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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Songbird, the nation’s leading 3-year-old filly, had her first gallop over Saratoga’s main track on Friday morning. The undefeated daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, who is eyeing her ninth career win in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez.
Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird’s Hall of Fame trainer, was on hand for the 7 a.m. training session, which also included the filly standing in the starting gate and visiting the paddock before the gallop. Songbird, who is owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, was well-behaved in the gate, inquisitive in the paddock, and appeared comfortable in her gallop.
Back at the barn, after Hollendorfer was satisfied his filly had cooled out to his liking, he spoke with the media and remarked he was happy with what he saw from his Eclipse Award champion.
“She had a good trip over the track,” said Hollendorfer, who arrived from California a day earlier. “She tested [Rodriguez] a little bit out there; she got a little tough with him the second time around, so that was good – she likes the track.”
When Hollendorfer was asked if there was pressure associated with training a horse with an unblemished record, he was quick to respond with a sly grin, “No, the pressure is if you don’t have one.”
In the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks, Songbird drew post 1 in the field of five. It’s an assignment that she and jockey Mike Smith has had twice before; in her career debut last July at Del Mar and in this year’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.
“She’s been in the one-hole a couple of different times and it didn’t seem to bother her, so I’m not worried about that,” Hollendorfer said.
The 70-year-old trainer has had success in the past when he has shipped cross-country to run in Grade 1’s at Saratoga. The Hollendorfer-trained Blind Luck won the 2010 Alabama and his Sweet Lulu was victorious in the 2013 Test.
“It’s always nice to be at a big meet like Saratoga,” Hollendorfer commented. “We’re having our big summer meet out at Del Mar and that is important to us, too. But it’s important to have a horse come here and run, and if you can do well here, I think that is well-regarded in the racing community.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Stradivari suffered a lateral condylar fracture of his right front ankle while training Friday morning on Saratoga’s main track and is being evaluated at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Saratoga for possible surgery. Pletcher said the sesamoid bones are intact.
Stradivari, who finished fourth in the Grade 1 Preakness and fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont last out, was injured near the mile pole while breezing with Belmont-runner up and stablemate Destin. Pletcher said they breezed five-eighths of a mile in 1:00.87 before the injury.
“He took a funny step and [exercise rider] Patti [Krotenko] pulled him up quickly,” Pletcher said. “We’re just waiting to get a couple of opinions on the X-rays and hopefully do surgery.”
Destin came out of the breeze in good order and is being pointed toward the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 30. The Giant’s Causeway colt is looking for his first victory since posting wins in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.
Mo d’Amour, the 3-year-old daughter of last year’s leading freshman sire Uncle Mo, is set to take on Songbird in Sunday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. After finishing fourth last out in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park on July 2, the King of Prussia Stable filly will be looking for her first graded stakes victory in her fifth start.
“She seems like she’s doing well,” Pletcher said. “She’s a stakes winner, she’s not Grade 1-placed but we felt like it was an opportunity for her to get Grade 1 black type. It’s a short field and she’s doing well so we decided to take a crack at it.”
Off the Tracks, the Mother Goose winner, could make her second straight Grade 1 start in the Test on August 6. The 3-year-old bay filly breezed four furlongs in 49.45 seconds on the main track on Friday.
“Right now, we are considering the Test,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how this weekend goes and that could influence what we do next.”
Unraced since his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby May 7, Shadwell Stable’s multiple Grade 2 winner Mohaymen breezed four furlongs Friday morning in anticipation of his next start in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 30.
Under exercise rider Rob Massey, the sophomore son of Tapit worked in 47.60 seconds over the synthetic surface at the private Greentree Training Facility behind Saratoga’s main track.
It was the fifth work in Saratoga for Mohaymen, who had breezed over the main track each of the past two weeks, including a five-furlong move in 1:00.79 July 15.
“He worked great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s worked on both but we decided to go back here because it’s quieter and there’s no one out there. He’s worked well there before so we decided to work there. He’s fit and doing great and ready to go.”
Mohaymen suffered his first career loss when fourth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby April 2 prior to a closing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, both behind Nyquist. From there he was sent to the farm for a checkup and brief freshening before rejoining McLaughlin’s stable.
“He’s pretty much stayed the same. He’s a light-framed horse but he’s a May foal so the chances are he’ll continue to mature and fill out over time,” McLaughlin said. “He hasn’t missed a beat. I’m not worried about the time [between races]. He went home for three weeks and that was it. He’s doing great.”
The 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy is Saratoga’s traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers August 27. McLaughlin was also considering the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational July 31 at Monmouth Park.
“We’re pointing for the Jim Dandy,” he said. “We’ll stay here and get a prep race here and not have to ship down in the heat and everything else.”
Also among several McLaughlin horses to work at Greentree Friday was Godolphin Racing’s Frosted, clocked in 1:00.60 for five furlongs. It was the third breeze since his record-setting 14 ¼-length romp in the Grade 1 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap June 11.
Another son of Tapit, 4-year-old Frosted is being pointed to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Whitney August 6.
“Frosted worked well and will work one more time for the Whitney. He’s doing fabulous. As a racing fan, [the Met Mile] was unbelievable. Not only to be the trainer but as a racing fan you don’t see races like that very often,” McLaughlin said. “He might not duplicate that number or that race again, but we don’t think he has to to win the next one or two. If he does, great, but we don’t think he has to. We just hope he runs a similar race. I doubt that he can do that again ever in his life.”
Godolphin’s 3-year-old filly Kareena, winner of the Jersey Girl Stakes June 10 at Belmont Park, worked four furlongs in 47.40 seconds Friday at Greentree. She will make her graded stakes debut in the Grade 1 Test August 6.
“She’s doing fabulous,” McLaughlin said.
Mark Casse worked several of his Grade 1 stakes stars Friday morning, as Tepin and World Approval worked on the Oklahoma turf course within minutes of each other, shortly after Noble Bird went a sharp half-mile on the main track.
Shortly before 10:00 a.m., champion turf mare Tepin went a typically easy four furlongs in 50.42 seconds, galloping out five-eighths in 1:04 beneath regular rider Julien Leparoux. Casse reported that Tepin, who won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot to stretch her stakes-winning streak to seven, will take on the boys once again in the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, a newly-minted Grade 1 at one mile on turf August 13.
“The plan is to run Tepin in the Fourstardave and Catch a Glimpse in the Lake Placid,” said Casse. “I was kind of struggling with how we were going to get Tepin to the Woodbine Mile.”
Catch a Glimpse, who like Tepin is a perfect 5-for-5 this year after her front-running triumph in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, is being pointed to the Grade 2, $300,000 Lake Placid on Sunday, August 21.
“The only thing that would keep me from running Catch a Glimpse here is how she handles the crowd,” explained Casse. “This is a very unique place because the crowd gets so close to you, and some horses can’t handle it. She’s not like Tepin – Tepin doesn’t care about anything.”
Moments after Tepin worked, United Nations winner World Approval turned in a brisk half-mile workout under Florent Geroux, going in 48.72 seconds, the fastest of 25 turf workouts at the distance. The grey gelding galloped out in 1:01 for five furlongs. “That was a big work for him,” Casse noted. “Florent said he’s a funny kind of horse to ride – the faster he goes, the lower his head gets. He’ll run in the Arlington Million if all goes well, but if we decide to miss that race he could go in the Sword Dancer. His new strategy, staying close to the pace, has made him more effective; he has a quick turn of speed.”
Over on the main track, Noble Bird breezed four furlongs in a sharp 47.66 seconds, the second-fastest of 47 works at the distance behind the Casse-trained Diva Express, who went in 47.31. The move had Casse thinking big with the 5-year-old horse, who was scratched from the Suburban on July 9. “That was as good as I’ve ever seen Noble Bird work this morning,” noted Casse. “He went 47, and looking at him, I thought he went in 50, so he may have earned himself a ticket to the Whitney. We’ll see how he comes out of it. He just wasn’t himself the morning of the Suburban. He’s a very aggressive horse and we just couldn’t get him to go, but when the real Noble Bird shows up, he can run with anyone”
Meanwhile Mark’s son, Norm Casse, said that Bashford Manor winner Classic Empire and Debutante winner Pretty City Dancer are being pointed respectively to the Grade 1 Hopeful and Spinaway on the final weekend at Saratoga.
“As of right now, that’s the plan,” he said.
Both worked four furlongs this morning at Churchill Downs, with Classic Empire going in a bullet 46.40 seconds.
Grade 3 winner Recepta goes after her first Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana, a race her trainer, Jimmy Toner, has won three times over his lengthy career.
Toner’s most recent Diana victory came in 2012 with Winter Memories, 14 years after he won with the filly’s dam, Memories of Silver. In between, Toner captured the 2004 edition with Soaring Softly.
All three of Toner’s previous Diana winners were bred or co-bred by longtime owner John Phillips. The same goes for Recepta, a 5-year-old Speightstown mare co-owned by Phillips and Pam Gartin.
“You don’t realize it. You go to work every day and do your stuff, take care of this, take care of that. I was reading and saw Billy Mott won the race four times and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty neat. Four times,'” Toner said. “Then I got to looking and said, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve won it three times. That’s not bad.’ It’d be nice if we could do it again.”
Recepta won the De La Rose last summer in her only previous try over the Saratoga turf. She went on to win the Grade 3 Noble Damsel in her next start and has been winless since, finishing second by a head in the Grade 1 Matriarch last fall and again by 2 ¾ lengths in the Grade 1 Just a Game June 11, her most recent effort.
“The last time she was just second-best, but she came out of it good and we’re ready to go. She couldn’t be doing any better. She’s nice, good, fresh, happy. We’re looking forward to running,” Toner said. “I just backed up on her this week. She’s been running hard and it’s hot but she’s really happy. She’s sharp.”
Toner said Phillips’ 3-year-old homebred filly Time and Motion, most recently second behind Catch a Glimpse in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational July 9, is doing well and will make her next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Maker’s Mark Lake Placid August 21.
“She came out of her last race super. She ran a great race that day; we got beat by a champion. There’s no disgrace in that,” Toner said. “We’re looking forward to trying her again in the Lake Placid.”
Earlier this year, Time and Motion won the Memories of Silver and Wonder Again, both stakes named for Grade 1 winners Toner trained for Phillips.
“We’ve been lucky this year,” he said. “It’s been a pretty special year for us so far.”
Trainer Tom Morley said Dancin Renee Stakes winner Haveyougoneaway will be entered in the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss July 27, with her status as a starter to be decided after entries are drawn on Saturday.
Haveyougoneaway, a 5-year-old New York-bred, was making her second start for Morley and Sequel Racing when she won the state-bred Dancin Renee on July 3 at Belmont Park. The daughter of Congrats was privately bought in April by Becky Thomas of Sequel Racing and partners with the idea of selling her as a broodmare prospect after her racing career is completed. Until coming to New York in the spring, Haveyougoneaway raced on the Southwest circuit, where she was a multiple stakes winner.
“Obviously, later in the meet there is the Union Avenue, which is against New York-breds,” Morley said, “but she is a filly who probably is talented enough to get a graded stakes win or graded stakes placing, and that would add a lot of value to her [as a broodmare]. That was the game plan after her last race, to try to find that black-type. Whether this is the right spot, we’ll see after entries.”
Morley said the post draw, competition, and pace scenario will all play a role in determining if he will run Haveyougoneaway, who is a closer, in the six-furlong Honorable Miss.
“The pace scenario would be very important to us,” he said. “She needs plenty of pace in the race to set up for her. If I don’t think we can hit the board, I’m not going to turn down the opportunity of being the chalk in the Union Avenue.”
The horses the racing office has listed as probable to run in the Honorable Miss are Bar of Gold, Disco Chick, Paulassilverlining and Sarah Sis. Diva Express, La Madrina and Stonetastic are possible starters.
A wide-open field of turf sprinters will go postward Monday for the $100,000 Lucky Coin at 5 ½ furlongs, the final stakes of Opening Weekend presented by NYRA Bets.
Trainer Bruce Brown has entered the duo of Night Officer and Spring to the Sky, who drew post positions 3 and 4, respectively. Night Officer most recently finished fourth in the Jim McKay on May 20 at Pimlico, while Spring to the Sky, second in the Jim McKay, went on to finish second in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National and most recently took an optional claimer on July 4 at Belmont Park.
Night Officer will be ridden by Manny Franco while Spring to the Sky will have the services of Mike Luzzi.
Expected to receive considerable support is the Wesley Ward-trained Undrafted, the multiple graded stakes winner who most recently finished sixth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. A 6-year-old gelded son of Purim, Undrafted was a rousing last-to-first winner of the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland in his only other start of the year.
Undrafted drew post position 12 and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Representing Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will be multiple graded stakes winner Long On Value, seeking his first victory since the Grade 3 Canadian Turf in 2015 at Gulfstream Park. The 5-year-old has made two stakes appearance at the Spa, finishing sixth in the 2013 Grade 1 Hopeful and fourth in 2014’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame.
Joel Rosario rides from post position 9.
Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Cyclogenisis, Sandy’z Slew, Pool Winner, Beantown Saint, Doctor J Dub, Successful Native, and Choctaw Chuck.
Weekend Hideaway and also-eligible All Star Red were entered Main Track Only.
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