- Baffert credits team effort for Improbable’s G1 Whitney win; Uncle Chuck and Gamine put in final works ahead of G1 Runhappy Travers and G1 Test, respectively
- Vexatious to remain in training at Saratoga following G1 Personal Ensign upset; Everfast targets G1 Forego following allowance win
- Echo Town secures first Grade 1 win for L and N Racing
- Undefeated at Saratoga, Cross Border feeling good following G2 Bowling Green
- Mexican Group 1 winner Letruska to test deep waters in G1 Ballerina
- South Bend breezes in company with Tacitus in preparation for G1 Runhappy Travers
- First Line confirmed for G1 Runhappy Travers
- Cariba likely for $85K Smart N Fancy
- Reinvestment Risk graduates in style, earning 90 BSF
- All graded stakes Cross Country Pick 5 returns more than $13K, handles $113K
Winning a prestigious race takes the work of a team. After Improbable’s victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said the assistant starter and the entire NYRA gate crew were his Most Valuable Players for settling his horse in the gate, allowing him to run his race and post a two-length score in the 1 1/8 mile contest for some of the top older horses in the country.
After rearing up once in the gate and acting fractious a second time, Improbable still managed to break sharp from post 2 in the five-horse field, which put him in a better position than even-money favorite Tom’s d’Etat, who stumbled leaving the outermost post.
Improbable stayed off Mr. Buff’s early fractions before taking command out of the final turn and repelling By My Standards’ late bid to win his second consecutive Grade 1.
“You have to thank the gate crew, the guys they had in there with him. It’s like being in the gate with a bull sometimes,” Baffert said with a laugh. “He could have easily turned over, but they did a tremendous job, so I give them a big assist there because they did a great job.”
Once away, Improbable showed top-class form under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who captured his second Whitney in three years after also winning aboard Diversify in 2018.
“As much as he acts up in the gate, he always breaks really well,” Baffert added. “He breaks like a shot. After that, Irad got him in a nice rhythm. He followed Mr. Buff on the lead and tightened him along there and turned for home. Improbable had been working so well down here at Del Mar. It was a big effort there.”
Improbable won his third career Grade 1, joining the Los Alamitos Futurity in December 2018 as a juvenile. The son of City Zip competed in the Triple Crown trail last year but finished out of the money in four Grade 1s, placing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, running sixth in the Preakness and finishing fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
In his 4-year-old campaign, he ran second in the Oaklawn Mile in his seasonal bow in April before capturing the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 6 going 1 ¼-miles at Santa Anita before earning a personal-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his Whitney win.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, Improbable improved to 6-3-0 in 13 career starts. Baffert said Elliott Walden, WinStar’s CEO, said he had the Hollywood Gold Cup and then the Whitney route picked out for him.
“Elliott Walden does all my scouting and said this is where we need to run,” Baffert said. “We were going to run at Oaklawn but decided to scratch him there and wait for the Gold Cup. It’s a team effort.”
The Whitney was just the second time Improbable won outside of California, with his second-start victory in the 2018 Street Sense at Churchill Downs marking the other.
“This is one of the few times he’s won on the road, so that was a big effort,” Baffert said. “It was nice that the WinStar group was there. I didn’t know they had never won the Whitney before; they had won everything else, so it was exciting for them.”
Baffert, who has won two Triple Crowns [American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018], has conditioned winners in almost every major race in the country. But until 2019, he had never trained a Whitney winner. After McKinzie won it last year and Improbable followed suit, Baffert became the first trainer to repeat in the Whitney since fellow Hall of Famer Scotty Schulhofer in 1994-95.
While Baffert has famously trained 3-year-olds, his stock of older horses this year continues to be strong, with Improbable part of a roster that also includes a still-racing McKinzie as well as Maximum Security.
“It’s such a prestigious race, and to win it, it means a lot,” Baffert said. “I’m lucky enough to train for some big outfits, and when you train for them, you get a lot more chances at it. I’m excited to train older horses, because they usually go to stallion duty because they’ve done so well so they aren’t around for the extra year. Unfortunately, the COVID situation has taken away some opportunities to run them, but I just feel blessed and fortunate that I do have these horses.”
But Baffert still has talented sophomores, including Uncle Chuck, who registered his final breeze yesterday before the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8.
The lightly raced Uncle Chuck is 2-for-2, with a seven-length score in his debut on June 12 going one mile and a four-length victory last out in his first stakes appearance in the Los Alamitos Derby at 1 1/8 miles on July 4.
Owned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman, Uncle Chuck breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 over Del Mar’s main track, the fastest of 71 clocked at the distance.
“He worked really nice and I was really happy with the way he did it,” Baffert said. “He came out of his last race really well. We still have to ship and hopefully he doesn’t get too stirred up. Hopefully, we get a good post and a good break.”
Unraced as a juvenile, Uncle Chuck has benefitted from starting his career later. A $250,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale, he was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.
“He wasn’t ready and I remember buying him as a yearling, and Barry Eisaman, who broke him, said ‘take your time with him. Don’t break him right away,'” Baffert said. “We took our time with him. I didn’t want to run him as a 2-year-old. [Eisaman] just took his time with him and sent him to me when he’s ready. He then showed up and said he’s ready. I can see he’s just starting to mature now and figure it out. His work yesterday was probably one of his better works. He was focused the whole way around there. We’ve been tempted to put blinkers on him but I was afraid it might get him a little too rank, but we’ll see how he does in the Travers.”
Baffert is a three-time Travers winner with Point Given in 2001, Arrogate,who set the 1 1/4-mile track record of 1:59.36 in 2016 and West Coast in 2017.
Another talented Baffert 3-year-old looking to make a mark on Travers Day is Michael Petersen’s Gamine, who enters the Grade 1, $300,000 Longines Test for sophomore fillies off a dominating 18 ¾-length win in the Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day June 20.
Gamine earned a 110 Beyer for her win in the one-mile Acorn and will now cut back to seven furlongs. The $1.8 million purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds-In-Training Sale breezed six furlongs in 1:12.80 at Del Mar on Sunday.
“She just breezed today and looked great,” Baffert said. “It looked nice. She’s coming into the race really well.”
Vexatious to remain in training at Saratoga following G1 Personal Ensign upset; Everfast targets G1 Forego following allowance win
Trainer Jack Sisterson said he was still riding high from his first career Grade 1 triumph in Saturday’s $500,000 Personal Ensign presented by NYRA Bets, which saw an upset victory when Vexatious bested reigning Champion Older Dirt Female Midnight Bisou in a dramatic stretch duel in the 71st renewal of the 1 1/8-mile event for older fillies and mares. The victory garnered a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
In winning the Personal Ensign, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier, Vexatious earned an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 7 at Keeneland, where Sisterson is primarily based.
“My assistant Mark O’Dwyer was taking pictures of her once she was back in her stall. Her head was right at the front of the stall, her ears were pricked, so she knew what she did yesterday,” Sisterson said. “Mark and the rest of the team has done a fantastic job with her, as well as the rest of the horses. That’s what we live for, the opportunity to have horses in races like this, let alone win one.
“Words can’t describe the feeling,” Sisterson continued. “It just goes to show how good the people behind me are. I have a great staff and great owners. If it weren’t for the staff or the owners I wouldn’t be in this position.”
Owned by Calumet Farm, the well-bred Vexatious is a 6-year-old daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Grade 1-winner Dream of Summer, making her a full-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Creative Cause as well as multiple graded stakes winner Destin. A graded stakes winner on grass and five-time graded stakes placed on both dirt and turf, Vexatious enhanced her already high breeding value by acquiring Grade 1 blacktype in the Personal Ensign.
Vexatious’ only other start at Saratoga was a runner-up to subsequent Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Blue Prize in last year’s Summer Colony.
Sisterson noted how well his mare handles training at Saratoga and said Vexatious will remain at the Spa, where Sisterson keeps a small string of horses.
“She’ll stay at Saratoga for the time being,” Sisterson said. “Keeneland is home for her, but she really blossoms up at Saratoga. We didn’t want to be tough on her at the beginning of the year so we ran her in some allowance races. I didn’t want to disappoint her too early in the year to ultimately have her peaking at Saratoga mid-summer and that’s worked. She did so well here last year. She put on weight, her coat looked good and she did great.”
Options for Vexatious’ next start include the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Beldame at Belmont Park.
“She’ll tell us when she’s ready to run back again. I assume it’ll be one or the other,” Sisterson said.
For Sisterson, the fun did not stop after the Personal Ensign as fellow Calumet Farm color bearer Everfast picked up a triumph against winners in the following race – a seven-furlong allowance event over the main track.
The son of Take Charge Indy will likely point to the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing on August 29.
“He never lost his competitive step, so that was great for him. With him wining the way he did it allows him to step forward into a bigger race now,” Sisterson said of the runner-up of last year’s Grade 1 Preakness and Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.
“We’ll see how he trains out of it. He broke his maiden going seven eighths and was obviously running those Classic distances last year,” Sisterson said. “I wasn’t worried going into yesterday, just curious to see how he would respond to the seven-eighths distance. I thought seven eighths to a mile is good for him.”
Initially breaking at the rear of the field, Everfast inched his way into contention as the race progressed and shook clear through the final furlong to a 2 ½-length win.
“He did it well enough yesterday,” Sisterson said. “He had a lot in reserve and [jockey] Joel [Rosario] rode him perfectly. Mark told him before the race, ‘Ride him like he’s a Christophe Clement horse’ and those instructions worked out well. It’s great to see him back in the winner’s circle.”
Sisterson came close to scoring his first two Grade 1 wins on the same day when Lexitonian ran second to Collusion Allusion in Del Mar’s Grade 1 Bing Crosby.
The son of Speightstown was initially entered in last Saturday’s Grade 1 Vanderbilt at the Spa, but was scratched at the starting gate, which forced Sisterson to call an audible and send the dual stakes winner to the west coast.
“He was training very forwardly and showing us signs he would run a big race,” Sisterson said. ‘It was a big step up in class, but he was doing things in the morning that told us that he was ready.”
Echo Town secures first Grade 1 win for L and N Racing
L and N Racing’s Echo Town rallied to a convincing 3 1/2-length win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy at Saratoga.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the Speighstown colt turned the tables on No Parole after finishing second behind the speedy Tom Amoss-trainee on June 20 in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont. On Saturday, No Parole again went to the front in the seven-furlong test, but Echo Town, tracking from fifth under Ricardo Santana, Jr., angled out at the eighth pole and surged home for the dominant win.
“I believe he’s an excellent Speightstown,” said Asmussen following the win. “When it doesn’t go his way, he has the same attitude and same appetite as when it does go his way. He’s very likable and gives you that kind of confidence.”
The victory marked the first graded score for L and N Racing, a partnership that includes Tulsa, Oklahoma lawyer Lee Levinson; his sons Andy and Michael; and family friend and prosecutor Don Nelson.
“We watched it at our local simulcast here in Tulsa,” said Michael Levinson. “Everybody was going nuts. It was our first graded-stakes win and to do it in a race like that was great.
“We thought he was going to run a big race. He’s pretty consistent,” added Levinson. “He’s won four out of seven and the other times he’s run second or third. He got the right setup yesterday and had a little more pace to run into. Ricardo did a great job down the backstretch getting him to the outside and once he got in the clear, he just took off.”
L and N Racing enjoyed a memorable run on the Triple Crown trail in 2017 with multiple graded-stakes placed Lookin At Lee, who finished second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Grade 1 Preakness and seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Lookin At Lee is the group’s only other Saratoga starter, finishing 10th in the 2017 Travers.
Last year, the partnership enjoyed success on the Canadian Triple Crown trail with multiple stakes winner Tone Broke, who after finishing third in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in the first leg of the historic series went on to capture both the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie and the Breeders’ on the Woodbine turf.
In terms of achievement, Levinson said Echo Town’s score ranked even higher than their Derby run with Lookin At Lee.
“It’s tough to win any race at Saratoga, but to win a prestigious race like the Allen Jerkens is fantastic. I can’t put into words what it means for us,” said Levinson. “We’re a small group of guys from Oklahoma trying to make a splash and that was a big victory yesterday.
“There’s something about winning,” added Levinson. “Lookin At Lee ran second in the Derby and we were there which was exciting, but this sport rewards you for running first and it’s really exciting to have a Grade 1 winner.”
A $100,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, Echo Town is a half-brother to 2017 Grade 3 Gotham winner J Boys Echo. The colt is one of 21 runners currently active in the L and N Racing Stable.
“We just try to stick within our budget and find the best we can for our money and we’ve had a couple that worked out which is really nice,” said Levinson. “It’s a bit of a numbers game. If you buy 10, you hope that one or two might be like an Echo Town or a Lookin At Lee or even a Rowdy Yates, who is running next week for us in the Ellis Park Derby. You’re not going to win every time. At best, you’re going to win 15 to 20 percent of the time, so when you win it makes it all the more exciting.”
Levinson said if all goes well, Echo Town could make his next start on the Kentucky Derby undercard in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile on September 5 at Churchill Downs.
“We’re still trying to gauge what to do no next, but we might look at the Pat Day Mile. Steve said he’s doing great this morning, maybe just a little tired but he’s in perfect shape,” said Levinson. “It looks like he wants to go longer, which is good. To have a Speightstown that can win at this level at seven furlongs and a mile would be pretty impressive. It would give him a nice resume for his next job in life. We want to do all we can with him and then find a good home for him.”
The Asmussen-trained Midnight Bisou, the reigning Champion Older Dirt Female, finished second, by a neck, to Vexatious in Saturday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign presented by NYRA Bets. The prominent Vexatious took the lead at the stretch call under Jose Lezcano and held strong down the lane as the two mares came together late in the lane. A stewards inquiry and claim of foul by Midnight Bisou’s rider, Ricardo Santana, Jr., was denied.
Vexatious stopped the clock in 1:48.82 which Asmussen noted during the Echo Town post-race interview was comparable to the 1:48.65 registered by Improbable in his Grade 1 Whitney win later in the card.
“It was a tough defeat but when the final time was the same as the Whitney, the credit needs to go to the other mare [Vexatious],” said Asmussen. “If we have an unexplained loss on the year, I’m glad it’s out of the way here instead of at the Breeders’ Cup. She seemed good at the barn after the race and hopefully we get back on track.”
Undefeated at Saratoga, Cross Border feeling good following G2 Bowling Green
Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Border exited his win via disqualification in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green no worse for wear from the gutsy performance that kept his perfect record at Saratoga intact.
In fact, he looked so good Sunday morning that assistant Nolan Ramsey joked with trainer Mike Maker about trying to find his next spot before the summer stand comes to a close on September 7.
“I told him, ‘We’ve got a few more weeks left in the meet. I expect another three or four starts before we’re out of here,'” Ramsey said. “No, he’s just a very cool horse. He loves it up here and does nothing wrong. We’ll let him tell us when he’s ready. All I’ve got to do in the meantime is keep him happy.”
Cross Border won his fifth straight race at Saratoga – and second stakes in 10 days – when he was promoted to victory after finishing a neck shy of Grade 1-winner Sadler’s Joy in the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green. Sadler’s Joy was disqualified for bearing in on Cross Border in deep stretch, causing both Cross Border and Grade 1 winner Channel Maker on his inside to check.
“He was definitely game. He got in tight and never gave up. He’s a horse that always likes to fight,” Ramsey said. “He came back good, kind of the usual for him. It’s his favorite course, he loves to run often and when he does, he fires. Everything’s good this morning.”
Without knowing the exact reason for his success, Cross Border’s fondness for Saratoga is indisputable. Last summer, the now 6-year-old son of turf champion English Channel won an open allowance in July and defeated fellow New York-breds twice in 18 days in August.
Beaten a neck in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight in January at Gulfstream Park, his last start before the coronavirus pandemic shut down most racing across the country, Cross Border launched his comeback in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June at Belmont Park, running fifth by a length. On July 22, he made a triumphant return to Saratoga in a 6 ¼-length Lubash score.
“I don’t know if it’s the surface or the environment or what it is, but he loves it up here,” Ramsey said. “He’s kind of a quirky horse, but he always seems to enjoy his time up here. It sure makes our job easy.”
Kirk Wycoff of Three Diamonds, the leading owner at Saratoga with five wins through 14 racing days, spent $100,000 to get Cross Border out of Fasig-Tipton’s Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale in 2018. Prior to that, Cross Border had raced exclusively at Woodbine for previous trainer Robert Tiller.
It took more than a year for Cross Border to race for the first time after being purchased, finishing second by a head in a six-furlong turf sprint last June at Belmont. For Maker, Cross Border has won six races with three seconds and purse earnings of $461,075 from 12 starts, becoming a stakes winner this summer.
“We had a little setback with him his 4-year-old year but he’s really come on strong for us since,” Ramsey said. “He’s very consistent and always shows up, so he never disappoints.”
Maker entered Sunday’s card in a three-way tie for second in the trainer standings with nine wins, five behind Christophe Clement, and ranked third purses earned with $631,028.
“It’s been a great meet so far,” Ramsey said. “I hope we can keep it up.”
The barn will attempt to keep the momentum going with two in Thursday’s $100,000 Cab Calloway, Three Diamond’s Turbo Drive and Skychai Racing’s Jolting Joe. Out of the Tapit mare Marilyn Monroan, Jolting Joe is a half-brother to Somelikeithotbrown, winner of the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch on June 26 at Saratoga.
Jolting Joe enters the Cab Calloway still seeking his first career win, having run second in each of his first four starts. He was second by 1 ¼ lengths in his debut last fall behind Art Collector, who went on to capture the Grade 2 Blue Grass in July. His juvenile finale in November at Gulfstream Park West saw Jolting Joe run into King Guillermo, the 49-1 upset winner of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 in his sophomore debut and now pointing to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on September 5.
Facing older horses for the first time, Jolting Joe opened his sophomore campaign finishing second by a head after setting the pace from far outside post 12 in a July 25 maiden special weight at Ellis Park.
“He’s turning around kind of quick but he ran a good race at Ellis. He got a wide post and, in my opinion, a little bit of a rough ride but he’s another tough-luck horse. It just seems everything he runs against turns out to be a nice horse,” Ramsey said. “It seems like he’s always in tough, but he’s doing well and a nice little horse so we expect him to run well. He’s been consistently second, but second to some good horses, so there’s no complaints there.”
Jolting Joe drew outside again in the Cab Calloway, which drew a field of six 3-year-olds. Tyler Gaffalione, aboard for his first two starts, has the return call.
“I think he fits really well in there,” Ramsey said. “His speed figure numbers seem to make us think he belongs. Obviously, breaking your maiden in a stake is never easy but I think he fits.”
Mexican Group 1 winner Letruska to test deep waters in G1 Ballerina
St. George Stable’s Letruska, a multiple Group 1 winner in Mexico and two-time stakes winner in the U.S., will face the biggest test of her career when she makes her Saratoga debut in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets on August 8.
The seven-furlong Ballerina for fillies and mares 3 and up is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland, and is among four graded stakes on the undercard of the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers program.
Letruska, a 4-year-old daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, arrived last week in Saratoga from South Florida, where she had been based at the Palm Meadows training center.
“I wanted to give her enough time to have a good adaptation,” trainer Fausto Gutierrez said. “She looks perfect. She was in Florida and there the weather conditions are very humid. Before that she was in Mexico City where the weather is a little bit similar to this. I think for any horse here, the weather is perfect for training.”
Under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who is signed on to ride in the Ballerina, Letruska breezed a half-mile in 47.04 seconds over Saratoga’s main track Saturday, ranking fourth of 50 horses at the distance.
“I think she likes the track,” Gutierrez said. “When she breezed she breezed very easily, like she liked it a lot. I had the impression during the workout that she was just galloping, and when I checked the time I understand she was running. She came back perfect and scoped good. She’s very, very happy and I think in very good form for this important race.”
Letruska owns nine wins from 11 career starts, winning each of her first seven in Mexico including the Group 1 Clasico Esmerelda and Group 1 Clasico Diamante last summer. Her American debut came against older males in the 1 ¼-mile Copa Invitacional del Caribe in December at Gulfstream Park, where she cruised to a front-running 4 ¼-length triumph.
Following a failed attempt on turf in the Tropical Park Oaks, Letruska was sent to Oaklawn Park for her seasonal debut and first race in 3 ½ months, leading all the way in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance triumph with Santana up. Last out, she was a gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile Added Elegance on June 27 at Gulfstream.
“She is a racehorse with exceptional speed. It’s not easy to tell when the horses run in Mexico City, because you can’t know the quality and you can’t know the condition,” Gutierrez said. “We run high above sea level, and there is a lot of pollution. There she ran seven times and won the seven very easy in very good times.
“She won a tough allowance at Oaklawn Park after the layoff. The last race she had at Gulfstream, in my opinion, was spectacular. She ran very fast. She covered six furlongs in 1:08 and change,” he added. “This was the reason I came here. I’m sure she is ready for this level of competition.”
Gutierrez said Santana noticed a difference in Letruska in the 3 ½ months since they were last together in Arkansas.
“He breezed her yesterday and he liked her a lot,” Gutierrez said. “She has grown up a lot and gotten stronger.”
South Bend breezes in company with Tacitus in preparation for G1 Runhappy Travers
South Bend, a recent addition to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, worked five furlongs in company with 4-year-old multiple graded-stakes winner Tacitus Sunday on the Oklahoma training track.
Campaigned by Sagamore Farm through his first 11 starts, including a victory in the Street Sense last fall at Churchill Downs and Grade 3 placings on both turf and dirt, South Bend was acquired by a partnership group that includes Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel, Peter Deutsch and Leonard Schleifer of Pantofel Stable.
South Bend, starting a length back of the veteran Tacitus, was clocked five-eighths in 1:00.70 and finished up on even terms with Tacitus, who stopped the clock in 1:01.15.
Mott said South Bend, an Algorithms bay, worked well in his final breeze in preparation for a start in Saturday’s G1 Runhappy Travers.
“He went well. He went with Tacitus and they breezed nicely and finished up together,” said Mott. “He made up a length to the finish. We had him go out a little stronger. He’s a nice horse and pretty easy to train.”
Mott said Jose Ortiz, co-leading rider at the Spa, will have the call on South Bend for the 1 ¼-mile Mid-Summer Derby, the centerpiece of the Saratoga meet being contested for the 151st time but first as a point qualifier for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby September 5 with 100-40-20-10 qualifying points on offer for the top-four finishers.
Mott said Juddmonte Farms homebred Tacitus, by Tapit and out of champion Close Hatches, continues to work well toward the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward, a 1 1/4-mile test for 3-year-olds and up on September 5.
“He’s good. He’s been on a regular breeze schedule,” said Mott.
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s 6-year-old Canadian-bred Channel Maker ran third in Saturday’s Grade 2 Bowling Green. The multiple Grade 1-winning chestnut was making his third appearance in the Bowling Green having won it in 2018 and finishing third a year ago.
“He came out of it good. He’s a war horse,” said Mott.
First Line confirmed for G1 Runhappy Travers
Trainer Orlando Noda, who operates Noda Brothers with his brother Jonathan, confirmed Sunday that recent maiden winner First Line is now confirmed for Saturday’s Grade 1 Runhappy Travers.
First Line, a First Samurai chestnut, earned an 84 Beyer when graduating at fourth asking Wednesday in a nine-furlong maiden route at the Spa.
Noda said he was pleased with the way his horse has come out of that race.
“I took him out today and he was on his toes,” he said. “He ate well and came out of that race really well. I cannot ask for anything more. I think the horse has shown me he has the talent. We are going into this with a positive mindset and I think he’s going to run a big race.”
Noda has already surpassed the number of Saratoga wins from his debut last year when he won three races. Just 13 days into this year’s meet, he has already won four races from 13 starts, which includes three as an owner. This will be the first Grade 1 race for Noda.
“Overall, our luck is running good and we are going with the flow,” said Noda. “I think we are a go. We’re in it. I know all eyes are on me. Win, lose or draw. I know people are rooting for me. We might be the longest shot on the board, but we might outrun them all.”
Cariba likely for $85K Smart N Fancy
Leading trainer Christophe Clement kept his momentum sky high on Saturday when notching a sixth stakes triumph of the meet with Cariba in the $200,000 Caress over the Mellon turf at Saratoga.
Owned by Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stables, Cariba made her stakes debut in the 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares and arrived at the event off a victory in a first-level allowance event at Belmont Park.
“I thought she ran a very good race,” Clement said. “She belongs to Mr. [Everett] Dobson and it was a meaningful win for him. We were delighted with the race, delighted with the ride and we’re happy for the filly.”
The $85,000 Smart N Fancy on August 27 at Saratoga is a likely target for Cariba.
“She’d be a candidate for that,” Clement said.
The win was a second stakes win of the meet for the jockey-trainer combination of Clement and Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted Fresco to victory in the NYSSS Statue of Liberty on July 23 for the conditioner.
“We’re very spoiled in New York with such a remarkable colony of riders,” Clement said.
Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, Cariba is by Cairo Prince and out of the Indian Charlie broodmare Incarnate Memories, whose half-sister Church by the Sea produced Significant Form – the winner of last year’s Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga.
Reinvestment Risk graduates in style, earning 90 BSF
Reinvestment Risk, trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown for Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, romped to a 7 3/4-length score in Saturday’s opening race at the Spa, a six-furlong maiden sprint on the main track.
A $280,000 purchase at the OBS March Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, the Upstart bay, geared down at the finish, earned a 90 Beyer.
Out of the Candy Ride mare Ridingwiththedevil, Reinvestment Risk wintered at Payson Park in Florida before shipping north to Monmouth Park for continued preparation. The precocious bay arrived at Saratoga in mid-July and breezed twice on the main track including a five-eighths work from the gate in 59.89 on July 26 ahead of his eye-opening win.
“He ran super. He trained super all spring down at Monmouth with my assistant Luis Cabrera, who had the horse early on,” said Brown. “We transferred him up here and we’ve always liked him. Our team here did a fantastic job with him. Mike Ryan, my partner in all our bloodstock work picked him out from the De Meric consignment, another farm we use a lot. Everyone that’s touched the horse or been involved with him has raved about him, so I’m happy he lived up to that on his debut.”
Brown said the Grade 1, $250,000 Runhappy Hopeful, a seven-furlong sprint on Closing Day, September 7 could be in the cards.
“You’d sure think so,” said Brown. “If he comes out of the race well and especially having a race over the track, it looks like we’d have enough time between starts. I’ll talk to Mr. Klarman about it. It’s always exciting to have a nice 2-year-old.”
Valid Point, owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Michael J. Ryan, worked a half-mile in 47.66 in company with Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner and Runhappy Travers aspirant Country Grammer on the main track Saturday at Saratoga.
The 4-year-old Scat Daddy bay won his first three career starts capped by a last-to-first score in the 2019 Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park. He completed his campaign with an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October at Keeneland and was eighth in his seasonal debut off a nine-month layoff in the Grade 3 Poker on July 4 at Belmont.
“He won the Secretariat last year and had an injury in the fall, unfortunately but he has been training really well,” said Brown. “His first start back on the turf at Belmont he didn’t do any running and I’m not sure why – it may have been a function of the inside trip and maybe he doesn’t like being there. He’s worked brilliantly since on the main track and we’re thinking about running him on the dirt, actually.”
All graded stakes Cross Country Pick 5 returns more than $13K, handles $113K
Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5 paid $13,744.50 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager that encompassed live racing from Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park and Woodbine Racetrack. The sequence’s total pool was $113,192.
Woodbine commenced the wager when Olliemyboy defeated Belichick by two lengths to capture a maiden special weight in Race 9. Trained by Sid Attard, Olliemyboy returned $15.50 on a $2 win wager, completing 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:51.69 under jockey Patrick Husbands.
Monmouth started the stakes action when Hopeful Growth pulled of an 11-1 upset in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in Race 11. Trained by Anthony Margotta, Jr., Hopeful Growth, ridden by Antonio Gallardo, pulled away by four lengths in the 1 1/16-mile trek that awarded 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to September’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Project Whiskey, Eve of War and Dream Marie rounded out the superfecta to acquire those points.
Saratoga hosted the first of its two legs in the sequence when Improbable posted a two-length win in the prestigious Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles in Race 9. Off at 3-1, Improbable bested the five-horse field and gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his second consecutive Whitney win [McKinzie last year], paying $8.50. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. won his second Whitney in the last three years, as Improbable tracked Mr. Buff’s early speed before finishing strong, hitting the wire in 1:48.65 for his second consecutive Grade 1 win.
Artistico won an optional claiming race in Woodbine’s Race 10 in the fourth race of the Cross Country Pick 5. Conditioned by Sylvain Pion and ridden by Rafael Hernandez, Artistico returned $10.90 for the 1 3/8-mile turf route.
Saratoga concluded the wager when Echo Town notched a 3 ½-length score in the Grade 1, $300,000 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy in Race 10. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Echo Town completed the seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds in 1:22.53 under Ricardo Santana, Jr. Echo Town paid $16.40.
The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.
The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit NYRABets.com.