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Two-mile stakes on turf don’t come around very often, so trainer Graham Motion seized the opportunity – twice – to participate in Saturday’s $100,000 J. Allen Jerkens Memorial at Gulfstream Park.
Motion has entered Stone Farm’s Swore and Wertheimer and Frere’s Serifos in Saturday’s feature, knowing that his two trainees’ best chances for victories are enhanced by distance – the longer the better.
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Swore, one of the most lightly raced horse in the Jerkens field, played catch-up during the summer while stretching out on turf. The 4-year-old son of Broken Vow broke his maiden at Kentucky Downs Sept. 3 in a 1 ½-mile maiden special weight event on turf. He’s coming off a wide-trip fourth in a 1 3/8-mile allowance on turf at Aqueduct.
“I was a little disappointed with his last race, but having said that, I’ve always thought the farther the better, and there aren’t many opportunities to run two miles,” Motion said.
Motion is prepared to run Swore rain or shine in the Jerkens, which will be run at 1 5/8 miles on Tapeta should the race be taken off the turf.
“That perhaps is a bit of a leveler with this group considering what some of the others have done before,” said Motion, who has named Tyler Gaffalione to ride the Kentucky bred colt. “He’s a horse I like a lot. He’s trained well here, and I know Tyler likes him a lot.”
Motion trained Swore’s sire, who won his first two career starts at Gulfstream before going on to become a Grade 1 stakes-placed multiple graded-stakes winner in the early 2000s.
“There are certain horses in a trainer’s career that get him to the next level, and he was one of those horses,” said Motion, who trained Broken Vow for the late Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stable. “When you get a horse like that it catches people’s attention, and I was lucky to have him. I was very lucky to train for Mrs. Abercrombie for as long as I did.”
Motion-trained Serifos enters the Jerkens off a distant fourth in the 1 ½-mile Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G2) on dirt on Breeders’ Cup Weekend at Santa Anita.
“That race came up very competitive. I think the winner [Salesman] is really good. He kind of ran them off their feet. I think that it turned into a quicker-paced race than normally a mile and a half race would,” Motion said.
Serifos won the off-the-turf Presious Passion at 1 ½ miles at Monmouth two starts earlier.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call on the 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding.
Defending Jerkens champion Value Engineering has been assigned highweight of 124 pounds and will concede between one and 13 pounds to his nine rivals. (Six pounds more than the Motion duo).
The 7-year-old gelding excelled at running long distances on both turf and Tapeta last season at Gulfstream Park. After being purchased for $35,000 at the Keeneland November sale and transferred to trainer Michael Maker, the son of Lemon Drop Kid won at first asking in the Jerkens, which was transferred to the Tapeta course and run at a mile and five furlongs.
Value Engineering, who had won 3 of 15 starts for trainer Chad Brown, stepped up to finish a close second behind Maker-trained Grade 1 stakes-winner Red Knight in the 1 3/8-mile McKnight (G3) at 1 ½ miles on turf. He broke through with his first graded-stakes victory five weeks later in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida (G2).
Value Engineering went on to finish off the board in the Elkorn (G2) at Keeneland and Man O’ War (G1) at Belmont before going to the sidelines. He returned to action two weeks ago with an off-the-board finish in a Turfway optional claiming allowance.
Maker is also scheduled to saddle Lawrence Goichman and Jennifer Goichman’s Shawdyshawdyshawdy, who finished behind Value Engineering in last season’s McKnight and Mac Diarmida, and Michael Dubb’s Catch That Party, an allowance winner on turf at Aqueduct last time out.
Jose Ortiz, who was aboard for the Maker trainee’s three Gulfstream starts last season, will be reunited with Value Engineering Saturday. Edgard Zayas has the call on Shawdyshawdyshawdy, while Joe Bravo has the mount on Catch That Party.
Team Valor International LLC’s McLovin will be in receipt of just one pound from Value Engineering while coming off a one-length triumph in the two-mile John Forbes Memorial over Fair Hill’s turf course for trainer Rodolphe Brissett. The 5-year-old son of Animal Kingdom has been transferred to trainer Arnaud Delacour, who had formerly trained him for two starts last year – victories in a 1 3/8-mile maiden special weight race at Tampa Bay Downs on turf and an optional claiming allowance at Keeneland at 1 ½ miles on turf.
Sean Levey, a multiple Group 1 stakes-winning jockey in Europe who is wintering at Gulfstream, has the call on McLovin.
Ferro Family Trust and partners’ F Five, a promising son of Not This Time, won a 1 5/8-mile optional claiming allowance on turf at Ellis Park before finishing off the board in the River City (G3) at Churchill last time out. The Brian Lynch-trained 4-year-old gelding, who has been assigned 121 pounds, will be ridden Saturday by Luis Saez.
Repole Stable, trainer Todd Pletcher and Jake Pletcher’s Six Minus, Arindel’s Knox and trainer Roger Attfield’s Twowaycrossing round out the field.
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