the H. Allen Jerkens to conclude his sophomore season.
The talented horse followed his H. Allen Jerkens score with Grade 3 wins in the Toboggan and Tom Fool last year at the Big A to kick off his 4-year-old campaign.
Mind Control, who was second in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in April, was seventh last out in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on May 1.The 5-year-old Stay Thirsty bay worked a half-mile in 48.30 seconds Saturday on the Belmont dirt training track.
“The John Nerud is what we’re targeting at the moment,” Pletcher said. “He came to me in great shape and he’s a very straightforward and good-training horse. He looks good.”
A Kentucky homebred, Mind Control is out of the turf stakes-winning Lightnin N Thunder mare Feel That Fire, who has an unraced 2-year-old Mineshaft filly named Goddess of Fire.
Robert and Lawanna Low’s Spice Is Nice made the grade in the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff on May 14 at Pimlico and Pletcher said the chestnut Curlin filly, out of Grade 1-winner Dame Dorothy, is a possibility for the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis on June 26 at Churchill Downs.
Spice Is Nice entered the Allaire DuPont from a sharp allowance victory on April 9 at Keeneland, when making her first start since finishing a distant sixth in the Grade 1 Alabama in August at Saratoga.
“She needed a break at that point,” Pletcher said. “She got a good break and came back better for it.”
Pletcher is expected to saddle Bourbonic, Known Agenda and Overtook in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 5.
The veteran conditioner will also have a number of runners during the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival which kicks off on Thursday, June 3 and will include 17 stakes races in total with eight Grade 1 races to be contested on Belmont Stakes Day.
Day 1 of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on Thursday, June 3 is a twilight racing program with a first post of 3:05 p.m. First post on Friday, June 4 is 12:50 p.m. First post on Belmont Stakes Day is 11:35 a.m.
Pletcher said his Belmont Stakes Day lineup will include Valiance in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event for the Distaff; as well as Ajaaweed, Portos and Moretti for the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational presented by Northwell Health.
Always Shopping, a graded stakes winner on both dirt and turf, will target the Grade 2, $750,000 New York on Friday, June 4.
Gufo training forwardly for G1 Manhattan
Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo registered his first work since running second in his 2021 bow in the Grade 1 Man o’ War on May 8 at Belmont, with the Declaration of War colt posting a half-mile breeze in 50.85 on Saturday over the Belmont inner turf course.
Trainer Christophe Clement said he was encouraged by the work and will keep Gufo on target for the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan contested at 1 1/4 miles on the turf on Belmont Stakes Day June 5.
“Gufo is doing well and had a good work yesterday,” Clement said. “It was the first maintenance breeze back, and we’ll work him next weekend and then go for the Manhattan.”
Gufo won three stakes during his 3-year-old campaign in 2020, starting with the English Channel in May at Gulfstream Park before winning his first graded stakes contest in the Grade 3 Kent on Independence Day at Delaware Park.
After a close second in the Saratoga Derby Invitational, where he finished just a head back to Domestic Spending, Gufo posted a one-length win in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby in October going 1 ¼ miles over a firm turf.
In November, Gufo challenged Domestic Spending again and finished third, just a neck behind his nemesis’ winning effort in a blanket finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby over firm going at 1 1/8 miles at Del Mar.
After more than five months off, Gufo returned to action in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War over a Belmont turf course rated good, finishing second by a nose to Channel Cat in a thrilling finish that netted the Kentucky Bred a career-best 97 Beyer.
The Manhattan, one of eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, has been won by Clement on three occasions, starting with Forbidden Apple in 2001 and including back-to-back victories by Gio Ponti in 2009 and Winchester in 2010.
Decorated Invader didn’t provide the finish Clement was looking for when fifth in Saturday’s $100,000 Seek Again. But the fellow Declaration of War colt still earned a 90 Beyer for the effort, which was the second start of his 4-year-old year after running third in the one-mile Danger’s Hour on April 10 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, William Sandbrook and Cheryl Manning, Decorated Invader is 5-2-1 in 12 career starts. The $200,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame and the Grade 2 Hill Prince last year.
“It was a disappointing performance yesterday but he came back in pretty good shape,” Clement said. “We’ll just have to regroup and go from there.”
Plum Ali, who started her sophomore year with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Appalachian on April 3 at Keeneland, breezed Sunday in preparation for her next start. Clement said she is on target for the Grade 3, $200,000 Wonder Again for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf on Opening Day of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on Thursday, June 3.
Plum Ali went a half-mile in 48.25 on the Belmont inner turf as she seeks to earn another stakes win after achieving that status twice as a juvenile. The daughter of First Samurai started her career 3-for-3, following a debut score in July with a victory in the Mint Juvenile Fillies in September at Kentucky Downs before winning the Grade 2 Miss Grillo in October at Belmont.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables, Plum Ali’s lone off-the-board finish in five career starts was her fifth-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“She worked for the Wonder Again and did well, so we’re really happy with that,” Clement said.
Clement could be well-represented in the annual New York Breeders’ Showcase Day, featuring six stakes races for New York-breds on Memorial Day Monday, May 31. The veteran conditioner could have seven contenders in a day designed to show off some of the best talent bred in the Empire State, with Sea Foam targeting the $200,000 Commentator and Timeless Journey for the $200,000 Critical Eye.
Waterville Lake Stable’s Sea Foam will be making his 6-year-old bow off a nearly six-month layoff, last in action when fourth in the Alex M. Robb in December at the Big A. The Commentator is a handicap for 3-year-olds and up going a one-turn mile on Big Sandy.
Merrylegs Farm homebred Timeless Journey ran fourth in her first start as a 4-year-old, being outkicked in the stretch during a one-mile turf route against optional claimers in May at Belmont after winning her 2020 finale on the Aqueduct main track in December. Clement will have her again try the main track in the Critical Eye, which is also contested at a one-turn mile.
Oak Bluff Stables’ Therapist, a winner of eight stakes, is on course for the $125,000 Kingston for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Therapist, who has won stakes in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, will look to extend his streak to five straight years, with the now 6-year-old gelded son of Freud making just his second appearance of 2021. City Man is also a possibility for the Kingston.
Other New York Showcase Day contenders for Clement include Brattle House and Pay Grade for the $125,000 Bouwerie for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs; and Classic Lady for the $125,000 Mount Vernon for older fillies and mares going one mile on the Widener turf course.
Bound for Nowhere Targets G1 Jackpocket Jaipur
Trainer Wesley Ward can’t help but sing high praises on behalf of multiple stakes-winner Bound for Nowhere, who he says is doing better than ever at the age of 7.
Owned by Ward, Bound for Nowhere will be bound for New York as he targets the Grade 1, $400,000 Jackpocket Jaipur on June 5 after running down Imprimis in the Grade 2 Shakertown on April 3 at Keeneland in his 2021 debut while garnering a 105 Beyer. The veteran son of The Factor also won the Shakertown in 2018, where he recorded a career-best 107 Beyer.
Bound for Nowhere has registered one start at Belmont Park, defeating stakes winner Made You Look in October 2019 at seven furlongs over the Widener turf course.
“He’s been training awesome and has had a nice strong set of works. I’m really excited,” Ward said. “He ran a big race at Belmont a couple of years back, so I know he likes the course.”
Ward recalled when Bound for Nowhere would work alongside stablemate and European champion Lady Aurelia and said that the near-millionaire has come a long ways since then.
“He has never been this sound,” Ward said. “He was always getting outworked by Lady Aurelia a few years back, but he’s on the top of his game right now. He could probably outwork her the way he’s been going. When he’s good, he’s really good. He’s had a lot of minor issues over the years, but he rewards patience.”
Ward has enjoyed a stellar meet at Belmont Park with a record of 19-8-4-3 on the meet entering Sunday. These wins include maiden victories with CJ Thoroughbreds’ juvenile filly Ms. Alacrity, who debuted on May 20 with a 10-length romp under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Bred in New York by Milfer Farm, the daughter of Munnings is out of the multiple graded stakes winner Just Jenda.
“She’s a filly that’s meant for the grass, but while she’ll be better on grass she obviously showed capability on dirt,” Ward said. “I would say that she would be able to compete against open stakes company on turf as well.”
Ward went on to say that Keeneland maiden winner Nakatomi is likely for the $150,000 Tremont on June 4 and that Happy Soul and Kaufymaker could target the $150,000 Astoria on June 3.
Emma and I rallied from third in the stretch to defeat Dancing Firefly by 1 1/4 lengths in Belmont’s 10th-race finale, capturing the 1 1/16-mile inner turf contest for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. Trained by James Ryerson, Emma and I tracked in third position under jockey Jose Ortiz before closing strong to hit the wire in 1:43.39. She paid $7.
Night racing at Churchill concluded the final three legs, with Seaside Retreat the lone favorite in the Cross Country Pick 5 to be victorious by virtue of a 1 3/4-length win in a 1 1/16-mile main track maiden sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Race 7. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Seaside Retreat, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $7 besting the nine-horse field. Seaside Retreat registered a final time of 1:43.71.
The Mike Maker-conditioned Empty Tomb won Churchill’s Race 8, posting a 1 1/2-length victory in a one-mile main track allowance optional claiming contest. Empty Tomb, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, led from the half-mile mark onwards, with a final time of 1:34.53. Empty Tomb returned $13.20.
Casanova Kitten won the nightcap – literally, with Churchill’s 11th race going off at 11:12 p.m. Eastern. Ricardo Santana, Jr. won the 11th-hour starter allowance for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, guiding the Wesley Ward trainee to a final time of 1:44.01 and paying $11.80.
The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.
Early Look at the G1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets
PROBABLE (10): Bourbonic (Todd Pletcher / Kendrick Carmouche), Brooklyn Strong (Danny Velazquez / Jose Ortiz), Essential Quality (Brad Cox / Luis Saez), France Go de Ina (Hideyuki Mori / TBD), Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill / Flavien Prat), Known Agenda (Pletcher / Irad Ortiz Jr.), Overtook (Pletcher / Manny Franco), Rebel’s Romance (Charlie Appleby / Mike Smith), Rock Your World (John Sadler / Joel Rosario), Rombauer (Michael McCarthy / John Velazquez)
POSSIBLE (3): Get Her Number (Peter Miller), Keepmeinmind (Robertino Diodoro), Promise Keeper (Pletcher