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Graydar returns from six-month layoff in G2 Kelso

By Jon Forbes | 09/26/2013 03:26 PM ET
PHOTO/Eleanor Gusafson

Graydar, a winner of four of five races, will return to the races for the first time in six months when he goes postward on Saturday as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the 33rd running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Invitational Handicap for 3-year-olds and up.

The one-mile Kelso is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile division. It is one of six graded stakes on Saturday's card, which is topped by the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Graydar, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song, led the Grade 1 Donn Handicap from start to finish in February at Gulfstream Park, then came from just off the pace to overhaul Mark Valeski and post a 1 ¾-length triumph in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 30 at the Fair Grounds. Both races were contested around two turns at 1 1/8 miles.

After the New Orleans Handicap, Graydar had an ankle chip removed.

"I think he's very fit," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Graydar for Twin Creeks Racing Stables. "I think we certainly have him fit enough to get the mile. To me he's been training more impressively than he has at any point in his career, but he still has to go over there and run a tough race off a long layoff."

The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic is still in reach for Graydar, whose lone loss of his career was a third-place finish when returning from a five-month layoff in an allowance last September at Belmont.

"What we need to see is how well he runs in the Kelso, how fit he is, how he comes out of it and if we feel like the one-mile prep will set him up to go a mile and a quarter [in the Breeders' Cup Classic]," said Pletcher. "We really won't know any of those things until we see him run and see how he comes out of it."

Graydar will depart from post position 2 with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado in the irons.

Live Oak Plantation's Souper Speedy, who broke his maiden on Super Saturday in 2011 and was second in a Belmont Park allowance in the fall of 2012, seeks his fourth win in five starts over the "Big Sandy." This spring, he won an optional claimer by 10 ¼ lengths in May, and was promoted to the top spot upon the disqualification of his stablemate Big Screen in an off-the-turf edition of the Jaipur in June.

In two starts since the Jaipur, he was fourth in the Grade 3 James Marvin in July and won an optional claimer by a nose on August 16, both at Saratoga Race Course. His past four starts were all contested at seven furlongs.

"He was doing so well going seven-eighths that we kept him there, but we've been wanting to stretch him out," said trainer Tom Albertrani. "I thought this would be a good time to try him at a mile. He likes Belmont, so we're hopeful coming into the race. He tries hard every time. Two races back [in the James Marvin] we took him off his game a little bit. We were on the lead going 44 [seconds for a half-mile]. He never caught a break on the lead that day. We want to take him back a little and make one run with him."

Stuart S. Janney III's Hymn Book, eighth in the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2012, will try the Kelso instead in 2013. He has made two starts at one mile, finishing second in the 2011 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap and fifth in the 2012 edition of that race. His biggest win to date came in the 2012 Grade 1 Donn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

In 2013, Hymn Book has finished or has been placed second in all three of his starts. He was third under the wire in his seasonal debut, the Grade 2 Alysheba in May at Churchill Downs and awarded second upon the disqualification of Cyber Secret, who fouled him on the first turn. Since then, he has added runner-up performances in the Criminal Type overnight stakes in June at Belmont and the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup on July 28 at Monmouth Park.

"I already have Orb in the Gold Cup, and I thought [Hymn Book would] have a chance in here," said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. "[A faster pace] will help. I put blinkers on him, hoping that will keep him in the race a bit more. I hope he gets away better than he did at Monmouth. He's doing really well, and I think he'll run his race."

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Hymn Book, 6-1 on the morning line, from post 5.

The field also includes Easter Gift, who won the Mountainview Handicap at Penn National and was second in the Alydar at Saratoga in his two most recent starts; Praetereo, runner-up in an optional claimer earlier this month at Belmont; Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend; and Brujo de Olleros, a Group 1 winner in Brazil who took the Carl Hanford Memorial in August at Delaware Park. Easter Gift and Jackson Bend will be coupled in the wagering.

The field for the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Invitational Handicap:








Easter Gift (KY)

M E. Smith


C C. Brown



Graydar (KY)

E S. Prado


T A. Pletcher



Praetereo (KY)

J Alvarado


D Jacobson



Jackson Bend (FL)

J Castellano


S I. Gold



Hymn Book (KY)

J R. Velazquez


C R. McGaughey III



Souper Speedy (FL)

J Lezcano


T Albertrani



Brujo de Olleros (BRZ)

A Garcia


R C. Mettee


a-Coupled entry