Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saratoga Race Course Notes 8/24

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

** For video of Moreno's work from a Go Pro camera mounted on jockey Junior Alvarado's helmet, please visit **


**For video of Palace Malice's breeze, please visit


Sunday, August 24, 2014


Contact: NYRA Press Office

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Saratoga Race Course Notes


  • Jerkens still marveling at 1-2 finish in G1 Travers
  • Patient handling key for The Big Beast in G1 Ketel One King's Bishop win
  • Hushion open to discussion after Artemis Agrotera's G1 Ballerina win
  • G1 Woodward contenders Moreno, Zivo, Last Gunfighter and Palace Malice work
  • McGaughey has productive day on Travers undercard
  • Wise Dan breezes for possible start in G2 Bernard Baruch
  • Makari favored in redrawn New York Turf Writers' Cup
  • Divided Attention under consideration for stakes return


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In two editions of the Grade 1 Travers, trainer Jimmy Jerkens has emerged with two victories and one second-place finish with three horses, for an in-the-money percentage of 100 percent. Sunday morning, the 55-year-old trainer and his wife, Shirley, sat side-by-side on a bale of hay inside his barn and reflected on long shot V. E. Day's narrow victory over his more celebrated stablemate, Wicked Strong.


"I must have watched the replay a thousand times in the Champagne Room," said Jerkens who won the 2010 Mid-Summer Derby with Afleet Express. "I'm happy they both pulled up good. It sure was something. It seemed like the last two strides, he really lengthened his stride and reached out to win."


Like Afleet Express, V. E. Day's victory came by a nose and underneath jockey Javier Castellano. Unlike 2010, however, Jerkens' father, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, was not in attendance, having watched the race from his home near Gulfstream Park in Florida, where he is training.


"My sister, Julie, came down from Melbourne to watch the race with him," said Jerkens. "She told me at the end of the race, she was jumping up and down and yelling and screaming, and my dad looked at her and said, 'What are you doing? He lost!' and Julie said, 'No, he won! He won with the other horse!' I would have loved to have seen that scene."


Jerkens said he wasn't conflicted by having two horses in the same race, although he expressed pangs that one of them had to lose.


"You don't favor one horse over the other - I guess it's like your kids, you don't favor one over the other," said Jerkens. "We're still a small outfit, so we spent a lot of time with each of the horses. We're not as mechanical as some of the bigger outfits."


Previously overlooked in favor of the multiple graded stakes winning Wicked Strong, V. E. Day has now won four straight races. On July 26, he came from last to first to win the Curlin and earn a shot in the Travers; prior to that, he broke his maiden facing older horses on May 10 in an off-the-turf race and then won an allowance on the grass on July 2, both at Belmont Park.


"He's been very nice to ride and gallop - he's very well-behaved," said Shirley Jerkens, who exercises some horses for her husband. "He's strong, but strong in a good way."


Jerkens said he had no plans for either V. E. Day or Wicked Strong, although the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on TVG Super Saturday, September 27, at Belmont Park is an option for both.


"I really haven't thought about what's next or anything like that," he said.


*           *           *


Trainer Tony Dutrow readily admits that The Big Beast isn't easy to handle, which made the colt's victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop that much more gratifying.


Dutrow said the colt, who stands at 17-1 hands, is the largest horse he has trained and has a penchant for escaping his handlers.


"Horse racing is a passion for most of us. It's what we do. It's a big part of our lives," said Dutrow, who trains The Big Beast for Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. "To accomplish winning the King's Bishop, such a prestigious and special race, it's overwhelming. I'm very proud of the people who work with the horse. He's not been an easy horse; he's a rough boy and it's taken a lot of really special horsemanship from people other than myself to bring out the best in him."


To prevent The Big Beast from getting loose on Saturday, Dutrow had a pony accompany him to the paddock before the race. Following The Big Beast's neck victory over Fast Anna in the seven-furlong King's Bishop, the pony waited for The Big Beast in the winner's circle to lead him back to the barn.


"He gets loose almost every day, so you're trying to find a way to control him as safely as possible," said Dutrow. "He's done well with the pony. We've spent a lot of time with him in the paddock, and he's done well that way, so we asked for permission to take him to the races that way. And it worked out really, really good. He was really, really good. The last time we ran him [in an allowance on July 26] he got loose in the paddock. [The pony] kept The Beast quiet before and after the race."


Dutrow said he has not looked beyond the Ketel One King's Bishop for The Big Beast.  

"With the 3-year-olds, [running in the King's Bishop off an allowance win is] a pretty big step," said Dutrow. "I really felt like I was going to see what I saw, but I really felt like I needed the proof for that before I could think about what might be next."


*           *           *


Trainer Mike Hushion appeared serene and happy Sunday morning, one day after his superb 3-year-old sprinter Artemis Agrotera blitzed older fillies and mares to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina by 6 ½ lengths.


Ridden by Rajiv Maragh, Artemis Agrotera broke from the inside post, was pulled outside into a stalking position and followed leader La Verdad through torrid fractions. The first quarter-mile went in 23.14 seconds, the second in 22.64, the third in 23.88 and the final eighth of a mile went in 12.25 for a final time of 1:21.89 for seven furlongs. The race earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.


Hushion said the filly came out of the race well.


"I'm very happy with what I've seen," he said. "The usual: Ate up, bright. It's good. Legs are good. Good first day."


The Ballerina was a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and Hushion must now decide whether to race Artemis Agrotera in the interim two months or train up to the race.


"It will take a couple weeks to figure out," he said. "We'll see how she is two weeks from now. She'll get her first breeze back, and we'll make sure everything is on target. Just because they've got no aches and pains the first day doesn't necessarily mean they don't going forward. But I feel pretty good about her all around. She's a sound horse."


*           *           *


Southern Equine Stable's Moreno, front-running winner of the Whitney Stakes on August 2, tuned up Sunday for a run this coming Saturday in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward with a five-furlong breeze over the main track.


Jockey Junior Alvarado, outfitted with a Go Pro camera on his helmet, worked Moreno five furlongs in 59.28 seconds, fastest of 40 runners at the distance.


"Same like always, meaning he's just in cruise control," trainer Eric Guillot said afterward. "Easy."


Before giving him a leg up, Guillot told Alvarado to work five furlong in 59 seconds, and the jockey hit his mark perfectly.


"It looked like Junior Alvarado saved his spot from Johnny V [Velazquez] taking over," Guillot joked. "If he was one second off, he would have lost his mount for the Woodward."


Guillot calls Moreno, a 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper, a "looky-loo" because he takes note of everything as he goes around the track. Even wearing blinkers and ear plugs for the work, Moreno kept moving his right ear around during the workout, as if trying to hear if other horses were nearby.


"The more people out there, the more activity, the less he tries," Guillot said. "He likes to pay attention to everything else going on, but it was exactly what I wanted."


Alvarado liked what he felt under him.


"He worked pretty nice the first part," Alvarado said. "He's kind of like looking around at the end. That's how he is, his personality, but I'm pretty happy with the way that he went. I know he's feeling good. All I've got to do is wait for the race."


Moreno has won just three of 20 starts but been a top competitor in the sport for the past two years. After winning the Grade 2 Dwyer last year, he finished third in the Jim Dandy, second by a nose to champion Will Take Charge in the Travers, and second in the Pennsylvania Derby.


This year has been more of the same, with a third in the Charles Town Classic and a second-place finish in the Suburban. He finally broke through, beating the likes of Will Take Charge, Palace Malice, Itsmyluckyday and Golden Ticket in the Whitney, at $1.5 million the richest race of the Saratoga meet.


The ever-talkative Guillot said there will be no secret as to how Moreno will try to win the Woodward.


"It's always going to be the same for this horse; nothing is going to change," he said. "My quotes are going to change after the race and before the race because I'm a man of many colors, but as far as the plan for the horse, it's going to be déjà vu, just like the Frenchman I am. I'm going to repeat myself one more time: If you're in front of me, you went too fast."


Also Sunday, trainer Chad Brown worked a pair of runners who are aiming for the Grade 1 Woodward, with Zivo breezing five furlongs in 1:01.24 and Last Gunfightercovering four furlongs in 49.70 seconds.


Zivo, a 5-year-old New York-bred owned by Thomas Coleman, has won six straight, including the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap by three lengths over Moreno on July 5 at Belmont Park.


"It was just a maintenance breeze," said Brown "I thought he breezed well and galloped out well, and he's on target for the Woodward."


John Gunther's Last Gunfighter, a 5-year-old who has won four graded stakes, was fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 2, his most recent start.


"I thought he went well, and he's most likely going to run in the Woodward as well," said Brown.


Working for a possible start in the Woodward as well was Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, who in company with Capo Bastone covered four furlongs on 48.67 seconds on the main track under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.


"I thought it was a kind of standard 48 and change work for him," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Mr. [Cot] Campbell is going to call me later today and we'll have a discussion about future plans."


*           *           *


Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey may not have won the 145th edition of the Grade 1 Travers with his talented Mr Speaker, but he had a productive day nonetheless, sending out a pair of winners including Abaco in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa.


Mr Speaker, a grandson of the legendary Personal Ensign, loomed at the top of the stretch in the $1.25 million Travers but failed to demonstrate the same kick he's shown in his turf races and flattened out to finish fifth.


"I thought Mr Speaker ran really, really well," said McGaughey, who trains the colt for the Phipps Stable. "What happened is what I was afraid would happen - when Jose [Lezcano] started asking him he just wouldn't have the hard punch that he has on the turf. I was not worried about him eating dirt or anything like that, I thought he handled it well, and Jose had him in great position. Sometimes when you go to ride horses that want the turf, they're just sort of even. I thought that's the way he was."


Mr Speaker will likely return to grass for his next start, which could be in the Grade 3, $500,000 Hill Prince on October 4 at Belmont Park, according to McGaughey.


Abaco's win in the $250,000 Ballston Spa was long overdue, McGaughey said. The 6-year-old mare was winless in 2014, despite running a pair of sensational races in the Grade 1 Diana and Grade 1 Jenny Wiley. On Saturday, the Phipps homebred found the "good" conditions to her liking and wore down trainer Graham Motion's Strathnaver in the shadow of the wire of the 1 1/16-mile turf affair.


"I was very, very pleased with Abaco," said McGaughey. "She had been knocking on the door and deserved to win a race like that. She ran hard and finished hard; we were tickled with that."


According to the trainer, Abaco will be pointed to the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational on September 27 at Belmont.


Early on in the day, McGaughey sent out a promising juvenile in Face the Music, who captured a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf race in front-running fashion. The Phipps Stable color-bearer set a sensible pace for the distance and kept the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Imperia, a son of Cocoa Beach, at bay to prevail by a neck.


"He's always trained like a nice horse," said McGaughey. "I was a little surprised he got beat [in his debut], but I think that's probably a pretty nice 2-year-old of Graham Motion's that beat him. Yesterday he broke good, and instead of fooling with him, [jockey Joel Rosario] left him alone. I thought he really ran a good race. I think he's a nice horse with a big future."


The Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim on September 28 at Belmont is a possibility for the colt's next start, according to McGaughey.


*           *           *


In preparation for a possible start in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap on August 30, two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan breezed through the fog on the main track Sunday morning.


The gelding earned an official time of 47.92 seconds for a half-mile under regular exercise rider Damien Rock.


"They said 47 and three, that's what the official clockers said," said trainer Charlie Lopresti. "He went out in a minute and change and they said they followed him out in [one minute and] 13 [seconds] for the three-quarters and then he went 1:26 [for seven furlongs].


"It was foggy, so I couldn't see it," Lopresti added. "But I knew he worked good because I had him in my binoculars and I was trying to find him and everywhere that I thought he would be, he was ahead of my binoculars. He's been working really well. If [Rock] had ever asked him to run, there's no telling how fast he would've gone."


Continuing the "will he or won't he" debate, Lopresti said he will enter Morton Fink's homebred champion in the Baruch but still has not ruled out a shot at a three-peat in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 14.


"I would love to run in the Woodbine [Mile]. It's a million dollar 'Win and You're In' race, but he's already here and it makes no sense to go back to Kentucky and then go to Canada. Who knows? If it's an easy race [in the Baruch], maybe he'll go from here and run in Canada."


*           *           *


Merriebelle Stable's Makari, who won the A. P. Smithwick Memorial on July 31 in his first North American start, is the 2-1 favorite to win Monday's Grade 1, $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup and score a back-to-back Saratoga Race Course double that has not been achieved in 15 years.


Postponed from last Thursday because of heavy rain, the New York Turf Writers will be run this year in memory of trainer Tom Voss, who died in January. Carrying on his stable is his daughter, Elizabeth Voss Murray, who collected her first graded stakes victory with Makari in the Smithwick, who was ridden by Jack Doyle.


Post time for the 2 3/8-mile New York Turf Writers is 1 p.m.


Campanile was the last horse to achieve the Smithwick-New York Turf Writers double, in 1999. Others to win both races in the same year are Yaw (1991), Warm Spell (1993), and Racing Hall of Fame member Lonesome Glory (1995).


Standing in Makari's way is an accomplished field headed by Jacqueline Ohrstrom's Demonstrative, 3-1, the 2012 Turf Writers Cup winner who finished a nose behind Makari in the Smithwick. Also returning from the $100,000 Smithwick Memorial is Virginia Lazenby's and Farm d'Allie Racing Stables' Pleasant Woodman, 15-1, who set the pace to the final fence and held on for third, 7 1/4 lengths behind the top two.


Jack Fisher, the sport's top trainer by wins and earnings in 2014, will saddle the duo of All Together, 8-1, second in last year's Turf Writers and fourth in the Smithwick, and Staying On, 12-1, who was fifth in the Smithwick.


Italian Wedding and Barnstorming, both owned and trained by Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, will seek to better their performances after finishing sixth and ninth, respectively, in the Smithwick. The entry of Italian Wedding, winner of last year's New York Turf Writers, and Barnstorming is 5-1 on the morning line.


Leading owner Irv Naylor and principal trainer Cyril Murphy will be represented by the Irish-bred entry of For Non Stop, who finished third in the Grade 1, $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois, and Charminster, second in a Saratoga optional allowance on July 30, listed at 7-2 on the morning line.


*           *           *


Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is considering a return to stakes competition for Darley Stable's Divided Attention following a strong performance in the seventh race on Saturday.


With jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, Divided Attention overcame a bad start and cruised to a 5 ¼-length victory while covering the seven furlongs in 1:22.70, just .35 seconds slower than The Big Beast's victory in the Ketel One King's Bishop.


"She was impressive coming off the layoff," McLaughlin said. "We'll have to start looking at stakes races for her. In the meantime, we'll keep her up here to train."


In 2013, Divided Attention was fourth to yesterday's Grade 1 Ballerina winner, Artemis Agrotera, in the Grade 1 Frizette and this year was second in the Grade 3 Tempted to  Stopchargingmaria.



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