Archive for August, 2011

Havre de Grace gets her work in after all

With the Delaware Park track finally reopened in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, trainer Larry Jones was able to squeeze in a work for Grade I winner Havre de Grace today in preparation for her start against males in Saturday’s Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

Jones contemplated galloping Havre de Grace up to the race after he was forced to cancel the Monday work he had planned for her when the track was closed due to the storm. The 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam blew out three furlongs in :35.60 Tuesday, not the distance Jones initially wanted but better than nothing.

“It was important,” owner Rick Porter said of being able to get the work in. “The track had some problems with the equipment in getting the track ready but they finally got it good enough for Larry to work her. We got off schedule but…the only thing that is different is the day of the work and he had to work her less distance today.”

Havre de Grace comes into the Woodward off a runner-up finish to champion Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap. Among the horses she is expected to face in the Woodward are Grade II New Orleans Handicap winner Mission Impazible , recent Birdstone Stakes winner Rule, Grade II  Suburban Handicap winner and Grade 1 Whitney runner-up Flat Out for trainer Scooter Dickey; Grade I Donn Handicap winner Giant Oak; Convocation, a recent allowance winner at the Spa at the Woodward distance of 1 1/8-miles,  and last year’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box.

Hurricane Irene could be toughest obstacle for Havre de Grace

Rick Porter’s Havre de Grace is preparing for what will  be the toughest race of her life to date as she is slated to face males for the first time in Saturday’s Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

As much respect as trainer Larry Jones has for the male rivals his charge is poised to tackle, his biggest concern right now with getting Havre de Grace ready is the one Mother Nature has thrown in his path. Due to Hurricane Irene this weekend, Delaware Park – where Havre de Grace is stabled  – was closed today and Sunday, leaving Jones unable to put a final work into the Grade I-winning filly prior to the Woodward.

Instead of trying to squeeze in a work Tuesday should Delaware Park reopen, Jones is planning to just gallop Havre de Grace into the Woodward and is tentatively planning to ship her to Saratoga Wednesday.

“She’s doing very well but we’ve had some kinks thrown in the plan this past week,” Jones said by phone Monday afternoon. “We’re actually not going to be able to go into the race the way we want to. Noramally she’d be going out today (Monday) and she would have her rip-roaring :57 work and we’re not going to get to do that because the track was closed today. And it was closed yesterday. We’re hung in the shedrow.

“We have thrown everything at her different than we’d like to do it coming in, so that’s going ot be our biggest obstacle. Our biggest concern and worry is how we’re going to be able to bring her into the race and we’re not for sure the track will be open tomorrow. But hey, what’s new for us? We’re always facing obstacles.”

Thankfully for her connections, Havre de Grace has a good foundation of fitness already in her as evidence by her six-furlong move in 1:13.20 last Tuesday.

After opening the year with three straight wins, including a victory over champion Blind Luck in the Grade III Azeri in March, Havre de Grace was just beaten a nose by that one last time out in a thrilling edition of the Grade II Delaware Handicap.  The 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam would have been a heavy favorite for this Saturday’s rescheduled running of the Grade I Personal Ensign had her connections gone that route, but Jones reiterated Monday that racking up another win against her gender would only marginally help her quest to be a contender for Horse of the Year honors.

“We’re trying to chase a championship,” Jones said. “We felt like if we went in and beat the mares that were coming to the Personal Ensign, it really wasn’t going to move her a lot closer to a championship unless Blind Luck was in there to take her on as well. She (Blind Luck) didn’t want to come over here  so we figured this was the best way to continue on trying to push her a little close to hopefully Horse of the Year.

“She’s just very good right now. She got the experience last year and just matured and moved forward.”

No excuses found yet for Shackleford’s Travers effort

Off a day of high expectations that turned into disappointments, trainer Dale Romans was back at work Sunday morning, putting in entries for later race days.

For Romans’ star 3-year-old Shackleford, there was little to do other than get him ready to head back to Kentucky following an eighth-place finish in the Grade I, $1 million Travers.

Sent off as the third choice, at just under 4-1, in the field of 10, the Preakness winner raced outside winner Stay Thirsty and Ruler On Ice into the backstretch, made the lead through a half-mile in 47.63 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.91 but had no punch turning for home.

“He came out good; we’ll just go home and regroup,” said Romans, who will remain in Saratoga through the rest of the race meet. “We don’t have an explanation for it. He wasn’t quite on the bit. He’s still on track for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Compounding Romans’ woes was the poor performance of his ace sprinter Sassy Image, strong favorite to win the Grade I Ballerina for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.

Looking for her third Grade I win of the year, Sassy Image hopped awkwardly from the gate at the start, lagged behind the field and bore out badly on the turn. She finished more than 26 lengths behind winner Hilda’s Passion.

Afterward, Romans discovered Sassy Image had torn a quarter on her left front.

“That’s why she was getting out like she did,” he said. “She might have done it while she was coming out of the gate. She jumped pretty good.”

Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo in good order; Hilda’s Passion to have surgery

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that Travers winner Stay Thirsty and King’s Bishop runner-up Uncle Mo came back from their respective efforts in good order, but that Grade I Ballerina winner Hilda’s Passion returned with a non-displaced condylar fracture of her right front ankle.

“She’ll be going for surgery tomorrow at Rood and Riddle [in Kentucky],” said Pletcher. “As far as those kinds of fractures, it’s relatively minor. We’ll see after surgery what our plans are.”

Pletcher said that Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo appeared to be in “great shape,” and that he would be discussing plans for each with owner Mike Repole. After the Travers, the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on October 1 had been mentioned as a possible stepping-stone to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic for Stay Thirsty.

“We’re going to see [what’s next for both],” he said. “We’ll try to manage two horses at once and do what’s best for each horse.”

Pletcher added that he watched the replay of the “Mid-Summer Derby” several times and continued to be impressed with what he called a “courageous” race by Stay Thirsty.

“The way it unfolded he was under pressure from start to finish,” he said. “It was a ‘he fended off all challengers the whole way’ kind of race.”

Repole reflected on his Travers winner and the path that he has taken since running as a 2-year-old last year at the Saratoga meet.

“Last year, I firmly believed and told people that Stay Thirsty would like longer distances and really improve as a 3-year-old,” he said. “After the Belmont Stakes, people dismissed the race; they said it was a strange distance, the slop, he beat tired horses. It wasn’t until the Jim Dandy that people started giving him his due. That was his first ‘wow’ race, but he had a pretty easy trip.

“Yesterday, with the way the race played out, he had to run the entire mile and a quarter, Repole noted. “He stumbled at the start, dragged Javier to the lead, was pressured by Shackleford, had to fight to keep his position. I mean, he fended off opponent after opponent and wasn’t in a comfortable spot until he crossed the wire. It was a gutsy, brilliant performance. I said on Wednesday at the draw that if one of four horses – Coil, Shackleford, Ruler On Ice, or Stay Thirsty – won the Travers, they would separate themselves in the 3-year-old champion race, and I think Thirsty did just that. He was a half a length from sweeping the Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, and Travers, and he is just getting better and better.”

Repole was equally as proud of what his 2010 Champion Two-Year-Old Uncle Mo did in the King’s Bishop, and stressed that before any additional plans are mapped out for him, he’ll have to be closely watched.

“Uncle Mo ran a really special race yesterday,” Repole said. “He had 150 days on the shelf, lost 150 pounds and had to put it back on, and then lost a shoe in the race. It was a brilliant performance. If he had won yesterday, he probably would have been a candidate for the comeback story of the year.

“Considering what he has been through, we have to really see how he comes out of the race,” Repole continued. “We will need to check his weight, his blood, and really make sure everything is 100 percent. If he comes out of the race well, and continues to do as well as he has the last six weeks in Saratoga, then we could have a horse that could run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or Classic. But again, he is a horse that considering what he has been through, we have to see how he comes out of the race before we make any types of plans.”

Repole also realizes how fortunate he is to have two superstars like Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo running with his colors.

“I’m not naïve, I know I could be in the game for another 50 years and not have a horse as talented as either Stay Thirsty or Uncle Mo. I know how fortunate I am, and I have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows, even yesterday was a rollercoaster in the span of 30 minutes. But the Travers is one of the top four races I would want to win. Knowing that my silks will be up on the jockey statue all year, and my colors will be on the Travers canoe…that hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Grade II winner Kensei euthanized

Kensei, winner of Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy in 2009, was euthanized on Tuesday after breaking down during a gallop over the Belmont Park training track.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, the 5-year-old son of Mr. Greeley suffered a broken right front cannon bone, and was euthanized by a private veterinarian.

A half brother to champion Lookin At Lucky, Kensei earned $751,364 over the course of his career with a record of five wins, four seconds, and two thirds from 18 starts. Among his victories were the 2009 Grade II Dwyer at Belmont, the Jim Dandy, and the 2011 Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.

Stay Thirsty draws post No. 9, made 5-to-2 morning-line favorite for Travers

Post positions and morning line odds for Saturday’s $1 million Travers at Saratoga

No. 1 Bowman’s Causeway 12-1

No. 2 Rattlesnake Bridge 8-1

No. 3 Moonshine Mullin 20-1

No. 4 Ruler On Ice 6-1

No. 5 Malibu Glow 20-1

No. 6 Raison d’Etat 10-1

No. 7 Coil 3-1

No. 8 J W Blue 20-1

No. 9. Stay Thirsty 5-2

No. 10 Shackleford 9-2

Repole: Overdriven will not start in Grade I Hopeful

Overdriven, runaway winner of the Grade II  Sanford Stakes on July 24, has been ruled out of a start in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on September 5 as the son of Tale of the Cat is still undergoing tests after missing his last two workouts.

Mike Repole, who owns the promising 2-year-old colt, said during a national teleconference on Tuesday he and trainer Todd Pletcher were still awaiting the results of  x-rays taken of the colt on Monday but that the Hopeful is “100 percent out.”

“We haven’t ruled the (Grade I) Champagne (at Belmont on October 8th ) but he’s not going to make the Hopeful,” Repole said. “We’re going to do what is best for the horse. We know he can run but there is no way he will be in the Hopeful.”

Pletcher scrapped the colt’s last two works when he was dissatisfied with the way the colt warmed up. He was diagnosed with a gluteal muscle pull after his work on August 9 was called off.

Coil Travers bound after work

A 46.12 bullet half-mile work on Tuesday at Saratoga Race Course appeared enough to persuade Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to send Coil to Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes.

“Coil, if he looks great tomorrow, he is definitely running in the Travers,” Baffert declared after the work.

The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner was sent out immediately after the renovation break on the main track in company with stablemate and Grade 2 West Virginia Derby winner Prayer for Relief, who is also under consideration for the 1 ¼-mile “Mid-Summer Derby.” Stepping onto the oval shortly after 8:45 a.m., the duo jogged counterclockwise past the finish line before picking up the pace on the backside. Prayer for Relief broke off ahead of his stablemate, but Coil easily drew on even terms and finished in front. He was clocked galloping out five furlongs in 58.44 under jockey Martin Garcia.

“I liked his work today,” Baffert said. “He showed a lot of energy going to the pole. Martin said he hasn’t felt that great in a while. I was looking for something like that. Prayer for Relief is a really nice horse and he gave him a big head start, and [Coil] came to him the way he usually does like he’s not moving. I can’t believe he worked as fast he did, but he’s just a really good horse. So right now, all systems go.”

Coil, who scratched his right eyeball last week, breezed with a protective cup shielding that eye from dirt and debris.

“I was having a little problem with the eyeball, but I worked him with a protective cup that he could see through and I’m glad I did because he had a lot of mud on it,” Baffert noted. “He came back and it looks like he’s cooling off like it wasn’t really hard on him. The last few times we’ve worked him here he’s come back here and wanted to step on his tongue coming off the track because it was really deep. But the track was pretty fast today, [NYRA] had it in great shape.”

Owned by Mike Pegram and Karl Watson, Coil is a son of 2001 Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers winner Point Given, whom Baffert also trained.

“Point Given had more of a foundation,” Baffert said. “This horse doesn’t have that foundation. He is doing things right now because of raw talent. He is fast, and he is rateable. It’s not like he is one dimensional. I am happy the way he looked. It looked like he was just cruising. That’s what really good horses do.”

Among others, Coil is expected to meet Preakness winner and Haskell runner-up Shackleford, as well as Jim Dandy winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Stay Thirsty, in the Travers.

“Stay Thirsty, his last two races have been really big races,” Baffert said. “The Belmont he ran great and the Jim Dandy, too. He is the horse to beat. Shackleford always shows up. And the other horses I really don’t know that much about. I think that if your horse is doing well you have to give him a chance to run in the Travers, it is such a prestigious race. His daddy [Point Given] won it, I don’t know why he can’t.”

Baffert did not rule out the possibility of a Travers start for Prayer for Relief, who was clocked in 47.31.

“I have until tomorrow [to decide what to do with Prayer for Relief],” Baffert said. “I have nothing else to do here but to lay around and think about it.”

Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty have final tuneups

Jim Dandy winner Stay Thirsy  worked five furlongs in 1:01.73  over the Saratoga main track Sunday in his final serious move prior to the Grade I Travers this coming Saturday. Owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Bernardini worked in company with Grade III winner Super Espresso and posted fractions of :12.87, :24.66, and :36.84 with jockey Javier Castellano up.

“Stay Thirsty looked really good. It was almost an identical work to what he did before the Jim Dandy,” Pletcher said. “We’re very happy. Based  on this work this morning, I would say he is as good as he was (going into the Jim Dandy) if not better going into (the Travers).”

“He loves this racetrack,” Castellano added. “He looks like nothing bothers him and he enjoyed the work. I worked him before the Jim Dandy and that work was amazing. He did it the same way today.”

Stay Thirsty’s champion stablemate Uncle Mo also worked Sunday,  going five furlongs in a bullet :59.95 as he prepares for his start in the Grade I King’s Bishop on Saturday. Uncle Mo has not raced since finishing third in the Grade I Wood Memorial this April and was knocked off the Triple Crown trail with a liver ailment.

The son of Indian Charlie also worked in company with stakes winner Turbo Compressor, posting fractions of :12.47, :24.31, and :36 .01 with jockey John Velazquez up.

“I thought it was another very good work,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think he could be training any better.”

Havre de Grace to take on males in Woodward

The latest showdown between Grade I winners Blind Luck and Havre de Grace will not materialize in next week’s Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga as owner Rick Porter announced on his website Friday that Havre de Grace will instead attempt to tackle males in the Grade I Woodward Stakes on September 3.

Although Blind Luck remains under consideration for the Personal Ensign, it is looking more and more likely her newly-minted Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will keep the champion filly in California to face males herself in the Grade I Pacific Classic next Sunday. Thus, Porter figured the weight a potential win over males would carry for Havre de Grace when it comes to possible year-end honors was much greater than simply racking up another victory against her own sex.

“(Trainer) Larry (Jones) and I have discussed the next race for Havre de Grace and we have finally decided that it will be the  Woodward Stakes on September 3rd,” Porter posted.  “We feel we are ready to take on the boys and since it looks almost 100 percent that Blind Luck is not coming for the Personal Ensign, according to my sources at NYRA. The Woodward looks like the spot to run her. She deserves to run in a race with this prestige. We think she is up to taking on the boys now. Let’s just hope Larry and I made the right decision. She is ready.”

Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, used a victory in the Woodward to cement her championship campaign when she defeated older males as a 3-year-old.

Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, who are both four, met four times last year with Blind Luck finishing ahead of her larger rival three times. After Havre de Grace soundly defeated Blind Luck in the Grade III Azeri Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths this March, Blind Luck got the better of the daughter of Saint Liam last time out, getting her nose down to take the Grade II Delaware Handicap on July 16.

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