Saratoga Race Course:
G1 Whitney Stakes:
On Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, one of thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious races will come down to a New York-style affair as New York-bred Horse of the Year candidates Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits top a field of eight in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney.
The 91st running of the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs, will be aired nationally on NBCSN from 5-6 p.m. ET. The NBCSN broadcast, which will also feature the Grade 1, $500,000 Test, will follow Saratoga Live on FS2 beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Lauren Evans and Ralph M. Evans’ Diversify, who was rerouted to the Whitney from a planned start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2, is exiting an impressive 6 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Suburban at 1 ¼ miles on July 7 at Belmont Park. That victory earned the 5-year-old Bellamy Road gelding a career-high 110 Beyer Speed Figure.
“I was very concerned after the Suburban. He had run such a huge race that I thought that four weeks might be too quick,” said trainer Rick Violette, Jr. “But he kept making a liar out of me. He ate well, trained well and breezed awfully well on Sunday. His blood has a habit of spiking up and down, so we had to make sure that duck was in a row. We got back those results today. Sometimes, when your horse is doing good, you’re supposed to run.”
The Suburban was the third race of the year for Diversify, and his first graded stakes since finishing a disastrous seventh as the post-time favorite in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, his seasonal debut. Following that effort, Diversify’s connections opted to move the gelding back against state-bred company in the one-mile Commentator on May 28, where he stumbled at the break but recovered quickly enough to win by a hard-fought nose.
Overall, Diversify owns nine wins and two seconds from 14 starts for career earnings of $1,309,425. Last year, the characteristic frontrunner won four of eight races, including an 11 ½-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Evan Shipman against New York-breds, his only previous start at Saratoga and the second of three straight wins in the summer and fall. He capped that win streak with a gutsy one-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a title Violette said he hopes to defend on September 29 at Belmont.
“We have a few options. He can be tactical and if someone wants to get silly out there, we can certainly follow that lead,” said Violette. “We’ll be aggressive; the break is always important, [whether] it’s a mile and a half or five eighths, it’s critical there. He has the ability and has a very high cruising speed and [can] keep going. A lot of times, we just throw the gauntlet down.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. retains the mount aboard Diversify, tabbed as the 7-5 favorite on the morning line. The pair will leave from post 6.
Already established as one of nation’s top sprinters, reigning New York-bred Horse of the Year Mind Your Biscuits is looking to expand on his resume as he takes on a two-turn route for the first time in the Whitney.
Mind Your Biscuits, the richest New York-bred in history with $3,939,286 in lifetime earnings, has finished in the top three in 19 of 22 starts with seven wins. He won the Grade 1 Malibu as a 3-year-old in 2016 and the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship in 2017.
Trained by Chad Summers, the 5-year-old multi-millionaire by Posse has traveled to Dubai for thrilling back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse, including a dramatic, last-to-first rally in this year’s edition over X Y Jet and champion sprinter Roy H.
In his two stakes tries at a mile, his longest distance to date and both around a single turn, Mind Your Biscuits was second to multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Azteca in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last December and just missed last time out in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, coming up a nose short of a loose-on-the-lead Bee Jersey on June 9 at Belmont Park.
From five starts at Saratoga, the strapping chestnut’s local record includes a victory in the Grade 2 Amsterdam as a 3-year-old in 2016 as well as two rare off-the-board finishes in the 2016 Grade 1 King’s Bishop and the Grade 1 Forego last summer, where he finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
“I expect him to be much closer with Diversify coming drawn out in the 6, and [they’re] giving us six pounds it’s a short run into the first turn, and if Diversify gets hung wide, he gets hung wide,” said Summers.
“I’m as confident as I can be … everything he’s always shown me over his entire career is that he can do it, and until he can’t, I’m not going to think he can’t.”
Mind Your Biscuits, co-owned by Summers and his family, Shadai Farm, Head of Plains Partners and Michael Kisber, will have the services of his regular jockey Joel Rosario. The 2-1 second-choice will leave from post 4. He will carry 117 pounds, a seven-pound weight allowance, in his first race around two turns.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Backyard Heaven will look to rebound for trainer Chad Brown after snapping a three-race win streak in the June 16 Stephen Foster last time out, giving way late to finish sixth in his Grade 1 debut.
The Stephen Foster was Backyard Heaven’s fifth career start and second consecutive race at Churchill Downs. In the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 4, the 4-year-old Tiznow colt raced close to the pace and drew off to a 4 ½-length win.
“The horse is training well, it’s shaping up like a tough one,” said the two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer. “He’s only run the one bad race for us at Churchill. Maybe it was the heat. We’ll draw a line through it because the horse has been training well since and hopefully he bounces back and regains the form he has.
“He’s lightly raced and has come around so fast. I feel he’s so talented; in the Alysheba, he ran fabulous in that race. If he redeems himself and comes back to a performance like that, I feel he can be a real contender in this race.”
Backyard Heaven, 9-2, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from post 2.
Three-time Whitney-winning trainer Todd Pletcher will send out multiple graded stakes winner Tapwrit, for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta, Bridlewood Farm, Gainesway Stable, and Whisper Hill Farm. The 4-year-old gray colt by Tapit is seeking his first win since his triumph in the 2017 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit, tabled following a fourth-place finish in the Travers last year, has raced twice in 2018, finishing third in an optional claimer in June at Belmont Park and a wide fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7.
At 6-1 on the morning line, Tapwrit will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey and four-time Whitney winner John Velazquez from the rail.
WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing, Head of Plains Partners’ Grade 2 winner Good Samaritan will go postward for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The 4-year-old Harlan’s Holiday colt is getting back to two turns after finishing seventh in the Met Mile, his worst placing in 13 career starts.
After beginning his career on turf, Good Samaritan was moved last year to the main track for the second half of his sophomore season. He got off to a fast start, besting Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing in a 4 ¾-length upset in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy that summer. That effort was followed by a fifth-place in the Travers and then a fourth against older horses in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. He closed out his 3-year-old campaign in November with a close runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.
His lone victory this year came in his seasonal bow with a 2 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 24. Prior to the Met Mile, Good Samaritan finished third in the Alysheba, 5 ½ lengths behind Backyard Heaven.
Good Samaritan, 12-1, will break from post 7 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Whitham Thoroughbred’s homebred McCraken will look for redemption following a third-place finish last time out as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap on July 6 at Prairie Meadows.
The 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt was seventh in last year’s Travers, his only other appearance at the Spa, following a runner-up finish to Girvin in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. This year, McCraken returned in May with a half-length win in an optional claiming race on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs and was sixth in the Met Mile.
McCraken, who drew post 8 at odds of 15-1, is trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., who teamed up with Janis Whitham to win the 2012 Whitney with Fort Larned, who went on to victory in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
California import Dalmore will try to upset the Big Apple cart for trainer Robert Hess, Jr. and owners Loooch Racing Stables, Ashley Quartarolo, Raquel Ritchie, and Cristina Ritchie.
Dalmore, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Colonel John, was second to Remembering Rita last time out in the Cornhusker. He will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr. from post 3 at 30-1.
Grade 3 Excelsior winner Discreet Lover, exiting a third-place finish in the Suburban, will complete the Whitney field for owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis. By Repent, the 5-year-old Florida-bred boasts the most experience of the group, as he prepares to make his 42nd career start. Manny Franco will ride Discreet Lover, 30-1, from post 5.
Field for the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney (with post positions and odds):
|2||9-2||Backyard Heaven||Chad C. Brown||Javier Castellano||121|
|3||30-1||Dalmore||Robert B. Hess, Jr.||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||117|
|5||30-1||Discreet Lover||Uriah St. Lewis||Manny Franco||119|
|6||7-5||Diversify||Richard A. Violette, Jr.||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||124|
|7||12-1||Good Samaritan||William I. Mott||Jose Ortiz||121|
|8||15-1||McCraken||Ian R. Wilkes||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||117|
|4||2-1||Mind Your Biscuits||Chad Summers||Joel Rosario||117|
|1||6-1||Tapwrit||Todd A. Pletcher||John Velazquez||124|
G1 Test Stakes:
Klaravich Stables’ Separationofpowers will look to return to the impressive form she displayed as a juvenile on Saturday when she competes in the 93rd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
One of five stakes on a packed card that is highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, the Test, carded as Race 8, will be shown nationally on NBCSN, which will air live coverage from the Spa from 5-6 p.m. ET. The NBCSN broadcast will follow Saratoga Live on FS2, which airs from 2:30-5 pm.
Separationofpowers will be returning to the track where she won her debut in July 2017 and finished third in her first stakes start, coming in behind Maya Malibu and Lady Ivanka as the beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 2. The Chad Brown trainee took a step up when she posted a 3 ½-length score in the Grade 1 Frizette on October 8 at Belmont Park before capping her campaign with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 4 at Del Mar.
Off an eight-month layoff, the Candy Ride filly got caught wide in her first start of her sophomore year, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 8 at Belmont. She will now be running at the Test distance of seven furlongs for the first time since the Frizette, in which she earned a personal-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She’s doing really well coming in, so we’ll send her in and see what happens,” Brown said. “She had a terrible break last time and stumbled. It was a tough trip, but she got the race she needed. Hopefully she moves forward off that first start of the year and runs a big race in the Test.”
Jose Ortiz will have the call from post 6.
Her stablemate, Alter Moon, made all seven of her previous starts at Gulfstream Park, including her first stakes win in the Azalea on June 30. With three wins and two second-place finishes in her career, she will make her first appearance outside of the Sunshine State, drawing post 3 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Mia Mischief has already registered a graded stakes win this year, earning a 97 Beyer for her 1 ¾-length gate-to-wire win in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
The Into Mischief filly’s only off the board finish in eight starts was in her last effort, when she overcame a brush with eventual winner Dixie Serenade before going to the front before eventually tiring in finishing fifth in the Victory Ride. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Mia Mischief will make her first Saratoga appearance, drawing post 7 with Ricardo Santana, Jr. aboard.
Kelly’s Humor will be hoping a distance cutback is beneficial after running third in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on July 14 at Indiana Grand Race Course. That effort followed a second-place finish against optional claimers at seven furlongs on June 1 at Churchill, which provided the daughter of Midnight Lute an easier landing spot after finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill, her home base.
“We’re shortening her back up, but she came out of the Indiana race in good order,” trainer Brad Cox said. “She had a decent work at Churchill last week. We’re hoping they’ll be some pace in there. We’ve run at seven-eighths twice this year and she’s plenty fit, so hopefully the turnback will help her out.”
Kelly’s Humor ended her sophomore year with four straight graded stakes start, finishing second in the Grade 2 Pocahontas in September at Churchill. After getting more than four months off, she returned to run second in the Grade 3 Beaumont on April 8 at Keeneland, setting her up for the Kentucky Oaks. After the “Run for the Liles,” Cox said he wanted to give a softer landing spot before ramping backing up for a Grade 1 bid.
“She didn’t perform as well in the Oaks as we thought, so we wanted to try and pick off a Grade 3 or a Grade 2 before running back here, but this race came up,” he said. “At seven-eighths of a mile, we wanted to give it a [try]. She’s training well, so we expect her to run well.”
Jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount from the outside post 9.
Classy Act also struggled in the Kentucky Oaks, finishing 10th, but has come back strong for trainer Bret Calhoun, winning an optional claimer on June 1 at Churchill and finishing second by a neck to Dixie Serenade in the Victory Ride.
Like Mia Mischief, Classy Act is also sired by Into Mischief, and the Kentucky bred has become more comfortable at Saratoga as he gets ready for his first start on the historic track, according to his conditioner.
“She got a tough beat in the Victory Ride, it looked like she was the best horse, but she shipped straight from Belmont up here and has settled in,” Cox said. “She proved that she can fit with [this] group in the Victory Ride.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. will be in the irons from post 4.
Minit to Stardom is a perfect 3-for-3 entering her first graded stakes start. Trainer Al Stall, Jr. said she has been training well since arriving from Kentucky and that the distance should be favorable after she won an optional claimer by 6 ¼ lengths on May 27 at Churchill in her 3-year-old bow. Her three victories have come by a combined 18 ¾ lengths.
“This will be a monster class/acid test for her, but we don’t have a Plan B,” Stall said. “We’re not going to stretch her out just yet. We’re excited to see how she does.”
The Brittlyn Stable’s Louisiana homebred will have the services of jockey Corey Lanerie from post 8.
Rounding out the field is Cathedral Reader, making her stakes debut, for trainer Dallas Stewart; Spectator, sixth in the Victory Ride last out, for trainer Michelle Nevin; and the Uriah St. Lewis-trained Norma’s Charm, who ran second in the Alma North before running eighth in the Victory Ride.
G2 Waya Stakes:
Entering off a victory in the Grade 2 Dancing Smartly at Woodbine, Santa Monica for owners John and Mrs. Magnier, Madaket Stables and Deron Pearson will headline a competitive field of eight in the Grade 2, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya for fillies and mares on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
One of five stakes races on an action-packed card highlighted by the 91st running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, the Waya at 1 ½ miles on the inner turf will join Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test, the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure and the $100,00 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose.
In the care of two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, 5-year-old British-bred Santa Monica began her career in Ireland, making her first 22 career starts in Europe, including a victory in the Group 3 Munster Oaks at Cork as a 4-year-old. She made her North American debut in an allowance race on April 18 at Keeneland at the Waya distance, she bested a field of eight to win by eight lengths.
Making her next start in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park, she finished third before winning Dancing Smartly recording a field-high 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She’s obviously in terrific form,” said Brown. “We cut her back effectively in Canada and she did great at a mile and a quarter. She’s a very versatile horse and I think she prefers to go this mile and a half distance.”
Santa Monica will depart from post 5 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Also entering for Brown is Homeland Security for owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. A 4-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, she won the River Memories in her most recent start on July 8 at Belmont.
“She’s lightly raced and off a layoff I thought showed a lot in her last start winning a mile and a half race,” said Brown. “She got a beautiful trip no doubt, but she had the right to get a little tired late and she punched through and got the win. She’s an interesting horse moving forward in her form cycle.”
Homeland Secruity will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from the rail.
Trainer Joe Sharp will enter Mom’s On Strike for Brad Grady and Carl Moore. The 5-year-old First Dude mare has three wins from five starts this year, including a victory in the Grade 3 Bewitch on April 27 at Keeneland. Last out, she finished
fourth in the Grade 2 New York on June 8 at Belmont.
“She’s doing well and training great,” said Sharp. “I’m very confident coming into the race as she’s as good as I’ve ever had her. I think she’ll appreciate the distance coming out of the New York going a mile and a half. We know we’ll need a bit of racing luck, but she’s really developed over the year. This winter at Fair grounds, there was really only one series for older mares and we took advantage of that and it showed in the Betwitch at Keenland.
With regular rider Adam Beschizza in the irons, the pair will leave from post 2.
Looking to improve off a second-place finish in her first start of the year in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay for trainer Graham Motion and owner Jack Swain III is Lottie. A 5-year-old daughter of Arch, she ran second in last year’s edition of the Waya.
Rounding out the field is Tricky Escape for trainer Lynn Ashby and owner Jon Marshall; Queen of Connaught for trainer Michael Bell and owner Mrs. Paul Shanahan; Violet Blue for Jimmy Toner and owner Michael Ryan and Summersault for trainer Mark Hennig and owner White Fox Farm.
Godolphin Racing’s Zennor will return to racing in Saturday’s $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure – one day short of a year since his one-length victory in last year’s running of the 1 1/16-mile turf race. The 6-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding looks for his fourth straight victory and will try for his third win at Saratoga from four starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“He’s been away since last year,” McLaughlin said. “There were no conditions for him, but he’s doing well.”
Zennor made his stakes debut in the Lure after winning two consecutive allowance level starts at Keeneland and Belmont Park, respectively. Jockey Joe Bravo took advantage of a slow pace in last year’s Lure. He kept Zennor more forwardly placed than normal and was able to maintain his advantage through the stretch.
The Kentucky-bred owns a steady work tab at Greentree Center in preparation for his return and will break from post 7 under jockey Rajiv Maragh.
Gary Barber’s Conquest Panthera will get a bit of class relief in the Lure after two consecutive Grade 2 starts at Woodbine. The 6-year-old gelding by Kitten’s Joy closed well for third in the June 30 King Edward at a mile on the grass after a game effort for third as the favorite in the June 2 Connaughton Cup at seven furlongs. The Mark Casse-trained Kentucky-bred will make his fifth start of the year on Saturday.
“He’s tough. It’s been a little while since he’s won, but he tries hard all the time,” Casse said. “He’s a nice horse.”
Conquest Panthera drew post 4 and gets Luis Saez in the irons.
Also entered in the Lure are Camelot Kitten, Ticonderoga, Mr. Cub, Dalarna, Ballagh Rocks, Inspector Lynley, and Blacktype.
De La Rose Stakes:
A field of nine will go postward in Saturday’s $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for older fillies and mares contested at one mile on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
Keystone Racing’s Bletchley is entered off of two Grade 2 turf starts at Woodbine, where she finished second in the one-mile Nassau on May 27 and fourth in the 1 ¼-mile Dance Smartly last out on June 30. The English-bred will now cut back in distance in attempting to capture her first stakes victory for trainer Mark Casse.
“She should run well,” said Casse. “That was a tough race she ran in last time [in the Dance Smartly]. She probably got a little unlucky the time before [in the Nassau]. We tried running her, but I think a mile and a quarter is a little beyond her, so now were going to cut back.”
Bletchley will break from post 8 in tandem with John Velazquez, who rode the filly for the second time after they teamed to win an allowance level start at Gulfstream Park to start her 4-year-old campaign this year.
Godolphin Stable’s Lido is another filly looking for class relief, returning off a seventh-place finish in the Perfect Sting on June 30 at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old Street Cry filly rattled off two victories to start the year, then stepped up in class and ran a four-wide trip for third in the Grade 3 Beaugay May 12 at Belmont for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“She’s doing very well, McLaughlin said. “It’s a tough race, but she’s doing very well. Not many options for her, but we’re in. It’s the best available, but we’re ready.”
Lido will break from post 3 under the meet’s current leading rider, Luis Saez.
The De La Rose –the fifth of 11 races on a packed card highlighted by the Grade 1 Whitney and Grade 1 Test – will also feature Uni, Well Acquainted, Pas de Soucis, Precieuse, On Leave, Care Lady, and Thundering Sky.
Del Mar Race Course:
G1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes:
English-bred Sophie P, winner of the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita in late May, will carry highweight of 122 pounds Saturday versus eleven formidable filly and mare rivals in the 65th running of the Grade II $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar.
The Yellow Ribbon ‘Cap headlines a ten-race program which will also feature the $100,000 Graduation Stakes for California-bred two-year-olds. First post time is 2 p.m.
Kent Desormeaux has the call on Sophie P from trainer Jim Cassidy as she attempts to atone for a sixth-place finish last time out June 24 in the Wilshire behind Storm the Hill and Ancient Secret, both of whom are entered Saturday. She was a game nose winner of the Gamely over Madam Dancealot with Madame Stripes only another neck away in third.
Among the opposition for Sophie P are the 2017 Yellow Ribbon winner, Cambodia, who will be ridden by Drayden Van Dyke. Cambodia followed her Yellow Ribbon success with a triumph in the John C. Mabee last summer. She is winless in four subsequent starts, but was a solid third to Wuheida in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last November at the seaside track.
Also competing in the Yellow Ribbon Saturday will be Fahan Mura, an impressive wire-to-wire winner of the Osunitas Stakes July 20. Edwin Maldonado will be up again at 117 pounds. Other stakes-winners in the field are Beau Recall, 120, Corey Nakatani; Midnight Crossing, 118, Tiago Pereira; eastern invader Hallie Belle, 117, Joe Bravo; Irish-bred Tisbutadream, 116, Tyler Conner, in her U.S. debut; Storm the Hill, 120, Rafael Bejarano; Madame Stripes, 120, Geovanni Franco; Ancient Secret, 119, Mike Smith. Completing the field are Sassy Little Lila, 117, Tyler Baze, and Pantsonfire, 118, Alonso Quinonez, both of whom are several times stakes-placed.
The five and one-half furlong Graduation will match seven lightly-campaigned juveniles – Oliver, Martin Garcia; Luck’s Royal Flush, Gary Stevens; Grab the Munny, Baze; Tap the Wire, Van Dyke; Our Silver Oak, Stewart Elliott; Carnivorous, Mario Gutierrez, and Bea’s Boy, apprentice Heriberto Figueroa. Luck’s Royal Flush is the lone stakes-winner in the group, having accounted for the Everett Nevin at Pleasanton July 7.
Our Silver Oak, a sparkling winner debuting for trainer William Morey at Los Alamitos on the Fourth of July, drew the No. 5 post in a field of seven and was tabbed the 2-1 favorite on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line for Saturday’s 67th running of the Graduation Stakes for California-bred two-year-olds.
The 5 ½-furlong sprint will go as the fourth on a 10-race card.
The field from the rail: Oliver (Martin Garcia, 7-2), Luck’s Royal Flush (Gary Stevens, 5-2), Grab the Munny (Tyler Baze, 8-1), Tap the Wire (Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1), Our Silver Oak (Stewart Elliott, 2-1), Carnivorous (Mario Gutierrez, 12-1) and Bea’s Boy (Heriberto Figueroa, 20-1).
G3 La Jolla Stakes:
Val Brinkerhoff-trained Restrainedvengence, winner of the Oceanside Stakes on the opening day of the meeting, is targeted for the second leg of the turf series for three-year-olds, Sunday’s Grade III $150,000 La Jolla Handicap.
A field of six was entered Thursday for the 1 1/16-mile test over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
The field from the rail: Move Over (Tyler Baze), River Boyne (Flavien Prat), Arawak (Rafael Bejarano), Restrainedvengence (Evin Roman), Calexman (Edwin Maldonado) and Inscom (Martin Garcia).
The La Jolla, 110-yards farther than the one-mile Oceanside, will go as the third race of 10 on the program.
The four $100,000 Ellis Park stakes, distance (with their corresponding race at Kentucky Downs and its distance):
Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, 5 1/2 furlongs ($500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, 6 1/2 furlongs on Sept. 8)
Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf, mile ($500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, mile on Sept. 8)
Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile ($750,000 Kentucky Downs Tourist Mile on Sept. 1)
Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Farm Turf Cup, 1 1/4 miles ($750,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Calumet Farm Turf Cup, 1 1/2 miles on Sept. 8)
All are new stakes, though the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile replaced the 1 1/16-mile Cliff Guilliams, which carried a $50,000 purse.
Angaston ‘a completely different horse’ on grass
Many of the horses running likely would have run out of state had their trainers not had the chance to stay home. Horsemen are definitely hoping that their runners prove good enough to merit coming back at Kentucky Downs. And for some, particularly fillies and mares where getting that first stakes victory or further padding the resume of a future broodmare, the Ellis races have their own important implication.
(At left: Angaston works under Brian Hernandez at Churchill Downs’ Trackside training center)
Lon Wiggins’ main goal for his gelding Angaston is Kentucky Downs, so he worked back to find a logical prep and found it in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint. But Wiggins isn’t looking at the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint. He’s looking at Kentucky Downs’ $300,000 Franklin-Simpson on Sept. 13 to run Angaston against fellow 3-year-olds.
And if Angaston doesn’t run well, Wiggins has got the option of the $100,000 starter-allowance race Kentucky Downs is staging as a prep for the Claiming Crown turf sprint stakes in late fall at Gulfstream Park.
“That’s our main goal,” Wiggins said of the Franklin-Simpson, adding of a prep, “The only other stakes out there is one at Saratoga (the $100,000 Quick Call for 3-year-olds). We didn’t want to ship all that way, and we didn’t know how he’d come back after that. If it wasn’t for this race at Ellis, we would have shipped to Saratoga, no doubt. He probably would have been one of the top three choices in that race. But this is the reason we stayed. We have to run against older horses, but he ran well against Will Call and older horses in his last race,” when second by a head in Churchill Downs allowance race.
Angaston, owned by Jim and Michelle Jankiewicz of Georgetown, Ky., has three wins and four seconds in his past seven starts, but he’s really blossomed when Wiggins ran him on turf for the first time May 10. Angaston ripped off two allowance victories and then was nailed at the wire by the 4-year-old Will Call, winner of the Grade 3 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint, in a high-level allowance. Will Call also is nominated to the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint and would be among the favorites if he runs.
This from a horse who earned his first victory in a $16,000 maiden-claiming event at Indiana Grand last summer in his second start, following his debut at Ellis Park in which Angaston lost by 18 lengths. The gelding’s form improved as he worked his way up from higher-priced claiming races at Churchill and over Turfway Park’s synthetic surface, finishing a well-beaten second to the talented Hemp Hemp Hurray in Turfway’s Animal Kingdom Stakes. But the big leap forward came when Wiggins put Angaston on the turf.
“He’s a completely different horse than he was, just maturity, really,” Wiggins said, adding of the possibility of losing the son of the Australian-born stallion Denman in a claiming race, “It’s not a very fashionable sire. We thought we had a free pass. Luckily we got away with it, and we wanted to get him eligible for starter-allowance races.
“Anyway, it worked out well. He had a good winter and he’s had a good year this year. Once we put him on the grass, he was a different horse.”
Brian Hernandez, who will be at Ellis Sunday after riding McCraken in Saturday’sGrade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, has been on Angaston for all his turf starts.
Because Angaston was sent to trainers Jordan Blair and Luis Jurado for the winter to race at Turfway, Wiggins saw the gelding this spring for the first time in several months. “Right out of the gate, first time we ran him, he was just locked and loaded from the word go,” Wiggins, who winters in Arkansas, said of the turf debut. “Brian said it wasn’t a question of if he was going to win, it was a question of how far. Like I told the owner, ‘I’m glad we got to find out that he can run on the grass rather than someone else finding out he can run on the grass.”
Said Hernandez: “Since he’s run on the grass over at Churchill, he’s had three really good races. To get as close as we did last time to Will Call, that’s impressive. You’ve got to go into this race thinking you’ve got a huge chance. This time we have to face older horses again, but we’ve got the 3-year-old stakes at Kentucky Downs to look forward to.”
Walsh duo: Dubara in Ladies, Extravagant Kid in Sprint
Trainer Brendan Walsh plans to run Dubara in the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf and Extravagant Kid in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint. Both will run for $75,000 because they aren’t Kentucky-bred. But to Walsh, it’s still good enough money to run the Florida-bred Extravagant Kid and British-bred Dubara at Ellis.
“Otherwise we’d have had to ship somewhere,” he said at Churchill Downs. “It’s great they’re doing all this. You don’t have the people going to Saratoga that you had six, seven years ago. People are staying here. The money is better at Ellis, the racing is of a much-higher standard. It’s nice that they have a prep weekend for Kentucky Downs. People don’t have to go here, there and everywhere. You can prep them here.”
Sold at Tattersalls for about $250,000 in December and imported from England, Dubara made her U.S. and 2018 debut in the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf, rallying to finish third while losing by only half-length to victorious Bonnie Arch, who also will be in the Ladies Turf.
“She found the turns a little sharp and hadn’t run for a while,” Walsh said. “She was a little rusty but she’s come out of it really well, so she should move up again this weekend.
“She’s got a good pedigree and hopefully we can get some large black type (a stakes win) this time. I think they were hoping she’d really fit over here.”
Owner David Ross claimed the 5-year-old Extravagant Kid for $75,000 in January at Gulfstream Park. He won that allowance/optional claiming race with authority, then was eighth in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint on dirt but rebounded to be a good second in a $100,000 stakes over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. In his last start, Extravagant Kid was fifth of 12 in another $100,000 stakes over Presque Isle’s synthetic track.
“He ran a really good race the day we claimed him, against some nice horses,” Walsh said. “I ran him in a stakes at Gulfstream, and he got drawn inside (post 1) and he didn’t care for it. It just didn’t work out. He ran a really good second at Woodbine to that horse nobody can beat up there (Pink Lloyd). I mean, they ran a super fast time. At Presque Isle, he dwelt at the gate, and he never does that. He missed the break and came flying, made up a bunch of ground. So he didn’t actually run as bad as it looks on paper. We were very disappointed. I think he might be a pretty nice horse.”
Also Sunday: There will be a special Sunday edition of the Inside Track handicapping seminar, with Ellis Park paddock analyst Li’l Rocco and Twinspires.com’s Joe Kristufek dissecting the card with an emphasis on the four stakes. The seminar begins at 10:30 a.m. Central in the clubhouse’s second-floor Gardenia Room, with free program, coffee and donuts to attendees. The seminar will be shown live on Ellis Park’s Facebook page.
Ellis Park’s fourth race Sunday will be named the Forrest Kaelin Memorialin honor of the 83-year-old dean of Kentucky trainers who died July 26.