SARATOGA - La Providencia's Hi Happy will look to add a third graded stakes win in the current campaign when he makes his Saratoga Race Course debut Saturday, headlining a field of nine in the 60th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green for four-year-olds and up at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf.
One of four graded stakes on a packed slate that includes the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy and the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, the Bowling Green is carded as Race 9 with an approximate 5:40 post time.
||Glorious Empire (IRE)
||James Lawrence, II
||Hi Happy (ARG)
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Hi Happy's highest Beyer Speed Figures have all come in his 6-year-old campaign. The Argentinian bred earned a 106 for his 2 ¾-length win in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 31 at Gulfstream Park at 1 ½ miles and he followed with a half-length win in the Grade 1 Man o' War at the Bowling Green distance on May 12 at Belmont.
"He's just been a model of consistency," Pletcher said. "He seems adaptable to multiple pace scenarios and multiple distances. He's easy to train, very straight-forward and professional."
Cutting back to 1 ¼ miles in the Grade 1 Manhattan last out, Hi Happy seized the lead late before finishing third in a blanket finish with fellow Bowling Green entrant Sadler's Joy, who Hi Happy defeated in the Man o' War, edging him by a neck for runner-up honors. Pletcher said stretching back out in distance can suit Hi Happy's strengths, which included six wins in six starts in his native country in 2015 to start his career.
"I think he's versatile," Pletcher said. "His mile and an eighth race the first time we ran him was pretty solid, but I think a mile and three-eighths to a mile and a half is his forte. We felt early on that stretching him out would be the key to his success. Like a lot of South American imports, the longer they are in the northern hemisphere and get time to acclimate, the better they tend to do."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will pick up the mount, drawing post 7, with Pletcher adding that Hi Happy can be successful either near the speed or in a stalking position.
"Some of these races have come up a little on the slow pace side, so when that happens, he's capable [being near the pace]," Pletcher said. "But if the race were to come up with some true speed, he might prefer to be further back."
Woodslane Farm's Sadler's Joy is coming off consecutive close seconds in Grade 1 starts that earned him triple-digit Beyers. In both the Man o' War and Manhattan, the 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy came from well off the pace to finish behind Hi Happy and Spring Quality, respectively.
Trainer Tom Albertrani said he was impressed with his effort in the Manhattan and thinks the added distance in the Bowling Green - a race Sadler's Joy finished third in last year behind Bigger Picture and Hunter O'Riley - could be beneficial.
"I thought he ran really well in his last start, especially since we cut back to a mile and a quarter. I know he would prefer if it was a little further, but he ran a huge race there," Albertraini said. "He's trained forwardly since then. [This] is his preferred distance. As well as he ran last time, we feel pretty confident. He always tries. He's very honest and very consistent."
Rainfall, with more precipitation in the forecast leading into the race, could lead to a soft track over the weekend, but Albertrani said he didn't think the weather would negatively impact Sadler's Joy.
"He does well here in Saratoga," Albertrani said. "He seems to enjoy it up here. A little cooler weather than downstate. He seems to appreciate that. We always felt that soft ground wasn't his best but he seemed to handle it OK in a couple of races before, so we're not really too concerned about it. It's just been a bad week in general for training, but he looks really well."
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will be in the irons from post 6.
Money Multiplier overcame a troubled trip to finish second to Funtastic by a half length in the Grade 1 United Nations on June 30 at Monmouth Park at the Bowling Green distance. The 6-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky won the Grade 2 Monmouth on May 26 in his first race since traveling more than 6,000 miles to start his 2018 year with a third-place finish in the Group 1 $1 million H.H. The Emir's Trophy on February 24 in Qatar.
Owned by Al Shahania Stud, Money Multiplier could be running at Saratoga for the first time since running second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last August, but only if the weather holds, trainer Chad Brown said.
"We'll take a shot, it's a tough race but the horse seems to be doing well and in good form right now," Brown said. "We know he likes Saratoga. He'll only run if the turf is firm."
Should the conditions prove favorable, Money Multiplier will break from post 8 in tandem with Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Bigger Picture came in third in the United Nations last out, rebounding from a seventh-place finish in the Man o' War. The Badge of Silver gelding will look to find the form that led to a win in the Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup on January 28 at Sam Houston Race Park.
Trained by Mike Maker, Bigger Picture will exit post 3 with Jose Ortiz.
Channel Maker got caught wide in an eighth-place effort in the Manhattan last out and will make his Spa debut seeking his first win in eight starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The 4-year-old English Channel gelding's best finish this year was a rally for third in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 10 at Santa Anita. Joel Rosario will be in the irons from post 2.
Rounding out the field is Australian important Sarrasin, trained by Richard Freedman, from post 4; Manitoulin, saddled by Jimmy Toner, exiting post 9; Glorious Empire, conditioned by James Lawrence, II from post 5; and the Barclay Tagg-trained Highland Sky from post 1.