Sunday, July 6, 2014

Belmont Park Notes; Sunday, July 6, 2014

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


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Belmont Park Notes


  • McGaughey delighted with Mr Speaker's G1 Belmont Derby win; unsure of future plans
  • Stars & Stripes Day a resounding success for Chad Brown
  • Brian Lynch reflects on Clearly Now's track record-setting performance in G3 Belmont Sprint
  • G2 Jim Dandy, G1 Travers up next for G3 Dwyer winner Kid Cruz
  • Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, on target for Jim Dandy, turns in Sunday breeze


ELMONT, N.Y. - Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was still tickled Sunday morning, one day after Mr Speaker upset an international field to win the Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational, one of five graded events on the inaugural Stars & Stripes Festival card. More than 11,000 guests were at Belmont Park to watch as the Phipps homebred held off the favored European, Adelaide, to win the 1 ¼-mile turf race by a neck.


"I thought yesterday was a great day; it's fun to go over there when there's a buzz," said McGaughey. "There were people in the box seats, people on the apron, people around the paddock, and they were all enthusiastic. I saw people in the box seats yesterday that the only other time you saw them was on Belmont Stakes Day. I think they can really build on these days."


McGaughey said the Mr Speaker returned from his winning effort in good shape but had no idea where he would next appear. Although he had two Grade 3 wins on his resume - the Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland Race Course and the Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park - Mr Speaker was 23-1 off a fifth- and last-place finish as the favorite in the Belmont Derby's prep race, the Pennine Ridge on May 26.


"When this horse ran second in the Palm Beach [missing by a half-length after an eventful run from last], I thought we might have a pretty nice horse with as much trouble as he had," said McGaughey of the March 1 race. "In the Pennine Ridge, everything went wrong. But from that day until yesterday, everything went right. He was good in the paddock, good at the post.  I think we're on the right track with him, and I think there's more there, too."


McGaughey reported that Norumbega, a well-backed eighth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, came back fine, as well.


"I think he probably got a little farther back [10th] than he would like," said the trainer. "We'll probably freshen him up a little bit and look at the Woodward [Grade 1, August 30, Saratoga]. He's run twice on the dirt at Saratoga and won both times."


Next Saturday, McGaughey will attempt to notch another turf stakes when he sends Reflecting out in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap. The 5-year-old son of Elusive Quality worked a half-mile on the inner turf in 49.61 Sunday morning along with the Grade 1 Diana-bound Abaco.


"I thought he ran good the last time," said McGaughey of Reflecting's third-place finish in the Belmont Gold Cup on June 6, in which he was beaten one length at the end of two miles. "He's done really well since that race, so I'm looking forward to running him. He worked with Mr Speaker last week and he worked as well as he did. We'll see."


*           *           *


Trainer Chad Brown took Stars & Stripes Day by storm, saddling back-to-back winners in the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap and the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks with Zivo and Minorette, respectively.


Deliberation on whether or not to run Zivo, who is a homebred owned by Thomas Coleman, continued right up until Saturday morning.


"We entered him to take a look," said Brown. "He was in good form. Obviously, we couldn't be happier that we entered him. He ran a great race."


Less than an hour later, Minorette took the Belmont Oaks with a perfect trip under jockey Joel Rosario, who snapped a streak of three straight stakes wins for Jose Lezcano.


"We couldn't be more pleased with Minorette; she ran to her workouts," said Brown. "She had been breezing like she was ready to run a big race and she ran exceptionally."


Brown, who also saddled Bobby's Kitten in the Belmont Derby and Last Gunfighter in the Suburban, was understandably pleased with the inaugural Stars & Stripes Day.


"Overall, it was a terrific day of racing and we were happy to be a part of such a purse-rich card," said Brown. "It was great for the whole barn; they work really hard and it was nice for them to be rewarded, as well as my clients."


*           *           *


Trainer Brian Lynch, who sent out Clearly Now to victory in the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, on Sunday reflected on his colt's record-setting performance. Clearly Now, a 4-year-old son of Horse Greeley, eclipsed the seven-furlong track record on Stars & Stripes Day at Belmont Park when he completed the distance in 1:19.96, besting Left Bank's mark of 1:20.17 set in 2002.


"You know, after watching the race again, the thing I was most impressed with is the way he galloped out," said Lynch. "After the finish, his ears were still pricked and he jumped back into the bridle. It definitely makes me think he can be competitive at a mile."


To make the 6 ¼-length win even more impressive, Clearly Now did not switch leads in the stretch.


"That's his signature," said Lynch. "I think he's only switched leads once in his life, and that was in the [Grade 3] Bold Ruler [at Belmont]. He always changes leads on cue in the morning, but for whatever reason, maybe it's when he gets into a pressure situation, he doesn't do it in the afternoon. It doesn't seem to slow him down, though."


For his effort, Clearly Now earned a gaudy 112 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that has Lynch thinking Breeders' Cup.


"I hope we're still in this position when those races come around," said Lynch. "Obviously, we'll consider the Sprint and the Dirt Mile. The Sprint usually seems to come up the tougher of the two. I don't think a two-turn mile would be a problem for him, so we'll see."


*           *           *


Kid Cruz has even bigger races on the agenda after posting his first graded stakes win on Saturday by defeating entry-mate Captain Serious by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Dwyer for 3-year-olds.


"We will point towards the Jim Dandy [Grade 2, $600,000, 1 1/8 miles, July 26, Saratoga Race Course] and then the Travers [Grade 1, $1.25 million, 1 ¼ miles, August 23, Saratoga]," said Rice. "If I feel like he needs more time, we'll just wait and train him to the Travers."


Named for New York Giant Victor Cruz, Kid Cruz had previously won the Private Terms at Laurel Park, Federico Tesio at Pimlico, and Easy Goer at Belmont. He finished eighth in the Preakness between the Tesio and Easy Goer.


"We've had a few bumps along the road," said Rice. "We had to scratch him from the Wood Memorial [in April], so we'll see how it plays out. One day at a time."


Kid Cruz employed new tactics in the Dwyer, racing in fourth, three lengths behind pacesetting Captain Serious before moving up and wearing down the early leader in the stretch. Previously, Kid Cruz, who is owned by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable, had rallied from as many as 18 lengths back in his one of his three prior stakes wins.


"When he won the Private Terms, he was so far back and there were such slow fractions that I thought there was something wrong, but each time he's been laying a little closer," said Rice. "I think the riders, in particular Irad [Ortiz], have figured out that you have to ask him to be there. He's not going to do it on his own, but he does seem to be getting the hang of it."


Rice also has Saratoga plans for Antonino Miuccio's Palace, a two-time graded stakes winner who was second by 6 ¼ lengths to Clearly Now in yesterday's Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship. 


"I think six furlongs is a better distance for him," said Rice of Palace, who won Grade 3 Fall Highweight in November and Grade 2 True North in June, both at six furlongs. "We'll point to the [Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at six furlongs on August 2 at Saratoga]. I think that will be a better distance for him."


Rice also confirmed that Sheila Rosenblum's La Verdad, a graded stakes winner who last week added a score against New York-breds in the Dancin Renee, remains on course for the Grade 2 HRTV Honorable Miss Handicap on July 28 at Saratoga.


*           *           *


Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist continued his preparations for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 26 at Saratoga by breezing five furlongs in company with stablemate Life in Shambles on Sunday at Belmont.


NYRA clockers caught Tonalist, who is owned by Robert Evans, traveling the distance in 1:02.15, with Life in Shambles timed in 1:01.62.


"They both worked well," said Clement. "Life in Shambles goes to the [$100,000] Curlin [on July 25] and Tonalist, touch wood, goes to the Jim Dandy. It was just a maintenance five-eighths, but he did it the right way. 25 and 3/5 [for the first quarter-mile], and they finished well. The fastest eighth of a mile was the last eighth of a mile, which I love."


Clement also discussed plans for some of the other stakes horses in the barn.


"Summer Front had a very nice work this morning (five furlongs on the turf in 1:01.58)," said Clement. "He's on his way back. It was his first work in three weeks. I'm not exactly where he'll go. The [Grade 1] Eddie Read [on July 20] at Del Mar is a possibility in three weeks. Chamois also worked well (also five furlongs on the turf in 1:01.58). He might go to the [Grade 2] Bowling Green [on July 12 at Belmont]. Might. Discreet Marq worked easy, an maintenance work on dirt (five furlongs in 1:02.42). Worked great. She'll go to the [Grade 1] Diana [on July 19 at Saratoga]. Pure Sensation, a nice work, too (1:00.67). We have two choices: the Lucky Coin [on July 20 at Saratoga] or the [Grade 2] Amsterdam [on July 26 at Saratoga]."


A pair of Clement runners filled the bottom two spots of the Belmont Oaks trifecta, with Stonetower Stable's Sea Queen finishing second after setting the pace and Sarah J. Leigh's Summer Solo closing to take third. Clement said both fillies emerged from the race in good shape.


"They both came back OK," said Clement. "A little bit stiff, obviously from the race, but not bad. [Sea Queen] ran very well. She got a great ride. She was second best on the day, but she ran a great race. [Summer Solo] ran a very good race coming from out of it. She was one of the few horses who finished [strongly]. She out-finished her odds and finished third in a Grade 1."



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