by Heather Pettinger
La Providencia's Hi Happy has emerged from his late running, half-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War in fine fettle, trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday.
The 1 3/8-mile Man o' War marked the second win of the year for the 6-year-old son of Pure Prize, following a 2 ¾-length score last time out in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 31 at Gulfstream Park, but the first of his 13-race career contested over a turf course listed as "good."
Beginning his career as a 3-year-old, Hi Happy was undefeated in six starts in his native Argentina, including three Group 1 wins, before moving to the U.S. in 2016. He raced four times on the West Coast, including a close third-place finish in last year's Grade 3 Tokyo City at Santa Anita Park, before moving to Pletcher. He made his first start for his new connections with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf in February, coming in a length behind multiple Grade 1 winner Heart to Heart.
"We got the trip [in the Man o' War] we thought we would get based on the way he's been running, and the way we projected the pace scenario did develop," said Pletcher, who picked up his first victory in the Man o' War. "So, it worked out as we'd hoped.
"Looking back at his South American form, he didn't show any races on soft ground that I could see and the turf course was firm at Gulfstream," he added. "I didn't know how he was going to be affected by the rain yesterday. It seemed like the turf was playing pretty firm earlier that day but then we got that rain in the last hour before the race. But, it seemed like he handled it fine."
Pletcher said a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day is on the table for Hi Happy, adding that the Grade 1 United Nations on June 30 at Monmouth Park could be another option.
"[The Manhattan is] a possibility if he bounces back in time," he said. "We might consider the United Nations too if he needs more time."
Pletcher also reported that Calumet Farm's Patch, the one-eyed fan favorite from last year's Triple Crown trail, exited his allowance victory in good order. Saturday's neck victory was the first race for the 4-year-old Union Rags colt since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby last August.
Overall, Patch boasts a 2-2-1 record from seven career starts, including a runner-up finish in the 2017 Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and a third-place result in last year's Belmont.
"Patch is game in victory," said Pletcher. "He's very popular and deservedly so. He's a cool horse. He hasn't run a lot but he's pretty consistent and he's accomplished quite a bit in the few starts he's had.
"We'll see how he comes back [before deciding on his next race]," he added. "He still has some allowance conditions left but we won't be afraid to try a stakes if he comes back well."
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‘G3 Peter Pan hero Blended Citizen to remain in New York ahead of Belmont bid
California-based trainer Doug O'Neill will keep Saturday's Grade 3 Peter Pan winner Blended Citizen "right where he is," and point to the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9.
The colt enjoyed a nice quiet Sunday morning at Belmont Park with a brisk walk and some grazing alongside his groom Danny Robles. The colt will remain at Belmont to train for the 1 ½-mile "Test of the Champion." He is expected to continue to walk for the next few days before returning to the track and will likely begin stronger preparations in about two weeks.
"Our plan is to stay right where we are there," said O'Neill by email on Sunday morning. "[Trainer] Ralph Nicks and his crew have offered to help us as well as we approach the Belmont."
The son of Proud Citizen benefited under a patient ride by jockey Kyle Frey, and used his long stride to his advantage around Belmont Park's sweeping turns to rally six wide before closing outside to get up in the final 70 yards from the wire 1 ½ lengths in front in the Peter Pan.
The victory was the Kentucky-bred's first win since the March 17 Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks, which he won by a neck over 11 others on Turfway Park's synthetic track. That win led to a start in the April 7 Blue Grass at Keeneland, where he employed a mild gain, and was steadied late for fifth among the field of 14.
The winner of three races with earnings of $406,854 was scratched as an also-eligible in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and was then pointed to the Peter Pan.
Blended Citizen has the chance to become the eighth winner of the Peter Pan who carried his effort forward with a victory in the Belmont Stakes to sweep the Peter Pan/Belmont double.
The list includes Counterpoint (1951), Gallant Man (1957), Cavan (1958), Coastal (1979), Danzig Connection (1986), A.P. Indy (1992), and Tonalist (2017).
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G3 Beaugay winner A Raving Beauty 'exceeded expectations' as Brown barn looks to continue strong start to spring/summer meet
Capped by a 1-2 finish in the Grade 3, $200,000 Beaugay with A Raving Beauty and Inflexibility on the stakes-filled Man o' War Day card, trainer Chad Brown picked up his 10th victory on Saturday to lead all trainers through the first 10 days of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet.
Brown, a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer, has won the training title for the last two spring/summer meets.
The German-bred A Raving Beauty took to the off going in the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay over an inner turf course listed as "good," driving to a commanding finish in her North America debut to secure the win by three lengths over stablemate and even-money favorite Inflexibility, pleasantly surprising her trainer.
"We liked both horses coming into the race," said Brown. "For Inflexibility, maybe coming back in three weeks off her allowance win was a little close in hindsight. Softer ground is not her preferred surface, it might have hampered her chances a little bit, but A Raving Beauty loved the ground yesterday.
"She really delivered a performance that exceeded our expectations," he continued. "We thought highly of her, but to get everything right in her first time racing in the country - show the good gate speed she did, followed by a strong kick in the stretch - was more than we could have asked for."
Although the turf conditions benefited Brown's runners in the Beaugay, it did not for the majority of his contingent in the Grade 1 Man o' War. Graded stakes winner Money Multiplier was scratched the morning of the race while stablemates Call Provision and Wake Forest finished fourth and eighth, respectively.
"For Wake Forest, he doesn't like soft ground," said Brown. "He's probably lost a step from when he won the Man o' War a couple of years ago. It's obvious now, that combined with the soft ground he's caught the last two editions of it. With Call Provision, I don't think he minded the ground at all, but he didn't get a real favorable trip. I think he could've been a little closer. I'm not sure he was good enough to win, but he ran a credible race."
Reporting all his runners came out their races in good order, Brown said it was too early to make concrete plans for any of his runners going forward, but is thinking about extending Call Provision in distance for the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on Friday, June 8.
"We'll regroup with all our runners out of the Man o' War," he added. "I'd say right now Call Provision is a possibility for the Belmont Gold Cup race going very long. He may appreciate that."
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McLaughlin barn in 'good shape,' summer plans await Enticed
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Sunday morning that there are no future plans yet for Saturday's Runhappy winner Westwood or Lido, who made her graded stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3 Beaugay.
"They both came out of their races in good shape, but I don't know what we're going to do," McLaughlin said. "I have to look at Lido, and what we're going to do next. We're happy with how she ran."
Godolphin Racing's Westwood turned in a game effort in the six-furlong Runhappy, holding off rival Skyler's Scramjet by three-quarters of a length at the wire under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who won his fourth race on the card. It was the fourth victory from eight starts for the gelded son of Bernardini, who entered off a fifth-place finish in the April 7 Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland.
Lido, a 4-year-old filly by Street Cry, carried Godolphin's blue colors amid a closing kick, and was outdueled for second by even-money favorite Inflexibility who put her neck in front at the finish behind three length winner A Raving Beauty.
Enticed, who finished 14th in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby, is enjoying his temporary residence upstate at Greentree Training Center near Saratoga Race Course, and is possible for the one-mile Grade 3 Dwyer on July 7.
"He's up in Greentree and all is well," McLaughlin said. "It's possible we'll look at the Dwyer. He ran well at a mile, so July 7 is a good spot to look at, but there's a lot of others spots to look at, but the Dwyer is possible."
The Medaglia d'Oro colt began his 3-year-old campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull in February at Gulfstream Park, which was followed by a 2 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 10. Enticed finished second behind Vino Rosso in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial April 7 at the Big A before his start in the Derby.
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Hofburg settled in at Saratoga, possible for Belmont
Juddmonte Farm's Kentucky Derby runner Hofburg has settled in well at Bill Mott's training base at Saratoga Race Course, where he will train ahead of a possible start in the 1 ½-mile Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, said the Hall of Famer on Sunday morning.
"He's going to stay and train up there and we'll think about the Belmont," said Mott. "He's doing really good."
The chestnut Tapit colt was a troubled seventh in the 1 ¼-mile Derby, where he was bumped at the break and steadied twice before getting clear in late stretch and finishing up with a strong gallop out.
The "Run for the Roses" was the fourth lifetime start for Hofburg, who stamped his Derby ticket with a game runner-up finish to Audible in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream.
"He just didn't have a smooth trip [in the Derby]," Mott said. "He had a lot of traffic trouble. He went from being about eight or nine lengths off the lead going into the turn and came out of it about 15 off. He just had to put the brakes on. It was good to see that he certainly wasn't laying down exhausted [after the race]. He seemed to have a lot left."
Mott said plans to breeze Hofburg are still to be determined.
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2018 Man o' War Day sees all-sources handle jump 50.6 percent
Saturday's stakes-packed card, highlighted by Hi Happy's victory in the 60th running of the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War, generated all-sources handle of $15,642,446, a 50.6% increase over 2017. The 11-race card, which included 4 graded stakes and 5 total stakes, had an average field size of 7.82, a 7.6 percent increase over 2017.
Despite cool temperatures and intermittent rain throughout the day, on-track handle was $1,812,370, a 48.1 percent increase over 2017.
2018 Man o' War Day
May 12, 2018
2017 Man o' War Day
May 13, 2017