Elmont, N.Y. - Uncle Mo, who earned a preliminary 118 Beyer Speed Figure for his commanding three-length victory over Jackson Bend in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap; Stay Thirsty, who was third to Flat Out in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, and Life At Ten, last behind Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, all were reported to be in good shape Sunday morning by trainer Todd Pletcher.
Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty will likely join forces carrying Repole Stable's colors in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 5.
"At this time, that is what we are thinking for both of them," said Pletcher.
Pletcher said the plan is for Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty to remain at Belmont Park and ship to Kentucky 10 or 12 days before the Breeders' Cup so they can have one work over the Churchill Downs surface.
"That's what we did last year," he said.
Pletcher said he was impressed by Uncle Mo's performance and not disappointed with Stay Thirsty's run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. "It was a sensational effort; Uncle Mo at his best," he said. "Javier [Castellano] said Stay Thirsty didn't really like the surface, but at the same time I don't think he ran a bad race first time against older horses."
Sporting blinkers, Life At Ten led to the quarter-pole of the Beldame before giving way and finishing fifth in her most disappointing outing of the year.
"I have to speak to her connections tomorrow, but I am pretty sure she is officially retired," said Pletcher.
The 6-year-old chestnut mare, a multiple Grade 1 winner, is 8-6-4 from 22 lifetime starts and has earned more than $1.2 million.
BELMONT PARK NOTES - OCTOBER 2, 2011
Charles "Scooter" Dickey may be 70 years old, but after Flat Out delivered the veteran trainer his first Grade 1 victory in a career that began in 1963, he's going to have to get used to living in the limelight.
"We drove home [to Monmouth Park] last night in New York traffic, and it was pretty heavy, and got home at 8 or 9 o'clock, and I had 66 texts and 16 phone calls," Dickey said Sunday, still flush with excitement a day after Flat Out's win in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park. "A lot of people are cheering for us."
The 5-year-old Flat Out, a son of Flatter, had run some tremendous races this year - a huge score in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap and back-to-back second-place finishes at Saratoga Race Course in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap and Grade 1 Woodward - but the Jockey Club Gold Cup was by far the crowning achievement for the horse and trainer.
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Racing off the pace, Flat Out won the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup by 2 1/4 lengths over 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer in a time of 2:03.17.
Dickey reflected on how difficult it is to win a Grade 1 race. "In this day and age, guys with a few hundred head of horses, they dominate things. Back in the day, you weren't allowed to have that many horses."
Dickey said Flat Out came out of the race "ready to go. Everything was great. He came out of the race fine, and he was right on his feed."
Dickey said he will attend the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale this week at Timonium and then ship Flat Out from Monmouth Park to Churchill Downs to prepare for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Two other winners on the "Super Saturday" card at Belmont also are being pointed to the Classic - Grade 2 Kelso winner Uncle Mo and Grade 1 Beldame winner Havre de Grace. Dickey figures he might have a little edge on those two going in.
"I proved a mile and a quarter wasn't too far for me," Dickey said. "I know my horse can do it. He tries his heart out on every track, not matter what type of track it is. He's never run a really bad race."
Havre de Grace
Trainer Larry Jones reported Sunday morning that his star filly Havre de Grace came out of her 8 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $350,000 Beldame Invitational in excellent shape.
"Everything looks good," Jones said of the 4-year-old Saint Liam filly. "She is still quite spry. All is well."
After her 1 1/4-length score against the males in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on September 3, Jones said there were a number of people suggesting he should train Havre de Grace up to the November 5 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
"There were a lot of people, because everyone has an opinion, that said we shouldn't have run yesterday and should have gone straight from the Woodward to the Classic," Jones said. "They said that we were going to knock her out. So yesterday was the kind of race we were looking for. She was able to come home the last eighth of a mile very much in control and in a gallop."
Owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, Havre de Grace has put together quite an impressive 4-year-old campaign, with victories in the Grade 1 Beldame, Grade 1 Woodward, Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, Grade 3 Obeah, and Grade 3 Azeri. Her only loss of 2011 came by a nose to rival Blind Luck in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, a race in which she spotted the winner two pounds.
Jones is excited at the prospect of settling Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup Classic, although he doesn't necessarily think that his filly has to win to be considered for the award, based on the strength of her schedule this year.
"Horse of the Year could be determined in the Classic," Jones said. "That's where it should be determined, on the racetrack. It shouldn't just be bound to someone's opinion. If she wins the Classic, then definitely it's a no-brainer that she is Horse of the Year. But I don't think for us to still be considered for Horse of the Year we necessarily have to win the Classic. But we have to show up and run big."
Jones also had high praise for Uncle Mo, eye-catching winner of Saturday's Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont, who his filly figures to face at Churchill Downs.
"Uncle Mo ran freakishly well yesterday," Jones said. "That final time, if that clock wasn't lying to us, he was rolling. I thought he could be in trouble turning for home. I thought that Jackson Bend was starting to get himself in a position to work with him, but it showed that Uncle Mo still had a lot left."
Jones, who also saddled the 2-year-old filly Believe You Can to win Sunday's Grade 3 Tempted at Belmont, said that both she and Havre de Grace will ship to Delaware Park Sunday afternoon and then on Monday morning van to Keeneland, where they will train up to their respective Breeders' Cup engagements.
Two races down, one to go for Stacelita, who yesterday won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational by an easy two lengths.
Owner Martin Schwartz brought the four-time French Group 1 winner to the United States to target the Grade 1 Beverly D., Grade 1 Flower Bowl, and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. After Stacelita finished third against males in the Grade 1 United Nations in July, she took the Beverly D. by 1 1/4 lengths in August.
"She's done what we have asked her to do," said trainer Chad Brown. "She's a remarkable horse. Her form is outstanding, and she's actually quite easy to train. I mean, she's always cooperative and shows up every morning to train. To execute Mr. Schwartz's plan, it's been pretty easy so far. I feel like it's time to get tested with the best around in the Breeders' Cup, so I'm looking forward to it."
In the Flower Bowl, Stacelita was kept in the clear by jockey Ramon Dominguez, made a three-wide rally on the far turn and was never threatened in the stretch.
"I was impressed with [her performance], with the fact she had to go wide," said Brown. "She's the kind of horse that in her races and in her training, she does what she has to do to win. I think when she finds her way to the lead at some point in the race she will lose her competitive edge just a little bit. I don't make too much about who she is beating, who she is not beating. She just does what she has to do. I see it every day in her training."
Brown will aim for another Belmont stakes win on Wednesday when he sends out Awesome Feather, last year's Champion 2-Year-Old Filly, in the seven-furlong Le Slew, a $60,000 overnight race.
Awesome Feather was purchased by Frank Stronach for $2.3 million at Fasig-Tipton's November Sale following her perfect 2-year-old season, which was capped by a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She was subsequently transferred to Brown, who had to take her out of training after her connections discovered a tendon injury.
The Le Slew will be Awesome Feather's first start for Brown and first since the Breeders' Cup.
"She's a special horse who has come around a lot," said Brown. "That's a serious problem she had, and right now she is 100 percent healthy. She's 100 percent sound. When a guy like Mr. Stronach, who has a lot of experience in the game, gives you the confidence to say, 'You do what you want to do. If she's good, I'd rather run her.' That's all I need to hear. In my opinion, she's 100 percent healthy right now, so I'm going to run her."
Brown said the Le Slew is an ideal spot for Awesome Feather to make her return.
"Obviously, she is out of [allowance] conditions," said Brown. "Obviously, I want to run on the dirt and I want to run around one turn off the layoff. All of those things I was looking for, preferably at our home track. I'm very fortunate the race was available to me. We'll run her on Wednesday and see how she runs and see how she comes out of it and see where to go after that."
One day after Giant Ryan ran his winning streak to six straight with a half-length score over Force Freeze in the Grade 1, $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational, owner Shivananda Parbhoo said the 5-year-old New York-bred was in excellent spirits.
"Very, very, very good," Parbhoo said. "He came out really happy, really good. He ate up all his feed last night. He walked pretty strong this morning. We had to put the lip chain on him. He didn't want to stay still. He didn't come back tired. He came back and drank a half a bucket of water and that was it."
Giant Ryan, off at 12-1 in the Vosburgh, zipped right to the lead and finished the six furlongs in 1:09.10 on a muddy track.
Early in his career, Giant Ryan, a 5-year-old son of Freud, gave little indication he would develop into one of the top sprinters in the country. He raced only once in 2010 and that had been his first start since a last-place finish in the Grade 3 Gotham in 2009. From February 18, 2010, when he finished second in an optional claimer for New York-breds at Aqueduct Racetrack until his return this past January at Gulfstream Park, Giant Ryan missed another 11 months of racing.
"When he came out of the [Gotham] as a 3-year-old, he had problems under his feet. It was all of them," Parbhoo said. "It was a type of fungus that everything we tried, it would get better for two or three months and then it would come back. We brought him to Florida, and we cut the skin, the wall way down. You couldn't see it from the outside. We took a lot of skin away. It was very soft, and we had to change the bandage twice a day. He would breeze 59, 58 [seconds for five furlongs] and the next day he would be lame."
Giant Ryan was sent to Gulfstream Park, and got his hoof issues ironed out. He raced twice at Gulfstream Park, both times off the board, and then returned to New York on March 4 and hasn't lost since. The Vosburgh was his first victory at the Grade 1 level and sets him up for a run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, which will cost a $100,000 supplemental fee.
"He made his own money," said trainer Bisnath Parboo, who conditions Giant Ryan for his son. "He won the Grade 2 Smile, $350,000. He won the Grade 1 here. I don't have to pay from my pocket."
The owner said he is ready to face any sprinter in the country.
"I don't think I'm concerned about anybody right now," he said. "I was a little concerned going into [the Vosburgh]. There were so many strong horses in there. I didn't know what bracket to put him in, whether he was a Grade 1 horse. I wasn't surprised, but winning the race was unbelievable."
Trappe Shot, fourth as the even-money favorite in Saturday's Vosburgh Invitational, was doing fine Sunday morning, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported.
"He came out of the race in good shape, just unlucky," McLaughlin said. "He's had unlucky weather twice now. In his last two races, the track was muddy and it appears that speed was just not backing up in our race yesterday. It was just a strange track and scenario. Giant Ryan didn't look like he would be the one to be on the lead. We didn't dislike the track, it's just that the first two went and they didn't back up. It would have been nice if it had rained in the afternoon - we really like it wet, but [yesterday] it was just kind of in between."
McLaughlin said that the Breeders' Cup was certainly still on Trappe Shot's agenda with a decision to be made on whether to run the 4-year-old son of Tapit in the Dirt Mile or the six-furlong Sprint.
"We will regroup and look at November 5, Mile or Sprint. We're not sure," McLaughlin said. "The reason that we're talking so much about the mile is the post position doesn't matter in the mile, but drawing 1-2 in the six-furlong race is a disadvantage. Uncle Mo is obviously probably the best miler and if he goes to the Classic, as Mike Repole said he wants to do, then that opens up the mile a little bit. We'll just have to see."
Campaigned by Nicholas Brady's Mill House, Trappe Shot has enjoyed success since turned back in distance for 2011 with a record of 2-1-0 from four starts, all at six furlongs. Given time off after a ninth-place finish in last year's Grade 1 Travers, Trappe Shot made a winning 4-year-old debut in the Waldoboro overnight stakes at Belmont in May, then won the Grade 2 True North Handicap presented by Emirates Airline on Belmont Stakes Day. On August 7 at Saratoga, he was unable to catch front-running Sean Avery in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, losing by a nose.
McLaughlin added that It's Tricky, winner of a pair of Grade 1 races in New York this summer - the TVG Acorn at Belmont in June and TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga in July - returned from her runner-up effort to Plum Pretty in the Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing on Saturday in fine fettle and also is likely Breeders' Cup bound.
"The track at Parx was wet, drying out, but it was wet and speed favoring a little bit, but we were second best," McLaughlin said of the Godolphin color-bearer. "Bob Baffert's filly ran huge. I do think it was a funny track though and [Plum Pretty] liked it and ran a huge race. We'll talk about pointing for the Breeders' Cup and just see what's going on with all of the competition. You know, if Havre de Grace goes to the Classic, and you don't know what happened with Blind Luck...it could turn out to be a 3-year-old filly race. So, we'll just have to see, but we will definitely talk about it, there are no other options, it's either the Breeders' Cup or just sit on her for awhile."
Finally, McLaughlin revealed that Darley Stable's impressive maiden winner Alpha, set to make his second start in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Champagne, would likely turn in his final timed work for the race over Belmont's training track on Monday morning.
"He went out this morning, but he didn't work," McLaughlin said of the Bernardini colt, who was originally scheduled to have his final breeze for the Champagne on Sunday. "He's doing fine, he just needs to work. It's a drying out day, the problem is, it rains at night and we're up against it a little bit."
McLaughlin said he had contemplated working the colt at Aqueduct, or perhaps even taking him to Saratoga's Greentree Training Center for a breeze over the all-weather surface there, but ultimately opted to stay home.
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