by NYRA Press Office
Four-time stakes-winner Funny Guy will look for continued success on the New York Racing Association circuit as he targets the Grade 2, $150,000 Kelso on October 3 at Belmont Park, trainer John Terranova said Wednesday morning.
The 4-year-old son of Big Brown ran twice during the just-concluded summer meet at Saratoga Race Course, posting a two-length score in the seven-furlong John Morrissey for New York breds on July 30 before running a competitive fourth, just 2 ½-lengths back to victor Win Win Win in the Grade 1 Forego on August 29 over a sloppy and sealed track.
Funny Guy breezed four furlongs in 48.61 seconds on the Belmont main track on Monday.
"We're possibly looking at the Kelso right now, but nothing's set for sure," Terranova said. "He's doing great and will get back to a more serious work next weekend. Everything's good. He came out of Saratoga really well, so we're happy about that."
The 27-day Belmont fall meet, which starts Friday, September 18 and runs through Sunday, November 1, will encompass 38 stakes worth $5.58 million.
Among those stakes is the 40th running of the one-mile Kelso, where Funny Guy will look to win for the third time in his last four starts. Owned by Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable, Funny Guy returned off a nearly nine-month layoff by impressively winning the one-mile Commentator on June 12 at Belmont. His rally from seventh to first earned him his first career triple digit Beyer Speed Figure at 101, and he followed with another win against state-breds in the John Morrissey. Terranova said he is also hopeful for better conditions than the Forego that was run during a driving rainstorm.
"It was just unfortunate conditions in his last race that hampered not just us but a few horses," he added. "But he came out of it really well and we'll see as we go over the next few weeks what's next. The rain was so torrential and so extreme that day and the trip he had, he had to check a couple of times and was probably on the worst part of the track throughout most of the race and it hampered the outcome for him and a few others, but he came out of it well."
Funny Guy, bred by Hibiscus Stables, will now look to run in consecutive graded stakes for the first time in his career. He is 5-4-0 in 13 career starts with earnings of $523,145. He has won a stakes race at all three NYRA tracks, including the 2019 Albany at Saratoga and the New York Stallion Stakes Series Times Square in April 2019 at Aqueduct Racetrack during Closing Day of the spring meet.
Long Lake Stable's Stan the Man also will return off a success at the Spa, staying at the back of the pack before closing strong to win the five-horse Tale of the Cat on August 20. The 6-year-old Broken Vow gelding entered that contest with momentum following a runner-up finish - by 1 ½ lengths - to the accomplished Firenze Fire in the Grade 2 True North on June 27 over Big Sandy.
Terranova said Stan the Man, who won the Queens Country in December at the Big A, does not have his next start mapped out yet.
"Nothing definite for him just yet but he's in great shape so we'll see as we go the next couple of weeks what we have in mind for him," Terranova said.
Stan the Man is nominated to the Grade 2, $150,000 Vosburgh, a "Win and You're In" contest for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, on September 26, but Terranova said that spot might be coming up too quickly.
"I'm not really set on that but you never know, we'll see how he comes back from the works over the weekend and how the race ends up looking, but I'm not sure yet," Terranova said.
Gatsas Stables' Backtohisroots could return to stakes company after three consecutive in-the-money finishes against optional claimers since June. The 4-year-old Mark Valeski colt has gradually improved, running third at six furlongs over the Belmont turf on June 12 before running second at 5 ½ furlongs over the Saratoga grass on July 29. Last Out, Backtohisroots posted his first win since 2018, drawing away by 2 ½ lengths to win at the same distance on August 28.
His previous victory, the 2018 Atlantic Beach at Aqueduct that was moved off the turf, marked Backtohisroots lone stakes win. His previous stakes appearance came earlier this year in the Turf Dash in February at Tampa Bay Downs, where he ran seventh.
Backtohisroots started his career with high hopes on the main track, running second in his debut in June 2018 at Churchill before breaking his maiden at second asking in July of that year at Saratoga. After running seventh in the Grade 1 Hopeful in September, Terranova moved him to turf, where he ran second in the Futurity that October at Belmont. After the Atlantic Beach score, Backtohisroots has made seven consecutive turf starts and will be pointed to the six-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational on October 4.
"He's really in great form and ran a fantastic race last time," Terranova said. "He came out of that really well. He looks to be in great, great shape right now."
Petit Fils to try his luck on dirt in Friday's marathon Miner's Mark
Matthew Schera's Petit Fils has already run long distances on turf in his first four starts in North America since arriving from his native France in 2019. On Friday, the 5-year-old will attempt a new challenge, making his first main track appearance on U.S. soil as part of a five-horse field in the marathon 1 1/2-mile $80,000 Miner's Mark on the Opening Day card of the Belmont Park fall meet.
Schera claimed Petit Fils out of a seventh-place finish going 1 3/16 miles on the turf on August 14 at Saratoga. James Lawrence took over the training duties from Christophe Clement, with Petit Fils working twice at Fair Hill for his new conditioner, including a five-furlong work in 1:03.20 on September 8 over the Fair Hill dirt track.
Petit Fils had been training at Saratoga over the summer, with four consecutive works over the Oklahoma dirt training track through July and August before his previous start.
"He's been training very well and we'd thought we'd take a chance with the dirt," Lawrence said. "He had some impressive workouts from Saratoga from what I heard, and down here at Fair Hill, he has worked very nicely on the dirt, so we thought we'd take a shot."
Lawrence said the Miner's Mark distance - once around the famed Big Sandy track - could open options, though he said finding spots with potential softer turf later in the campaign could also be an option.
"He cherishes the distance. It just looked like a good spot to try," Lawrence said. "We did this while keeping in mind finding longer races and hopefully softer turf this fall. He ran really well in France on a softer turf and the races over here, it's been really firm. So, that was our angle."
Petit Fils, who went 6-4-0 in 13 starts in France [with one win and two seconds in four starts on synthetic surfaces] made his North American debut in November, running ninth in the Grade 3 Red Smith going 1 3/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack. After a six-month break, he returned to run 11th in the Tiller on June 4 at Belmont going 1 3/8 miles over firm turf before his Saratoga bow. Lawrence said he's seen the attributes of what made him successful in Europe during his training in Maryland.
"He's got a really unique personality and he's always shown another gear in his workouts," Lawrence said. "We made some changes at Fair Hill where we've been able to turn him out and made him a happy horse. Hopefully just a change of venue works."
Breaking from the outside post in a five-horse field with jockey Kendrick Carmouche aboard, Lawrence said he expects Petit Fils to be close to the front near expected pacesetter Rocketry, trained by Jimmy Jerkens.
"We'll see if he actually likes the dirt or not," Lawrence said. "I prefer the outside post compared to the one or two hole. He can break out of there and do what he wants to do. I would anticipate him being forwardly placed. I think Rocketry will probably be the speed of the race and I would imagine we'd sit there with him and see what unfolds."
Gufo and Decorated Invader continue to train toward Belmont Derby (G1)
West Point Thoroughbreds, William T. Freeman, William Sandbrook and Cheryl Manning's Grade 1-winner Decorated Invader and Otter Bend Stables' Grade 3-winner Gufo continue to train towards the Grade 1, $250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational, a 10-furlong test on October 3 offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Gufo [49.45] and Decorated Invader [49.49] worked together on the Belmont inner turf on September 13 and trainer Christophe Clement said both horses are in good order with the Belmont Derby the main goal although the Grade 2, $150,000 Hill Prince at one mile on the turf for 3-year-olds on October 12 remains a possibility for Decorated Invader.
"They are both doing great and they will train again together this weekend. I'm quite happy with the two of them," said Clement. "Both horses are training toward the Belmont Derby but a final decision has not been made yet."
Both of the talented colts are by Declaration of War and made their last start on August 15 in the Saratoga Derby Invitational won by Domestic Spending in which Gufo closed to finish second, defeated a head, with a pace prompting Decorated Invader in fifth, less than a length back.
Decorated Invader captured the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine last September and entered the Saratoga Derby undefeated in 2020 with wins in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream, Grade 2 Pennine Ridge at Belmont and Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga.
Gufo also entered his last start undefeated in 2020 after wins in an optional-claiming route and the English Channel at Gulfstream ahead of making the grade in the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park.
Clement notched 20 wins at the recently concluded Saratoga summer meet, good for third in the standings, and will look to start out the Belmont fall meet in style when saddling previously unraced 2-year-old Space Launch and up-and-coming New York-bred Jewel of Arabia on Friday's 10-race card.
By Bernardini, Space Launch is out of Grade 2-winner Spacy Tracy and is a half-brother to graded-stakes winners Victim of Love [third last out in the Grade 1 Ballerina] and Benner Island.
He will travel one mile on the Widener turf at first asking from the inside post in Friday's sixth race under Manny Franco for owners Athlone Racing and Daniel and Jane Burke.
After spending the summer training at Saratoga for Clement, Space Launch worked an easy five-eighths in 1:03.65 on September 12 on the Belmont main track.
"I like him. He's training well, so we'll see what happens. He's a nice horse," said Clement.
Sumaya U.S. Stable's New York-bred Jewel of Arabia enters Friday's eighth race, a 6 1/2-furlong optional-claiming sprint for state-breds, on the back of two impressive wins including a seven-length maiden win in July on a sloppy Belmont main track and a three-length score last out in a state-bred allowance sprint on July 31 at Saratoga that garnered a career-best 80 Beyer Speed Figure.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call from post 4 aboard the sophomore daughter of Daredevil, who was bred in the Empire State by SF Bloodstock.
Belmont Week 2 stakes probables
Saturday, September 26
Grade 2, $150,000 Vosburgh ("Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Sprint)
Probable: Firenze Fire (Kelly Breen), T Loves a Fight (Orlando Noda), Volatile (Steve Asmussen)
Grade 3, $100,000 Noble Damsel
Probable: Atomic Blonde (Jorge Abreu), Blowout (Chad Brown), Chaleur (Bill Mott), Feel Glorious (Christophe Clement), Getmotherarose (Tom Bush), Lucky Stride (Michael Trombetta), Noor Sahara (Brown), Sweet Bye and Bye (Tony Dutrow)