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SARATOGA RACE NOTES

Edited NYRA Press Release –  Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles’ New York-bred City Man could attempt to shine bright in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave on August 13 following his first graded stakes victory in Friday’s Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, at Saratoga Race Course.

City Man, who recorded a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the Forbidden Apple, has earned at least one stakes victory each year dating back to 2019, where he captured Saratoga’s Funny Cide over the main track during his 2-year-old season for trainer Christophe Clement.

But Friday marked the first time the son of Mucho Macho Man has won two stakes events in the same year. In his 2022 debut, he captured the April 9 Danger’s Hour over the turf at Aqueduct.

“I went by and saw him this morning and he looks like he’s ready to go again,” said co-owner Dean Reeves. “To get to win at Saratoga is special, and to me it’s always great when it’s a Mucho Macho Man foal that we bought as a 2-year-old. This horse has done really well for us.”

Mucho Macho Man, who captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2013 and finished third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby two years prior, also was owned by Reeves, who noted that his best progeny have an affinity for grass. In addition to City Man, leading Mucho Macho Man offspring include Grade 1-winner on turf Mucho Unusual, turf stakes winner Belle Laura and He’s a Macho Man – who finished second in the 2019 Breeders’ on the Woodbine turf.

“Strangely enough, Mucho Macho Man’s progeny have run well on turf, but if push came to shove, we could run him on dirt as well,” Reeves said.

Reeves said City Man could be at his best at this stage of his career, which is why the Fourstardave could be a viable option for his next start. Should he contest the prestigious one mile turf test, it would be his second attempt at a Grade 1 win after finishing ninth in last year’s Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park.

“His 5-year-old year is off to a bang and we may try a Grade 1 with him next,” Reeves said. “I have seen him really develop. We gave him about three months off through the winter and I think he really relaxed and got himself ready to go at it again. I’m sort of starting to believe that a mile might be his best distance. He had such a nice burst and finish in yesterday’s race that I think he can be very competitive. Christophe and I are going to see how he looks in a week or two because that race is about three and a half weeks out. If we can make it, we may just take a shot at that race.”

Reeves said 2020 Champion Turf Male Channel Maker could target a second nonconsecutive victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Invitational on August 27 at the Spa.

Channel Maker has been a participant in the last four editions of the Sword Dancer, capturing the 2020 edition on the pathway to Eclipse Award honors. He was a last out winner of the Grand Couturier on July 4 at Belmont Park, where he fended off a stretch confrontation from Solider Rising to pick up his ninth career stakes win.

A victory in the Sword Dancer would make Channel Maker only the sixth horse of at least 8-years-old to win a flat Grade 1 on the NYRA circuit per Equibase statistics which date back to 1976. John’s Call captured the 2000 Sword Dancer at age 9.

“That horse still has that competitive spirit,” said Reeves, who owns Channel Maker with R.A. Hill Stable, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber. “When the gate opens, you’re going to have to come get him. He showed that in his last race, I thought he was done. He looked at those horses and said, “Not today.’ He’s quite the competitor. When we were watching, I thought that horse was going to go by us. Channel Maker just found out what he had to do.”

Channel Maker, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is known for flaunting early head-high frontrunning fashion and has been piloted to stakes victories by a handful of riders, including Jose Ortiz, Joel Rosario, Manny Franco, and most recently, Luis Saez. 

“The jockeys have to understand that he does run with his head high. He likes to get out on the pace and relax,” Reeves said. “He’s hardheaded so you can’t fight him. Those jockeys have done a great job with him. Luis did a great job getting him in position and when he turns for home he still has a lot left.”

Reeves added that Big Everest, a two-time winner over Belmont’s Widener turf this summer, could try stakes company next out for Clement. The 4-year-old English-bred son of The Gurkha broke his maiden on the inner turf at Saratoga last July in his lone start at the Spa. He earned a career-best 92 Beyer for his win on July 9 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer.

“He may be about ready for a stake race,” Reeves said. “He’s put in two nice efforts back to back. We were concerned about if he could get the distance, and he showed us that he can. I think that really opens up a lot for us. He came back well and I think we’ll start to look for something.”

Chad Brown stars Zandon, Jack Christopher and Early Voting on the work tab

Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Zandon worked on the main track at Saratoga Race Course for the first time at 8:45 a.m. Saturday for trainer Chad Brown. With exercise rider Kriss Bon aboard, the Jeff Drown-owned colt worked four furlongs in 48.69 seconds in preparation for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, a nine-furlong test for sophomores on July 30.

“He worked super,” Brown said. “I wanted to get him out there to stretch his legs. He has been working along down at Belmont. I told Kriss to go in 48 and a couple [of fifths]. Kriss said he felt well. Our plan was to get him over the track and get him a good feel for it. He couldn’t have went any better.”

Zandon, who won the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland as part of his spring campaign, has not raced since finishing third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. Brown said he has noticed some physical improvement in Zandon by giving him some time off from racing.

“I wanted to give him a breather from the racing end of it,” Brown said. “I’m really pleased with him. He put on some weight. He really looks better than ever right now.”

Brown also breezed sophomore stars Early Voting, winner of the Grade 1 Preakness in May at Pimlico, and unbeaten Grade 1 winner Jack Christopher.

Early Voting, owned by Klaravich Stables, also won the Grade 3 Withers and finished second in the Grade 2 Resorts World Casino Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He worked four furlongs in 49.25 seconds.

Jack Christopher, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne and the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun at Belmont Park, went in 49.80 seconds. He is targeting the Grade 1 Haskell on July 23 at Monmouth Park.

Wonder Wheel to G1 Spinaway; Pappacap on point for G2 Amsterdam

Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse had high praise for D.J. Stable’s juvenile filly Wonder Wheel, who took the listed Debutante at Churchill Downs by an impressive 6 3/4 lengths on July 4 following a debut maiden score a month earlier at the Louisville oval.

“You’ve only seen the beginning of her,” Casse said of the effort. “I think there’s more to her. She seems to be very special.”

A daughter of Into Mischief out of the graded stakes-placed New York-bred Wonder Gal, Wonder Wheel’s six rivals were no match for her in the six-furlong Debutante after she set the pace under Tyler Gaffalione and widened her margins at every point of call.

Casse said the impressive performance warrants a step up into top company in the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 3 at the Spa.

“She hasn’t shipped up yet, but she’ll come up for the Spinaway,” Casse said. “I’m excited about her. I think she has to be one of the best in her class.”

Another “exciting” horse in Casse’s barn is the graded stakes-winner Pappacap, who has finished second to the undefeated Jack Christopher in his last two outings, most recently finishing 10 lengths behind his accomplished foe in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun on June 10 at Belmont Park.

Pappacap, who scored a Grade 2 win in the 2021 Best Pal and finished a game second to Champion 2-Year-Old Corniche in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, will likely make his next appearance in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam on July 31 at the Spa whilst Jack Christopher ventures to Monmouth Park for the Grade 1 Haskell.

Casse said he liked what he saw from Pappacap’s five-furlong breeze in 1:01.10 seconds over the main track Saturday.

“He breezed this morning and went really well. He hears the name Jack Christopher and he goes in the other direction,” Casse said, with a laugh. “He’s exciting to have in the barn and he tries very hard.”

Other graded stakes performers this year for Casse include Frosted Over, who scored in the Grade 3 Dominion Day on July 1 at Woodbine, and Golden Glider, who finished second in the Grade 3 Peter Pan in May at Belmont.

Casse said Frosted Over will try for his fifth Woodbine victory in the 10-furlong Niagara on July 31 for his turf debut. 

As for Golden Glider, the son of Ghostzapper will look to regroup in the restricted $135,000 Curlin on July 29 at the Spa after a distant eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 10.

“He worked well the other day and has been training very well since the Belmont,” Casse said.  

***

Down Royal takes on the boys in G1 A. P. Smithwick

Shadowfax Stable’s Down Royal, listed at 5-1 on the morning line in Wednesday’s Grade 1, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick at 2 1/16-miles over the hurdles, has come a long way since her 2017 debut at Saratoga when last-of-10 in an off-the-turf maiden special weight for New York-breds.

“It rained. It came off the turf and onto the slop. It was a short race at 5 1/2-furlongs and now she’s a steeplechaser that runs 2 1/2-miles. She broke last. She sat last. And she came back and said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again,'” said trainer Kate Dalton, with a laugh.

The now 8-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup made two more starts on the flat that year at Belmont Park in the care of conditioner Peter Pugh before transitioning into a career as a steeplechaser, posting her first win for Dalton that November at Charleston.

Bred in the Empire State by Dalton and her husband, jockey Bernard Dalton, Down Royal has finished first or second in her last five starts, arriving at Wednesday’s outing against males off a win in the Margaret Currey Henley Hurdle on May 14 at Percy Warner.

“She might be a little over her head in this race to be honest. She normally runs in restricted filly and mare races of which there really aren’t very many at this time of year,” Dalton said. “We ran her in May and she won and now she’s coming out of her skin. She’s ready to go and do something.”

Down Royal is assigned a field-low 141 pounds, 17 pounds less than the 8-5 morning-line favorite Pistol Whipped. The break in weights is a factor that’s paid off handsomely previously for the Daltons, who captured the 2017 Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup [now the Jonathan Sheppard] with Diplomat, who carried just 138 pounds.

Dalton settled Diplomat 20 lengths off the pace that day and came flying to notch a three-length win over the favored Modem, who carried a field-high 156 pounds.

Dalton said she is hopeful that history can repeat itself on Wednesday.

“She gets all the weight off and she’s probably beginning to eyeball a career as a broodmare, so if we get lucky we could get a little piece of it and get some blacktype,” Dalton said. “It just seems like there’s nothing to lose and only things to gain out of the race, so we thought we’d give it a shot.”

Down Royal kept good company last year, including a rallying second in the Margaret Currey Henley Hurdle to The Mean Queen, who bested the boys thereafter in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont en route to Eclipse Award honors as Champion Steeplechaser.

Dalton remains cautiously optimistic about her chances on Wednesday with the energetic Down Royal, who she said relishes her career on the hurdle.

“She’s a real professional steeplechase racehorse. She loves to run and jump,” Dalton said. “If anything, the racetrack races don’t suit her quite as well because there’s fewer jumps. She’d rather jump around 13 fences and go up and down hills in a stamina type of race. Saying that, she’ll go out there and give us 110 percent because she always does.”

With Down Royal in fine fettle and bursting to run, Dalton said she’ll now leave fate in the hands of her husband.

“I don’t offer any instructions. Both because he knows better anyway and also it saves our marriage,” she said, with a laugh. 

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