Shades of Arrogate as Uncle Chuck takes on Tiz the Law in Travers
By: David Grening
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Four years ago, trainer Bob Baffert shipped a lightly raced 3-year-old from California to take on a dozen horses, including the winners of two Triple Crown races, in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. All Arrogate did that day was win by 13 1/2 lengths and smash a 37-year-old stakes and track record by running 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.36.
Saturday, when the Travers is run for the 151st time at spectator-less Saratoga, Baffert will again be represented by a lightly raced 3-year-old who will take on seven rivals, including Tiz the Law, the leading 3-year-old in the country.
What Uncle Chuck (2 for 2) does may be the most intriguing aspect of an already drastically different Runhappy Travers Stakes.
On June 12, eight days before Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes for his third Grade 1 victory, Uncle Chuck won his debut by seven lengths at Santa Anita. On July 4, Uncle Chuck won the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby by four lengths over Thousand Words, who came back to defeat Honor A. P. – a leading Kentucky Derby contender – in the Shared Belief Stakes last Saturday at Del Mar.
Uncle Chuck has garnered comparisons to Arrogate, who entered the Travers off an allowance win against two horses at Del Mar.
Baffert says Uncle Chuck, a son of Uncle Mo, reminds him of Arrogate in “the ground that he covers when he moves.”
It’s why Baffert started him out at two turns and why he thinks the horse is suited for 1 1/4 miles.
“I really think with his stride, he’s just a big, tall, lanky beautiful horse that covers a lot of ground,” Baffert said. “He has his sire Uncle Mo’s brilliance. If I have a horse for the Travers, I really like that horse.”
Baffert has won the Travers with Point Given, Arrogate, and West Coast. The latter two went gate to wire. Uncle Chuck, who will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 3, is a threat to break running and never stop.
“I hope when he turns for home, he’s right there and he could strut his stuff,” Baffert said. “We know he’s a good horse.”
Baffert is attempting to find out if Uncle Chuck is a Kentucky Derby horse. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Travers offers its top four finishers qualifying points (100-40-20-10) toward the Kentucky Derby in the event the race draws more than 20 horses.
In Tiz the Law, the Travers features the pro-tem Kentucky Derby favorite. Tiz the Law, a New York-bred son of Constitution owned by the Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, is 5 for 6 overall and 3 for 3 this year.
Though Tiz the Law has not run farther than 1 1/8 miles – this year’s Belmont was shortened to that distance from 1 1/2 miles – Tagg has been adamant the 1 1/4 miles of the Travers will be ideal for him.
“I’ve never seen him take a deep breath, I’ve never had him out of breath after a workout, I’ve never had him way out of breath after a race, and he blows off very quick,” Tagg said. “Nothing seems to be a hazard. I could be all wrong, it might change with another eighth of a mile, but I have no reason to worry about it.”
Tiz the Law, who will break from post 6 under Manny Franco, doesn’t figure to be far off the pace. He has put in three excellent workouts over Saratoga’s main track.
Max Player ran a decent third in the Belmont Stakes considering it was his first race in 4 1/2 months. Max Player has not handled the kickback of dirt in his face very well, and in the Belmont trainer Linda Rice felt jockey Joel Rosario, who was on Max Player for the first time, left the horse too much to do.
“I suspect Joel figured out in his last race – because we did discuss it afterwards – that he’s got to find him a clear path, get him away from the kickback, otherwise he’s going to lose momentum and lose position,” Rice said. “He may also be a little more aggressive with him early because I think he let him lay back there and get a little further back than he wanted.”
Country Grammer and Caracaro were separated by a head when finishing one-two in the Grade 3 Peter Pan, a 1 1/8-mile race run here on July 16. Trainer Chad Brown is confident Country Grammer will get the 10 furlongs of the Travers, but understands this is a step up in class.
“He’s going to have to run the best race of his life for sure, and we’re going to have to hope that a couple of these main contenders don’t want a mile and a quarter,” Brown said. “If they back up a little bit and we come forward, that’s the only scenario I see where we could have success in this race.”
Caracaro’s runner-up finish in the Peter Pan was his first race since he won his maiden in January. The 23-day turnaround has his trainer, Gustavo Delgado, a little concerned.
South Bend comes off a second-place finish to Dean Martini in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Following that race, he was purchased privately by a group that includes Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel and turned over to trainer Bill Mott, who ran second in last year’s Travers with Tacitus.
Shivaree ran second to Tiz the Law in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream, but is coming off an 11th-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
First Line is coming off a maiden victory going 1 1/8 miles on July 29. His trainer, Orlando Noda, is enjoying a terrific meet, with 5 wins from 14 starters.
The Travers goes as race 11 on a 12-race card that begins at noon Eastern and includes the Grade 1 Ballerina, Grade 1 Test, Grade 3 Waya, and Grade 3 Troy.
Princess of Cairo has the breeding to successfully stretch out in Hong Kong Jockey Club
By: Randy Goulding
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – There are no standouts in the $50,000 Hong Kong Jockey Club at Hastings on Sunday. All six of the 3-year-old fillies entered will be stretching out to a middle distance for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race. It goes as race 7 on an eight-race card that begins at 4:30 p.m. Pacific.
Princess of Cairo has the pedigree for the assignment. Trained by Glen Todd, she is coming off an impressive win in a maiden special weight race in just her second start.
With Efrain Hernandez riding, she broke alertly from the rail in the 6 1/2-furlong dash and looked very comfortable stalking Fly Away and Miss Earl for a half-mile. She moved outside of the dueling pair and took the lead turning for home. It was a very mature performance for a horse with just one race behind her.
By Cairo Prince, the Kentucky-bred Princess of Cairo is a half-sister to She’s Lovely, who could run all day. Counting races on turf and a walkover in a race washed off the turf at Penn National, She’s Lovely won nine routes.
Todd said Princess of Cairo “improved 200 percent in her second start.”
“After watching how she finished, I couldn’t wait to run her long,” he said. “I know it is a big step up in class, but I think she has an excellent chance.”
Princess of Cairo drew the outside post, from where she figures to get a nice trip stalking a quick pace. Hernandez retains the mount.
The Todd-trained Miss Prospector guarantees a fast pace.
In her lone win, which came at Emerald Downs last year, she broke on top and drew off to win a maiden special weight race by over 11 lengths. In her next start, going 1 1/16 miles at Hastings, she dueled through honest fractions before finishing third in the $75,000 Fantasy.
Miss Prospector is back with her own age group after getting fried in a duel in a conditioned allowance race for fillies and mares on July 7.
Sangria should be okay with the added yardage after finishing third to Floral in the $40,000 Supernaturel going 6 1/2 furlongs July 21. Trained by Barbara Heads, the daughter of Sungold rallied to win the $102,000 Freedom of the City at Century Downs going 7 1/2 furlongs in her final start as a 2-year-old.
Jose Gomez rides.
Floral took them all the way in the Supernaturel, but the Craig MacPherson-trained daughter of Bakken set moderate fractions and she won’t have that luxury Sunday.
Fully Lent figures to move forward following her runner-up finish in the Supernaturel in her first start this year. Trained by Dave Forster, she finished second to the sensational Infinite Patience in the $100,000 Sadie Diamond Futurity and the $50,000 CTHS Stakes as a 2-year-old.
Walkinthewalk, fourth in the Supernaturel for trainer Mark Cloutier, completes the field.
YELLOW RIBBON IS, AND ISN’T, A SLAM DUNK FOR BEAU RECALL
Nick Cosato, a former jockey agent who is now head of the Slam Dunk Racing partnership organization, was introduced to the sport at a young age via weekend trips to Santa Anita with his father.
His father was good friends with Eduardo Inda, the right-hand man for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and an integral part of the team that campaigned John Henry to the Hall of Fame as well.
“So I was able to be around John Henry quite a bit,” Cosato said. “I’ve got pictures with me and John Henry before and after he won the Santa Anita Handicap in 1982. John Henry was my lifelong favorite – until Beau Recall came along. For her to be at that level, in my mind, speaks volumes.”
Beau Recall, a 6-year-old Irish-bred mare, is the defending champion in Saturday’s $150,000, Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for older fillies and mares which will be run for the 68th time.
In the 2019 Yellow Ribbon, Beau Recall rallied along the rail to win a by a margin so narrow it took several minutes to verify the photo, then several more for stewards to deny an objection for interference by the rider whose horse had finished last.
“It was a lengthy inquiry for something I didn’t think merited being brought up in the first place,” Cosato recalled. “But in the end, the stewards’ decision was the one we were hoping for.”
The Yellow Ribbon was one of three victories and three runner-up efforts in a six-race 2019 campaign for Beau Recall that accounted for $605,600 of her `more than $1.1 million in career earnings. The Yellow Ribbon was her second Grade II victory of the year, coming three months after a 10-1 upset in the Distaff Turf Mile, which gave Cosato and partners the thrill and prestige of going to the winner’s circle before 150,729 spectators at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
Cosato doesn’t favor one over the other. He savors both.
“Any time you win one of those big races it’s just a complete blessing,” Cosato, who grew up in Temple City and now lives in Sierra Madre, said. “Nothing beats winning at home, and I’m a Californian who has been coming to Del Mar since I was a kid.”
Beau Recall has raced twice in 2020. She finished ninth of 14, albeit beaten only 2 ¼ lengths, in the Mint Julep at Churchill Downs on May 30 and second in the Grade I Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park on June 27.
“Her comeback race (Mint Julep) turned out to be nothing more than a workout,” Cosato said. “She never had room to run, never got to unleash the late kick that makes her so good.”
In the Just a Game, Beau Recall’s late charge came up three lengths short against front-running Newspaperofrecord but a half length ahead of Uni, winner of the 2018 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar and an Eclipse Award as the top female turf runner last year.
Beau Recall prevailed over five rivals, among them multiple stakes-winning Vasilika, in the 2019 Yellow Ribbon. There are seven others entered Saturday, among them Jolie Olimpica, winner of two graded turf sprints at Santa Anita this year and Keeper Ofthe Stars, who took the Grade I Gamely in May.
Beau Recall may carry the colors of Slam Dunk – a name Cosato chose because of the many friends/clients he has with NBA or college basketball backgrounds – but a victory Saturday is nowhere near such a high percentage opportunity.
“It’s a tough race,” Cosato conceded. “We’re trying to get her a Grade I win, but for that at a mile, you’d almost have to run against the boys. Timing-wise, the Yellow Ribbon is right and we’re hoping it works out for her again.”
The field from the rail: Summering (Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1); Bodhicitta (Flavien Prat, 6-1); Tonahutu (Victor Espinoza, 15-1); Lady Prancelot (Juan Hernandez, 5-1); Harmless (Ricardo Gonzalez, 15-1); Keeper Ofthe Stars (Abel Cedillo, 7-2); Beau Recall (Umberto Rispoli, 3-1), and Jolie Olimpica (Mike Smith, 5-2).
MIDWEST INVADER RODERICK FAVORED AMONG SEVEN IN BEST PAL
Roderick, an Into Mischief colt who was a $550,000 purchase at the Keeneland Sale last September, is the 9-5 favorite on John Lies’ morning line in a field of seven for Saturday’s co-featured $150,000, Grade II Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs on the main track.
Owned by the Breeze Easy partnership group of Mike Hall and Sam Ross, Roderick made his racing debut on June 21 at Belmont Park and outclassed three rivals in pulling away to an 8 ¼-length victory. It earned a 73 Beyer speed figure, the best of any among Best Pal entrants.
Roderick was also entered in the $150,000 Saratoga Special today at Saratoga, but trainer Wesley Ward opted to west, rather than east, with the colt who has been training at Keeneland.
“He got here Monday. He’s ready to go,” said Blake Heap, Ward’s West Coast assistant.
The field from the rail: Sonic Brees (Umberto Rispoli, 6-1); Ambivalent (Mario Gutierrez, 5-1); Schnell (Ruben Fuentes, 12-1); Roderick (Flavien Prat, 9-5); Herd Immunity (Abel Cedillo, 7-2); Weston (Drayden Van Dyke, 5-1), and Girther (Ricardo Gonzalez, 6-1).
FOUR FROM OCEANSIDE WILL BE BACK FOR LA JOLLA
A field of eight was entered Thursday for Sunday’s Grade III, $125,000 La Jolla Handicap, the second of three turf stakes for 3-year-olds annually on the Del Mar racing calendar.
Dan Blacker-trained Hit the Road, winner of the one-mile Oceanside, was not entered for the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla. But Oceanside runner-up Kanderel, third-place finisher Ajourneytofreedom, I’m Leaving You (5th) and K P All Systems Go (7th) were signed up to go the extra distance.
Adding intrigue are four newcomers, foremost among them Storm The Court. The Peter Eurton-trained colt was accorded an Eclipse Award in the 2-year-old division for his 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile upset victory, but has gone 0-for-4 in 2020 and will be tried on turf for the first time.
The field from the rail: I’m Leaving You (Giovanni Franco, 15-1); K P All Systems Go (Abel Cedillo, 6-1); Azul Coast (Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1); Ajourneytofreedom (Ruben Gonzalez, 12-1); Kanderel (Juan Hernandez, 10-1); Smooth Like Strait (Umberto Rispoli, 5-2); Storm The Court (Flavien Prat, 3-1), and Indian Peak (Mike Smith, 6-1).
PRAT, MILLER IN FAMILIAR TOP SPOTS TO START WEEK SIX
Defending champion Flavien Prat climbed back atop the jockey standings with seven wins over the course of the three-day racing week which ended Sunday. The steady progress of the Frenchman, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday, gives him a two-win lead, 18-16, over Umberto Rispoli as racing resumes today.
The seven-win spurt made Prat the hottest jockey of Week 5, topping Drayden Van Dyke and Tiago Pereira (5 wins each), Juan Hernandez (4), Rispoli (3) and Abel Cedillo (3).
In the trainers’ race, two wins from eight starters for Peter Miller kept him comfortably atop the standings with 10 victories from 43 runners for the first 10 days of the meeting. In second place with seven wins from 19 starters overall, the major mover up the charts, was Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. His five wins over the weekend included the Shared Belief Stakes on Saturday and the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch on Sunday.
That, of course, was only counting Del Mar. Moments after Thousand Words won the Shared Belief, Baffert watched the big infield board from the shade of the walkway to the track as his Improbable went wire-to-wire in the Grade I, $750,000 Whitney at Saratoga.
DEL MAR ADDS ONE RACE DAY, TWO OWNER/SPECTATOR ON-SITE SPOTS
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has announced it will run a make-up day of racing on Monday, August 31. It expects to present a 10-race card starting at 2 p.m. The added date means Del Mar will finish up its 2020 summer race meet with two four-day weekends — August 28 to 31 and September 4 to 7.
On the heels of a recently announced 10% purse increase, the seaside track’s extra day will bring the number of race days for its 81st summer season to 27. Originally, 28 racing days had been planned. The track’s racing office has been adding extra races to its regular cards to make up for the lost date as the meet moves through its scheduled Friday through Sunday timetable.
Additionally, it was announced in a press release by the Thoroughbred Owners of California that starting today the number of owners allowed to attend races has been increased from two to four per horse.
Non-licensed guests still are not permitted. If a horse has more than four owners wishing to attend the race, the TOC will do its best to accommodate if space is available. Owners wishing to attend should email Mary Forney, Executive Director of TOC (firstname.lastname@example.org) to secure access, and reservations can be made up until 24 hours before race day.
KOCH TAKES ON PAULICK IN STAR SATURDAY SLOT OF ‘BEACH BOSS’
Billy Koch, founder of the Little Red Feather ownership group, will be the challenger for Paulick Report founder Ray Paulick in Saturday’s special celebrity edition of the “Beach Boss” handicapping contest. The show starts at 11 a.m. and is available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. For further information the access link is: https://www.dmtc.com/contest.
The Beach Boss contest is free to everyone and works like this: Sign up to undertake the task of betting mythical money on one designated race each day. Participants get $100 of the imaginary cash for win, place or show wagering. The grand prize at the conclusion of the meeting is two VIP Breeders’ Cup tickets when the annual championship event returns to Del Mar in 2021.
CLOSERS – Selected works from 101 on dirt and 13 on turf officially timed Thursday and 123 on dirt this morning: Thursday, Dirt – Gingham (5f, :59.80), Rushie (5f, 1:00.40), Speech (5f, 1:01.60); Turf – Combatant (4f, :49.00), Last Opportunity (4f, :50.00); Friday – Been Studying Her (5f, 1:02.00), Donna Veloce (5f, 1:00.00), Flash Magic (5f, :59.40), Restrainedvengence (5f, 1:01.00) and Giant Expectations (6f, 1:12.60). Flash Magic, whose 5-furlong bullet work for Bob Baffert was done handily from the gate, is a 2-year-old, unraced half-sister to Good Magic, who won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, was second to Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby and won the Travers Stakes that year.
Erich Brehm’s homebred filly My Girl Red showed speed from the start and won the 52nd edition of the Grade II Sorrento Stakes for juvenile fillies by four and three-quarter wide open lengths Friday at Del Mar.
The bay daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red – owned in part by Brehm and trained by My Girl Red’s conditioner, J. Keith Desormeaux – covered six furlongs in 1:12.12 in eased-up fashion and picked up a check for $90,000 from the $150,500 total purse.
Flavien Prat, Del Mar’s leading rider with 20 firsts in 11 days of racing, rode My Girl Red for his seventh stakes win of the meet, far and away the most by any jockey at the shore session.
Finishing second was Reddam Racing’s first-time starter Get On the Bus and running third was Tricar Stables’ Exchange Vows.
My Girl Red, a Kentucky-bred, paid $3.80, $2.40 and $2.20 across the board as the 9-10 favorite in the field of six fillies.
Desormeaux indicated that his charge would point next for the meet’s top offering for young fillies, the Grade I, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sunday, September 6.
Prat won two races on the afternoon, as did riders Umberto Rispoli and Juan Hernandez.
In the Pick Six, a lone ticket holder had races 4 through 9 tabbed correctly and picked up a score of $181,849 for his/her efforts. The $9,216 winning ticket was sold to a Player Management Group wagering through Xpressbet at their Oregon hub.
Racing resumes at Del Mar Saturday with an 11-race card starting at 2 p.m.
FLAVIEN PRAT (My Girl Red, winner) – “I didn’t have any special instructions; just ride her with confidence. She showed speed away from there, then we got a nice breather on the turn. From there she just went on and won in hand.”
J. KEITH DESORMEAUX (My Girl Red,winner) – “Flavien (Prat) was telling me how she was looking around and kind of lost interest the last eighth (of a mile). What was nice to me was that she was doing that the first quarter. I know it’s still early and the time is average. But I think she can go even quicker and I sure don’t want to complain. She has always shown signs of class and it’s nice to see one duplicate in the afternoon what we see in the mornings. Debutante is next. ($250,000, Grade I Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs on Sunday, September 6.)”
FRACTIONS: :22.17 :45.88 :58.87 1:12.12
The stakes win was the seventh of the meet (in 11 days of racing) for rider Prat and his second (2018, Bellafina) in the Sorrento. He now has 51 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer Desormeaux and his first in the Sorrento. It is his sixth stakes win at Del Mar.
The winning owner is Erich G. Brehm from Sonnyvale, TX. Brehm was part of the partnership that owned My Girl Red’s sire, Texas Red, the winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Wicked Whisper targets second Grade 1 win in $300K Longines Test
Max Player looks to get back on winning track in Runhappy Travers (G1)
Brown taking another shot at Runhappy Travers (G1) with Country Grammer
Rookie Report: Mutasaabeq will try to parlay his flashy morning speed to the afternoon
A trio of Pick 5s and Pick 4s lined up for Saturday’s Runhappy Travers (G1) card
Belmont Stakes hero Tiz the Law, born at Sequel Stallions in Hudson, New York and raised in Versailles, Kentucky by breeder Twin Creeks Farm, is the even-money morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Race Course.
The two outfits enjoy a strong relationship, with Sequel Stallions serving as home to the Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ campaigned stallions Mission Impazible and Destin.
Becky Thomas, owner of Sequel Stallions, said Tiz the Law, a son of Constitution, displayed intelligence and athletic promise from his very first steps.
“We just showed him what we wanted him to do and he listened,” said Thomas. “We try very hard as a farm to be able to breed and raise a good horse and Tiz the Law is the pinnacle of what we hope for.”
Randy Gullatt, who manages Twin Creeks Farm for director Steve Davison, has been associated with Tiz the Law since the colt and his Grade 2-winning dam Tizfiz shipped to Kentucky just 90 days after being foaled.
Tiz the Law excelled at the 230-acre farm before shipping back up to New York for the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred Yearling Sale, and Gullatt said that not much has changed in terms of the horse’s demeanor.
“He was very similar to what he is now,” Gullatt said. “Just very easy to manage, very happy, very intelligent and very pleasant to be around.”
Thomas said Tiz the Law exuded class ahead of the sale, where he was purchased for $110,000 by Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stables.
“I have found that horses who are smart may go to a place with new surroundings, look around and just process their new environment, but those kinds of horses are the ones that make good racehorses,” said Thomas. “You can go from one place to the next, ship them and move them because they’re smart. They want to please you, they stay in their tub, they do the right thing, and they show well at the sale. Tiz the Law was a class act and a star pupil all the way through.
“I wish we could have all babies and yearlings like Tiz the Law,” Thomas added. “They’re the kind that the veterinarian doesn’t know because nothing is wrong with them. Your help goes to the sale and lead them out because they aren’t problematic. He’s one of those horses that are always wanting to please, did everything right, and are well-balanced.”
Tiz the Law was a winner at first asking at Saratoga for trainer Barclay Tagg on August 8, 2019, exactly one year removed from Saturday’s Runhappy Travers.
The talented bay has since flourished winning three Grade 1 races including last year’s Champagne at Belmont Park, the Florida Derby in March at Gulfstream Park and most recently, the Belmont Stakes, where on June 20 he became the first New York-bred in 138 years to win the American classic.
Gullatt and Thomas have both identified Tiz the Law’s athleticism as his most outstanding attribute.
“I think ‘athletic’ would be the word I use more commonly than others,” Thomas said. “He’s not a big, stretchy horse, he’s a medium-sized horse. Tiz the Law, even though he wasn’t a big overpowering horse, he had really good length in his back and those horses cover a lot of ground and they have a lot of room to reach up under them when they’re moving. In his case, how he runs is how he walked.”
“He was a very athletic horse,” Gullatt concurred. “He had a very good hind leg on him. I think his mind was just so good. He was very easy to please and loved his job. He wasn’t an overly big horse, but it was all his athleticism and his mind that were his biggest strengths.”
In a game of ups and downs, Thomas said she takes a strong sense of pride in being associated with the development of a horse of Tiz the Law’s caliber.
“We sure kiss a lot of frogs before we get to that prince,” Thomas said. “We work really hard to produce a product that succeeds in the sales ring and on the racetrack. It’s important to me to be associated with these types of horses and types of mares. It’s everything we work for.”
Gullatt won 89 races as a trainer before switching careers, and he praised Tagg for being able to keep Tiz the Law in top form throughout the year.
“What’s amazing to me is that it’s very difficult to do well for as long as Barclay has had this horse do well and just stay at that peak level,” Gullatt said. “So, I think it just goes to show the strength of the horse and how well he’s fit Barclay’s program. It’s a match made in heaven.”
Fans of Tiz the Law can look forward to seeing his Twin Creeks Racing-owned 2-year-old half-sister Angel Oak, by Mission Impazible, make her debut this fall for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“She was up at Belmont and was off one day, so we decided to back off and give her a little break,” said Gullatt. “She’s currently at WinStar but she’s training every day and we hope to have her ready in the fall. There’s a New York-sired stakes race in December that we have circled that I would love to make.”
* * *
Imprimis seeks a winning a return in Troy (G3)
Breeze Easy’s Imprimis, a 6-year-old Broken Vow gelding, returns off a nine-month layoff as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Troy, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 4-year-olds and upward at Saratoga.
Trained by Joe Orseno, Imprimis won 5-of-7 starts in 2018 but the turf sprint specialist brought his game to another level last season when earning a career-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure in the five-furlong Silks Run off a six-month layoff at Gulfstream followed by making the grade in the Grade 2 Shakertown traveling 5 1/2-furlongs at Keeneland.
Imprimis shipped to Ascot last June for the Group 1 King’s Stand, a five-furlong sprint on the straightaway under Frankie Dettori, and more than held his own when sixth, defeated just 4 3/4-lengths by Blue Point.
“The experience at Ascot was second to none, but I wish I would have run him in the Diamond Jubilee [six furlongs] instead of the King’s Stand because I believe in my heart he could have ran third in there,” said Orseno. “I thought the five furlongs would have been better for him, but he ran against the best horses in the world and Frankie got off him and said, ‘Don’t worry, this horse was waiting on a turn and it cost him.'”
The dark bay gelding, bred in Florida by Craig L. Wheeler, made three starts in a brief fall campaign following his European adventure when fourth in the Grade 3 Runhappy Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs; third in the Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland; and a last-out sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November.
“I really believe when I sent him to Ascot off the Silks Run and the Shakertown, that he was the best grass sprinter in the country,” said Orseno. “The trip to England didn’t really knock him out but it took him a while to recover. He had troubled trips at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland or he may have won both of those going into the Breeders’ Cup.”
During the offseason, Imprimis had a breathing issue corrected with a pair of surgeries.
“We knew he needed throat surgery all along, so we waited until after the Breeders’ Cup. The first surgery failed a little bit, so we went ahead and did a second one which was a total success,” said Orseno. “It took us some extra time but the plan all along was to run four times this year, so if we get three starts into him before the Breeders’ Cup that will be plenty. The Troy has been on my radar since last year.”
Orseno said Imprimis, who worked a sharp half-mile in 47.62 Saturday on the Gulfstream main track, has arrived at Saratoga in good order to the care of Spa-based conditioner Horatio DePaz.
“He shipped in to Saratoga on Wednesday and he’s doing fine,” said Orseno, who will be looking for his first graded win at the Spa since Perfect Sting captured the Grade 2 Diana in 2000. “I got a good report this morning that he jogged the wrong way on the main track with the pony. He’s there, he’s healthy and he’s ready.”
Orseno said a wet turf wouldn’t bother Imprimis who captured the 2018 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on very soft going.
“They went five-eighths in 1:03 at Pimlico that day – they were sinking to their knees – and he drew away from them. Soft is OK for this horse,” said Orseno.
Imprimis, who will exit post 1, will be reunited with jockey Jose Ortiz who guided the gelding to victory in the 2018 Wolf Hill at Monmouth Park. Orseno said he expects Imprimis to perform well off the layoff.
“He’s a very good fresh horse and he’s ready to run,” said Orseno. “Did I do enough as a trainer? Most trainers never think they did enough. I’m not crazy about the one-hole but it’s the hand we were dealt and fortunately we have a top rider on him that knows him, has won on him and to me it’s the right race to bring him back in.
“It’s a competitive field and just because he’s 8-5, I’m not going to get cocky about it,” added Orseno. “It’s Saratoga and when you go there you better be able to run. Hopefully, we bring our ‘A’ game.”
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Wicked Whisper targets second Grade 1 win in $300K Longines Test
Owner Alex Lieblong said he is hopeful that his filly Wicked Whisper can make a good showing in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Longines Test at Saratoga Race Course, where she will attempt a second Grade 1 victory.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the daughter of second crop sire Liam’s Map won last year’s Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park after winning on debut at the Spa. Following a fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Wicked Whisper did not return to action until July, where she was a distant fourth in the Grade 3 Beaumont at Keeneland.
“She needed the race, but with this bunch, she better have her running shoes on,” said Lieblong, who owns Wicked Whisper with his wife JoAnn. “She came out of the Breeders’ Cup with a splint on one side and then she ended up with a splint on her other side. So Steve has nursed her along and gave her the time she needed. Hopefully she’ll show up. It’s a tough bunch she’s up against.”
Lieblong, a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, is no stranger to Grade 1 success at the Spa having owned two-time Sword Dancer winner Telling [2009-10]; The Big Beast, who won the 2014 King’s Bishop [now the H. Allen Jerkens]; and 2015 Alabama victor Embellish the Lace.
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. piloted Wicked Whisper to her debut victory and will be reunited with the chestnut filly from post 4 in the six-horse field.
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Max Player looks to get back on winning track in Runhappy Travers (G1)
George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player, whose two-race win streak concluded when third in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June, has the chance to return to his winning ways in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers.
The 151st running of the 1 ¼-mile Mid-Summer Derby will mark just the fifth career start for Max Player, a 3 ¼-length winner of the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Withers in his 3-year-old debut on February 1 at Aqueduct.
Trained by Linda Rice, Max Player didn’t run back until the Belmont, shortened to 1 1/8 miles in leading off the revamped Triple Crown lineup. The Travers offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top four finishers for the next leg, the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on September 5.
“I knew from February to June, based on the way he was training, that he was going to take a big step forward. Obviously he needed to,” Rice said at Wednesday’s post-position draw. “This time around, I don’t know that we’re going to see the same progression we did from February to June, but if he takes baby steps that would be good [to] get us to September.”
Max Player will be the second career Travers starter for Rice, the only woman to win a training title at Saratoga. The 2009 meet champion was fourth in the 2014 Travers with Kid Cruz.
Rice opted to keep most of her string downstate this summer at Belmont, where Max Player has done the bulk of his training. He arrived in Saratoga Wednesday afternoon and went to the track Thursday and Friday.
“He’s trained fine. I’ve been training at Belmont, not at Saratoga, which is a little unusual,” Rice said. “Coming into the Belmont he was off a 5 ½-month break, so I trained him pretty aggressively. Coming into this race, I backed off him a little bit, [with] a little bit more maintenance breezes. We weren’t quite as aggressive with him, but I think he’s ready.”
Joel Rosario, aboard for the first time in the Belmont, rides back from post 4 in a field of eight led by even-money program favorite Tiz the Law, the 3 ¾-length winner of the Belmont considered the top 3-year-old in training.
“I’m OK with post 4. I’d rather try to save a little ground in the first turn, on both turns, and not get caught too far outside,” Rice said. “Joel, this will be the second time that he’s ridden the horse. It was a learning curve last time. He watched his previous races, he saw that the horse doesn’t run into kickback very well, so I think based on the learning curve he was a little too far back [in the Belmont], had a little too much to do. I’d like to think that Joel will work a little more aggressively to keep him closer.”
The late-running Max Player will be stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time. He has never been worse than third in any of his four starts, winning a one-mile maiden special weight last December at Parx in his juvenile finale, and Rice is hoping to see an honest pace for her closer.
“Racing’s funny,” Rice said. “Sometimes when they run shorter distances they go faster early and you have a better chance to close with a horse like him that has a strong closing kick, so on occasion it works against you.”
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Brown taking another shot at Runhappy Travers (G1) with Country Grammer
An opportunity to run at a desired distance, in the race he’s wanted to win more than any other but has yet to add to his already lengthy list of accomplishments, was too tempting to pass up for trainer Chad Brown.
The Mechanicville, N.Y. native will send out Paul Pompa, Jr.’s Country Grammer in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers for 3-year-olds, the highlight of both the Saratoga season and a loaded 12-race program featuring five graded-stakes worth $1.95 million in purses.
Country Grammer will be the 11th Travers starter for Brown, his best finish coming with Gift Box, who ran fourth in 2016. Growing up a half-hour south of Saratoga, where his family has gathered at the same backyard picnic table on Travers Day for decades, Brown is hoping to break through in a year when coronavirus protocols will prevent fans from attending.
“I was thinking about that; if I finally win and nobody’s here, does it count?” Brown said. “It’s so depressing to not have the fans here, but at least they have the meet going. NYRA’s done a super job, at least from the horsemen’s side, to make it feel comfortable as they can. The racing product’s been super, as you can see from the wagering, and the surface is extremely safe. The Travers will be a little different, but we’ll take it if we can get it.”
Country Grammer enters the 1 ¼-mile Travers off a neck victory over fellow Mid-Summer Derby aspirant Caracaro in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan on July 16, opening day at Saratoga. He has never gone less than a mile in any of his five races, and Brown said he has been relishing the chance to go further.
“Two turns is his thing, and we’ve been wanting to get a mile and a quarter all along,” Brown said. “Hopefully this horse will get the distance. I’m confident he can. He’s going to have to take a step forward in this race and hope a couple of the top contenders can’t go that far.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Country Grammer from post 2 in a field of eight led by even-money program favorite Tiz the Law, the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes winner this year, and Grade 3-winning California shipper Uncle Chuck.
“I prefer more time in between races with my horses, but I thought it was a great opportunity to take another shot at the Travers. It’s a little bit of a shorter field than normal and the Kentucky Derby, some people waiting for that,” Brown said. “It’s a unique year to maybe give it a shot with a horse that keeps improving. Even though we’re running on short rest, I think the reward is probably a little bigger than the risk.”
Prior to the Peter Pan, Country Grammer ran third in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on June 4 at Belmont Park, his first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February at Gulfstream Park in his sophomore debut. He debuted on the Belmont turf last fall before breaking his maiden second time out going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct.
“We just drew a line through the race at Belmont. He’s really never even trained well there. That’s why I debuted him on the turf, actually, the first start of his life. It’s something I wasn’t really looking to do when I got him in,” Brown said. “He looked like a dirt horse but he just didn’t train well enough so I took a shot and he didn’t run good on the turf. When I got him over to Aqueduct, anywhere away from Belmont, his races have been good on the dirt.”
Brown has been pleased with how Country Grammer has taken to Saratoga’s main track, newly refurbished for 2020, in both his training and racing.
“It’s definitely more similar to Aqueduct than it is Belmont. It reminds me of Keeneland, too, a little bit. This new surface has been great,” Brown said. “It’s my 13th year of training racehorses on my own, and this is one the best racetracks I’ve ever trained on or raced on.”
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Rookie Report: Mutasaabeq will try to parlay his flashy morning speed to the afternoon
Before stakes action kicks off on Saturday’s Runhappy Travers Day card at Saratoga, two maiden special weights will see potential juvenile stars search for their first career victory.
In Race 5, a 5 ½-furlong event over the main track, Shadwell Stable will debut Mutasaabeq,a well-bred Into Mischief colt that has been training forwardly for trainer Todd Pletcher, posting two bullet works from the gate over the Saratoga main track, the most recent of which was a half-mile breeze in 46.40 seconds on August 1.
“He’s a gorgeous horse and Todd is very, very excited about him,” said Shadwell Stables’ general manager Rick Nichols. “We hope that he runs a big race. I’m sure Todd will let the jockey find his own way.”
Bred in Kentucky by Black Ridge Stables, Mutasaabeq was purchased by Shadwell as a weanling at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale for $425,000. Out of the Scat Daddy mare Downside Scenario, he is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Cool Cowboy.
“He was just a really nice individual. He was correct, good-looking and by the right kind of sire,” Nichols said.
Jockey Luis Saez will pilot Mutasaabeq from post 7.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle Bottle Rocket Man for owners Peter Brant and Robert LaPenta.
The bay son of Into Mischief is out of the Distorted Humor mare Gaudete, who is a half-sister to prominent sire Munnings. Purchased for $350,000 from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling sale, Bottle Rocket Man is a direct descendant of prominent broodmare La Troienne.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will be aboard from post 6.
In Race 6 on Saturday, 2-year-olds will take to the Mellon turf course going 1 1/16 miles.
Trainer Al Stall, Jr. will saddle Mystical Man on behalf of Columbine Stable. Purchased for $155,000, the bay son of leading third-crop sire Mucho Macho Man is out of the North Light broodmare Chasida, who is a half-sister to four-time Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Private Zone.
“Keith Dickey bought him for us at the March sale. He’s an unusual 2-year-old in that the second he got away from the sale, he started getting bigger and stronger and filling out,” Stall, Jr. said. “He had a growth spurt after the sale. He looks like a different horse 60 days after the sale, in a good way. We got him started, took our time with him, and he hasn’t missed a day or anything. He’s a January foal. He’s long and leggy. He’s nice, but we just didn’t think he’d be a three-quarter horse like these monster Into Mischiefs. With [2004 Epsom Derby winner] North Light being the damsire, we think he’ll want a little more ground.”
Bred by Equus Farm, Mystical Man comes from a family with plenty of turf talent which includes multiple Grade 1 winner Chief Bearhart, who was a two-time Canadian Horse of the Year, as well as Grade 1 winner Explosive Red. Both are out of prolific Canadian broodmare Amelia Bearhart. Additionally, Mystical Man is a direct descendant of Gold Digger, who produced prolific stallion Mr. Prospector.
“He’s going to get some growth with him being by Mucho Macho Man, who was a humongous horse. But he got taller and filled in,” Stall, Jr. said. “He’s got plenty of miles on him and it’s time to go on that run.”
Jockey Joel Rosario has the mount from post 6.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen will debut a well-bred son of international champion producing stallion Galileo when he saddles Hidden Enemy for L and N Racing. Bred in Ireland by Alexander/Groves Thoroughbreds, Hidden Enemy is out of the Grade 1-winning Empire Maker broodmare Acoma and is a direct descendant of Courtly Dee, who was named 1983 broodmare of the year by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Hidden Enemy was purchased for $155,000 from last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Gainesway.
“We took a flyer on him at the Keeneland Sale,” said Michael Levinson of L and N Racing. “No one was on him at the sale. He just had a huge pedigree, vetted perfect and for some reason people weren’t on him. We thought it was a great buy. Steve’s dad had him down at his training center in Laredo and thought he’d be a two-turn horse just based off his pedigree. There’s distance on both sides so it didn’t make much sense to debut him going short.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will pilot Hidden Enemy as he leaves from post 4.
Peter Brant, Robert LaPenta and Wonder Stables’ Secret Potion will be making his debut for trainer Chad Brown as he emerges from the rail.
The bay son of Into Mischief, bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms, was bought for $475,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Tiznow mare Caxambas Pass, who is a half-sister to turf Grade 1 winner Point of Entry and Pine Island, a multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Secret Potion from post 4.
In Sunday’s second race at Saratoga, L N J Foxwoods and Phillips Racing Partnership’s Seasons will attempt to follow in her prestigious family’s footsteps when making her career debut in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the Mellon turf at Saratoga.
Trained by Jimmy Toner, Seasons is a chestnut daughter of Tapit out of two-time Grade 1 winner Winter Memories, who won three of her four starts at the Spa, which included a career debut as well as a victory in the Grade 1 Diana in 2012. Seasons’ grand dam was Memories of Silver, a two-time Grade 1 winner who won all four of her starts at Saratoga, all of which were in stakes.
Both Winter Memories and Memories of Silver were also conditioned by Toner.
“I hope that she follows the same pattern,” Toner said. “She’s different than what her mother was. Winter Memories was a big, lumbering filly with a big turn of foot. This one is very athletic and quicker. If she could be what her mother was, that would be nice. It’s really neat to be associated with these kinds of horses. The lineage is still carrying on.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard Seasons from post 5.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle Misspell, a chestnut American Pharoah filly for owner Peter Brant.
Bred in Kentucky by Sahara Group Holdings and Eurowest Bloodstock, Misspell is out of the Dixie Union broodmare Fact File, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Honorable Duty. Her fourth generation dam was 2002 broodmare of the year Toussaud, who produced four Grade 1 winners including 2003 Belmont Stakes winner and champion producing sire Empire Maker.
Misspell will break from post 7 under Joel Rosario.
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A trio of Pick 5s and Pick 4s lined up for Saturday’s Runhappy Travers (G1) card
Saturday’s lucrative Runhappy Travers Day program at Saratoga will offer three Pick 5s, three Pick 4s and an enticing jackpot in the Empire 6.
The 12-race card begins at 12 p.m. Eastern with the first of three Pick-5s featuring a field of nine maidens 3-years-old and up routing 1 1/16-miles on the inner turf led by Doswell, the 9-5 morning-line favorite trained by Barclay Tagg, who will saddle Runhappy Travers favorite Tiz the Law later on in the card. An Allen Stable homebred son of Giant’s Causeway, Doswell missed graduating by a nose at the Spa last August in a race won by the multiple graded-stakes placed Good Governance. Stronach Stables’ Bay Street Money and Klaravich Stables’ Compliant are also likely to take money in a wide-open race.
The opening Pick 5 sequence will continue through a nine-furlong claiming route in Race 2 [12:38 p.m.]; an overflow field of 13 New York-bred turf sprinters in Race 3 [1:15 p.m.]; a one-mile claiming route on the inner turf in Race 4 [1:49 p.m.]; and concludes in Race 5 [2:26 p.m.] with an open maiden special weight sprint for 2-year-olds featuring the debut of Shadwell Stable’s Mutasaabeq, a $425,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Mutasaabeq has posted a pair of impressive works from the gate, including an August 1 effort in 46.53 seconds on the Saratoga main track.
The middle Pick 5, an all graded-stakes sequence which offers a mandatory payout, begins in Race 7 [3:42 p.m.] with the Grade 1 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets as Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Come Dancing looks to defend her title in the seven-furlong event which offers a berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Come Dancing will face steep opposition in the form of 2019 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner Serengeti Empress and multiple Grade 1-winner Bellafina.
The middle Pick 5 continues in Race 8 [4:22 p.m.] with the Grade 3 Troy for 4-year-olds and upward sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs on the Mellon turf course as popular 9-year-old Pure Sensation looks to return to winning form. In Race 9 [5:02 p.m.], Mrs. Sippy returns to the scene of her 2019 Grade 2 Glens Falls win as the 6-5 morning-line choice in the Grade 3 Waya at 1 1/2-miles on the inner turf. The penultimate leg [Race 10, 5:39 p.m.], the Grade 1 Longines Test, will feature West Coast starlets Gamine and Venetian Harbor battling seven furlongs on the Saratoga main. The challenging sequence concludes in Race 11 [6:15 p.m.] with the featured Grade 1 Runhappy Travers as Belmont Stakes hero Tiz the Law headlines a field of eight that includes upstart Uncle Chuck, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, and the improving Max Player for trainer Linda Rice.
The Late Pick 5 sequence, which has a carryover provision, kicks off in Race 8 [4:22 p.m.] and will run through the end of the card to Race 12 [6:52 p.m.] where a field of nine fillies and mares 3-years-old and up will look to graduate sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs on the main track.
The Runhappy Travers Day card will also feature three Pick 4s which will begin in races 2 [12:38 p.m.], 4 [1:49 p.m.] and 9 [5:02 p.m.]
The Empire 6, which boasts a jackpot of $1,129,427 heading into Friday’s live racing action at the Spa, kicks off Saturday in Race 6 [3:02 p.m.] The Empire 6 requires the bettor to select the first-place finisher of the final six races of the card. On non-mandatory payout days, if one unique ticket exists, then 100 percent of the net pool, plus the jackpot carryover if applicable, will be paid to the winner. If there is no unique wager selecting the first-place finisher in all six races, then 75 percent of the day’s net pool will be distributed to those who selected the first-place finisher in the greatest number of races. The remainder will be added into the jackpot and carried to the next day’s Empire 6.
A mandatory payout of the Empire 6 is slated for Sunday’s card at Saratoga which features the $85,000 Alydar.
Impressive debut winners Ava’s Grace and Lucifer’s Lair along with Make Mischief, runner-up in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day, headline a compact but competitive field of six for Wednesday’s 104th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Adirondack for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
The 6 ½-furlong Adirondack is the second in Saratoga’s series of three races for juvenile fillies, following the six-furlong Schuylerville on July 16 and preceding the Grade 1, $250,000 Spinaway at seven furlongs on September 6.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is a five-time winner of the Adirondack, one fewer than his Hall of Fame mentor D. Wayne Lukas, most recently taking back-to-back editions in 2016-17 with Nonna Mela and Pure Silver, respectively.
Pletcher will be represented this year by The Elkstone Group’s Maryland homebred Lucifer’s Lair. The bay’s sire, Quality Road, won the Grade 2 Amsterdam in 2009 and Grade 1 Woodward in 2010 at Saratoga, while the dam, Devil’s Cave, also was a graded-stakes winner going long on the dirt.
Lucifer’s Lair was unveiled on July 19 at the Spa, pressing a brisk pace going 5 ½ furlongs before forging a short lead entering the stretch and going on to win by three lengths in 1:05.33.
“She had trained like a filly that was capable of winning her debut. She’s a pretty professional, straightforward sort so we were hoping for a good race,” Pletcher said. “She was early to come in and we had a good foundation into her, so we felt like we had her pretty fit going into that. By Quality Road, you would think that she would improve stretching out, as well.”
Lucifer’s Lair tuned up for the Adirondack with a half-mile work in 49.49 seconds over Saratoga’s main track on August 6. Meet-leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard for her debut triumph, gets the return call from post 5.
“We were very pleased with her debut. She’s been training good since then and had a nice breeze yesterday, so it seems like she’s ready to go again,” Pletcher said. “Certainly it’s going to be a tough race, but it’s the logical next move.”
Southern Equine Stables’ homebred Ava’s Grace will be making her Saratoga debut in the Adirondack, exiting a come-from-behind half-length victory in 59.38 seconds for five furlongs on July 3 at Ellis Park.
The bay Laoban filly was then shipped to Saratoga where she shows three breezes over the main track, the most recent a five-furlong drill in 1:01.19 on August 4 for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
“We worked her the other day and she handled it impressively. To work five-eighths by herself as a 2-year-old, she’s really developing into a nice filly,” Diodoro said. “It’s going to be a big test for her, but she’s doing everything right. What I like is she’s doing everything right and her works have been a little better and a little better each time.
“I always say a big part of all these horses, but especially young horses, is the mental part,” he added. “Especially with fillies. She’s about as smart as they come and as classy as they come. She’s a very classy filly.”
Ava’s Grace broke from the rail in her debut and rated in fifth before steadily making up ground to get within a neck of the lead at the top of the stretch under jockey David Cohen, who gets the assignment again from post 1.
“She wasn’t as prepared a first-time starter as we usually have them. It was kind of a rush situation for a couple different reasons but she handled everything amazingly well, from the paddock to the gate,” Diodoro said. “A lot of times when you do stuff like that with a filly you’ll blow their mind, but it didn’t even faze her. She’s come back really well and shipped up here well. We’ve had her up to the gate, we’ve had her in the paddock. She acts like a nice, late 3-year-old filly. She’s just very professional.”
Diodoro said her poise may come from the sire. Also campaigned by Southern Equine with McCormick Racing, Laoban ran third in the Grade 3 Sham and second in the Grade 3 Gotham in 2016, not breaking his maiden until later that summer in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, following off-the-board efforts in the Grade 1 Blue Grass and Grade 1 Preakness.
“We’ve got a couple more Laobans down at Ellis and they’re all the same way. They’re just very professional, they’re good-looking horses and very smart horses. I know it’s a new sire, but it could be a little trademark coming here,” Diodoro said. “A friend of mine has got one at Prairie Meadows and without me even saying anything, he started telling me about this Laoban he’s got. He said the same thing, he acts like a nice 3-year-old.”
Diodoro said he will leave the decision up to Cohen but expects Ava’s Grace to be among the top flight in the Adirondack.
“I think she could be closer. She broke out of the one hole last time. She’s had a little more gate experience now. I think she’ll be forwardly placed, very forwardly placed. It’s going to be interesting. It’s always neat with these young horses, to watch them develop,” Diodoro said. “She’s a good-sized filly. She’ll grow a little more in height but, to be honest, I think she’s the perfect size. She’s just put together nice.”
Trainer Mark Casse won last year’s Adirondack with Perfect Alibi, and he’ll attempt to defend his title with Gary Barber’s Make Mischief. The daughter of Into Mischief, debuted with a five-furlong maiden special weight victory on June 18 at Belmont Park, then set the pace in the Schuylerville for a half-mile before giving way to finish second behind Dayoutoftheoffice.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez and Make Mischief will break from post 2.
Heider Family Stables’ Thoughtfully first made headlines last summer at Saratoga by fetching $950,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Selected Yearling Sale, then ran to her price tag in debut, an 8 ¾-length maiden special weight romp on June 11 at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a two-time Adirondack winner. She has breezed five times at Saratoga including a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.91 on August 3.
Up on the Tapit filly in debut, Ricardo Santana, Jr. rides back from post 4.
AVQ Racing’s Lilac Lace will try the dirt after graduating at first asking in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint on July 12 at Keeneland. Trainer Anthony Quartorolo enlisted Hall of Famer Javier Castellano to ride from post 3.
Completing the field is Michael J. Ryan’s Beautiful Farewell, winless in two starts including a fifth, beaten 2 ½ lengths, in a six-furlong maiden special weight on August 2 at Saratoga. Joel Rosario climbs aboard for the first time from outside post 6.
The Adirondack is slated as Race 9 on Wednesday’s 10-race card, which offers a first post of 12:50 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the 40-day summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, NYRA Bets is currently offering a $200 new member bonus in addition to a host of special weekly offers. The NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
My horse recently started pacing and digging holes in his stall. What could be causing this behavior?
QUESTION .My horse, Leo, has been boarded at the same facility and in the same stall for the past year. He has been happy and relaxed and loves it there. However, starting two weeks ago, when he is brought into his stall in the evening (he is on day turnout) he has started to pace and dig large holes. This is not behavior that is at all characteristic of him. He is still completely happy and relaxed in turnout and when riding, pretty much anywhere except for in his stall. We tried a different stall for a night and he exhibited that same behavior. I am at a loss as to what could have caused it or how I can help make it better. Do you have any suggestions?—Lisa, Lexington, Kentucky
ANSWER .It is difficult to make suggestions without much more information about Leo’s history and management. I would recommend having an in-depth consult with an equine behaviorist to help you figure this out—either an Animal Behavior Society-Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a veterinarian who is board-certified in behavior and experienced with horses.
Pacing and especially digging indicates that Leo is considerably stressed over something. Examples I have known over the years of sudden onset of this type of behavior in a previously comfortable environment were mostly social stress associated with changes in stall arrangements, etc., which I imagine you would have recognized and mentioned in your question.
Other odd situations I can remember include fairly negative experiences in that environment: stray electricity, static electricity from a synthetic blanket, and exposure to a wild animal (pig, sheep, snake, mountain lion in barn). In the meantime until you figure it out, if at all possible, I would recommend leaving him turned out 24/7 where he is happy.
Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.