Frosted works toward G1 Travers Tale of Verve pointed to G1 Travers, Unbridled Forever likely for G1 Ballerina
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial winner Frosted returned to the track Friday for his first serious work since finishing second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on August 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
The gray colt breezed four furlongs in 51.25 seconds over the Saratoga main track under regular exercise rider Rob Massey in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 29.
"He usually works a little bit quicker, but he's fit and ready to go. Rob thought he was going a little faster than that, but the track might have been a little dull at 5:40 [a.m.], or maybe Frosted was a little sleepy," said Frosted's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.
"Everything is set," McLaughlin added. "We'll work back next Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, depending on weather. He'll go a little quicker, but it's not a big deal. He's fit."
After a successful 2-year-old campaign that included a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack, Frosted stepped his game up as a sophomore. The son of Tapit finished second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull to kick off 2015, and then won the Wood two starts later on the heels of a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
Frosted was sent off at odds of 10-1 in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, and finished fourth behind American Pharoah after a wide trip. The Godolphin Stable color-bearer again encountered American Pharoah in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, this time finishing second, beaten 5 ½ lengths by the Triple Crown winner.
With American Pharoah's Travers status still in limbo, McLaughlin is somewhat ambivalent about having to face the Bob Baffert trainee for a third time this year.
"Obviously, we've been beat by him twice, so we prefer not to run against him, but if he shows up it's great for the game," said McLaughlin. "We'll deal with it. We're not adjusting our schedule."
Should the Triple Crown winner not show, McLaughlin is confident his colt is capable of firing a winning race, including turning the tables on Jim Dandy winner Texas Red.
"We like our chances," he said. "With equal weights it should help us against Texas Red, but they're good horses [pointing to the Travers]. It'll be a good race, either way. We're ready."
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Charles Fipke homebred Tale of Verve, runner-up to American Pharoah in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 16, arrived in Saratoga this week to train for a possible start in the Grade 1 Travers on.
Trainer Dallas Stewart said Friday morning that the 3-year-old son of Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati joined his Saratoga string on Wednesday after heading back to Kentucky following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby August 1.
"I went back to Churchill with him because I didn't know if I wanted to do the Travers or not, but I want to run him a mile and a quarter, definitely," Stewart said. "He came out of the last race good. Just thinking back all year long, he's a horse that gets better with racing. I think he'll do better with the race and a couple of good works up here, and then we'll see where we're at. I'll probably work him a couple of [half-miles] and then send him over there fresh and strong."
Stewart plans to work Tale of Verve Sunday or Monday. The West Virginia Derby was the colt's first start since coming off the Triple Crown trail, where he also ran seventh in the Belmont Stakes. His lone win in nine starts, seven of them this year, was a 1 3/16-mile maiden victory at Keeneland prior to the Preakness.
"I thought he ran pretty good coming off the Belmont. He's the kind of horse that you have to run into shape, and it appears that he's training better than he was before the West Virginia Derby," Stewart said. "I didn't think it was a bad race. I thought it was an OK race; he got beat about five lengths. His energy seems good and he's very sound. We know he's capable of running a big race. If you're not in there, you can't participate. We're going to train him up to [the Travers] and see how he does. We're looking like we're going to run."
Meanwhile, Fipke's 4-year-old filly Unbridled Forever continues to do well following her comeback victory over Grade 2 winner Stonetastic in the Shine Again Stakes August 5. Third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and second in Saratoga's Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks last year, she hadn't raced since running fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall.
Stewart is considering a pair of Grade 1 races on August 29 for Unbridled Forever's next start, either the $750,000 Personal Ensign at 1 1/8 miles or the $500,000 Ballerina at seven furlongs.
"She's a class horse. She ran second up here and third in the Oaks. She came back with that big race off a long layoff and is training really well," Stewart said. "We're looking probably more so at the Ballerina than the Personal Ensign. I just don't know if she's ready for a mile and an eighth off one race. That's the question I have."
Stewart has no plans for 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, who came out of a seventh-place effort in the West Virginia Governor's Stakes August 1 with a lung infection. He ran twice at Saratoga last summer, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and ninth in the Travers.
"He's going to breeze maybe tomorrow at Churchill. We're trying to figure out what we're going to do with him," Stewart said. "He just had an infection. I thought he would win, too. It was a tough day, but that's racing."
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On Friday morning, Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's graded stakes winner The Big Beast turned in his first official workout since his second-place finish in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 1.
The winner of last year's Grade 1 King's Bishop, The Big Beast covered five furlongs on the Saratoga main track in 1:00.60 in preparation for the Grade 1, $700,000 Priority One Jets Forego on August 29.
"He's just good," said trainer Tony Dutrow. "We're very happy with him."
Dutrow expects the Maryland-bred Yes It's True colt to have his final tune-up next weekend for the Forego, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" contest for a paid berth into the Grade 1 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint this fall at Keeneland.
"I thought he went into the Vanderbilt great and I feel even better about him now," said Dutrow. * * *+
Multiple Grade 3-placed Uncle Sigh returns to action as the 7-5 favorite in a field of seven entered for Sunday's third race, a $75,000 allowance for New York-breds going seven furlongs on the main track.
Trained by Gary Contessa for Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robertson, it will be the first race in 15 months for the 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt, last seen running 14th in the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
"It's been a long road. In this business, there's so many things you have no control over. I sent him out for 60 days off, and it became a year," Contessa said. "It was just one of those things. He kept getting small problems when he was down on the farm; no surgeries, nothing major, nothing catastrophic. It just took a lot longer than we originally predicted. I'm just happy to have him back to the races."
Uncle Sigh will break from post 5 carrying jockey Javier Castellano and topweight of 122 pounds, spotting from two to nine pounds to his rivals. He shows four timed works since July 21 at Saratoga, most recently going six furlongs in 1:13.88 on the main track August 9.
"He's training good, but there's a lot of question marks; how is he going to come back mentally and everything?" Contessa said. "I have him as ready as I want him. I don't have him fine-tuned. I just want to clear this hurdle with him. The race isn't easy. We didn't pick an easy spot to bring him back, but there's nothing easier. This is Saratoga. This is the way it fell."
After breaking his maiden in his last start at 2, Uncle Sigh ran second behind Samraat in both the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham last winter at Aqueduct, the latter by a neck. He found himself at Churchill Downs after finishing fifth in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial.
"He's a neat horse. He's a cool horse. He tries hard. He's a big, good-looking horse and he's always been a bit of a character. People like him. A lot of people have fond memories of him," Contessa said. "We put him in and he's doing well, but I don't feel like, 'Oh my God, I have to win this race.' I want him to run and I want him to come back sound and healthy, and then we know we can go forward with him."
Contessa also said plans are on hold for Dogwood Stable 2-year-old Paratrooper, a debut winner June 28 at Presque Isle Downs who was being pointed to the $100,000 Schenectady on August 21 as a prep for the Grade 2, $200,000 With Anticipation on September 2.
"We were really looking forward to good things and then he got a 103 fever the other day," he said. "We'll see how he does. He's still here; he's just a little under the weather. I was going to go Schenectady, then With Anticipation. Honestly, with the fever I'm not certain it's going to happen. We may have to go right to the With Anticipation."
* * * Entering the fourth week of the Saratoga meet, Irad Ortiz Jr. has put himself in contention for his sixth riding title on the New York Racing Association circuit and his first at Saratoga Race Course, leading the jockey standings at the Spa for the first time since joining the U.S. riding colony in 2011.
Ortiz, who turned 23 on August 11, picked up a total of four wins on August 6 and 7 before his week got a lot more productive, first piloting three winners on August 8 - including Under Control in the Lure and Cavorting in the Grade 1 Test - to tie Javier Castellano in second place with 18 wins, two behind Hall of Famer John Velazquez. He then posted a four-win day on Sunday to tie Velazquez for the lead.
The journeyman closed out the week atop the leaderboard after riding another trio of winners on Monday.
"It's great," said Ortiz. "I'm just happy to have winners. I'm very happy that the trainers and owners give me the opportunity and my agent does a great job. It's thanks to them."
Represented by Steve Rushing, Ortiz is striking at a 23% rate for the current meet, going into Friday's card with 28 wins from 120 mounts with purse earnings of more than $1.9 million.
Ortiz previously earned back-to-back riding titles for the Aqueduct inner track meets in 2012-13 and 2013-14, then tied Castellano for the 2014 Belmont spring/summer meet before securing the top honors for the Belmont fall meet. At the end of 2014, Ortiz was awarded the New York jockey title with 278 winners on the NYRA circuit throughout the year.
"That's the goal," he said of a Spa riding title. "It's tough to win here but we're trying to work hard and do it." * * * When trainer Steve Klesaris was looking at claiming Spectacular Me, the winner of Thursday's fifth race, back in April, one particular thing stood out.
"She knows how to get to the winner's circle," Klesaris said. "She had been passed around through the claim box at Gulfstream [Park] for three or four different people. I said, 'Look at this filly, she runs for everybody.' Talented filly, $25,000 was not a lot of money to give for one of them. She just seemed to be getting better and better."
Klesaris claimed the 5-year-old mare for Winning Move Stable at Belmont Park and the partnership has enjoyed great success with her since then. Spectacular Me finished second at Belmont Park in her first start after the claim. Since then, she has gone two-for-two at Saratoga this summer.
"She was second, beaten a photo the first time she ran [for us] and then she came up here and won and came back and handled the step up in class and won again," he said. "It was a more respectable field [yesterday], no doubt. She's very tactical, and everything went perfect yesterday. She's a tactical type of horse, where she can break quick enough and the rider can place her as he wishes. The rider can do what he wants to do and what he needs to do, and Jose [Ortiz] rode her perfectly, both times."
Klesaris added that Spectacular Me's next start could be at Saratoga towards the end of the meet and that she would most likely stay at the same level of competition. This year alone the mare has won four races and has finished second four times, earning a little over $177,000. Since being claimed, she has banked $107,200.
"She is spectacular," he said with a smile. "I think she's a great performer, she loves to run, and she has a great desire to win. Aside from Saratoga, just look at her record. Tremendous desire to win."
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Monday's $100,000 Saratoga Dew for New York-bred fillies and mares 3 years old and up at 1 1/8 miles features a field of familiar foes and a pair of newcomers looking to pick up a stakes victory at the Spa.
Entering off a second-place finish in the Critical Eye Stakes on May 25 at Belmont Park is 4-year-old Saythreehailmary's for Very Un Stable. Trainer John Morrison will look to improve on that finish in which she was bumped at the start and still bested fellow Saratoga Dew entrants Jcs American Dream, Hot Stones, and Carameaway. Although she has never raced at 1 1/8 miles, previous to the Critical Eye, Saythreehailmary's won an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on May 1 at Belmont by 2 ½ lengths.
Carameaway and Hot Stones who were eighth and fourth, respectively, in the Critical Eye, both returned to collect wins last out. Carameaway, a 5-year-old daughter of Lawyer Ron, returned to win a New York-bred allowance race on June 25 at Belmont where she faced Flipcup, who finished third, and Tri County Stable's Storied Lady, who followed in fourth. Hot Stones, a 5-year-old from the barn of trainer Bruce Levine last out won an optional-claiming race on June 24 at Belmont by three lengths. The most accomplished runner in the field with lifetime earnings of $451,689 she will look to earn her first stakes win since winning the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses at Belmont in 2014.
Rounding out the field are Smitten by Gold and Tahoe Tigress. Set to make her first start away from Finger Lakes for trainer Michael Ferraro, the 6-year-old Smitten by Gold mare last out finished third by a neck in the Artic Queen Stakes on July 31. Tahoe Tigress, for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owner Neal Allread, enters off a sixth-place finish in the slop on July 18 at Indiana Downs in the Mari Hulman George Stakes. Previous to that race, Tahoe Tigress faced stakes competition in the Bed o' Roses on June 20 at Belmont, where she finished fifth.