Hall of Fame Stakes Preview: Isotherm Returns to the Spa

Camelot Kitten3 credit Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

Camelot Kitten will look to capitalize on a cut back in distance as the graded stakes-winning bay colt takes on an accomplished seven-horse field in Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame for 3-years-old on the turf at Saratoga Race Course.

Trainer Chad Brown said Camelot Kitten, who finished a game fourth last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby over 1 1/4 miles on the Belmont Park inner turf, could be better suited for the 1 1/16-mile inner turf course in the Hall of Fame. Two of his three career wins have come at the distance, including his maiden-breaking win in September 2015 and in the Grade 2 American Turf on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

“The cut back in distance should suit him,” said Brown of Camelot Kitten’s debut at the Spa. “He’s a very consistent horse who has had a very good season, particular since we’ve put the blinkers on him [for the American Turf]. I thought he ran well in the Belmont Derby, it just proved to be a little far for him. He came out of the race in good shape and hopefully by cutting him back, he’ll go back to his winning ways.”

Both of Camelot Kitten’s graded stakes wins have come in 2016 as the son of Kitten’s Joy won the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge on June 4. He breezed four furlongs in 48.43 seconds at Saratoga on Friday and will depart from the outside with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Unbridled Daddy will be returning to the track where he broke his maiden in his second start in August 2015. The Red Oak Stable colt finished second last out in the Long Branch on Monmouth Park’s main track.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Unbridled Daddy’s versatility made him an attractive option for his first graded stakes start since a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Penn Mile on June 4. He drew post 8 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.

“He ran here twice and broke his maiden here, so we’re going to give it a try,” Pletcher said. “If somehow the weather takes it off [the turf], he should be competitive either way. He’s got enough tactical speed [that] I think he’ll be able to [avoid] getting too far back. He likes to stalk.”

Airoforce is the only other starter to have multiple graded stakes victories on his resume besides Camelot Kitten, having won the 2015 Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon and the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.

Trained by Mark Casse, Airoforce will be looking for his first win this year and enters off a 10th-place finish in the Belmont Derby. He finished second in the Penn Mile, losing to stablemate Catch a Glimpse by a neck. Owned by John Oxley, Airoforce will exit post 6 with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard.

Isotherm, trained by George Weaver, posted a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure in a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Dania Beach in January, his most recent start. Winner of the Grade 3 Pilgrim on September 26 at Belmont, Isotherm will leave with jockey Jose Lezcano from post 5.

Giant Run is 3-3-1 in seven career turf starts, including a win in the Manila on July 4 at Belmont Park last time out. He has recorded six consecutive top-three finishes, which included second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach and a third just behind Airoforce and the winning Catch a Glimpse in the Penn Mile.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call on the Robert Baker and William Mack-owned chestnut colt, who will depart from the rail.

Strike Midnight will be making his graded stakes debut for trainer Leah Gyarmati. The Treadway Racing Stable turf specialist made his debut at Saratoga last September 3 going 5 ½ furlongs before breaking his maiden at Belmont on September 25. Strike Midnight will be looking for his first win since March 19 at Gulfstream Park and will exit post 4 with Javier Castellano in the irons.

Copingaway will be making his 25th career start and enters off a quick turnaround from his last start July 31 when he came in second in an allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream Park and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr. from post position 7.

Pletcher’s Decorated Solider and Voluntario, trained by Rudy Rodriguez, are main-track only entries.

Likely Winners

#9 CAMELOT KITTEN – I almost made this horse a single, and would have if it weren’t for my respect for Isotherm.  It’s not hard to explain why that would be…he’s been great all year.  Last time out even though he finished fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby I thought he ran one of his better races.  The competiton in that race was much tougher than what he’s facing today, and it was also at distance that was longer.  Cutting back in distance and in class should give him his third win of the year in just five starts.

#5 ISOTHERM – Last year as a two year old this horse was really rolling coming into the Breeders Cup off back to back nice turf scores, but for some reason they chose to run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile on the dirt instead.  That race turned out very bad as he finished 13th and never factored into the race.  Fast forward to 2016 and he’s only made one start so far…and it was on January 2nd when he finished second in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park.  Now he’s back which is great, and if he’s 1oo% ready to roll he could factor into this one big time.  His talent level is very high so all you are gambling on is if he’s ready off the layoff.

Exotic Plays

#1 GIANT RUN – He’s coming into this one off a win, and two races back in the Grade 3 Penn Mile he was only beaten a little over three lengths by Catch a Glimpse.  Stretching back out today shouldn’t be any problem for him as he’s hit the board in all three races when running at this distance.  Should have every chance to win, just put him in this category because I think my top two are just a bit more talented.

Party Crashers

#4 STRIKE MIDNIGHT – Definitely flying under the radar here, and gets a big time jockey change to Javier Castellano.  Looking at his starts in 2016 you can tell he’s made a sharp improvement from two to three years olds.  Last time out he finished a solid second in a small stakes to Giant Run and was running like a horse that might want to go longer.  He gets longer today in a mile and one sixteenth, but I wonder if he’d like to go even further.  The jockey change and 2016 races have me very intrigued, and I hope we get a playable price on him.

Throw Outs

#6 AIROFORE – He’ll just have to beat me from here on out until he shows he can run again.  This horse was a hot commodity heading into 2016, but basically hasn’t ran a step as a three year old.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m rooting for him to turn it around.  That doesn’t mean I have to wager on him though.

#8 UNBRIDLED DADDY – Always a risk to throw out a Pletcher trained horse at Saratoga, but he just hasn’t shown enough for me to have confidence in him.  Others simply appeal more to me as his stakes efforts haven’t been great. Maybe going back to the turf today will help.

#7 COPINGAWAY – The good news is in this race their are no true “throw outs” as every horse is solid.  However in betting you have to throw out a few, and from a class standpoint this one makes the most sense.  Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. has gotten home a lot of prices on the turf early on in the meet.

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