- G2 Peter Pan runner-up Caracaro looking to continue progression in G1 Travers
- Jacks or Better’s Shivaree carrying the Florida banner in G1 Runhappy Travers
- McGaughey looking to extend G1 Ballerina record with Pink Sands
- Bellafina looks to become Grade 1 winner at age 2 ,3 and 4
- Connections hope lightning strikes twice for Victim of Love in G1 Ballerina
- Rookie Report: Ward to saddle two promising runners; Trombetta debuts half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Slew
- Saratoga Week 5 stakes probables
Barry Eisaman boasts more than three decades of experience in training thoroughbreds under saddle and when it came time to hand off Saturday’s Grade 1 Runhappy Travers contender Uncle Chuck to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, he suggested it best to take things slow with the sizable colt.
After not racing as a 2-year-old, the dark bay Uncle Mo colt is undefeated in two starts including a last-out score on July 4 in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby. He enters Saturday’s 151st running of the $1 million Runhappy Travers as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind even-money favorite Tiz the Law.
Uncle Chuck was sent to Eisaman Equine in Williston, Florida after being purchased for $250,000 by owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman from the Summerfield consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Baffert has sent many of his yearlings with promise to Eisaman including 2016 Champion Sprinter Drefong, as well as 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty and fellow Grade 1 winners McKinzie, The Factor, Midnight Lucky, and Lord Nelson among others.
Uncle Chuck spent just over a year with Eisaman following the September sale and did not ship out to southern California until that following November, he began breezing at Los Alamitos.
“He was one of the later horses of last year’s crop to leave the farm,” Eisaman said. “He had various aches and pains during the breaking process that required some time off, but nothing serious. He was just a big, young guy that needed the time. He went to Los Alamitos to [assistant trainer] Mike Marlow, who picks up the baton and gets them ready to go to Bob at Santa Anita.
“Uncle Chuck needed the time and Bob was willing to give him the time,” continued Eisaman. “In a perfect world, one would hope that he had more experience under his belt before facing what he must face on Saturday, but Bob wouldn’t be sending him out there if he didn’t have a legitimate shot.”
Uncle Chuck is the most lightly raced horse in the field. However, Baffert sent Arrogate to Saratoga for a track record-setting performance in the 2016 Travers with only four starts under his belt.
Eisaman said any qualms he had regarding Uncle Chuck during the training-under-saddle process were physical rather than mental and noted that he was both well-behaved and quick to learn.
“He always was a big, beautiful Uncle Mo colt,” Eisaman said. “The breaking process went along nice and smooth. I’ve gotten horses ready for Bob for many years. He knows when they’re here, we don’t need to talk about every horse, every week. Those that need a slow track get a slow track and those that are ready get sent out sooner.
“He was very well behaved,” Eisaman added. “You could take him home for dinner and not have trouble with him at the table. He was easy to work with under tack, and he would learn things we would introduce to him at an above average rate.”
Eisaman said the strapping Uncle Chuck has a remarkable stride.
“When you watch him work or in his races, you don’t get the impression he goes all that fast, but he covers ground like a creature of some sort,” said Eisaman.
Having worked with numerous progeny of Uncle Mo, Eisaman said the champion-producing stallion has the tendency to stamp his offspring and added that the same could be said for Uncle Mo’s sire, Indian Charlie.
“They are usually dark bay or brown horses with a good body, good bone, good mind,” Eisaman said. “Sometimes, Uncle Mo can get people to think that his offspring can be on the fragile side. In the thoroughbred horse world, there are young horses that really just need to develop more slowly. If you give them the time and let them get their act together and get sound, you can be well rewarded for it. The Uncle Mo offspring look like Indian Charlies and that stallion stamped his offspring, too. It’s a strong line through the male lineage.”
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Uncle Chuck is out of the graded stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song broodmare Forest Music, who produced graded stakes winner Electric Forest as well as American classic producing stallion Maclean’s Music.
Uncle Chuck is not the only Eisaman Equine alumni in the Runhappy Travers as Max Player, third in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, was also shown the ropes by Eisaman.
Eisaman has a long history with co-owner and breeder George Hall, who owns the son of second crop stallion Honor Code in partnership with SportBLX Thoroughbreds.
“We broke numerous Derby starters for George, like Pants On Fire [ninth in 2011 Kentucky Derby] who won the Louisiana Derby that year, so we’ve had a long relationship with him,” Eisaman said. “This one was a bit of a sleeper. He seemed more like a good, large, hunter prospect than a racehorse prospect when he trained. He was so quiet. He stayed on the pretty laid-back side.
Max Player was a second-out maiden winner at Parx in December before winning the Grade 3 Withers on February 1 at Aqueduct for trainer Linda Rice.
“She’s an excellent horsewoman,” Eisaman said of the 2009 leading trainer at the Spa. “Up to the first time she ran him, he was hard to gauge. He wasn’t one to advertise himself in the morning. He’s got a lot of closing capability and it seems like Uncle Chuck would be closer to the front than Max Player. But if there’s a pace up front, he’s capable of picking up the pieces.”
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Peter Pan (G2) runner-up Caracaro looking to continue progression in Runhappy Travers (G1)
Global Thoroughbred and Top Racing’s Caracaro has alternated wins and losses in his brief career, and trainer Gustavo Delgado is hoping that pattern continues as he points the lightly-raced colt to Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers.
Caracaro ran second in his unveiling last December at Gulfstream Park, returning to the South Florida track with an impressive six-length maiden triumph four weeks later. He exited that race with a minor injury that needed time, and he went unraced until finishing second by a neck to fellow Travers aspirant Country Grammer in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on Saratoga’s opening day July 16.
For the first time this year, the Travers will offer 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, postponed from May 2 to September 5. Caracaro earned 20 points for his Peter Pan effort, and Delgado is looking to ensure the son of champion Uncle Mo’s spot in the Run for the Roses.
“We have the chance to run in the Derby. He came here to win,” Delgado said. “It’s only three weeks back from the Peter Pan but we have to take the chance. The horse is doing very good. He came back very good, and he likes the track. The horse is very talented, but we need to have good luck.”
Delgado’s 31-year-old son and assistant, Gustavo Delgado, Jr., has been with Caracaro since they arrived in Saratoga from South Florida last month. His father, one of Venezuela’s most successful trainers who won his country’s Triple Crown a remarkable four times before moving to the U.S. in 2014, joined him this week.
Delgado Jr. said the turnaround from the Peter Pan to the Travers is a concern, particularly with their main goal, the Derby, looming in another four weeks. The final leg of the Triple Crown, the Grade 1 Preakness, will be run October 3 at Pimlico Race Course.
“He’s doing really good, actually. After the last race we were concerned about running him back after three weeks, but we went easy on him. We only made him gallop,” Delgado, Jr. said. “We did a couple open gallops, nothing with time, and he seems to have accepted that. I think he’s ready to run a nice race. We like what we see. The last couple of days he’s doing really good. We always wanted to get the points. The horse is good, we’re here in Saratoga and he likes the track, so let’s do it.”
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, aboard in the Peter Pan, gets the return call in the 1 ¼-mile Travers, a race the fellow Venezuelan has won a record six times, most recently with Catholic Boy in 2018. They will break from post 7 in a field of eight led by even-money program favorite Tiz the Law.
The Delgados were entered to run once before in the Travers, but Majesto had to be scratched after spiking a fever the morning before the 2016 race. They have been to the Derby twice, running 18th with Majesto and 13th with Bodexpress in 2019, and are looking forward to making a third trip.
“The only good thing about the virus is that we have a shot now to make the Derby,” Delgado, Jr. said. “Since he got in the barn last year, we always considered him a nice horse. We’re not a big barn where we get a quantity of nice babies every year. We went to the Derby with Majesto and Bodexpress, and you can tell this horse is doing things that the other two didn’t do. He’s in another category than them.”
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Jacks or Better’s Shivaree carrying the Florida banner in Runhappy Travers (G1)
Jacks or Better Farm has made far more than its fair share of noise on the Florida circuit over the past 20 years, but on Saturday the Ocala-based operation seeks its first graded stakes triumph at Saratoga when Shivaree competes in the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers.
Trained by Ralph Nicks, Shivaree is the most seasoned horse in the “Mid-Summer Derby” field with a dozen starts under his belt, including a runner-up finish behind Runhappy Travers favorite Tiz the Law in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in March. The son of Awesome of Course has maintained consistent form throughout his 12 starts with a 3-3-2 record, but arrives at the Runhappy Travers a distant 11th in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Fred Brei, proprietor of Jacks or Better Farm, said the Blue Grass effort was puzzling and he is hoping for a return to form with Shivaree charting a course toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
“We have no idea what happened in his last race. That was the first time he hadn’t shown up for us in a long time,” said Brei. “At this point, he’ll let us know whether he likes a mile and a quarter. That’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
Shivaree was foaled and raised at Jacks or Better Farm, and Brei said Shivaree was a bit of a handful as a 2-year-old.
“As a yearling he was rather normal for a colt. No more energetic and no less energetic than the others,” Brei said. “But as a 2-year-old he was ornery. He did whatever he pleased, whether you liked it or not. It wasn’t until our fifth start before he broke his maiden. Not because he didn’t have the ability, he just wouldn’t center his brain on running was all. That’s just the way he was for basically most of his 2-year-old year.”
Shivaree graduated by besting fellow Florida-breds by 9 ½ lengths at Gulfstream Park West. His full brother Garter and Tie, who ran ninth in last year’s Grade 2 Amsterdam at the Spa, didn’t break his maiden until his fourth start but subsequently became a three-time stakes winner. Both are out of two-time stakes winner Garter Belt.
“I would say they’re all hardheaded,” Brei said of the family which includes three other six-digit earners. “Garter Belt was the same way. The mare gives you those horses that have to get racing in their brain, and you get it there from running not from training. Shivaree just took a fairly long time. We race 2-year-olds and we have for 20 years. For us to have a 2-year-old take four times to show you they can win a race is uncommon.”
With 40 qualifying points from a runner-up effort in the Florida Derby, Shivaree is 14th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. His upcoming effort in the Runhappy Travers, which offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top four finishers, will be telling for his connections.
A win in the Travers would be a first Grade 1 victory for the farm since Awesome Feather won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.
“The Travers would be a fantastic race for us to win,” Brei said. “It would show us that we belong in the Derby. Also, it would be the first big race winner since Feather.”
Shivaree has had some time to get acclimated to the Saratoga main track, having breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 on August 1.
“He’s been up there for a week and he seems to be taking to it well. Ralph sent me pictures Wednesday morning and Shivaree seems to be enjoying himself,” Brei said.
Shivaree is from the same family as many of Jacks or Better’s most notable runners including millionaire Jackson Bend, who was third in the 2010 Preakness, and multiple graded stakes winner Fort Loudon.
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McGaughey looking to extend Ballerina (G1) record with Pink Sands
When it comes to Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets, no one has done it better than Shug McGaughey.
No trainer has won the seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3 and older more than McGaughey, who counts five victories on his Hall of Fame resume, one more than fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
The first came with Lass Trump in 1984, when the Ballerina was a Grade 2. When it was promoted to Grade 1 status in 1988, McGaughey won it with Cadillacing. He did it again with Queena in 1991, the first of three consecutive Grade 1 victories during her Champion Older Mare campaign. Roamin Rachel followed for McGaughey in 1994, as did Furlough in 1999.
Four of the wins came for different owners. Cadillacing and Furlough were Phipps Stable homebreds, Queena was a homebred of Emory Hamilton, Lass Trump was campaigned by Alan Samford and Roamin Rachel by Tri-Honors Stable.
“They’re all pretty nice fillies,” McGaughey said. “Lass Trump was the first one. I remember Cadillacing. [Angel] Cordero [Jr.] came up and won it on the inside. Queena, she was a champion. I didn’t remember that Roamin Rachel won it. Obviously, the race has been very good to us.”
Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen’s Pink Sands can continue McGaughey’s record of success in the Ballerina, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland. The 5-year-old Tapit mare became a graded-stakes winner over the winter at Gulfstream Park, taking the Grade 3 Rampart and Grade 2 Inside Information in back-to-back starts.
“The owners want to try a Grade 1,” McGaughey said. “She’s won a three and a two, so maybe we’ll go three, two, one.”
Though Pink Sands has won going longer and shorter, McGaughey believes she is at her best going seven furlongs, where she owns a record of 2-1-3 from eight starts, the most recent coming in her Inside Information triumph on Jan. 25. Pink Sands didn’t run again until the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps on June 13 at Belmont, where she was never in contention and wound up fifth.
“I think seven-eighths is really good for her. She’s a come-from-behind sprinter type. Her two races at Gulfstream were really good,” McGaughey said. “I don’t know what happened to her in the Phipps. She ran terrible, but we gave her some time and freshened her up. I might have liked to have had one more work into her, but I don’t. They’re anxious to run in a Grade 1. There’s plenty of speed in there and we’ve got a good rider, so we’ll give it a try.”
Two-time defending Eclipse Award champion Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Pink Sands for the first time from post 6 in a seven-horse field that includes defending champion Come Dancing and Grade 1 winners Serengeti Empress and Bellafina.
Meanwhile, McGaughey remains mystified by the performance of W. S. Farish’s Code of Honor, last seen running fourth to Improbable in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 1. The two-time Grade 1 winner including last year’s Runhappy Travers and earner of more than $2.2 million in purses remains with the trainer’s string in Saratoga.
“He’s here and he’s doing fine,” McGaughey said. “He came out of it fine. We’ll kind of give him a week here and try and figure out what went wrong and kind of start over again with him.”
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Bellafina looks to become Grade 1 winner at age 2, 3 and 4
Kaleem Shah Inc., Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Bellafina will look to become a Grade 1 winner at age 2, 3 and 4 if she can topple a talented field led by returning race winner Come Dancing in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, the experienced Bellafina brings a record of 16-7-4-1 and purse earnings in excess of $1.5 million into the seven-furlong sprint, which offers a berth in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland.
The 4-year-old Quality Road bay, bred in Kentucky by JSM Equine, captured the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante at Del Mar and Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita in a productive juvenile campaign. She added the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks to her ledger last season.
Callaghan said he would love to see Bellafina secure another top-flight win.
“We’re hopeful that can be the case,” said Callaghan. “We’re happy with the way she’s been training and we’re looking forward to the race.”
Bellafina has made three starts this season including a win in the Grade 1 Desert Stormer in May at Santa Anita and a last-out second in the Grade 2 Great Lady M on July 4 at Los Alamitos.
Bellafina has breezed three times on the Del Mar main track since the 6 ½-furlong Great Lady M, including a sharp half-mile effort in 47.60 Sunday. The veteran conditioner, who saddled American Gal to a score in the 2017 Grade 1 Test at the Spa, said Bellafina’s starts have been nicely spaced out thus far in 2020.
“Everything has gone smoothly with her and her races have been timed out nicely,” said Callaghan. “This race fits perfectly for where she’s at right now.”
Last year, Bellafina was off a step slow in the Grade 1 Test before rallying belatedly to finish third in a race won by eventual Champion 3-Year-Old Filly and Champion Female Sprinter Covfefe with the 2019 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in second.
Bellafina will again have to overcome Seregeti Empress to capture Saturday’s event and Callaghan said he is hopeful of a stalking trip.
“I don’t think you’ll see her on the lead come Saturday, but we have post 4 and there’s some speed around her, so I’d see her being mid-pack early and hopefully finish the race well,” said Callaghan.
Bellafina, who shipped in to the care of trainer Tom Morley at Saratoga, visited the gate on the Oklahoma training track on Thursday morning and on Friday will be ridden through the paddock and then jog a mile and a quarter on the main track.
Callaghan said he expects Bellafina to enjoy racing over the new surface.
“I don’t think the track will be any issue for her,” said Callaghan. “I’ve watched several races at Saratoga since they’ve resurfaced it and I think the track should be to her liking.”
Jose Ortiz, in search of his first Ballerina win, will pilot Bellafina for the first time on Saturday.
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Connections hope lightning strikes twice for Victim of Love in Ballerina (G1)
Fresh off her surprise victory at odds of 27-1 in the Grade 2 Vagrancy last out, Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ Victim of Love will attempt to pull off another upset when she makes her Saratoga debut in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets.
One of five graded-stakes on a 12-race Travers Day program anchored by the 151st running of the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers for 3-year-olds, the Ballerina is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland.
A 4-year-old daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown based at Penn National with trainer Todd Beattie, Victim of Love was making her first start in more than three months in the 6 ½-furlong Vagrancy. Beattie, a winner of more than 1,700 career races best known for his work with Grade 1-winning sprinter Fabulous Strike, is experiencing similar feelings heading into the Ballerina.
“She was doing like this and doing good then [before the Vagrancy], and I don’t want to say I felt confident, but I felt there was a good chance she was going to really run well and make a good attempt. Whether it was enough I didn’t know for sure and then she stepped up there,” Beattie said. “For that reason is why I’m here, to see if she can go ahead and do it again.”
Beattie pointed to Victim of Love’s development over the fall and winter, when she made five consecutive starts at Laurel Park with two wins including the 6 ½-furlong What A Summer on January 18. She followed up with a game second in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie on February 15.
“I could see a lot of things behind the scenes that were really coming together and really going right for her,” Beattie said. “I could see things at the barn that she was doing that was going to improve her, and then she went ahead and went on the track and showed it to us, too. Things were really going right to help move her forward a little bit, and I’m still thinking that same way.”
In her last start before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered most racing across the country, Victim of Love stalked the pace along the inside in the one-mile Nellie Morse on March 14 at Laurel before tiring to fifth. She has continued to train forwardly over her home track as she looks to give Beattie his second career graded-stakes triumph at Saratoga. Fabulous Strike won the then-Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap in 2009.
“At the barn I could really start to see she was getting her ducks in order and she was coming out of her races good and eating good and all the little things behind the scenes that were all coming together for her,” Beattie said. “She’s a young foal, too, so a little age and maturity is finally starting to get on her side a little bit now. All of that is good, too.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano, up for the first time in the Vagrancy triumph, will climb back aboard in the Ballerina from post 3 in a field of seven led by defending champion Come Dancing and Grade 1 winners Serengeti Empress and Bellafina.
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Rookie Report: Ward to saddle two promising runners; Trombetta debuts half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Slew
A field of nine juvenile fillies, plus two main-track only entrants will assemble for Friday’s sixth race at Saratoga Race Course, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight over the Mellon turf.
Trainer Wesley Ward will send out two fillies for the event, one of which already has two starts under her belt, including an international endeavor at Royal Ascot.
Three Chimneys Farm’s Royal Approval was second on debut as the beaten favorite to stablemate Campanelle over the Gulfstream Park turf. The homebred daughter of Tiznow subsequently was soundly beaten by her stablemate once more in the Grade 2 Queen Mary on June 20 at Ascot.
“When we went to Ascot, the problem was that she doesn’t like soft ground,” Ward said. “We knew that, and we were there, but we decided to go for it. The other filly liked the soft ground, so she went on as the best horse in the race. [Jockey] Silvestre De Sousa got off her after the race and said she was just floundering, and she just couldn’t handle the soft ground.”
Royal Approval is out of the Malibu Moon mare Touch the Moon and comes from the same family as 2005 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly.
Royal Approval will break from post 5 under Tyler Gaffalione.
Ward also will debut CJ Thoroughbreds’ Factoire, a bay filly by The Factor out of the Songandaprayer mare Galetoire.
Bred in Kentucky by Pegasus Stud, Factoire was acquired for $65,000 from last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.
“She’s a nice filly. She’s been much better on turf than dirt in her two works here, so we’re looking forward to that,” Ward said.
Jockey Dylan Davis will ride from post 2.
Trainer Mike Trombetta sends out Tappingintosuccess for Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation. The bay daughter of Tapit is a half-sister to three-time graded stakes winning millionaire Awesome Slew and dual turf stakes winner He’s Bankable.
“I think five and a half is probably going to be a little shorter than what she ultimately wants, but she didn’t strike me as one that I should try a mile and a sixteenth first out with,” Trombetta said. “I don’t think that’s going to be tremendously in her wheelhouse, but I would like for her to show up, run a good race and get some kind of placing as a steppingstone to something further.”
A Florida homebred, Tappingintosucess will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 3.
Trainer Doug O’Neill will be represented by Leia Marie, a Louisiana-bred daughter of first crop sire Exaggerator, who was purchased for $400,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale last August.
Owned by George Bolton, Peter Liedel and Barry Lipman and bred by Couteau Grove Farms, the gray or roan filly is out of the Macho Uno broodmare Elitism – a full sister to two-time stakes winner Harlem Rocker.
“We have some confidence in her. You never know first time on the grass, but we’ve galloped her a couple of times on the grass and she looked good. We hope she runs big,” said O’Neill’s assistant, Sabas Rivera. “She’s doing well and looking good. She has a long and tall body. She has good size.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will guide Leia Marie to her career debut from post 4.