Keeneland Barn Notes: Focus Group Heads Field for G3 Sycamore Stakes

(Chad Brown will send out Focus Group in Sycamore Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

From the Keeneland Media Team:

FOCUS GROUP HEADLINES FIELD OF 11 FOR THURSDAY’S SYCAMORE

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Focus Group tops a field of 11 entered Saturday for next Thursday’s 25th running of the $150,000 Sycamore (G3) for 3-year-olds and up going 1½ miles on the turf.

The Sycamore will go as the eighth race on Thursday’s nine-race program with a 4:57 p.m. ET post time. First post is 1:05 p.m.

Trained by Chad Brown, Focus Group comes into the Sycamore off a third-place finish in the Northern Dancer (G1) at Woodbine on Sept. 14.

Jose Ortiz will have the mount and break from post position five.

The field for the Sycamore, with riders and weights from the inside, is: Changi (Sophie Doyle, 118 pounds), Midnight Tea Time (Brian Hernandez Jr., 121), Space Mountain (Corey Lanerie, 121), Nakamura (Javier Castellano, 121), Focus Group (Ortiz, 125), Postulation (Jorge Vargas Jr., 121), My Boy Jack (James Graham, 121), Blended Citizen (Joe Bravo, 121), Zumurudee (Tyler Gaffalione, 121), Marzo (Florent Geroux, 121), Golden Dragon (Rayan Gazader, 121).

MORTICIA CONCLUDES CAREER AS A MILLIONAIRE

  1. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s Morticia closed the book on a stellar career Friday afternoon with a runner-up effort to Oleksandra (AUS) in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3).

“I’m pretty sure that’s it. There’s not much left for her to do and I think now she will go to the farm where she grew up,” trainer and co-breeder Rusty Arnold said. “We’ve got our two horses (Totally Boss and Leinster) for the Breeders’ Cup (Turf Sprint-G1) and there are six or seven other good ones, so it will be up to one of those two to carry the banner for us.”

With Friday’s $30,000 check, Morticia increased her career bankroll to $1,019,669 with a record of 26-10-7-5-5. The daughter of Twirling Candy made all of her starts on the turf except for her debut as a 2-year-old in 2016 at Ellis Park, where she finished sixth in an off-the-turf race.

“I know how lucky I am,” Arnold, who bred Morticia with Humphrey, said. “I have a one-broodmare band (the Mr. Greeley mare Halloween Party) and I have a millionaire out of her.”

Never worse than fourth in any of her 25 turf starts, Morticia won at nine tracks, including twice at Keeneland that featured a triumph in the 2017 Buffalo Trace Franklin County.

Her first Keeneland start came in April 2017 when she finished second in the Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association going 1 miles.

“I never tried her two turns again because she was doing so well sprinting and she won three stakes right after that,” Arnold said. “In the Appalachian, (Grade 1 winner) La Coronel ran by her in the stretch and she beat (two-time Grade 1 winner) New Money Honey and that good filly of Brendan Walsh’s (Proctor’s Ledge).”

Morticia won’t be headed to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, and neither will Team Valor International’s Oleksandra, trained by Neil Drysdale.

Girls Know Best, who finished a neck behind Morticia in third, might head to California, according to trainer and part-owner Eddie Kenneally.

The $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy (G3) at 5½ furlongs on the turf is part of the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup undercard. Kenneally has two of his horses pointed to the World Championships: Scabbard (TVG Juvenile-G1) and Abscond (Juvenile Fillies Turf-G1).

“I’m not sure (about the Maddy),” said Kenneally, who claimed Girls Knows Best here two years ago for $40,000. “There are a lot of races for her (at Gulfstream Park) such as the Abundontia (going 5 furlongs on Dec. 28) and the race she won a couple of years ago on Pegasus Day (the Ladies’ Turf Sprint Stakes also at 5 furlongs).”

Regarding the Breeders’ Cup, Kenneally said that Mike Smith would have the mount on Scabbard and Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Abscond.

CLOSING-DAY HAGYARD FAYETTE ATTRACTS 35 NOMINATIONS

Red Oak Stable’s Bal Harbour, runner-up in the recent Woodward Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Saratoga, and Calumet Farm’s Everfast, runner-up in this year’s Preakness (G1), are among 35 3-year-olds and up nominated to the 62nd running of the $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2) to be run at
1 1/8 miles over the main track on Saturday, Oct. 26, the closing day of the 17-day Fall Meet.

Bal Harbour, who has three other graded stakes placings this year, is trained by Todd Pletcher and one of six Pletcher nominees to the race. Pletcher won the Hagyard Fayette in 2015 with Race Day.

Dale Romans, who trains Everfast, has two other nominees to the Hagyard Fayette. They include Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Mr Freeze, who won the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs in his most recent start. Romans won the Hagyard Fayette in 2003 with M B Sea.

Other nominations of note include Wayne Davis’ Mocito Rojo, winner of his past five starts including the Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill, and WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing’s Quip, winner of this spring’s Oaklawn Handicap (G2).

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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