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Can EMPRESS TIGRESS Be Usurped At Saratoga? | 2022 Galway Stakes Preview & FREE Picks
Empress Tigress (NYRA)

Can EMPRESS TIGRESS Be Usurped At Saratoga? | 2022 Galway Stakes Preview & FREE Picks

Mike previews the 2022 Galway Stakes at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots. The undefeated Empress Tigress leads several familiar rivals whom she defeated in the Coronation Cup over this same course and distance, but could a new shooter usurp the reigning champ? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Ironhorse Racing Stable’s Half Is Enough will try grass for the first time in Thursday’s $150,000 Galway, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint over the Mellon turf for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Michael Trombetta, the daughter of Frosted was handed her first loss in four starts last out when a game second to Hot Peppers in the six-furlong Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 9 at Belmont Park. There, she stalked 2 3/4 lengths off the pace under Irad Ortiz, Jr. and swung three-wide in the turn to make a run at Hot Peppers, but came up just shy and lost by three-quarters of a length. The effort garnered a career-best 71 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It was a very nice race,” Trombetta said. “That last race was by far the toughest of what she’s done and we didn’t know how it would shake out.”

Half Is Enough streaked into the Victory Ride with a perfect 3-for-3 record that began with an impressive debut maiden victory in September at Monmouth Park where she bested four rivals by 7 1/4 lengths. After an eight-month respite, she returned in May at Laurel Park to win her first outing against a field that included subsequent stakes-placed Bandits Warrior before defeating older rivals in a non-winners of three on June 4 at Delaware Park.

Trombetta said Half Is Enough has continued to improve with each of her outings.

“She’s done well. After her first start, we brought her back and were able to get a few starts under her belt against a couple of stakes caliber horses before trying the big ones,” Trombetta said.

The Galway will be the first time Half Is Enough has stepped on a turf course in the afternoon. She had her first and only work over the grass on July 31 at the Oklahoma training track, breezing a half-mile in 50.82 seconds.

Half Is Enough has a pedigree rich in both dirt and turf talents, hailing from the family of turf graded-stakes winner Filimbi. Her dam, the Indian Charlie mare Morea, is a half-sister to Grade 3 Bourbon winner Current and Weep No More, a Grade 1 winner on dirt. In addition, her third dam is dual Grade 1-winning millionaire Flute.

“We’re going to enter her and see how she is and try,” Trombetta said. “She’s like so many other horses where we won’t really know until we try it. If everything goes well it’s a good time to give it a try.”

Along with a new surface, Half Is Enough will cut back a furlong from her last outing to run the shortest race of her career, something Trombetta said he is not concerned about.

“The cutback shouldn’t be a problem, it’s just whether or not she handles the surface,” Trombetta said.

Ricardo Santana, Jr. picks up the mount from post 5.

Augustin Stable’s Empress Tigress, winner of Saratoga’s Coronation Cup going the Galway distance last out on July 15, is one of two entrants for trainer Jonathan Thomas. Undefeated through two starts, Empress Tigress debuted in May over the all-weather track at Woodbine before making her way to the Spa for a successful stakes debut in the Coronation Cup.

The Classic Empire chestnut raced a half-length off pacesetter Mystic Eyes before taking charge at the stretch call and fending off the bid of Poppy Flower to post a half-length score that was awarded a career and field-high 90 Beyer.

“She’s always trained like she’s a talented filly and obviously it’s great seeing it replicated in the afternoon,” said Thomas. “She’s an exciting little filly and we were thrilled.”

Thomas’ other entrant, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Benbang, was entered and scratched from the Coronation Cup to make a successful trip to Monmouth Park to take the Blue Sparkler just one day later.

The daughter of Shanghai Bobby was a debut winner on dirt at the Spa last July before finishing a close fourth in her turf debut sprinting six furlongs in the Stewart Manor in November at Belmont Park. Her other win this year was an off-the-turf first-level allowance facing older company in June at Monmouth.

“She’s cool. She broke her maiden up here and is a stakes winner,” said Thomas. “I love those kinds of fillies.”

Empress Tigress will be piloted from post 7 by returning Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez while Manny Franco is tasked with the ride aboard Benbang from post 3.

Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ Poppy Flower returns to the scene of her narrow defeat last out in the Coronation Cup for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott.

A chestnut daughter of Lea, Poppy Flower attempts her second stakes victory two starts after taking the Stormy Blues by 1 1/4 lengths in June at Laurel Park. She followed with her game runner-up finish behind Empress Tigress in the Coronation Cup.

Poppy Flower broke her maiden at third asking last June at Belmont Park for former trainer Wesley Ward before making her stakes debut with a runner-up finish in the Bolton Landing that summer at the Spa. She picked up another stakes placing when third in the Ainsworth at Kentucky Downs before closing out her juvenile season with an off-the-board finish in the Grade 3 Futurity against males in October at Belmont.

She kicked off her 3-year-old season with Mott in May with a fourth in an off-the-turf allowance one start before her Stormy Blues victory. She will emerge from the inside post with Jose Ortiz in the irons.

The Irish-bred Group 3 winner Have A Good Day makes her stateside debut for new trainer Gustavo Delgado in the first start of her sophomore campaign. The bay daughter of Adaay has been on the bench since a narrow defeat in the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte in October at Chantilly. She tracked just behind the pace in the six-furlong event contested over soft going and took the lead with three-sixteenths to the finish, but was collared and defeated a neck by Malavath.

Previously trained by Florian Guyader, Have A Good Day won the Group 3 Prix de Cabourg at Deauville before finishing a close sixth in the Group 1 Prix Morny in her next outing. Since posting her first American works in April at Gulfstream, Have A Good Day had several breezes at The Thoroughbred Center in Kentucky before her first spin around the Saratoga main track on Saturday, travelling a half-mile in 49.75 seconds.

Owned by Ramiro Restrepo and OGMA Investments, Have A Good Day will exit post 4 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano up.

Completing the field are Delmona [post 2, Luis Saez], who races with blinkers on, Breeze Easy [post 6, Flavien Prat], Makin My Move [post 8, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Artos [post 9, Julien Leparoux], and Derrynane [post 10, Joel Rosario]. Freedom Speaks is entered as an also-eligible while Mystic Eyes is entered for the main track only.

The Galway is slated as Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

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