Saratoga Race Course Notes - August 9
By NYRA Press Office | 08/09/2013 05:05 PM ET
Balance the Books
New trainers lighting up board at Spa
Jockey Luzzi nearing return
Fields taking shape for upcoming stakes
G3 Saranac on September 1 an option for Balance the Books, Rydilluc
Funfair, Jewel of a Cat, Mystic Love vie in Coronation Cup; Hardened Wildcat tops field for Kid Russell
Borel autograph signing at Museum of Racing on Saturday
The trainers at the top of the Saratoga Race Course leader board are perennials in that space - Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown and Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
The 150th anniversary meet that began July 19, however, has witnessed a parade of trainers winning at Saratoga for the first time.
Entering today's card, 16 different trainers had won here for the first time, topped by Rodolfo Romero, whose 3-year-old filly Galiana lit up the tote board July 21, paying $141.50 for a $2 win wager as the longest shot in a field of 12.
Galiana came back for an encore August 8 and won again for Romero in an optional claimer, paying $17.00.
For trainers who win for the first time at Saratoga, it can be a magical experience. After making just nine starts in her first two years as a trainer, Jena Antonucci came to Saratoga for the first time in 2012 with five horses and failed to win at the meet. This year, she markedly upgraded her stock and on Wednesday scored when filly Wisdom of Oz broke her maiden at odds of 27-1.
"This is obviously the hardest meet in the world," Antonucci said. "It's a special experience and a special place to visit, and obviously a place to show our work off. We weren't expecting [Wisdom of Oz] to get it done, but she broke through and got it done. She wasn't out of the clouds. She ran a great fourth for us down at Belmont. We tried her on the turf because we wanted to take a peek and she didn't like it, so we put her back on dirt. She was ready."
David Cannizzo, a former assistant to Dale Romans who also worked for Scott Lake and Bruce Levine, broke his Saratoga maiden on August 2, when Sol the Freud scored by 3 ¼ lengths in a maiden special weight race.
"It's like a weight off your back," Cannizzo said. "I had a couple tough beats earlier in the meet, and it was good to get one done. Definitely. I've got a pretty strong client base with a few owners. It helps. It gets you out there, especially here where everyone can see it happen."
On Thursday, three of the 10 races were taken by trainers winning at Saratoga for the first time - Kenyon Furlong (race 2, Con Gee, $10.40), Kathleen O'Connell (race 6, Kanturk Kid, $12) and Osvaldo Rojas (race 7, E Z Passer, $16.30).
The other first-time winners are Michael Dilger, whose Wired Bryan won the Grade 2 Sanford on July 21, Tom Morley, Danny Gargan, and Niall Saville, along with Ollie Figgins (who took the Grade 2 Honorable Miss with Dance to Bristol), Michael Wilson, Russell Cash, Andrew Mitchell, Diane Frisco, and Luis Cabrera.
"It was a very special day for us, for sure," said Dilger. "A special day. He's a very straightforward horse and we're very lucky to have such a nice horse so soon after starting. It's a dream start, you know. First runner ever at Saratoga, it's in a graded stake, first runner in a graded stake, and he wins. It's the kind of stuff you guys write about."
Jockey Mike Luzzi is nearing a return to racing, perhaps as early as next week, the 43-year-old rider said Friday morning.
Luzzi, who last rode on May 11, began exercising horses on Monday at Saratoga, his first time in the irons since having surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
"I'm going to keep going, keep getting on horses, keep going to therapy. If I get something to ride, I think I'm ready," Luzzi said. "The doctor says I am and the therapist says I am, but I've got to say I am, and I think I am.
"I plan on riding, maybe even as soon as next week. We're going to put my name on the overnight saying that we're back in business. Not that I'll be able to ride five a day right away, but I'll ease back into it and let them know we're here."
A winner of 3,381 races and nearly $106 million in purses since beginning his career in 1988, Luzzi had surgery performed on May 15 in Albany by Dr. Richard Alfred, who also operated when Luzzi broke his leg at Saratoga in 2004.
Though he rode five races on May 11, Luzzi was hurt when he banged his shoulder on the starting gate a day earlier aboard Lady On The Run, who finished third in the No Reason Stakes.
"The bicep ripped off the bone, so they cut a hole in the bone and put it back up through and re-attached it," Luzzi said. "I guess it's a common surgery."
Luzzi, who still attends therapy three days a week, began his rehabilitation on Long Island before heading north to continue his recovery at LaMarco Physical Therapy in Ballston Spa, where recently inducted Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and thoroughbred owner Bill Parcells also was being treated following a shoulder replacement.
"Bill Parcells was my partner," Luzzi said. "He's cool. I got a lot of inspiration from him. He was coaching me. I can see why he's in the Hall of Fame. He made me feel like I was invincible. That helped, and here I am."
Luzzi has climbed aboard horses for trainers such as Bruce Levine, Lisa Lewis and Leah Gyarmati. He has 28 winners from 234 mounts in 2013, including Incognito for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"I know it's tough," Luzzi said. "The timing's not great but, hopefully, I can get something going. I had some business before I got hurt. [Being back] has been great, so we'll see what happens."
Fields are shaping up for next week's stakes, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. The $150,000 West Point Presented by Trustco Bank on August 15 is expected to draw defending West Point champion Lubash, winner of the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in May; Hangover Kid, third in the Grade 1 United Nations in his most recent start July 6; Hear the Footsteps, who is riding a three-race win streak; Jonrah, winner of a Saratoga optional claiming allowance on August 5; Kingston Stakes runner-up Kharafa; Mr. Vegas, winner of the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap in 2012 making just his second start this year; and Grade 3 winner Street Game.
Aiming for the $150,000 Yaddo next Friday are Grade 1 winner Dayatthespa, most recently second in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap on June 29 at Monmouth Park; Inimitable Romanee, runner-up in the On the Bus Stakes at Saratoga on opening day, July 19; Love Stanza Chance, making his stakes debut; and Wholelottashakin.
Next Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational is expected to draw a deep field including Grade 1 Man o' War winner Boisterous; Grade 1 United Nations Handicap winner Big Blue Kitten, and Al Khali, who was second in the race last year and third in the 2011 and 2010 editions. Also expected for the 1 ½-mile turf race are Exclusive Strike, third in the Man o' War; Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup Stakes hero London Lane; European import Nutello; multiple graded stakes winner Optimizer, most recently fifth in the Man o' War; Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay winner Tannery; Man o' War runner-up Twilight Eclipse, and Tahoe Lake.
Also next Saturday, dual Grade 1 winner Princess of Sylmar is on target to head the field for the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles. Likely as well are Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and Grade 3 Iowa Oaks winner Fiftyshadesofhay; the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Carnival Court, Coconut Shrimp, and Broom Dance stakes winner Montana Native. Tell a Great Story and White Rose are questionable.
On Sunday, Broken Spell, Caroline Thomas, Clearbrook, Concise and Watsdachances are expected to contest tthe Grade 2, $200,000 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid, with Miss Lamour and Nellie Cashman also possible.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Saranac on the turf is under consideration for two-time stakes winners Rydilluc and Balance the Books, who were early scratches from today's National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds, which was taken off the grass.
Trainer Chad Brown said that Balance the Books would likely run in the 1 1/8-mile Saranac on September 1, while trainer Gary Contessa said he would decide between the Saranac and the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes on August 17 at Arlington Park.
"I'm only going to run this horse on the turf from now on," said Brown of Balance the Books, who broke his maiden last year by winning the Grade 2 With Anticipation on the Saratoga grass. "I'm not interested in running on any other surface."
Contessa said he will discuss future plans with Rydilluc's owners.
"We'll look at the Secretariat in Chicago, and our Plan B will be the Saranac right here," he said. "We'll look at the long-range [weather] forecast in Chicago and see what they've got coming. I'll make a decision in the next couple days."
Rydilluc went undefeated in his first four turf starts, including victories in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park along with the inaugural Penn Mile in June, before finishing eighth in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby.
Stakes winners Funfair, Jewel of a Cat and Mystic Love go after their first Saratoga victory in the $100,000 Coronation Cup, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies on the Mellon turf on Monday's card.
Also on Monday's card is the $100,000 Kid Russell, in which Hardened Wildcat is the 2-1 favorite over Strapping Groom (5-2) and five others in the 6 1/2-furlong race.
A field of nine was entered for the Coronation Cup, with Magical Moon the 7-5 favorite over Lignite (7-2). I'm Mom's Favorite, Pow Wow Wow and Currency Union for main track only.
Funfair, winner of the $60,000 Colleen Stakes last August at Monmouth Park, returned from an 8 ½-month layoff to run fourth in the $60,000 Crank It Up Stakes at Monmouth on June 15 in her lone start this year for trainer Christophe Clement. Jose Lezcano will ride from post 4.
Mystic Love closed her juvenile season by winning the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes in December at Gulfstream Park, but is winless in two starts this year, most recently fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in an allowance in April at Pimlico Race Course. Mystic Love will break from post 1 with regular rider Elvis Trujillo aboard.
Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel will sign autographs at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Museum lobby. Autographs are $15 each and proceeds will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Borel will be available to autograph his 2013 Hall of Fame poster, which was commissioned exclusively for the Museum by renowned artist Greg Montgomery. The posters, regularly priced at $30, will be available for $15 Saturday only.
Borel, who has won more than 5,000 career races, including three editions of the Kentucky Derby, was inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday.