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Mike previews the 2022 Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots. Love Reigns looms large for trainer Wesley Ward, who has won 4 of the last 7 runnings of this race, but is there a long shot waiting in the wings? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Trainer Wesley Ward, who has won four of the seven runnings of Sunday’s $150,000 Bolton Landing, will have two chances to extend his record when saddling Stonestreet Stables’ Love Reigns and No Kay Never in the 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint for juvenile fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
Love Reigns, an Irish-bred daughter of U S Navy Flag, graduated by 9 3/4-lengths in her April debut sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs over the Keeneland turf ahead of a close fourth last out in the Group 2 Queen Mary on June 15 at Royal Ascot.
Ward said Love Reigns needed time to recuperate after her overseas venture in a race won by the Karl Burke-trained Dramatised, who exited that effort to finish fifth Thursday morning in the Group 2 Lowther at York.
“She ran good, but she got a little sick after the race and missed a little bit of time,” Ward said. “You never know with 2-year-olds when they get sick if they’re going to come back. She had some nice works going into the race at Ascot, but you want everything to go perfect and I don’t know if it had any impact or not. You end up searching for why she didn’t run as well as she did in the maiden race, but then again it is Royal Ascot and you can’t take anything away from the filly that won because she ran phenomenal.”
Ward said Love Reigns has thrived at Saratoga where she has now breezed four times over the Oklahoma training turf, including a half-mile effort in 48.66 on August 12.
“She’s doing great,” Ward said. “She’s had no hiccups since Ascot and we’re looking forward to getting her back.”
The well-bred Love Reigns, out of the Pivotal mare Humble and Proud, is a half-sister to 2018 Grade 1 Sword Dancer champ Glorious Empire, by Holy Roman Emperor.
While Ward does not expect Love Reigns to stretch out to 12 furlongs, he said the talented bay could be effective at extended one-turn distances.
“She’s got a great mind. I’m hopeful that she can get a little further,” Ward said. “That one [Glorious Empire] is by a sire that kicks on a little further, where ours is by one that’s more speed oriented. I would look forward to going a little further with her down the road.”
Ward will also saddle No Kay Never, an Irish-bred daughter of No Nay Never, who graduated gate-to-wire against the boys on May 30 at Horseshoe Indianapolis sprinting five-furlongs over good going.
“She’s kind of a small filly but in the morning she’s an overachiever and shows really nice works,” Ward said. “We took her to Indiana on the grass and she just bounced right out of there and kicked right on. She did everything really professional like she always does. And then we gave her a little time. She’s a real hard trying little filly and bred real well.”
Out of the Acclamation mare Sutton Veny, No Kay Never is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner True Valour.
Although she went post-to-post on debut, Ward said he would expect a more patient trip this time around.
“She’ll have a different tactic where she’ll come from behind and make a big charge at them,” said Ward.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pilot Love Reigns from post 2, while Tyler Gaffalione will guide No Kay Never from post 3.
Grand Oak, by Speightstown, finished 18th in the Group 2 Queen Mary for trainer Rusty Arnold. The Royal Ascot effort came on the heels of a second-out maiden score sprinting five-furlongs over the Churchill Downs turf on May 20 in her grass debut.
Now trained by Graham Motion for Herringswell Racing Club, Grand Oak will make her Saratoga debut from post 5 under Manny Franco.
Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable, Steven Schoenfeld and Smart Choice Stable’s Sweet Harmony is perfect through two starts at Monmouth Park for trainer John Terranova.
The Bayern dark bay graduated on the main track sprinting 4 1/2-furlongs over next-out maiden winner Girl Trouble. She followed with a prominent score in the five-furlong Colleen while making her grass debut on July 24 at Monmouth Park.
Bred in Kentucky by Kaleem Shah, Sweet Harmony is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed Marino Marini mare Sweet Marini.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the call from post 9.
Rounding out the field are stakes-placed Motown Mischief [post 10, Jose Ortiz] for trainer Timothy Hamm; Sicilian Grandma [post 1, Eric Cancel], who goes first off the claim from a maiden score for trainer Tom Morley; debut maiden winner Ridifined [post 7, John Velazquez] for conditioner Anthony Dutrow; Danse Macabre [post 8, Luis Saez], who graduated at second asking for conditioner Kelsey Danner; Spa maiden graduate Aztec Nights [post 6, Ricardo Santana, Jr.] for trainer Wayne Catalano; and the Christophe Clement-trained maiden winner Kerry [post 4, Joel Rosario], who finished off-the-board as the mutuel favorite last out in the Colleen.
The Bolton Landing is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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