Saratoga Race Course Notes - July 19
By NYRA Press Office | 07/19/2013 03:09 PM ET
Eblouissante confirmed for Saturday’s G3 Shuvee
Watsdachances tunes up for G2 Lake George; Brown looking forward to another good meet
Midnight Watch to make stakes debut in G2 Lake George
Freedom Child aiming for G2 Jim Dandy
Kimmel considering either G2 Jim Dandy or Curlin for Bad Hombre
Contessa regrouping with G2 Hall of Fame contender Rydilluc
Trainer John Shirreffs on Friday confirmed that Eblouissante, a 4-year-old half-sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, will compete in Saturday’s Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap instead of an optional claimer that was scheduled to be contested on Monday.
The Shuvee, her first start since January, will be Eblouissante’s stakes debut after going 2-for-2 to launch her career. Her competition is expected to include Grade 2 La Troienne winner Authenticity, Iowa Distaff winner Flashy American, and Mariensky overnight stakes winner Royal Lahaina.
“[The Shuvee is] very tough,” said Shirreffs. “You see her numbers compared to those of some of the other fillies, and she’s going to really have to step up her game. We’ll see. It’s been a long time, and it’s a change in surfaces from what she’s been running on.”
Because of her relation to 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta, expectations are high for Eblouissante. Shirreffs, however, hopes Eblouissante, a daughter of Bernardini and Vertigineux, is evaluated on her own merits.
“I try to avoid that kind of pressure,” said Shirreffs. “As we all know, each horse has to prove him or herself.”
Watsdachances had her final tuneup for next week’s Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George with a half-mile breeze in 50.89 seconds over the Saratoga training turf course on Friday for trainer Chad Brown.
The 3-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Diamond Green is winless in two starts this year after winning two of three starts since joining Brown last year upon her arrival in the United States.
“She’s has been training well lately,” Brown said. “She has never trained bad this year, but the last two weeks she has trained particularly well, as well as I’ve ever seen her train. I was expecting her to train well today, and it was really just the final bit of confidence [for me] to enter.”
The 1 1/16-mile Lake George for fillies will be run on Wednesday, July 24.
A 34-year-old native of nearby Mechanicville, N.Y., Brown finished second in last year’s Saratoga trainer standings with 29 wins, seven behind three-time defending champion Todd Pletcher. It was the second straight runner-up finish for Brown, who had 22 wins in 2011.
It has been a steady progression for Brown, who won 17 races at Saratoga in 2010 and captured his first career Grade 1 here in 2011 with Zagora in the Diana. A Spa training title is one achievement the protégé of late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel would eventually like to add to his resume.
“It’d be something nice someday,” he said. “At the end of the day, we don’t really make it the centerpiece of our business we’re running here at the barn, although it would be very nice if someday it could happen. Not only for me, but more for my clients and my staff; they work so hard. My clients have a lot of trust in me and supply me with a lot of nice horses. I’m lucky.
“We’re just going to take it a day at a time. It’s a long meet, and it’s gotten longer, and it’s gotten harder. We just have to focus every day on preparing the horses as well as you can in the mornings, and putting them in the right races in the afternoon. You also need some racing luck. You need weather to go your way. We have a lot of grass horses. There’s a lot of different moving parts to the machine at Saratoga. We’re just trying to do the best we can to prepare for it.”
Darley Stable’s fast and promising homebred Midnight Watch, front-running winner of back-to-back turf races this spring at Belmont Park, will make her stakes debut Wednesday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George for 3-year-old fillies.
Midnight Watch made a poor debut at Gulfstream Park in February, breaking slowly, rushing up to the leaders and then fading to 11th. Given three months off by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Midnight Watch returned to the races May 5 and was a front-running winner of a 1 1/16-mile maiden race. In her first allowance start, she led by as many as five lengths and held on to win by 1 ½ lengths after running greenly through the stretch.
The Beyer Speed Figures came back 84 and 83, respectively, for the two victories.
“She did get good figures on those two races, and she’s fast and Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] suits her well, so he’ll ride her,” McLaughlin said of Midnight Watch, by Stormy Atlantic out of an Unbridled mare. “So, they’ll have to catch us. She’s kind of a run-off type, but she’s doing so well. She’s fast and wants to go. Hopefully, somebody doesn’t go with us, and we go too fast. She’s a big, strong filly, and we’re high on her.”
Freedom Child, electrifying 13 ¼-length winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan, is being pointed toward his first start since the Belmont Stakes in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 27.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, the son of Malibu Moon raced with the pace in the 1 ½-mile Belmont before fading to finish 13th behind winner Palace Malice. Trainer Tom Albertrani said Friday morning he likes the way Freedom Child has bounced back and hasn’t lost any confidence in the colt.
“He was on the front end; they were going pretty quick,” Albertrani said. “I thought maybe the first part of the race might have been a little quick for him, but Palace Malice was only a length behind us and he went on and won; either that or maybe our horse didn’t want to go that far. He kind of lasted for a good mile and an eighth before he faded.
“As well as he ran in the Peter Pan, if he comes back and runs that similar race, he’s going to be right back where he was. I can’t make much out of the Belmont, really. I’m not going to discredit him off of that race. The way he’s been working since came back from the Belmont, I’ve got a lot of confidence in the horse.”
Bad Hombre, 2 ¼-length winner of a one-mile, first-level allowance last time out, will step up to stakes company next time out, either in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy or the $100,000 Curlin the previous day, said trainer John Kimmel.
Both races are 1 1/8 miles and serve as preps for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 24.
The 3-year-old Sky Mesa colt was winless in four starts last year, including a fourth-place finish in his debut at Saratoga last summer behind the likes of eventual Grade 1 winner Violence, Titletown Five and 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Fourth in two turf starts at Gulfstream Park during the winter, Bad Hombre really started to come into his own on his return to New York and the dirt, said Kimmel.
“He matured – he increased his work habits and he started breezing real good,” said Kimmel of the Summit Thoroughbreds color-bearer. “He ran two good races on the grass, and once we took him off, he really started running well. He wasn’t so afraid of being around horses, he’s taking kickback, and he’s made a good move forward.”
A rallying second facing older horses going 6 ½ furlongs on April 13 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Bad Hombre broke his maiden over a sloppy, sealed Belmont Park track, and earned a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure when second against older horses in an optional claimer on June 8, both at seven furlongs.
“I think the [1 1/8 miles] suits him,” said Kimmel. “When I spoke with [jockey Junior Alvarado], I said the options at Saratoga are seven-eighths or 1 1/8 miles, and Junior said he thought 1 1/8 miles was better for him. He gets good tactical position, and that might serve him well in a race like this.”
Coming off a career-worst finish over soft turf in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby, Rydilluc is being pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes on August 9 at Saratoga.
“That’s my goal race,” trainer Gary Contessa said Friday morning. “He’s going to tell me if he can do it or not, but he’s back training. He’s doing great.”
A 3-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, Rydilluc won four consecutive races on grass, including the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on March 3 at Gulfstream Park and the inaugural $500,000 Penn Mile on June 1 at Penn National.
In the Virginia Derby on July 13 at Colonial Downs, Rydilluc struggled with the off going to finish in a dead-heat for eighth in a 10-horse field under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado.
“He didn’t handle the soft turf, period. There’s no other excuse,” Contessa said. “We were kind of worried about it from the get-go. The weather was kind of suspect the whole week, but you can’t not do something with the horse just because he’s never done it before; you’ve got to find out. There’s only one way to find out.
“About 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the heavens opened. We had a deluge for about an hour and a half, probably an inch or more of rain. That was the end of that. His body language was wrong from the very beginning. He had no fight when [Edgar] asked him to go.”
Prior to the Virginia Derby, Rydilluc had never been worse than fifth, which came in his career debut last October at Belmont Park. He was fourth, beaten a length and a half as the favorite in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass over Keeneland’s all-weather surface on April 13.
“He’s been training great,” Contessa said. “He usually goes out in the first set, 5:30-6 o'clock in the morning on the main track. He's looking great. Fantastic.”