Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saratoga Race Course Notes 7/31

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Contact: NYRA Press Office

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Saratoga Race Course Notes


  • Haskell third-place finisher Wildcat Red pointing to Grade 1 Ketel One King's Bishop
  • Pair of hard-knocking horses, Last Gunfighter and Big Blue Kitten, among Brown contenders on Whitney Day
  • Southern Honey ready to tackle G1 Longines Test foes off two-month layoff
  • DiPrima's Plainview hopes to keep on chugging in the $100,000 Lure

·         * Free as a Bird tops field for Smirnoff Sorbet Caress


·         * Horse named for Angel Cordero, Jr. entered on Saturday at Saratoga


·         * Donnally to speak at Racetrack Chaplaincy fundraiser


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Multiple graded stakes winner Wildcat Red is being pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop on August 23, trainer Jose Garoffalo said Thursday morning.


Third in Sunday's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, the 3-year-old son of Grade 1-winning sprinter D'wildcat will leave New Jersey for Saratoga around August 10, the trainer said.


The seven-furlong King's Bishop is one of three supporting graded stakes for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers, run at 1 ¼ miles. Garoffalo, who returned to his Gulfstream Park base on Tuesday, said he would also keep an eye on how the Travers develops.


"I'm going to nominate to both races, but I'm leaning toward the King's Bishop," said Garoffalo. "I want to look and see what horses are going to the race. It looks like it's going to be a very tough group of horses, and the Travers is going to be even tougher. But he's doing good so we are going to head up there and see. He's already run seven-eighths this year and he won easy, so I think that'll be a good race for him."


Wildcat Red won the seven-furlong Grade 3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream by 4 ¾ lengths on February 1, then captured the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles three weeks later and was second by a neck to Constitution in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby on March 30.


"We'll get him up there and work him the week before the race," Garoffalo said. "He's very good. I gave him some days off after the Haskell, and we'll bring him back to the track on Friday or Saturday. He's doing great."


*           *           *


Since being turned over to trainer Chad Brown in the fall of 2012, John D. Gunther's Last Gunfighter has been a model of consistency with nine wins - seven in stakes, four of them graded - and one second from 13 starts.


A disappointing ninth in his most recent race, the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 5, the 5-year-old son of First Samurai will look to rebound in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney on Saturday.


Brown initially had considered the Whitney for Zivo, the New York-bred Suburban winner who is undefeated in five starts this year, but decided to enter Last Gunfighter when post positions were drawn on Wednesday.


"Zivo is going to wait for the Woodward [Grade 1, $600,000, Aug. 30]," said Brown. "Last Gunfighter, we decided to just take a shot. The owners want to run and I don't disagree with them. It's a lot of money and the horse has really shown up for us every race except for his last one. We're just going to draw a line through it. He had a little bit of a challenging trip and got a little discouraged, and [jockey] Javier [Castellano] just took care of him the last half of the race."


Last Gunfighter drew post nine on the outside in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge race that earns the winner a fees-paid trip to the Classic. The Kentucky homebred has never run at Saratoga but is 3-for-4 lifetime at nine furlongs.


"He's been training really good, and I think he deserves a shot. Maybe he can grab a piece of it," said Brown. "He's a workmanlike horse and he normally shows up in any situation I ask him to. His last race was the only time he didn't. I have to give him a free pass one time. He's had two good breezes since the Suburban. It's a big purse, and why not take a shot in here? I don't see any other race for him that makes more sense. We'll run him and see what happens."


On the Whitney undercard, Brown will also send out two-time Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten for his season debut in the $100,000 Lure for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles over the Mellon Turf.


The 6-year-old son of Kitten's Joy has not raced since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf in November. Last summer, he won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga in successive starts.


"The horse was quite sore after the Breeders' Cup, and he required a lot of time off, so we're getting him started later than we would like," said Brown. "When I saw this race and I started to evaluate his fitness level, I don't think we can have this horse fit enough to run effectively at a mile and a half."


Each of Big Blue Kitten's last three races have been at 1 ½ miles, the distance of the $500,000 Sword Dancer on August 17. His most recent race at 1 1/16 miles came in an optional claiming allowance at last May at Churchill Downs, which he won.


"I think the Sword Dancer is coming up a little soon for me," said Brown, "but to give him a race at a mile and a sixteenth might be a better option in the long run for this horse, just to get a race in him and see. If he's good enough to win, great; if he's not, it should set us up hopefully for something better the next time we run him."


*           *           *


Having shown a steady progression through the spring, Grade 3 winner Southern Honey can take another step forward in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old filly sprinters.


Trained by George "Rusty" Arnold for Ashbrook Farm, the daughter of 2008 Travers winner Colonel John has put together a three-race win streak capped by the Grade 3 Winning Colors against elders on May 26 at Churchill Downs.


Arnold had hoped to use the Grade 3, 6 ½-furlong Victory Ride on June at Belmont Park as a steppingstone to the Longines Test but was forced to Plan B when Southern Honey got sick the week of the race.


"She got a temperature two days before the plane was leaving [Kentucky] and I couldn't ship her," said Arnold. "We missed the Victory Ride, so we had no chance to go anywhere else. This race was the target for a long time. The Victory Ride was a target because I trained her and I wanted to win that race, but it just didn't happen.


"It bothers me a little bit that we're going into a race of this quality off nine weeks off, but that was the option I was left with. I didn't have a chance to do anything else. By the time she missed the Victory Ride, any other race would have put her too close to this race. It was all or nothing, and we think we've got her ready."


Southern Honey will carry regular rider Julien Leparoux and 118 pounds from post 5 of 12 in the Longines Test, which will be her sixth career start. Second in her debut last fall at Churchill, she was fourth at Gulfstream Park during the winter before breaking her maiden on April 5 at Keeneland to kick off her streak.


"We've always liked her," Arnold said. "She got a shin when she ran at Churchill in November, and we got that taken care of. A lot of horses didn't handle Gulfstream. I don't know what the deal was; it wasn't just mine. She just didn't run well to what we expected. She came out of it fabulous, we moved to Keeneland and everything has gone exceptional since then. She's just gone right up the ladder."


Arnold said Grade 1-winning mare Centre Court is being pointed to the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa for turf females 3-years-old and up at 1 1/16 miles on August 23.    


A 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike owned by G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., Centre Court has had two works over the Saratoga turf course including a bullet half-mile in 48.60 seconds on July 25, the fastest of 40 horses.


"Centre Court is doing fabulous," said Arnold. "She does great here every year. I think I've got her back right. She'll run in the Ballston Spa if the next three weeks go good."


Just $71,452 shy of reaching the $1 million mark in career earnings, Centre Court kicked off her 2014 campaign by winning the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream, her second straight victory in that race and sixth in a graded stakes. She ran fifth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley and Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile in subsequent starts.


"She hurt her foot in the race at Churchill pretty badly and had to probably get walked three weeks and it's taken her this long to get her back, but it looks great right now. Everything in the last month has been good, and we'll be ready by then if nothing bad happens," said Arnold.


*           *           *


Trainer Greg DiPrima claimed Plainview on May 18, 2012 for $25,000 with modest ambitions - he was merely hoping the son of Street Cry could advance through his non-winners-of-two and non-winners-of-three-lifetime conditions. The savvy DiPrima, who wins at a 15% clip with horses first off the claim in the past five years, never foresaw how good Plainview would become.


More than two years later, the bay gelding has won seven of 16 starts for the trainer and earned a $435,091 in his career, the majority of which has come on the NYRA circuit.


Plainview, owned by Jesse Iglesias and Michael Imperio, has not only been a model of consistency - he's hit the board in 11 of those 16 starts - but also in his running style. The DiPrima trainee is a free-running type, often opening up a few lengths on his competition in the early stages of a race before bearing down for the stretch drive. Regardless of pace, track, or surface, the reliable gelding almost always has something left.


Now a 6-year-old, Plainview, who is undefeated at Saratoga, has shown no signs of slowing down. He began his year in the Grade 3 Poker on May 26 at Belmont, finishing fourth behind a trio of graded stakes winners after uncharacteristically coming from off the pace, and rediscovered his front-running style to score by three-quarters of a length in a graded stakes-caliber optional claimer on July 9 at Belmont.


"We give him a little bit of a break over the winter," said DiPrima. "He winters in Florida, so we send him to Ocala for four to six weeks to do nothing but be a horse. He really seems to relish the vacation; he's come back just as good."


Plainview is set to make his next start in the one-mile, $100,000 Lure on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, which closes out a Late Pick 4 that features the Grade 1 Test, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and Whitney. Though ungraded, the Lure attracted a salty group of older turf horses.


"I think we fit well in [the Lure]," said DiPrima. "It's no secret, I think we'll be on the lead, and he looks like the lone speed. He's training great; we had a nice work the other day - [four furlongs in] 48 and change, real easy."


Despite his extensive resume, one title has eluded Plainview in his career: graded stakes winner. DiPrima is hoping that will change before his star pupil's career is over.


"He tries so hard, we'd love to get him a graded stakes win. He deserves it," said the trainer.


*           *           *


Free as a Bird, first or second in all five of her starts this year, is the 5-2 program favorite for tomorrow's running of the $100,000 Smirnoff Sorbet Caress, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.


Trained by Ian Wilkes for Elizabeth Valando, the 5-year-old Hard Spun mare enters the Caress off a pair of stakes wins at Belmont Park, taking the Intercontinental by a neck on June 8 preceded by a one-length score in the License Fee on May 11. Joel Rosario will be back aboard Free as a Bird, who drew post position 3 in the field of 10.


Second choice at 7-2 on the morning line is Madame Giry, who in four starts at the Spa has compiled a record of 3-0-1, including a pair of optional claiming wins in 2012 and a victory in the Smart N Fancy last August 26. The 5-year-old Castledale mare, winner of the Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park last time out, drew post position 10 and will be ridden by Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.


Munnings Sister, a 5-year-old daughter of Speightstown, opened her 2014 campaign with a win in the Awesome Feather at Gulfstream Park but has not found the winners circle since, finishing third in the Grade 3 Las Flores at Santa Anita, fourth in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct and most recently second in the Red Cross on June 22 at Monmouth Park. With Cornelio Velasquez riding, Munnings Sister is listed at 5-1 on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 5.


Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Believe in Charlie (6-1), Angel's South (12-1), Kune Kune (20-1), Jewel of a Cat (8-1), Heaven Knows What (12-1), Coarsegold (10-1), and Double the Energy (15-1).


*           *           *


During his riding career, Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero won 649 races at Saratoga Race Course, currently placing him third on the all-time victories list. On Saturday, a different Cordero will attempt to win a race at the Spa when he competes in the third race, a 1 1/16-mile turf event for maiden 2-year-olds.


Cordero, trained by Wesley Ward for Jake Ballis, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, has made one start in his career, a sixth-place finish against 13 opponents in the listed Chesam Stakes on June 21 at Royal Ascot.


While the Coolmore group has raced many horses named for famous figures in history (Dylan Thomas, Galileo, George Washington, Stravinsky, and Yeats, to name a few), Cordero was given his name by Ballis, a friend of the former jockey, who now serves as Hall of Famer John Velazquez's agent.


"He was looking to name a horse after his buddy, and he got it done," said Ward.


The equine Cordero, an Irish-bred son of Giant's Causeway, is one of three entrants in the body of the field with previous racing experience. He'll race with Lasix for the first time on Saturday.


"Unfortunately, he bled in the [Chesam], which is the first of any of the horses I have brought over there that have done that," said Ward, whose international forays have brought him wins in the Group 1 Prix Morny, Group 2 Norfolk, and Group 2 Queen Mary. "With the addition of the Lasix, I think the horse will have a real good chance."


*           *           *


The Rev. Dr. Eddie Donnally, a former jockey and journalist who received an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing in 1984, will be the keynote speaker at the New York Chaplaincy Fundraiser on Wednesday, August 13 at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.


Donnally, 70, whose autobiography "Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey's Story of Racing, Rage and Redemption" was published in 2013, was a jockey for 19 years, after which he became the turf writer for the Dallas Morning News, a television show producer and racing show host. His career fell apart due to an addiction to crack cocaine, but in 1996, while in jail, he had a religious conversion. Within five years was licensed as a minister by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and until 2009, he served as the Development Director for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America.


Having earned his doctorate in ministry, he now lives with his wife in Clearwater, Fla., where he is a hospice and hospital chaplain.


"We're very pleased to have Eddie speak for us," said Rev. Humberto Chavez of the Racetrack Chaplaincy, New York Division. "He is well known in the racing community and his uplifting story of redemption is not only interesting but an inspiration to us all."


The New York Division of the Racetrack Chaplaincy, led by Rev. Chavez, is a non-demoninational Christian non-profit that provides physical, emotional and spiritual care to the backstretch workers at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont Park.


Tickets for the Fundraiser are $100, and Donnally will sign books at the event, at the track in the afternoon and that evening at Impressions in downtown Saratoga for a donation of $15.




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