Silver Max Seeks to Drop Hammer on Bernard Baruch Foes
By John Scheinman | 08/28/2013 06:30 PM ET
For four months last year, no 3-year-old turf horse could come close to touching Silver Max. In one race after another, the Dale Romans-trained son of Badge of Silver flaunted a devastating combination of high speed and bottomless stamina while winning five stakes races, three of them graded, gate-to-wire by open lengths.
On Saturday, Silver Max makes his Saratoga Race Course debut as he takes on six others in the 55th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile grass race for 3-year-olds and up.
Silver Max raced 10 times in 2012 and won seven of them, with his biggest scores coming in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs and the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland.
His form tailed off at the end of the year, when he was fifth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 Secretariat and ninth against older horses in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile.
Slow to regain his form this year, Silver Max finished off the board in his first two starts before winning an off-the-turf stakes by 9 ½ lengths on June 1 at Churchill. Romans experimented further on dirt after that - a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows - and then returned Silver Max to the grass.
On July 28, Silver Max looked like his old self, blasting to the lead in the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth Park and drawing off to win by 5 ¾ lengths. The performance produced his career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102 and has Romans brimming with confidence heading into the Bernard Baruch.
"I think he's back, and he'll end up being one of the best turf horses in the country when the year is done," Romans said of Silver Max, the 9-5 favorite on the morning line, who drew the outside post in the field of seven. "He had the makings of it last year. I squeezed the lemon a little bit, and he needed a freshener. He got it, and he's doing a lot better."
Another entrant looking to return to top form is Turallure, a 6-year-old son of Wando, who won the Bernard Baruch by 2 ¼ lengths in 2011.
Beaten by a nose by long-shot Court Vision in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile that year, Turallure, 6-1 on the morning line, endured a winless 2012 and so far has been blanked this year. His second-place finish in a high-quality $100,000 optional claimer on July 24, as well as his physical appearance, have trainer Charles LoPresti feeling good about his chances.
"That's the way he got when he got really good, and that's the way he got when he got to the Breeders' Cup," LoPresti said, admiring the well-muscled Turallure as he stood on an EquiVibe vibration therapy machine outside his barn. "He looks really good, this horse right now. He's going to run a really big race, I think.
"Like Wise Dan, when you get to the fall of the year, mid-summer and the fall, for whatever reason these horses get good," he added. "I think Saratoga really agrees with this horse, because of the atmosphere, the barn area, going to the turf to breeze. We go to Keeneland, and it's really quiet there, and he gets in the thick of all this [at Saratoga] and does good."
Like Turallure, the other runners in the field prefer to come from off the pace, which gives a sizable advantage to Silver Max. One entrant using new tactics lately has been long shot Paris Vegas, who has raced close up in his past two starts.
In his most recent outing, the same race Turallure exits, Paris Vegas stayed within 1 ½ lengths the entire way and then finished fourth, beaten by just three-quarters of a length under first-time rider Rosie Napravnik, who retains the mount.
"We tried so much to take him back last year, we took him back so far, and he'd make his run, but he was too far back," trainer Tom Voss said. "We've kept him closer this year, and he's done much better. He's making his run, but they're all getting first run on him. At least now he's in position to make his run. We're here; we're going to take a shot at it. He's doing so good, and he runs well here."
Paris Vegas, 12-1 on the morning line, finished seventh in the 2011 Bernard Baruch.
Za Approval, 3-1, a two-time graded stakes winner for trainer Christophe Clement, enters off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on June 29 at Betfair Hollywood Park. This will be the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper's first try at a mile and an eighth.
Tetradrachm, 7-2, enters off a strong three-length victory in a $100,000 optional claimer on August 3 in his first run for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The son of Badge of Silver is 3-for-5 at the Bernard Baruch distance.
Grade 1 winner Willyconker, 20-1, recently fifth in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap for trainer Eric Guillot, and So Long George, 8-1, complete the field. So Long George won the Grade 2 Nijinsky by three-quarters of a length in his most recent start, July 21, at Woodbine.
The field for the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap: