• 'Fit and happy' McCraken breezes for G1 Travers • Lockdown ready for G1 Alabama after bullet work
The sophomore colt by Ghostzapper took to the Oklahoma training track shortly after 6 a.m. with regular jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard, covering six furlongs in 1:16.23. The work was his second since finishing a close runner-up in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 30, where he was beaten a nose by fellow Travers candidate Girvin.
"All was good. I'm very pleased," said trainer Ian Wilkes. "He galloped out good and when he came back, he wasn't blowing. So, I'm very happy with him.
"He's going to run a mile and a quarter and the horse is fit and happy, so the plan is to just maintain him," he added. "I didn't want him to have a bullet work so the main thing is to get some air into his lungs."
McCraken is slated to jog Thursday morning and have a walk day on Friday, Wilkes' normal post-breeze regimen. The trainer added that McCraken will likely make one more appearance on the work tab prior to the Mid-Summer Derby.
"We'll play it by ear. There's no set plan," said Wilkes. "We'll probably come back with some type of work next week. When or where, I'm not quite sure yet, but he's where you want to be right at this stage."
Prior to the Haskell, McCraken rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn in June at Churchill Downs.
McCraken was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He carried his win streak into his 3-year-old seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in February before a minor injury pushed his next start back nearly two months, eventually marking his return with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on April 8.
Wilkes said Marylou Whitney Stable's Bird Song exited his half-mile breeze on Tuesday in good shape and remains on target for the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego at seven furlongs on the Travers undercard.
Winner of the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 5, the 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt donned blinkers in Tuesday's breeze, working four furlongs in 48.70 seconds over the Oklahoma track. Wilkes said he hoped the equipment change would help the colt focus better in the race's later stages.
Bird Song cut back considerably in distance in his last race, following an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Stephen Foster, to six furlongs in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on July 29, where he raced wide to finish fourth, 9 ¼ lengths behind front-running winner El Deal.
"He felt good this morning," said Wilkes. "it was a nice work with the blinkers. I've wanted to see how he'd handle them. I think the horse isn't finishing with as much focus in his races so I've been testing the blinkers to see he liked them. At the moment, I probably will [add them for the race]." * * * Juddmonte Farms' Lockdown breezed four furlongs in a sharp 47.98 seconds over the Oklahoma training track Tuesday morning in preparation for this Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama. The fastest of 36 at the distance, Lockdown picked up her fourth bullet, and second at Saratoga, since her second-place finish to Unchained Melody in the Grade 2 Mother Goose.
The 3-year-old filly by First Defence who has never finished off the board, will make her seventh career start for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
"She went fine, went really good," Mott said. "She went nice and galloped out well. We've entered her, and it will be a tougher group, but we'll see what happens. I'm not sure who is going to go, but we'll see."
Lockdown has been knocking on the door in search of her first graded-stakes victory. After capturing the Busanda by 2 ½ lengths, she then placed second behind runaway winner Miss Sky Warrior in the Grade 2 Gazelle, before facing tougher competition in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, where she ran a game third at long odds in the slop behind Abel Tasman.
Lockdown, with earnings of $309,000, will step up against Grade 1 competition for the second time, and make her first start at Saratoga.
Grade 2 Jim Dandy long-shot winner Good Samaritan remains on target for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on August 26, and will work this weekend before making his eighth career start in the Midsummer Derby, but rain in the upcoming forecast will dictate when Mott can send the 3 year-old Harlan's Holiday colt to the track.
"He'll work this weekend. He's doing as good as ever, but we're looking at the weather. Figure Saturday or Sunday he'll go," he said.
Good Samaritan's only previous graded-stakes victory came in the Grade 2 Summer at Woodbine, before his third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Runner-up finishes in the Grade 2 American Turf and Grade 3 Pennine Ridge led him to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
The Jim Dandy was the first time Good Samaritan raced on dirt and marked his Saratoga debut.
Larkin Armstrong's Harmonize will not run in next Saturday's Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa. It is uncertain as to where the 4-year-old filly by Scat Daddy will run next, but it could be a race out of town, Mott said.
The winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks has been a frequent traveler throughout her 15 lifetime starts, and will point elsewhere after he fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Diana.
Harmonize recorded a three-furlong breeze in 38.77 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on Saturday morning. * * * Coasted continues to train well in Saratoga ahead of the Grade 2, $300,000 Lake Placid on Saturday, trainer Leah Gyarmati said outside her barn Wednesday morning. Coasted put in her final breeze before the 1 1/8 mile turf route on Monday, going four furlongs in 50.44 seconds on the Oklahoma turf track. The 3-year-old Tizway filly has been training on both dirt and turf since arriving at the Spa from Belmont in late July; a move that Gyarmati said has her prepared if the Lake Placid is moved off the turf due to inclement weather. "Either way is fine, I actually wouldn't mind seeing her try the dirt. She works good on it. If it gets moved off, we'd run. I'd almost rather run on the dirt than a soft turf," Gyarmati said. "She's pretty versatile. She was here last year too and ran well, so she likes it here and performs well here." Gyarmati said Coasted should be fresh since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 8, won by New Money Honey. After running at 1 ¼ miles, she will cut back to the Lake Placid distance and compete against a field that is expected to include Dream Dancing, Party Boat and Proctor's Ledge. "I'm not really worried about distances," Gyarmati said. "The Oaks was long and I don't think it was her ideal distance. It was a pretty quick race. We were kind of on par most of the race. It was a good, fair pace and we were there, but she didn't have that turn-of-foot that the filly [New Money Honey] did. But this distance should be a little more predictable in terms of how it will play out." Owned by Treadway Racing Stable, Coasted ended her 2-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She also broke her maiden at Saratoga on August 7, 2016 on the inner turf. Miss Mystique is set to make her stakes debut in the $200,000 Seeking the Ante for state breds on August 25, Gyarmati said. The 2-year-old filly won her debut on July 13 at Belmont Park and has since breezed three times on Saratoga's main track, with the last work coming Monday when she went five furlongs in 1:03.04. "She loves training; she's very forward and wants to go, go, go," she said. Miss Mystique broke her maiden in a six-furlong sprint, registering a two-length score. She will now look to stretch out slightly in the 6 ½-furlong Seeking the Ante on the main track.
* * * Lady Sheila Stable's Hot City Girl looks for a repeat victory in the $100,000 Union Avenue on Thursday, a 6 ½-furlong sprint for New York-Bred fillies and mares, as she takes on nine competitors.
The multiple stakes winning mare is making her first start since running sixth in an allowance race at Aqueduct Racetrack in April. Trainer Linda Rice said the daughter of City Zip was just tired and needed some rest.
"Her hair color was dull, she looked tired, she looked like she needed a rest, so we sent her out for a while and gave her a break," Rice said. "She has come back well. We only have three breezes in her, I am not sure we have quite enough [works] but we are going to give it the old college try."
Hot City Girl has seven wins in 20 career races, including a victory in the Broadway on February 18 at Aqueduct. She has only run once at Saratoga Race Course, wiring the field in last year's Union Avenue to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Quezon.
"It is a good distance for her. I understand there is a lot of speed in the race," Rice said. "Jose Ortiz has ridden her most of her career and I am sure he will figure it out."
Hot City Girl breaks from post 2 with Ortiz aboard.
On the rail is Marc Keller's Quezon, the 9-5 morning line favorite. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has the mount.
Rounding out the field is Absatootly, who breaks from post 3 for trainer Charlton Baker and jockey Joe Bravo; Frosty Margarita from post 4, with Manny Franco in the irons for trainer Rudy Rodriguez; Todd Pletcher trainee Clipthecouponannie will load in post 5 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez; Court Dancer is in post 6 with rider Joel Rosario for trainer Jason Servis, who also sends out Picco Uno from post 9 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard; Dancin Renee winner Wonderment will leave from post 7 with Dylan Davis aboard for trainer Ken McPeek; Myfourchix, 30-1 on the morning line, breaks from post 8 for trainer Rick Schosberg with jockey Jose Lezcano; and grabbing the outside post is She's All Ready for trainer James Ryerson with Kendrick Carmouche in the saddle.