OTB Race Previews
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Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of strong contenders in Tribhuvan and Rockemperor, who will square off against a talented field of Grade/Group 1-winners in the Grade 1, $750,000 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 28.
The Sword Dancer, contested at 1 1/2-miles on the inner turf for older horses, provides a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders' Cup Turf on November 6 at Del Mar and is part of a loaded Runhappy Travers Day card featuring seven stakes and six Grade 1s, offering $4.6 million in total purse money.
Headlined by the 152nd running of the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes, the stakes-laden undercard also includes the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti; Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina; Grade 1, $600,000 Forego; and Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, along with the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa.
Race 11 at Saratoga on Saturday, August 28 - Post 5:25 PM
|1||Tribhuvan (FR)||2-1||Flavien Prat
|3||Rockemperor (IRE)||6-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|4||Channel Maker||8-1||Manuel Franco
|6||Japan (GB)||9-2||Ryan Moore
|7||Cross Border||4-1||Luis Saez
Brown, who has won this event previously with Big Blue Kitten , Flintshire  and Annals of Time , will look to tie Hall of Famer Bill Mott, represented here by defending champion Channel Maker, with four Sword Dancer scores.
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso's Tribhuvan, a 5-year-old French-bred son of Toronado, has utilized a front-running approach to record consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in three starts this year.
Tribhuvan posted a dynamic score in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Fort Marcy  in May ahead of a runner-up effort to stablemate Domestic Spending in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Manhattan  in June, both at Belmont.
Last out, Tribhuvan made every pole a winning one to capture the 11-furlong Grade 1 United Nations  over firm Monmouth Park turf on July 17.
Brown said Tribhuvan has reached a new level since being gelded in January.
"He surprised me that he's turned into the frontrunning horse that he is now," Brown said. "We've gone on with it and he's changed since we gelded him as well. He's developing beyond my expectations and I'm really proud of the horse. He continues to get better."
The Irish-bred Rockemperor, a 5-year-old multiple graded-stakes placed son of Holy Roman Emperor, will look to break through at the top flight.
Owned by Madaket Stables, Dubb, Wonder Stables, Caruso and Michael E. Kisber, Rockemperor has hit the board in 3-of-4 starts in Grade 1 company, including a third in the 2019 Belmont Derby; a neck loss when second to Instilled Regard in last year's Manhattan at Belmont; and third in the Turf Classic in September at Churchill Downs.
Rockemperor won a 10-furlong optional-claiming event in June at Belmont ahead of a closing second last out in the 11-furlong Grade 2 Bowling Green won by Sword Dancer-rival Cross Border.
"He ran well last time. He's a horse that's always knocking on the door in these bigger races, so hopefully he steps it up here," Brown said.
Flavien Prat will pilot Tribhuvan, carrying a field-high 124 pounds, from the inside post, while Irad Ortiz, Jr. will guide Rockemperor, listed at 118 pounds, from post 3.
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R. A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Channel Maker has racked up a number of accomplishments through 40 starts, including a 2017 Sovereign Award as Canada's Champion 3-Year-Old Colt and an Eclipse Award last year as the nation's Champion Turf Male.
With seven wins and more than $3.2 million in purse earnings, the multiple Grade 1-winner will make his fourth straight Sword Dancer appearance following a second in 2018, a fourth in 2019 and a win last year to highlight his championship campaign that also included a score in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.
"He's a very durable horse," Mott said. "He stays in good flesh, eats good, shows up to work every day. He doesn't have a lot of issues. He's just been a real warrior."
The 7-year-old English Channel gelding, bred in Ontario by the Tall Oaks Farm of Ivan Dalos, will look to get back on track after a pair of off-the-board efforts following his good second in the Neom Turf Cup in February at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Mott, who also sent out Theatrical , Fraise  and Broadway Flyer  to Sword Dancer scores, will task regular rider Manny Franco to engineer a winning effort from post 4 on a course Channel Maker [122 pounds] performs well on.
"He does like it here," Mott said. "I suppose a lot depends upon how the race shapes up for him. That's always important."
Masaaki Matsushima, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith's Japan, trained by Aidan O'Brien, will make his first start in North America.
The 5-year-old multiple Group 1-winning son of Galileo arrived in New York on Monday in the care of traveling assistant T.J. Comerford and after clearing quarantine was able to train Wednesday morning.
"We got out on to the track this morning and trotted around the opposite direction and then cantered back past the winning post. It was something just very light," Comerford said.
Japan, who boasts a record of seven wins and four thirds from 18 starts with purse earnings in excess of $2.1 million, posted consecutive Group 1-wins in 2019 in the 12-furlong Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp and the 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte International at York.
Japan has notched a pair of Group 3 wins in four starts this campaign, taking the 1 11/16-mile Ormond in May at Chester and the nine-furlong Meld last out on July 15 at Leopardstown.
"The last day in Leopardstown when he won, he was very good," said Comerford. "Going a mile and an eighth he had to be at his quickest to win it and he did. He showed plenty of boot there and that was good for him. He's in very good form."
Comerford said he's hopeful that Japan will return to Grade 1-winning form as he stretches back out to his preferred distance.
"After winning a Juddmonte International, he's on his way back I think. Hopefully, he turns up on the day," Comerford said. "A mile and a half is better for him than a mile and an eighth, but it's good that he's won over a mile and a eighth, because it shows that he's got a bit of speed as well. You just want a true run race every time you come here."
Ryan Moore will guide Japan, assigned 120 pounds, from post 6.
Otter Bend Stables' Gufo, a 4-year-old son of Declaration of War, captured last year's Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational for trainer Christophe Clement.
A tremendous sophomore season, in which the chestnut won 4-of-6 starts, also featured wins in the English Channel at Gulfstream and the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park.
Gufo [122 pounds] has made three of his last four starts in Grade 1 company, beginning with a neck loss when third in the Hollywood Derby in November at Del Mar and continuing through a nose loss to Channel Cat in the Man o' War in May at Belmont and a closing third in the Manhattan in June. Last out, Gufo found class relief by capturing the $150,000 Grand Couturier traveling 1 1/2 miles on July 5 at Belmont.
Joel Rosario will retain the mount from post 2.
Three Diamonds Farm's Cross Border, a 7-year-old New York-bred son of English Channel, thrives on the Saratoga turf with a record of 7-6-1-0 led by back-to-back wins in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, albeit by disqualification last year when Sadler's Joy was taken down.
The ultra-consistent ridgling has amassed a record of 35-10-8-4 with purse earnings of $948,421. Bred in the Empire State by Berkshire Stud and B. D. Gibbs, Cross Border won three races at the 2019 Spa summer meet and last year won the restricted Lubash in addition to a runner-up effort in the Sword Dancer, his only loss at Saratoga.
Conditioned by Mike Maker, Cross Border [122 pounds] will exit post 7 under the Spa's leading rider Luis Saez.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will send out multiple graded-stakes placed Moretti for his turf debut. The regally-bred 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, breezed a half-mile in 49.02 on the Oklahoma training turf on August 22.
Owned by Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Moretti captured the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone here over the main track last August.
Moretti [118 pounds] will exit post 5 under Jose Ortiz.
The Sword Dancer is slated as Race 11 on the 13-race card. First post is 11:35 a.m. Eastern.
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