Monday, August 25, 2014

Saratoga Race Course Notes, Monday, August 25

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Contact: NYRA Press Office

(718) 659-2351


Saratoga Race Course Notes


  • Upstart sets sights on Belmont fall meet
  • Palace Malice scheduled to make next start on TVG Super Saturday at Belmont Park
  • Albany winner So Lonesome to face older horses in either Empire Classic or Mohawk
  • Donk has options with King Kreesa
  • Itsmyluckyday will wear blinkers for G1 Woodward
  • Ring Weekend to stay on grass in G3 Saranac; Pride of Stride possible for G1 Hopeful
  • Trio of Spa maiden winners headline Wednesday's P.G. Johnson


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Nine days after Upstart broke his maiden in impressive fashion for trainer Rick Violette, the talented ridgling made a bid to be ranked among the best 2-year-olds on the grounds with a sensational encore in the Funny Cide for New York-breds on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.


Upstart, who earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 95 for his 5 ½-length victory, likely will make his next start at Belmont Park, with the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile a potential goal.


"We'll set our sights on maybe the Champagne [Grade 1, one mile, October 4], maybe the Futurity [Grade 2, six furlongs, October 5], but in that time frame," said Violette. "If we do the Breeders' Cup, a race around two turns, [the Champagne] is probably what you should do, so I'm going to leave that option open. I'll talk it over with Mr. Evans. There's a big difference between a one-turn mile and a two-turn mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita. [The Champagne] experience would certainly be very valuable, so we'll weigh our options."


With Tom Durkin's retirement quickly approaching, Violette couldn't resist expressing his admiration for the famed racecaller in the homestretch of his career.


"Durkin's been spectacular this meet; he's going out in some serious style," said Violette. "I loved before they looked at the photo for the Travers, 'Who won the Travers? Jimmy Jerkens.' Tom's been outrageously good this meet; it's been fun to listen to him. He's not going to leave anything in his book. The phrases will be used."



*           *           *


Dogwood Stables' Palace Malice likely will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 27 at Belmont Park, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed on Monday.


The 2013 Belmont Stakes champion, coming off his first loss of the year in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga on August 2, had been under consideration for Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward.


A 4-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Palace Malice breezed four furlongs in 48.67 seconds over Saratoga's main track on Sunday, ranking 19th of 101 horses at the distance. It was his second work since finishing a dull sixth as the favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney.


"We just felt like his breeze yesterday was good, but it wasn't that sparkling breeze that we were looking for leading into the Woodward," Pletcher said. "We know that his record at Belmont is really, really good. You could argue that it is his favorite track. We just felt like the Jockey Club made the most sense at this time."


Palace Malice has three wins, two seconds and purse earnings of $1,574,000 in five lifetime starts at Belmont, including victories in the Belmont, Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 3 Westchester. He was also second in last year's 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup.


Away from Belmont, Palace Malice has a record of 4-2-1 and a bankroll of $1,102,135 from 12 starts.


Pletcher said no decision has been made regarding the future of multiple Grade 1-winning filly Princess of Sylmar, most recently fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 22 at Saratoga.


"She's doing fine," Pletcher said. "We'll take her back to the track tomorrow and just kind of feel our way along."


*           *           *


So Lonesome, a gate-to-wire winner of the $250,000 Albany for 3-year-olds on Sunday, will face older horses in his next start, either on the dirt in the $300,000 Empire Classic or on the turf in the $200,000 Mohawk, trainer Tom Bush said on Monday.


Both the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic and 1 1/16-mile Mohawk are part of the Empire Showcase Day card, which will be held on October 18 at Belmont Park. Like the Albany, the Empire Stakes and Mohawk are restricted to New York-breds.


The Albany, contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, was So Lonesome's second stakes win. As a 2-year-old, the gelding won the Vigro Libra overnight stakes on the turf in November at Aqueduct Racetrack. He entered the Albany off a sixth in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, contested on the turf August 8 at Saratoga.


Bush said So Lonesome, who is owned by Patricia Schuler, can run well on either surface, with letting him run free being the key to his success.


"He's one of those horses you have to let run early and be prominent and not take a lot of hold of him," said Bush. "He seems to like that. We learned that, and we'll probably try to stay with that strategy. He has a lot of talent, and it was nice seeing him show up with such a big race on a big day."


Bush admits the waters will get deeper for So Lonesome when he faces older horses in the Empire Classic or Mohawk.


"At least in terms of the New York-bred category, you got older horses, turf or dirt, on that day," said Bush. "The older turf horses are a different caliber, and so are the older horses on the dirt. He's got a whole other level to be at for the next spot, wherever he goes. We've got him on a winning track now. We just got to keep him there."


In 2012, Bush won the Mohawk with Unbridled Command, a 3-year-old who entered the race off a win in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga before going on to win the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.


*           *           *


 David Donk has long been a respected trainer on the NYRA circuit and the addition of ace turfer King Kreesa is adding some extra zip to the Saratoga meet. On Sunday, the 5-year-old gelding delivered in his first start for Donk, taking the $150,000 West Point presented by Trustco Bank on Saratoga Showcase Day.


Under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., King Kreesa broke on top and led the entire way to win by a head over Lubash, running the 1 1/16-mile grass race in 1:42.07.


The horse had not raced since contesting the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile last December at Sha Tin for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.


"A very big effort off the bench," said Donk, who came up under the late Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens. "I felt I was two works away from where I wanted to be, but I was running out of time to run [at Saratoga]. I know he's a good horse, and I'm impressed. I hoped he could get past this race and I got a good effort out of him."


Donk, who campaigned Awad, winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan, Sword Dancer and Arlington Million in the mid-1990s, doesn't know yet whether he'll keep King Kreesa in New York-bred company or try open stakes. The gelding won the Grade 3 Poker last summer at Belmont Park and then ran a close-up second to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.


"I'm not sure off this effort," he said. "I haven't touched base with the owners yet about it. In the perfect scenario, he could come back and run in a flat mile somewhere. I prefer to keep him in New York. I'm getting to be like [Hall of Fame trainer] Allen Jerkens and prefer to stay home and not travel."


*          *          *


New Jersey-based trainer Eddie Plesa said his multiple graded stakes-winning 4-year-old Itsmyluckyday will van up from Monmouth on Friday and is set to run the following afternoon in the Grade 1 Woodward, a 1 1/8-mile dirt fixture for 3-year-olds and up.


Itsmyluckyday, a son of Lawyer Ron, was a top 3-year-old last year, winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park before finishing second to Orb in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and to Oxbow in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes. This year, he has come back strong, with three stakes victories. In his most recent start, he finished second to Moreno in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 2 at the Spa.


In that race, he was the only runner to make a significant challenge to the front-running winner, finishing ahead of 2013 Champion Three-Year- Old Male Will Take Charge and favored Palace Malice, among others.


Plesa has worked Itsmyluckyday two easy half-miles since then, and added blinkers, which the colt will wear for the Woodward.


"We're going to have a change of equipment," Plesa said by phone. "We worked him both times in the blinkers, and I like the way he went. I think maybe we can fine-tune him a little bit, maybe focus him down the lane; just do something a little different. Sometimes horses need a little something to shake them up."


Itsmyluckyday has made 18 starts in his career, finishing first eight times with earnings of $1,302,600. Plesa said the objective is simple with his barn favorite.


"The script is to win a Grade 1 race," he said. "This is the focus. My whole focus has been to win a Grade 1 race. The race we ran in [the Whitney] and this one coming up have been our target races.


"We're either going to get to the top of the ladder or not. This is what racing is all about, what everybody works for. He's just a neat horse, not because of the races he's running in or because he has brought us so much pleasure the past few years. It's because he's a neat horse to be around. Even if he was just a $15,000 claimer, I like being around him. Like people, they're not just all lawyers or doctors. He's fun to be around, and I look forward to seeing him every morning."


*           *           *

Grade 2 winner Ring Weekend will stay on grass for his next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on Saratoga's closing day, September 1.


Trained by Graham Motion for St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds, the gelded sophomore son of Grade 1 winner Tapit was most recently runner-up in the Sir Cat Stakes on July 18, opening day at Saratoga. The Sir Cat winner, Tourist, went on to finish second in the Grade 1 Secretariat.


Ring Weekend rebounded in the Sir Cat after being pulled up and walked off without finishing the Grade 3 Pegasus on June 15 at Monmouth Park. The Sir Cat was his first start on grass since running second in a 7 ½-furlong maiden race over the Gulfstream Park turf course in mid-January.


"Coming off that poor race at Monmouth I was very pleased," Motion said. "We kind of switched it up. I'm not saying we'll always keep him on the grass, but I kind of wanted to get him back on the grass. His race in Florida on the grass was very good, numbers-wise. Being the time of year it was, we needed to try him on the dirt, obviously, and it worked out."


Ring Weekend broke his maiden on dirt at Gulfstream in February and wired the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby field before finishing second in the Calder Derby and fifth following a rough trip in the Grade 1 Preakness prior to the Pegasus.


"I'm looking forward to running him back," Motion said. "I thought he ran a big race [in the Sir Cat]. I wanted to give him plenty of time after that race. Bill Mott's colt that beat us is obviously a very good horse. I was very pleased, especially coming off such a weak effort. It was encouraging to see him back to himself."


Motion is also considering the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful at seven furlongs on September 1 for Pride of Stride, an impressive maiden winner at Saratoga on August 2. Another option is the one-mile, $100,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth on August 31.


A chestnut son of Candy Ride owned by Qatar Racing, Pride of Stride rated in midpack before coming four wide into the stretch and getting up to win by a length after six furlongs in 1:10.85.


"He's here, and I've kind of had this race in the back of my mind, but I might [want] to go a mile with him," Motion said. "He's a horse that I liked as much as any 2-year-old that I have. He ran very greenly first time out but he put it together when he ran up here and ran a real professional race. He's a very cool kind of sensible horse. I'm lucky this year that I have some 2-year-olds that take everything in stride which makes it a lot easier, kind of almost like older horses."


*          *          *


Saratoga maiden winners Sunday Sonnet, Magnificent Margo and Rainha Da Bateria step into stakes company in Wednesday's 10th running of the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.


Trained by Kelly Breen, Sunday Sonnet captured an off-the-turf seven-furlong maiden race on July 27 in front-running fashion, strolling home 7 ½ lengths ahead of the field. Six days earlier, Rainha Da Bateria rallied for a head victory in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint.


Sunday Sonnet will break from post 2 under jockey Jose Ortiz at odds of 4-1, while Rainha Da Bateria will carry Rajiv Maragh from post 6 as the tepid 3-1 morning-line favorite.


Magnificent Margo comes back 19 days after a nose victory in her debut at odds of 8-1 for trainer Mike Maker. Red-hot rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. gets a return call on the Congrats filly, 7-2 on the morning line.


Also in the field are Flying Tipat (8-1), a full sister to multiple graded stakes winner Tapitsfly; Ancient Goddess (4-1), making her North American debut for trainer John Terranova after two starts in France; Partisan Politics (5-1) and Slava (20-1).




Forward this email

This email was sent to by |  

The New York Racing Association, Inc. | NYRA | Press Office | P.O. Box 90 | Jamaica | NY | 11417