Talented field awaits The Lumber Guy in G1 Vosburgh
By Phil Janack | 09/25/2013 05:11 PM ET
The Lumber Guy
On its 75th anniversary Saturday at Belmont Park, the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational will feature a deep and talented field of eight top sprinters.
A trio of Grade 1 stars, led by defending champion The Lumber Guy, and two others who are graded stakes winners headline the Vosburgh, for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on the main track.
One of six graded stakes, five of them Grade 1, on the Super Saturday card, the Vosburgh is part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge Series, earning the winning connections an all-fees-paid trip to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park in November.
Trained by Mike Hushion for owner Barry K. Schwartz, The Lumber Guy is looking to join Sewickley (1989-90), Hall of Famer Dr. Fager (1967-68), and Joe Schenck (1940-41) as the only back-to-back winners of the Vosburgh.
His foes include Grade 1 winners Justin Phillip and Strapping Groom, multiple graded stakes winner Forty Tales, the only 3-year-old in the field, and Grade 2 winner Bahamian Squall.
"It's going to take a really good horse to win it," said Hushion. "This has been the plan that we've taken forward, and aside from the fact he didn't win last time out, so far everything has gone according to plan. We just want to get over there and win, and even more importantly, win the next time."
An imposing 4-year-old son of Grand Slam, The Lumber Guy won the Vosburgh in his first try against older horses last fall, and went on to run second to Trinniberg in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint, also at Santa Anita.
The New York-bred remained in California with trainer Neil Drysdale, finishing seventh in both the Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 2 San Carlos, the latter in February, before returning to Hushion's barn in the spring.
Hushion carefully brought back The Lumber Guy to the races with a steady training regimen, and he finished second in the restricted Chowder's First overnight stakes on August 23 at Saratoga Race Course, his first start in six months.
"I was disappointed in the race," said Hushion. "I thought he had trained well enough to win it and that he would run better. But, going 6 ½ [furlongs] and the fact that he hasn't really run hard for well over three-quarters of a year, I guess I'll have to settle for it with a big, strong, muscular horse like him."
Listed at 8-1 on the morning line, The Lumber Guy will break from post 5 with new rider Mike Luzzi.
Strapping Groom takes a two-race win streak into the Vosburgh for trainer David Jacobson, who co-owns the 6-year-old son of Johannesburg with Drawing Away Stable. He cuts back to six furlongs off a front-running half-length victory in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego on August 31 at Saratoga.
"He came out of the race great," said Jacobson. "He's been training and doing as good as he can. The Forego didn't take anything out of him. If anything, he's improved a little bit."
Claimed for $35,000 in May, Strapping Groom has won three of five starts for Jacobson, including the Kid Russell stakes on August 12 at Saratoga, and the Lion Cavern stakes on June 26 at Belmont Park.
"When you're running in any Grade 1 race anywhere in the country, it's going to be tough. Hopefully, we're going to bring our best game and prevail," Jacobson said. "I just think he's a runner, and we've got him good right now."
Junior Alvarado, aboard in the Forego, rides Strapping Groom, 5-1, from post 4.
Justin Phillip became a Grade 1 winner after rallying to defeat Bahamian Squall in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 4 at Saratoga. He returned in the Forego, where he finished third as the favorite after struggling on the off track.
"It was very nice to see him win [the Vanderbilt]. It was very well-deserved," said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "The track [in the Forego] was really sticky and heavy; that was the main difference. I think you have to throw it out. He's at the top of his game, I'd say. He's just a cool dude."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Justin Phillip, a narrow 3-1 program favorite, from post 2.
A come-from-behind sprinter trained by Todd Pletcher, Forty Tales won three consecutive graded stakes before having his streak snapped in the Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop on August 24 at Saratoga.
With Julien Leparoux subbing for injured Joel Rosario, Forty Tales ran into traffic trouble after racing near the back of the 14-horse field but managed to close for fourth, beaten 5 ½ lengths by stablemate Capo Bastone.
"We were unfortunate that Joel Rosario got hurt right before the race," said Pletcher. "I think Julien rode him well but didn't quite know him, and kind of said that after the race. Knowing him now, he would have probably ridden him a little bit differently. He still tried to close on a track that very few horses were closing on, in a big field. It just didn't quite work out that day. Backing up to six [furlongs], we'll need a strong pace; hopefully, he can just settle in and make his run like he normally does."
Second choice on the morning line at 7-2, Forty Tales drew the rail and will have the services of meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano.
"He seemed to bounce out of the King's Bishop well, and he's training well," said Pletcher. "I would anticipate he'd go back over there and run his 'A' race, and we'll see how that stacks up against the older horses."
Bahamian Squall had raced exclusively in Florida for trainer David Fawkes, winning the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap in July, before coming up two lengths short of Justin Phillip in the Vanderbilt, posting a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 104.
Fawkes brought Bahamian Squall back to Florida following the Vanderbilt, where he has tuned up with a trio of spectacular half-mile works (a bullet 47.93 on September 7, 47.26 on September 14, and 47.28 on September 22) this month at Gulfstream Park.
"This is where he's supposed to be. He's a nice horse, and we're trying to win a Grade 1 with him," said Fawkes. "The timing is right. If everything works out, his next start will be in the Breeders' Cup. Naturally, you want to win, but he needs to [run well in the Vosburgh to go to the Breeders' Cup]. I think he will."
Luis Saez will ride Bahamian Squall, co-third choice in the program at 4-1, from post 3.
Rounding out the Vosburgh field are Palace, who beat The Lumber Guy in the Chowder's First, making his graded stakes debut for trainer Linda Rice; Candyman E, second to Strapping Groom in the Kid Russell; and California shipper Private Zone, who captured the Pirates Bounty stakes at Del Mar last time out.
The field for the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational: