SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Moonlight Song and Weekend Hideaway have won the last two renewals of the John Morrissey Stakes, and the two accomplished veterans will clash in Thursday's 12th edition of the $100,000 race at Saratoga Race Course.
The 6 1/2-furlong Morrissey attracted a field of nine New York-bred sprinters. In addition to Moonlight Song, trainer Charlie Baker also entered the 3-year-old Love That Jazz, who takes on older rivals after a front-running win at Finger Lakes in the Ontario County Stakes.
Todd Pletcher also sends out two familiar stakes-winning faces in Notacatbutallama and Ostrolenka.
Due to various ailments, the 9-year-old Moonlight Song has been limited to 17 career starts, and his only appearance in 2015 was a wire-to-wire score in a sloppy running of the John Morrissey. "We were happy to see the rain," said Baker, who noted the grizzled gelding has a 6-for-7 record on wet tracks. Moonlight Song has been sidelined since then by a small suspensory ligament tear, and he has turned in two bullet workouts over the past 10 days.
At age 6, 2014 Morrissey winner Weekend Hideaway appears as good ever for trainer Phil Serpe. He returned from a layoff to win two stakes at Belmont Park's spring-summer meet, the Affirmed Success and the Commentator. The durable son of Speightstown has won 10 of 31 starts overall and just over $750,000 for Red and Black Stable.
"We gave him a much-needed break and he's come back strong," said Serpe. "He's always there for you. Since the Commentator, he's doing well, working well, and we're coming up in good order. He likes Saratoga."
Weekend Hideaway shoulders top weight of 124 pounds under the allowance conditions.
Shipping in from Finger Lakes for trainer Chris Progno is Crackerjack Jones, a Chester and Mary Broman homebred gelding who was an allowance winner at Saratoga in 2013. He has won three of his last four starts and is a perfect 3 for 3 at the distance.
Should a fast pace develop, likely beneficiaries would be the Rudy Rodriguez-trained Drama King, whose two wins this season include the Hollie Hughes on a snowy Presidents' Day program at Aqueduct; and John's Island, who rallied from far back to finish second behind Moonlight Song in last year's Morrissey.
Rounding out the field is Adirondack Posse, whose trainer, Gary Contessa, had the highest average winning payoff on the Saratoga leader board each of the past two years.
"I fell from grace about two years ago - I could run Secretariat and they wouldn't make him the favorite now," quipped Contessa, who won four straight New York training titles from 2006-09.