• Competitive edition of G1 Travers attracts 17 nominations • Highway Star remains on point for G1 Ballerina
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Nominations for Week 6 stakes at Saratoga Race Course are now available, anchored by the summer's signature event for 3-year-olds, the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented NYRA Bets on Saturday, August 26.
In total, a diverse group of 17 sophomores have been nominated to the 1 ¼-mile 'Mid-Summer Derby,' one of seven stakes on Travers Day. Among the top nominees are Grade 1 Belmont Stakes hero Tapwrit, trained by Todd Pletcher and making his first start since his two-length victory in the 'Test of the Champion' on June 10; Easy Goer and Grade 3 Los Al Derby winner West Coast from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who sent Arrogate to a record victory in last year's Travers; Good Samaritan, a 4 ¾-length winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in his first start on dirt for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott; Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Girvin for trainer Joe Sharp; and Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, also trained by Pletcher and looking to rebound from his third-place finish in the Jim Dandy.
Also nominated to the Travers are Grade 3 Matt Winn victor McCraken, who finished a game second in the Haskell; Grade 1 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, sixth in the Jim Dandy last time out; Irap, who owns a pair of Grade 3 victories this summer, including his recent five-length win the Indiana Derby on July 15; Outplay, the front-running winner of the Curlin last time; Gunnevera, who returned from the Preakness with a five-length win in the Tangelo on August 6; Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great; and impressive allowance winner Fayeq, the half-brother to Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra.
Fox Hill Farm's star filly Songbird, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, leads 13 nominations for the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares, one of four "Win and You're In" qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup on November 3-4 at Del Mar. The Personal Ensign, carrying an all-fees-paid berth into the Distaff, has also attracted heavyweight nominees Forever Unbridled, winner of the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis last time out; Shine Again winner Carina Mia; and multiple graded stakes winner Terra Promessa, exiting a distant second-place finish to Paid Up Subscriber in the Grade 3 Shuvee.
The top three finishers of the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 29 at the Spa lead 13 nominations for the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer. Hunter O'Riley, who finished a game neck ahead of Grade 1 United Nations winner Bigger Picture and a half-length ahead of third-place finisher Sadler's Joy, lead the U.S.-based candidates for the 1 ½-mile "Win and You're In" event for the Turf. Top European trainers Aidan O'Brien and Andre Fabre each have a European group stakes winner nominated for the Sword Dancer in Idaho and Talismanic, respectively.
Baffert trainees Drefong, 2016's Champion sprinter who broke his five-race win streak when he ducked the gap and lost jockey Mike Smith at Del Mar in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, and Mor Spirit, who posted a 6 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park last time out, top the nominations for the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, a Breeders' Cup qualifier for the Sprint. The Forego attracted a total of 18 nominations, including Grade 2 Belmont Sprint champion Mind Your Biscuits and Divining Rod, who returned from a nearly nine-month layoff with a dominating victory in the Polynesian on August 12.
Female sprinters will vie for a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, which drew 14 nominations, including multiple graded stakes winners Paulassilverlining, Vale Dori, By the Moon, Curlin's Approval, Finley'sluckycharm, and Highway Star.
The Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens and Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa round out the stakes action on Travers Day. For a full list of stakes nominations and past performances, please visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/horsemen. * * *
Multiple graded stakes winner Highway Star visited the main track Monday morning breezing five furlongs in 1:00.04 with regular rider Angel Arroyo aboard.
"She looked fine and her normal self," said trainer Rodrigo Ubillo. "She's acclimated well coming up to Saratoga this year. She's been doing well coming out the Ogden Phipps and we'll train her up into the Ballerina."
A 4-year-old New York home bred for owners Chester and Mary Broman, Highway Star broke her maiden in her debut last year before going on to finish third in the Fleet Indian at Saratoga and ending the year wining the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in December.
Starting the year with a fourth-place finish in the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct, Highway Star has gone on to win to capture Grade 3 Distaff and Grade 2 Ruffian before finishing third in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 10 last out. As far as plans going forward, Ubillo said the connections will take their time.
"We haven't really looked beyond the Ballerina," added Ubillo. "As of right now we're focused on the Ballerina and we'll take it step-by-step from there following that race."
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Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney's Gun Runner returned to the work tab for the first time following his 5 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 5.
The 4-year-old colt by Candy Ride covered an easy half-mile in 51.02 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on Monday morning in preparation for the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on September 2.
"It was pretty easy and he looked great," said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. "I was happy to see him happy. Everything is still on target for the Woodward."
Asmussen added that Copper Bullet came out of his four-length win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in good shape and will target the Grade 3 Iroquois on September 16 at Churchill Downs.
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Three Diamonds Farm's Bigger Picture has been training well following his second-place finish by a neck in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 29 at Saratoga Race Course, according to trainer Mike Maker who is now pointing the Badge of Silver gelding to the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on Travers Day, August 26.
On Saturday, Bigger Picture breezed four furlongs in 49.84 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.
"[It was a] super work, very professional." Maker said. "He always trains tough."
Bigger Picture, who went off as the third betting choice in the Bowling Green following his head victory in the G1 United Nations on July 1 at Monmouth, dueled with Sadler's Joy on the inside and longshot Hunter O'Riley on the outside down the stretch falling just short at the wire.
"He gives you 110 percent every time," Maker said. "[He] came out of it fine. We'll move on to the next one."
Maker has four wins, four seconds and a third in 34 starts during the Saratoga meet that he describes as "tough sledding."
"We have a few nice claims. So that makes up for the heartbreaking losses," he said. "We claimed a filly Tarquinia that won pretty handily. She looks well and we have a filly, Thrice, she looks well too."
Tarquinia broke her maiden in a romp, winning by 13 lengths in a six furlong sprint on July 27 at Saratoga Race Course. Thrice, a filly out of Hat Trick, won a 1 1/16 race on the turf on July 23 at the Spa. Jockey Eric Cancel was aboard for both wins.
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Ontario-bred Holy Helena will try to extend her win streak to four in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. The 3 year-old Ghostzapper filly earned two of her three victories in Canada by winning the Woodbine Oaks and Queens Plate, respectively, after breaking her maiden at Belmont Park in her second start. "She's doing good," Jerkens said. "She's facing better horses this time, and a different surface, but we'll give it a try." All four starts have been in Holy Helena's sophomore year, as the runner for Stronach Stables didn't debut as a 2-year-old. "They had high hopes for her as a 2-year-old, I didn't have her. She went to the farm, and it took us a while to get her going, but it's not like she ever knocked our socks off in the morning," said Jerkens. "She always acted like she had a lot of class in other ways, but she's doing good. Again, she's not going to work and make you go 'wow', but she's been methodical. Her works have been good and steady." The competition will be tougher than what Holy Helena has faced up to this point in her young career, but Jerkens will have the opportunity to answer where exactly his filly ranks after her last two races at Woodbine, and how others to the north fare at Saratoga. "Obviously, it's only restricted to Ontario-breds but once in a while, a good one will come along, but you can count them on your hands, the ones that you remember, Milwaukee Brew, Shaman Ghost, and types like that. You see some maidens running sometimes, there's a lot of money hanging up there," said Jerkens. "I don't know if she's in it, this quality of fillies is a lot better than what she ran against in the Woodbine Oaks that's for sure, but at least she's been the distance so she's got that going for her." * * *
Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield Center will offer its facilities to raise awareness for local non-profit organizations - including the New York Racetrack Chaplaincy - on Tuesday August 15 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Other non-profit organizations include Shelters of Saratoga, Estherville No-Kill Animal Shelter, Franklin Community Center, the Greenfield Food Pantry and the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame.
Everyone will also have an opportunity enjoy a leisurely lunch with the horses. Lunch can be purchased from Greenhouse Salad Company 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
The 40-acre facility, owned by Mark and JoAnn Pepper and located at 483 Sandhill Road, is home to 15 retired Thoroughbred racehorses including two-time Whitney winner Commentator and 1996 Travers Champion Will's Way.
For more information, please call (518) 698-2377 or visit the Old Friends at Cabin Creek website at http://oldfriendsatcabincreek.com.
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Wednesday's $100,000 Bolton Landing for juvenile fillies going five and a half furlongs on the Mellon turf course features a talented field of eight runners at Saratoga Race Course.
Trainer Wesley Ward, long known for his prowess with turf sprinters will enter a pair in Fairyland for owners Michael Tabor and Mr. and Mrs. John Magnier and Mentality for Lindy Farms. Making her debut on April 7 at Keeneland, Fairyland bested a field of 11 to win by 3 ¼ lengths before going on to run in the Group 3 Albany takes at Ascot on June 23 where she finished 12th. Returning stateside, the Scat Daddy filly has put in two works over the Oklahoma turf course, including a bullet work on July 28, breezing four furlongs in 49.39 seconds.
"Fairyland shipped well back from Europe," said Ward. "We tried her over there and although it's a challenging trip, it's something we've done before and she's been training forwardly since so we're excited to run her."
With the addition of blinkers for the first time, Fairyland will depart from the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Mentality, a daughter of Freud won her debut at Belmont going six furlongs leaving from post 8 while recording a field high 70 Beyer Speed Figure.
"She ran good her debut," said Ward. "Santana did a good job on her in her first start so we'll hope to continue to have the same success in here."
Drawing post 2, Menatility will depart with Ricardo Santana, Jr. aboard.
Trainer of the meet Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of runners in Sugar Queen for Sumaya US Stable and March X Press for Golconda Stables.
Sired by multiple graded stakes winner Gemologist, Sugar Queen has two wins from four starts but will be trying turf for the first time in the Bolton Landing. After winning her debut on May 3 at Belmont, she went on to run fourth in the Astoria before attempting to try turf at Saratoga for the first tine on July 24 before the race was moved to the main track in which she won by four lengths. March X Press, a Shanghai Bobby filly, won her debut on August 2 at the Spa besting a field of 10 by a neck and returns to make her stakes debut.
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard, Sugar Queen will leave from post 6; March X Press will depart from post 5 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Rounding out the field is Sly Beauty for trainer Mark Casse and owner Debby Oxley who last out won in her second start on June 18 at Woodbine; Madame X for trainer Susan Cooney and owner Quest Realty; Life Time Citizen for trainer Phil Serpe and owner Well Spring Stables and Buy Sell Hold for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Kirk and Judy Robison.