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SARATOGA RACE NOTES

Edited NYRA Staff Release – Trainer Chad Brown’s domination of the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana continued on Saturday when Peter Brant’s In Italian set a course record for nine furlongs over the Mellon turf course at Saratoga Race Course.

The four-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner added a seventh Diana score to his ledger, including six of the last seven editions. Three of his previous Diana victresses have gone on to secure honors for Champion Turf Female, including Sistercharlie [2018], who also won the 2019 Diana, Lady Eli [2017] and Rushing Fall [2020]. Zagora, who gave Brown his first Grade 1 triumph in the 2011 Diana, was named Champion Turf Mare the following year.

Saturday’s Diana saw a Brown superfecta as In Italian set torrid fractions up front and maintained her advantage into the stretch, fending off a late challenge by graded stakes-winning stablemate Technical Analysis to win by 1 1/4-lengths in a course record 1:45.06.

“I’m very fortunate to have those four horses able to participate,” Brown said. “Obviously it was a very short field, but I can’t control that. It’s just another memorable accomplishment for our team and a wonderful day at the races for a lot of friends and family. It’s certainly a day and a feat I’ll always remember.”

Entering the Diana off a third in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game, In Italian was the longest shot of the Brown foursome at odds of 8-1, which included Grade 1 winners Bleecker Street and Rougir as well as Technical Analysis. But the 4-year-old Dubawi chestnut rose to the occasion when it mattered most, building on a consistent resume which also includes a triumph in the Grade 3 Honey Fox in March at Gulfstream Park.

“I wouldn’t have run her if I didn’t think she had a chance to win,” Brown said. “I thought all four horses were really lined up and ready to run from whatever their individual styles were. Each horse had a plan and each horse a really fair shot to get their trip and do it. All of them got good trips. In Italian just found a way to rebreak at the top of the lane and kick on, which would’ve made it hard for any horse to catch her yesterday.”

While In Italian flew in slightly under the radar, Klaravich Stables’ Technical Analysis arrived off a hand-ridden triumph in the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico while bragging two graded stakes wins at the Spa last summer in the Grade 3 Lake George and Grade 2 Lake Placid. An unbeaten record in seven starts prior to the Diana made Brant’s Bleecker Street the favorite, but the daughter of Quality Road had to make up ten lengths finishing third. Rougir, owned by Brant and Michael Tabor, just missed third by a neck to complete the superfecta.

Brown did not have any definite plans for their next starts, but said that In Italian could wait for the Grade 1, $600,000 First Lady on October 8 at Keeneland, where the Breeders’ Cup will be held this year. He also indicated a possibility of a rematch between the top two Diana finishers in the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

Brown said Rougir will “maybe” target the Grade 1, $500,000 Beverly D. on August 12 at Churchill Downs, while Bleecker Street will likely return to action sometime in the fall.

Bleecker Street, the lone American-bred filly in the field, captured the 10-furlong Grade 1 New York on June 10 ahead of the Diana, having won three other graded stakes events earlier this year.

“I think to a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter, anywhere in that range is fine,” Brown said regarding Bleecker Street. “What I don’t want to do is run her three turns, I don’t think that’s her deal.”

For the past few years, Brown and his owners have gone to public auctions abroad in search of talented horses boasting strong turf pedigrees, including In Italian and Technical Analysis, both of whom were purchased at the 2019 Tattersalls October Sale.

“It’s been a nice addition to cultivate our own horses from scratch, going and buying them and putting them in our system,” Brown said. “In recent years it became harder to buy horses that had already run a little bit, which we used to do more of earlier on in my career. With those horses being more challenging to purchase privately, we just started to have our own farm team of going and buying European-bred horses. You see the successful ones, and you get a batch of them and not every horse works out, but we’ve had tremendous success doing it and it’s something we’ll look to do more of for sure.”

Brown confirmed Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 30 at Saratoga. The Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner will square off against stablemate Zandon, who finished third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby last out.

Early Voting, a son of second crop stallion Gun Runner, was under consideration for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Saturday at Monmouth Park, a race where Brown will run talented sophomore Jack Christopher

“Early Voting is here and he’ll be going in the Jim Dandy,” Brown said. “Jack Christopher looked great this morning and looked ready to go for the Haskell. At the end of the day, I was going to run two horses in one race and one in the other and I’d rather only run the one in the Haskell. I just didn’t see the benefit of putting Early Voting in a larger field against a really fast horse and what it might do to him five weeks out from the Travers.”

Brown worked a handful of stakes caliber horses on Sunday over the Oklahoma turf, including three-time Grade 1 winner Regal Glory, who went five furlongs in 1:02.11 in preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave on August 13 at Saratoga.

The 6-year-old Animal Kingdom mare is unbeaten in three starts this year, including the Grade 3 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game at Belmont Park.

“She breezed super,” Brown said. “She had been the workmate with In Italian in recent weeks. Her form is holding well. I am planning on waiting for the Fourstardave with her.”

Brown also worked graded stakes placed Higher Truth [half-mile in 50.71] and dual graded stakes-winner Virginia Joy [five furlongs in 1:02.11] over the turf. Both fillies are on target for the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls on August 6 at Saratoga.

Brown visited the winner’s circle the race after the Diana with Klaravich Stables’ sophomore Credit Event, who won a first level allowance optional claimer over the inner turf. The son of Not This Time could come back in the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 6 at Saratoga.

“The way he finished at a mile and an eighth against straight 3-year-olds, we’ll see how the Saratoga Derby comes up,” Brown said. “A mile and three-sixteenths is certainly his distance. If it comes up really tough, I wouldn’t throw him to the wolves and do that, but the distance of the race and the fact he can only run against 3-year-olds, those two things make sense.”

Brown added that he will take “a big step backwards” with Grade 1-placed Reinvestment Risk, who ran an uncharacteristic fifth in a seven-furlong allowance optional claimer on Saturday as the heavy favorite. The 4-year-old Upstart colt was previously second at Grade 1 level in the Carter at Aqueduct and the Churchill Downs at its namesake track.

“He wasn’t acting right. He was a little quiet in the paddock and just ran flat,” Brown said. “I think he’s going to take a further evaluation. That was so unlike him. He’s been a model of consistency his whole career.”

Brown provided an update on Speak of the Devil, who was an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile in May ahead of a fourth in the Just a Game.

“She had a set back and she’s going to be on the shelf for a little while. I do expect her to come back in the fall, hopefully,” Brown said.

***

G3 Sanford winner Mo Strike to target G1 Hopeful; Arklow breezes for return in G2 Bowling Green

Trainer Brad Cox has gotten off to a strong start at the Saratoga Race Course meeting, saddling his third winner in as many days when Nasser Bin Omaiah’s Mo Strike came home the best of 12 in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford for juveniles sprinting six furlongs over the main track.

The son of Uncle Mo is now a perfect 2-for-2 after breaking his maiden in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint on June 19 at Churchill Downs. He showed professionalism in his step up to graded company with an emphatic 3 1/2-length victory under Florent Geroux.

Cox said Mo Strike will now turn his attention to the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 5 and will likely skip the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special on August 13.

“He’s great and looks fantastic. I think the right thing to do from a timing standpoint is to look at the Hopeful and work our way back from there,” said Cox. “I think we’ll skip the Saratoga Special, because it’s asking a lot of him and this gives him more time. We brought him back quick off of his maiden win, so he’ll have all summer here. It’s a great place to be, so there’s no rush.”

Mo Strike first flashed his impressive turn of foot with a similar trip in his maiden-breaking score where he edged clear from second to win by three-quarters of a length. Cox said that effort and a sharp half-mile breeze in 1:00.60 on July 9 at Churchill gave him confidence that the colt would deliver on Saturday.

“I thought he’d run well. He had settled in well and his last work at Churchill before he shipped was really good, so I felt like we had done as much with him in the mornings as we could, and he responded well,” said Cox. “He’s a very intelligent horse. To just gallop over the main track for a couple days and put in that kind of performance just shows that he’s able to adapt to things and how mature he is for a 2-year-old. So, I’m excited about him and for his future. I think he’s one of the top 2-year-olds in the country, and if he can move forward, he’ll stay in the top tier.”

Cox will look forward to more graded stakes success in the coming weeks with Caravel looking to repeat in the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress on July 23, and Arklow making his 8-year-old debut off a nine-month layoff in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 31.

Caravel and Arklow both breezed over the Oklahoma turf training track Sunday, the former working a half-mile in 49.60 seconds with jockey Tyler Gaffalione up and the latter drilling five furlongs in 1:01.72. 

Cox said he was particularly impressed with the way Caravel has trained since a prominent score in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 10 at Belmont Park where she defeated a loaded field of 10 rivals.

“She was amazing. She was amazing last week and this week she was too, but a little more steady – a maintenance move,” Cox said. “Tyler was on her; he’s worked her several times in Kentucky and she looks like she’s set up for a big race Saturday. I don’t know if we need to see any improvement from her, just more of the same. She likes it up here and we’re hoping she can duplicate her run from last year.”

Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger and the Estate of Peter Coneway’s Arklow, a fan-favorite son of Arch, has been away from the races since an even fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in October at Belmont. The multiple graded stakes-winning earner of nearly $3 million has been working steadily at Churchill Downs since May before moving to Saratoga last week.

Cox said that Arklow should be poised to run well after some time away from the races, noting his victory in the Grade 3 Louisville off six month’s rest last year.

“He’s pointing for the Bowling Green. It’s a tall task off the layoff, but he’s shown the ability to run really well off layoffs,” said Cox. “Last year, his first race back was in the Louisville Handicap and he won that. I’m pretty happy with how he’s doing.”

Since 2017, the evergreen Arklow has won at least one graded stakes every year, including a Grade 1 triumph in the 2019 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Cox said he is showing no signs of slowing down.

“We gave him plenty of time, and he’s older so you might not be able to get as many races in him each year, but he loves Kentucky Downs so we’ll point for there as well,” said Cox. “The Bowling Green makes sense as a spot to get him started. We get to breeze on the turf here, enjoy the weather and hopefully it works out.”  

***

Equipment change may be answer for Malathaat in G2 Shuvee; Nest readies for G1 CCA Oaks; Corniche to make 3-year-old debut at Saratoga

Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat, with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, breezed a half-mile in 49.22 seconds in company over Saratoga’s main track Sunday morning as she looks to get back to winning ways in the Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee, a nine-furlong contest for older fillies and mares on July 24 at Saratoga Race Course.

The 2021 Kentucky Oaks winner and reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly has never lost consecutive races and hopes to keep it that way entering the Shuvee. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said adding blinkers to his filly may be the key to getting back to form.

“She seems a little more locked in and a little more concentrated. She’s trained great up to this race and we’re looking forward to seeing how she adapts to the equipment change,” said Pletcher.

The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin lost her Saratoga debut last summer in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks before turning it around one month later to capture the Grade 1 Alabama.

Last out, she became a multi-millionaire when she finished second to familiar foe Clairiere in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 11 at Belmont, one start after she captured her 4-year-old debut in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Doubledogdare in April.

Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House’s Nest is preparing for a rematch against Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath next week in the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Pletcher said the Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets runner-up has settled into her first Saratoga summer exceptionally well.

“She’s really come out of the Belmont in good order and I’m very happy with the way she’s coming into this,” said Pletcher, “I thought she got over the track really well and seemed to take to it. It’s not been an issue for her – she’s kind of one that doesn’t need a certain type of surface and I’m not surprised that she’s settled in well here.”

The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin, who has never finished off-the-board in 7 career starts, breezed five-eighths in 1:01.44 on Saratoga’s main track in company with 2021 Champion 2-Year-Old Corniche as a final prep for the CCA Oaks.

Owned by Speedway Stables, Corniche is getting set for a return to the track under the care of a new trainer. The $1,500,000 purchase out of the 2021 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training is expected to run at Saratoga and had his first breeze over Saratoga’s main track when he went in company with Nest.

Pletcher said Corniche is possible for a start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on July 31.

“We’re considering the Amsterdam, which interestingly enough was the first race for Quality Road when we had him,” said Pletcher of his alumnus and sire of Corniche. “You can see a lot of Quality Road in him and he’s put in some good work. If things go well next week, that’s probably where we will end up.”

Corniche, who went 3-for-3 as a juvenile, capped his perfect campaign with a score in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Pappacap, who he will likely face again in the Amsterdam.

With Corniche just getting started in his sophomore campaign, graded stakes-winner Charge It stands as the leader of Pletcher’s dirt sophomores, and will be the one to represent his conditioner in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 after Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal was forced to miss the rest of the year due to bone bruising.

A homebred for Whisper Hill Farm, Charge It was a stunning winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 2 in his first start since a distant off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 7. He took the one-mile test for sophomores by 23 lengths to score the first graded stakes win of his career.

Pletcher said Charge It will not start in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 30 and will train up to the “Mid-Summer Derby.”

“[The Dwyer] was very impressive and we’ve decided we are just going to train up to the Travers,” said Pletcher. “He’ll probably get on the work tab next week and we look forward to seeing him continue to develop. I think he’s starting to put it all together now.”

Pletcher provided an update on Spendthrift Farm homebred Following Sea, who was last seen finishing a close second to stablemate Americanrevolution in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets in November at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“He’s back in training at my dad’s training facility in Ocala and hopefully we’ll see him this fall,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher also noted that Forte and Major Dude, who ran fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Grade 3 Sanford on Saturday, both emerged from their efforts “in good order.”

***

Thomas on the double with stakes-winning turf sprinters Empress Tigress and Benbang

Trainer Jonathan Thomas successfully split his turf sprint aces Empress Tigress and Benbang to come away with stakes scores over the weekend.

On Friday, Augustin Stable’s Empress Tigress maintained her perfect record with a half-length score over a rallying Poppy Flower in the $150,000 Coronation Cup, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for sophomore fillies at Saratoga. One day later, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Benbang, who scratched from the Coronation Cup, made every pole a winning one in the 5 1/2-furlong Blue Sparkler at Monmouth Park.

“We’re very fortunate that the plan we devised with our owners worked out well and both fillies showed up,” Thomas said. “It’s one of those really nice weekends. Especially with a lightly raced filly like Empress Tigress, but she’d shown enough in the talent department that it was worth trying.”

Empress Tigress, by Classic Empire, exited the outermost post 8 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez and tracked Mystic Eyes through swift splits of 21.77 seconds and 44.33 over the firm turf. Empress Tigress took command through the turn and opened up a 3 1/2-length advantage at the stretch call, staying on strong to secure the win in a final time of 1:01.70.

Thomas said he was impressed with how Empress Tigress galloped out despite the diminishing win margin.

“Second time out and especially when they win their maidens easily, they’re not quite as battle tested, so you don’t learn as much. You don’t know if they wait on a horse a little bit or if they’re getting a bit tired,” Thomas said. “She set serious fractions, so it’s legitimate that she might have come up for air a little bit late. The thing was, galloping out the filly that came to her late never really got by her. She never got her head in front.”

Thomas said he’s more than content to let the filly be a turf sprinter.

“I think it’s important not to get too clever,” Thomas said. “If a horse is doing something well, you just try to leave them alone until they’re not doing it well and then maybe they want more ground or a change of scenery. But I wouldn’t want to stray too far from the path right now from what she’s doing and that’s being a five-to-six furlong turf sprinter.”

Thomas said that Empress Tigress could harness her natural speed as she matures, if necessary.

“It’s not frantic speed. She just does what she was taught to do, and that’s to break fast,” Thomas said. “It’s organic speed. She was on the bridle going 44 and change.”

The $410,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase was bred in Kentucky by Springhouse Farm.

While Empress Tigress came with a hefty sales tag and lofty expectations, Benbang has emerged from relative obscurity to the delight of her trainer, who purchased her as a weanling for $4,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. The hard-trying bay was then sold for $65,000 at the 2021 OBS June 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale to Aron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

Benbang graduated at first asking last summer at Saratoga in an off-the-turf maiden special weight before finishing off-the-board in the Grade 1 Spinaway which was won by eventual Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu.

She finished a close fourth in the six-furlong Stewart Manor in November over the Belmont turf after a troubled trip under Paco Lopez. Benbang has finished first or second in all three starts since, culminating in her Blue Sparkler score.

Bred in Kentucky by Tim Thornton, the Shanghai Bobby bay sprinted out of the inside post under Albin Jimenez in the Blue Sparkler and marked off splits of 22.49 and 44.89 over the firm going under pressure from Mac the Pee H Dee. Benbang put away the pressure and then staved off a challenge from Delmona to notch a one-length win in a final time of 1:02.82.

“She’s a deserving stakes winner,” Thomas said. “It was really cool seeing a filly like Benbang, who was discounted at every point of her life, win a stake.”

Thomas said both fillies will come under consideration for the $150,000 Galway, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for sophomore fillies on August 11 at the Spa, although the listed $500,000 Music City at 6 1/2-furlongs at Kentucky Downs on September 11 would provide better spacing.

“I think when these fillies run super hard it might be hard to wheel them back that fast,” said Thomas regarding the Galway. “I find these turf sprint fillies leave nothing on the racetrack and they’re actually harder to get back quickly than horses that are route horses.”

Robert V. LaPenta, Augustin Stable and Madaket Stables’ Hard Love, winner of last year’s Woodhaven over the Big A turf, breezed a half-mile in 48.69 over the Oklahoma training turf Sunday in company with 4-year-old state-bred maiden winner War Terminator.

“He’s getting very close to a comeback. I thought he breezed very well this morning,” Thomas said. “He broke off sharp, laid into the bridle and breezed 48 and change without any real urging and galloped out nicely. He’s a horse that needs to be on the pace. He doesn’t have a wicked turn of foot, but he seems to have the ability to carry his speed on the grass.”

Hard Love, a 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding, boasts a record of 5-3-1-0. He graduated at first asking over the Belmont turf in October 2020 and followed with a close second to Never Surprised one month later in the Central Park at Aqueduct.

The $200,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase won 2-of-3 starts last year, beginning with a prominent 1 1/4-length score over It’s a Gamble in the Woodhaven ahead of a determined head score over older company in a nine-furlong optional-claimer over the Belmont turf. He was last seen in July 2021 finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, defeated 4 1/2-lengths by Bolshoi Ballet.

“He’s a big growthy horse and we didn’t think he was a Florida winter horse with the tight turns at Gulfstream, so it seemed like a good time to give him time off,” Thomas said. “With his conditions there was nowhere to run him and we didn’t want to tackle huge stake off the layoff.”

Thomas said Hard Love, has breezed extensively at Monmouth Park since April, will target an allowance race at the end of the first Saratoga condition book.

Owens, Jr. earns first graded stakes placing with G3 Sanford runner-up Great Navigator

Trainer Eddie Owens, Jr. celebrated his first career graded stakes placing when the 2-year-old Sea Wizard colt Great Navigator showed great heart in overcoming a troubled trip in the Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Great Navigator, piloted from post 3 by Jairo Rendon, travelled on the inside path throughout the six-furlong sprint and brushed the rail exiting the turn, shuffling to the outside of rivals to find running room as pacesetter Curly Jack tired in front of him and blocked him from gaining position. The dark bay colt was full of run and collared Andiamo a Firenze for place honors, but ran out of ground and could not catch the victorious Mo Strike and was defeated 3 1/2 lengths.

Owens, Jr. said Great Navigator made it back to his home base at Monmouth Park without incident.

“He came out of it good, he’s a little tired, but it was a long trip home,” said Owens, Jr. “He did it professionally and he’s like an older horse. Nothing bothers him. It felt pretty good.”

Great Navigator was an impressive debut winner by 5 3/4 lengths in a June 4 maiden at Monmouth, upsetting the field of juveniles at odds of 17-1 to give Owens, Jr. his 14th win since going out on his own in 2020.

“He’s come along really good. I didn’t really have him cranked up for his first race, but I had him cranked up for this and he showed a lot yesterday,” said Owens, Jr. “If the five horse [Curly Jack] hadn’t tired in front of him, he may have won. He didn’t have anywhere to go, so he had to angle outside, but the race pretty much over.”

Bred in New Jersey by owner Holly Crest Farm, Great Navigator’s next start is still to be determined by Owens, Jr.

“We’ll see how he bounces back,” said Owens, Jr. “He’s not a very big horse and we’re not in a rush.”

Out of the Steven Got Even mare All Even, Great Navigator hails from the family of graded stakes-winner Full and Fancy, and graded stakes-placed winners Stiffed and Half Metal Jacket.

First Captain still on target for G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Woodford Thoroughbreds and Bobby Flay’s First Captain is training well at Saratoga towards a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 3 at Saratoga which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The 4-year-old Curlin colt finished a heartbreaking second last out in the 10-furlong Grade 2 Suburban on July 9 at Belmont, defeated a nose by Dynamic One.

“He’s doing well. He came out of his race well and shipped up here really well,” McGaughey said. “We have five or six weeks until we run again, so we’ll have a fresh horse.”

McGaughey said he was pleased with the Suburban effort in which First Captain was game to the wire, completing the exacta by three-quarters of a length in front of Untreated in a thrilling finish.

“It was a heckuva race. I thought he ran really well,” McGaughey said. “The winner ran really well and the horse that ran third ran really well. He just came out on the short end of the picture, but I can’t be disappointed with the way he ran at all.”

Should a Grade/Group 1 winner start in the 2022 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the purse will be increased to $1.25 million. In addition, the first four placings of the Grade 2 Suburban will have their nomination, entry and starting fees waived should they start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Bred by co-owner Bobby Flay, he is out of the graded stakes-winning and Grade 1-placed A.P. Indy mare America. He was a $1.5 million purchase from Stone Farm’s consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale in August 2019.

A five-time winner from eight starts, First Captain has won at distances ranging from seven furlongs to the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3 Pimlico Special in May.

“I think he wants to be back off the pace a little bit and going a distance of ground,” McGaughey said.

McGaughey said Winngate Stables’ multiple graded-stakes winner Kathleen O. is back in training at Churchill Downs.

“She’s jogging and doing fine,” McGaughey said. “She did really well with her time off and she looks good now. She’s put on some weight.”

McGaughey said he has no set plan yet with Upstart sophomore, who was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs. Kathleen O. won her first four starts, including scores in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks at the Hallandale Beach, Florida oval.

McGaughey said Annette Allen’s Stolen Holiday, a 5-year-old War Front mare, could target the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa, a 1 1/16-mile turf test on August 27. The consistent bay, who sports a ledger of 10-4-2-1, made the grade last out with a frontrunning score in the Grade 3 Eatontown on June 18 at Monmouth Park.

“She sure ran good the other day,” said McGaughey. “I think as long as its firm, she’ll be fine. We could look at the Ballston Spa.”

McGaughey said that Allen Stable’s Fort Ticonderoga, who was vanned off following Saturday’s ninth race at Saratoga, is in good order.

“He cooled out fine and walked fine this morning,” McGaughey said.

Lone Rock looking for Birdstone repeat; Dream Lith to resume training, next race undecided

Flying P Stable, R. A. Hill Stable and Flying Partners’ Lone Rock is hoping to defend his title in the $200,000 Birdstone, a one-and-three-quarter mile dirt marathon for older horses on July 28 at Saratoga Race Course.

Last year, Lone Rock established himself as one of the best marathon horses in the country, posting a 9-7-2-0 record and becoming a multiple graded stakes-winner when he captured the Grade 2 Brooklyn at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day and the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Del Mar on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.

He finished third in this year’s Brooklyn, but conditioner Robertino Diodoro believes his horse is in great shape.

“His last two works have been his best two works he’s had in probably the last 8 months,” Diodoro said, “Just like most horses, how can you not like it up here where this is more horse-friendly compared to some racetracks?”

The 7-year-old millionaire gelding by Majestic Warrior is likely to have one more breeze on Thursday over the main track, though Diodoro said it will be a much more relaxing prep after two stiff breezes already at the Spa.

Cypress Creek Equine and Arnold Bennewith’s Dream Lith, last seen finishing third in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 10 at Belmont Park, remains at Churchill Downs after receiving a few weeks off.

“We gave her a short break at the farm for a couple weeks,” said Diodoro, “She got a little skin disease and just gave her a little freshener. She’s doing well but we’re going to take our time.”

Diodoro said she will likely arrive in Saratoga in the next couple of weeks, with a possible race at the end of August.

The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro instantly made a name for herself last summer at Saratoga when she dazzled in her debut and lit up the tote board, returning $75 to win when defeating seven other rivals.

She finished fifth in her next start, the Grade 1 Spinaway, but ended her 2-year-old season as a graded stakes-winner when she came from off the pace to win the Grade 2 Golden Rod in November at Churchill, defeating a field that included this year’s Kentucky Oaks victor and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks probable Secret Oath. 

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