SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Just a month removed from pulling off a 20/1 upset in the Belmont Derby (G1), Bloom Racing Stable’s Henley’s Joy is back for more in Sunday’s inaugural running of the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes.
Stretching out to the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance for the first time, Henley’s Joy tracked the early speed before capitalizing in the stretch with Jose Lezcano aboard. The 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy had won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes in 2018, but a series of less-than-ideal trips over shorter courses had prevented him from earning his first graded score until the Derby.
“He’s doing good,” said trainer Mike Maker. “I think maybe the distance helped him improve. He had some pretty rough trips. Last time, he finally got a clean trip and got to prove it.”
Joining Henley’s Joy from the Maker barn is Kadar, a Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy who began his career in Great Britain before coming stateside for owner Phoenix Thoroughbred. Finishing just a head behind the winner in third while making his stateside debut here on July 18 was enough to convince Maker to give him a shot against the division’s best.
“He got away bad and had a wide trip,” Maker said of Kadar’s attempt going 1 1/16 miles. “I think the added distance will move him forward as well. I think his last race, being his first start in this country, that was a big factor.”
Speaking of European runners, trainer Aidan O’Brien will ship the pair of Mohawk and Cape of Good Hope. The latter finished eighth in the Belmont Derby and is a full brother to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Highland Reel.
“(Highland Reel) was a very good horse and the dam is a very good dam as well,” said O’Brien assistant T.J. Comerford. “(Cape of Good Hope) obviously has to go a long way to be as good as Highland Reel, but he’s had a good start. He won a Derby trial at Epsom and he was running well into the turn in his last race at Belmont.”
Along with Cape of Good Hope, four other Belmont Derby runners will look to turn the tables on Henley’s Joy here. Social Paranoia (second), Rockemperor (third), Digital Age (fourth), and Seismic Wave (fifth) all return with a shot for their respective connections. Rockemperor was made the 7/2 morning line favorite as he makes his second start since coming stateside to the Chad Brown barn.
The full field from the rail out (with morning line odds):
- Henley’s Joy (4/1)
- Social Paranoia (6/1)
- A Thread of Blue (12/1)
- Rockemperor (7/2)
- Eons (15/1)
- Kadar (30/1)
- Cape of Good Hope (15/1)
- Digital Age (9/2)
- Seismic Wave (6/1)
- Mohawk (10/1)
- Flying Scotsman (15/1)
The Saratoga Derby is Leg Two of the newly-created Turf Trinity Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds. Its sister race, the Saratoga Oaks Invitational Stakes, will be held Friday as Leg Two of the Turf Tiara Triple Crown series for 3-year-old fillies.
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