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Saratoga Race Course Notes
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Contact: NYRA Press Office
(518) 584-6200, ext. 4237
SARATOGA RACE COURSE NOTES
• G1 Travers hero Stay Thirsty, G1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop runner-up Uncle Mo exit their races in good order; Ballerina winner Hilda’s Passion to undergo surgery
• Repole reflects on Travers win, Foxwoods King’s Bishop defeat
• Sunday feels like déjà vu to McLaughlin following Rattlesnake Bridge’s runner-up effort in Travers
• Shackleford heading back to Kentucky; Sassy Image exits Ballerina with torn quarter
• G1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop victor Caleb’s Posse checks out of the Spa
• Daveron doing well after G2 Ballston Spa win
• Hot Summer exits G3 Victory Ride in good shape; More sprints likely on the agenda
• Baffert believes Coil was “discouraged” in Travers
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that Travers winner Stay Thirsty and Foxwoods King’s Bishop runner-up Uncle Mo came back from their respective efforts in good order, but that Grade 1 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.”
* * *
Sunday morning, owner Mike 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,” Repole 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 Foxwoods 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.”
* * *
Harold L. Queen’s Hot Summer was reported to have exited her victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, six-furlong Victory Ride presented by Jose Cuervo in good shape, trainer David Fawkes said Sunday morning.
Fawkes said he thought Hot Summer, who was cutting back in distance off a third in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May, would get a good set up in yesterday’s race, and the trainer was glad it unfolded according to plan.
“She ran a huge race, and she came out of it great,” said Fawkes. “It was a very tough race – very competitive. I thought the cutback was beneficial. When the past performances came out online before we even entered, I saw there was a lot of speed, and when the race came out I was very happy. I thought it’d really be beneficial for her.”
Fawkes said Hot Summer’s next start will likely be in another sprint.
“There’s a race at Charles Town worth $400,000 going seven-eighths [Charles Town Oaks, September 17],” said Fawkes. “The only issue with the extra turn is that she ran off in the Black-Eyed Susan. She was so keen, and there was no speed in the race at all.”
* * *
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 1, $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 1 Ballerina for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.
Looking for her third Grade 1 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.”
Romans put a picture of the hoof on the Romans Racing Stable Facebook page.
* * *
Caleb’s Posse, who spoiled 2010 juvenile champion Uncle Mo’s bid for a winning comeback in Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop, emerged from the race in good shape and headed back to his home base at Arlington Park early Sunday morning in an attempt to avoid the stormy weather Hurricane Irene brought to Saratoga Springs.
“Everything looks good,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said by phone Sunday morning. “He ate everything last night and walked on the van this morning like he’d done something.”
Caleb’s Posse, 2-for-2 at the Spa this summer, having taken the Grade 2 Amsterdam on August 1 before nosing out Uncle Mo in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop, departed the Spa at about 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, Von Hemel said.
“We were planning to leave today or Monday and figured we better go ahead and get on out of there,” Von Hemel said. “We’re almost to Buffalo now and it takes about 12-14 hours to get back.”
Von Hemel, who said he had no set plans for Caleb’s Posse, was especially pleased that Saturday’s victory came for longtime clients Don McNeill and Everett Dobson.
“Winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga is high on the list of any trainer,” Von Hemel said. “I’m just so happy for the clients, and for the horse. It’s all good right now – there are so many times when it isn’t, you really have to appreciate when it is.”
* * *
Heather Craig, assistant to H. Graham Motion, reported that Team Valor International’s Daveron is in “good shape” following her victory in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. She also noted there are no set plans for the 6-year-old German-bred mare.
“I don’t think they have gotten that far yet,” Craig said. “She is light. I think they try to pick their races strategically. She ate up well last night and seemed to come out of the race in good shape. She was bouncing around the shed row.”
This was the fourth victory in six races since Daveron was transferred to Motion last year. She entered the Ballston Spa off back-to-back victories in the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont Park and Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx in Philadelphia. Craig said that Daveron has progressed well at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Motion’s base.
“The only thing that I feel is different as to where she was before compared to our operation is that she’s trained at Fair Hill,” Craig said. “She’s kind of a nervous filly. She gets to go out in the field. She doesn’t train on the track; she trains out back. She goes to the track only to breeze. Yesterday, she was well-behaved in the paddock. We were worried because she didn’t get a chance to school in the paddock. She was a handful the last time when she ran at Philly.”
“I thought she was in a good spot throughout the race, but she just wasn’t moving. He [jockey Eddie Castro] pushed the button and she took off,” she added. “She’s quite impressive with the turn of foot she has.”
* * *
Sunday morning felt like a case of déjà vu for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, whose Rattlesnake Bridge finished second in yesterday’s Travers one week after It’s Tricky was second in the Grade 1 TVG Alabama.
“It feels like the Alabama all over again; we were second best,” said McLaughlin. “Stay Thirsty ran a huge race, and we’re happy with our horse finishing second in the Travers, a Grade 1. He beat three Grade 1 winners [Ruler On Ice, Shackleford, and Coil].”
McLaughlin said he has not yet thought beyond the Travers.
“Where we go from here, I don’t know,” said McLaughlin. “I talked to [the owner, Nicholas Brady of Mill House], and he was really happy after the race. Disappointed we didn’t win, but happy with the horse’s performance.”
* * *
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert indicated that Haskell Invitational winner Coil was discouraged during the running of Travers, in which he finished last of 10.
“He just never ran his race,” Baffert said. “He never got out there. He took a lot of dirt in the face and he wasn’t comfortable. He was discouraged being that far back in the field. He looks fine. I was worried that something happened to him. He’s still a young horse and we’re still learning about him. He comes home tomorrow and we’ll see where to go from there.”