Tagg dreaming of first Breeders' Cup score
by NYRA Press Office
- Irad Ortiz, Jr. to pilot Sippican Harbor in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
- Luis Saez closing in on a milestone
- Pletcher wraps up final works for Breeders' Cup contingent
- Final breezes for Breeders' Cup contenders
Trainer Barclay Tagg has sent out eight previous Breeders' Cup starters and will be looking for his first winner when he saddles Cassies Dreamer in the Juvenile Fillies and Verve's Tale in the Distaff at Churchill Downs.
A 2-year-old daughter of Flatter, Cassies Dreamer was claimed for $50,000 out of her maiden score on August 3 at Saratoga. Tagg claimed the dark bay filly at the behest of owners Turf Stable Racing (Rusty Jones) and Hayward R. Pressman. Since the claim, Cassies Dreamer has kept steep company, finishing third in both the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 1 Frizette.
"I haven't claimed a horse in 40 years. I was never really interested in claiming horses, I like to buy horses and develop them and go that route," started Tagg. "So, I said, 'let me take a look at her.' She walked down the path from the barn over to Saratoga, and that's like walking the gauntlet with all the kids and people over there. I thought if she walks through there and looks alright to me, I'll go ahead and claim her. As soon as I set eyes on her, wow, what a gorgeous filly. Just a big, strong strapping filly. I had to take her. I put the claim in, we got her, and she won the race. And she really hasn't done anything wrong since. Everything she does is in the right direction."
Following a bit of trouble at the gate in the Spinaway, Cassies Dreamer came from last of 11 to get within 2 1/4 lengths of Juvenile Fillies-rival Sippican Harbor.
"It takes time trying to load a lot of babies into the gate and they have to fuss with them to get their head straight. I'm not blaming anyone at the gate, it's just a tussle sometimes and she came out of it slow and it cost her. I figured it was all over and we'd try and develop her on from there. All of a sudden, she was coming and maybe could have won it with a bit of a better start," said Tagg.
On Friday morning, Cassies Dreamer worked in company with Brucia La Terra, runner-up in the Frizette last time out, covering four furlongs in 48.44 seconds over the Belmont main track. Brucia La Terra will make her next start in the Grade 3 Tempted on Opening Day at Aqueduct.
"I've worked them together pretty much every work and I was very happy with how they went this morning," Tagg said. "I feel good about her [going into the Breeders' Cup]. You never know until you get them in against the heavy hitters, but she's held her own so far. She's a young filly but she's trained well and done everything we've asked her to do. We're really pleased with her progress."
Pressman and Jones are new clients for Tagg and the veteran conditioner has enjoyed the partnership. At their suggestion, Manny Franco will take over from Junior Alvarado.
"The owners asked me if I'd ride Manny and I said yes. So far, saying yes to them has been working out," Tagg said with a laugh.
Charles Fipke's homebred Verve's Tale will make her Breeders' Cup debut in the Distaff. The 5-year-old Tale of Ekati mare has yet to win in five starts this campaign but will go into the Distaff off a rallying third in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational.
"She's a tough, old gal. She's as honest as the day is long. She likes to come from off the pace. If you let her lay up close, she doesn't have as good a finish. It's a little hard with 14 horses to come from off the pace but the good riders and good horses can do it," Tagg said.
Brian Hernandez, Jr. will take over from Manny Franco aboard Verve's Tale at Churchill Downs and be tasked with finding a winning trip.
"She's pretty honest. If you ease her back and just wait and wait and wait on her, she'll finish strong for you," Tagg said. "She won a stakes race [the Summer Colony] at Saratoga doing that, only by a nose, but she gets there. You never know what can happen in a big field."
Verve's Tale breezed five furlongs in 1:01.37 this morning on the Belmont main.
"I asked them to go off in 12 and change and finish up in a minute and they were pretty close to it. She galloped out strong" Tagg said.
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Irad Ortiz, Jr. to pilot Sippican Harbor in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Lee Pokoik's Sippican Harbor, a stylish winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, put in her final Breeders' Cup prep this morning covering seven furlongs in 1:28.65 seconds under exercise rider M.C. Brock.
"She's a willing work horse but I did work her in company with a turf horse that needed a work and she blew his doors off. It was a good combination. She broke off about five lengths behind him and took off at the sixteenth pole and hit the wire about five lengths in front. She does it so easy," Contessa said.
Contessa is enjoying a tremendous Belmont fall meet with 18 wins, good for second in the standings. Sippican Harbor will mark the conditioner's fourth Breeders' Cup starter and he's relishing the opportunity to compete with a legitimate contender.
"I go out there and buy ten 2-year-olds every year. I don't have the bench some of my peers have, so it's a phenomenal opportunity," Contessa said. "I've been to the Breeders' Cup three times, but this is my first time going with a legitimate opportunity to win the race. She's a such a level-headed filly. I'm in a great place. They're going to have to be better than her to beat her, because she's not some one-dimensional speed horse or a drop dead closer - you can put her anywhere. She's a 2-year-old with the mind of a 5-year-old."
With Joel Rosario slated to ride Jaywalk in the Juvenile Fillies, Contessa has lined up Irad Ortiz, Jr. to pilot Sippican Harbor.
"I've been doing this long enough to know that every top rider has multiple choices in every Breeders' Cup race," Contessa said. "I'm not the only one it's happened to, but to have Irad is an even swap. I've won a lot of races with Irad, so I'm thrilled. The alternative is not a bad thing."
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Luis Saez closing in on a milestone
Veteran rider Luis Saez is closing on in his 2,000th career win. Going in to Friday's card, the Panama City native was just six wins away from reaching the milestone.
"It's pretty exciting. It's tough competition to win races and a very tough meet here but getting close to 2,000 wins is big for me. It's not easy," Saez said.
Saez will have the call on at least two Breeders' Cup contenders including Promises Fulfilled and Hi Happy.
Promises Fulfilled is on a three-race win streak heading into the Breeders' Cup Sprint including scores in the Grade 3 Amsterdam, Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens, presented by Runhappy, and the Grade 2 Phoenix.
"He's been doing pretty good. He's been racing very nice and hopefully he runs big in that race," said Saez who is looking for his first Breeder's Cup score. "It would be a dream for me to win a Breeders' Cup. To win there would be special, it's pretty tough just to win any race but a Breeders' Cup would be very special."
The Argentinian-bred Hi Happy, trained by Todd Pletcher, has posted a record of 2-1-2 from seven starts in 2018 including a prominent effort to win the Grade 1 Man o' War. Hi Happy will be among the contenders in a loaded field assembled for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
"I know him well. He's a big horse and I like how he runs. He always tries, and I think he's going to be alright in this race," said Saez.
Saez has seven mounts slated for Saturday and five more on Sunday as he looks to capture his 2,000th win before the Belmont fall meet closes.
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Pletcher wraps up final works for Breeders' Cup contingent
With one week remaining until the Breeders' Cup World Championships on November 2-3 at Churchill, trainer Todd Pletcher sent out several contenders for their final workouts on Friday morning.
Entered for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Grade 3 With Anticipation winner Opry, with regular rider Javier Castellano aboard, worked in tandem with Argentine-bred Smart Choice who will race in the Grade 1 Filly and Mare Turf as the pair completed four furlongs in 48.02 seconds.
"I thought it was a good and progressive work with a strong gallop out," said Pletcher. "The turf course this morning was actually fairly firm considering it hasn't been that way much of the meet, but we got what wanted out of it with both of them."
Finishing third in his debut at Saratoga Race Course on August 11 in a race taken off the turf, Opry returned to win the With Anticipation on August 29. Making his most recent start in the Grade 3 Pilgrim on September 29 at Belmont over a yielding turf course, he ran fourth.
"In his last race he had to travel a little bit wide," said Pletcher. "I think Javier had to commit to making a move earlier than he wanted to protect his position. After his breeze this morning, he felt the biggest difference was the condition of the turf course. It was a little bit soft in the Pilgrim and firmer this morning. He also ran over firm ground in the With Anticipation, and Javier felt today he might be a little better on solid ground."
Smart Choice earned her way to the Breeders' Cup with a "Win and You're In" victory in the Group 1 Premio Pamplona on June 24 at Hipodromo de Monterrico in Peru, after which she was transferred to the care of Pletcher.
"She first came to us at Palm Beach Downs where we had a little bit of a challenge getting her acclimated and then she came up here," said Pletcher. "It's a situation where we would have loved to have a bit more time with her, but she seems to be getting progressively better and getting settled in. It's a tall order, but she was fortunate enough to win a 'Win and You're In' race and we'll give her the best opportunity we can. By now she's settled in well enough that it wouldn't be obvious she came from South America."
Hi Happy visited the main track in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Turf along with Blind Ambition, who is hoping to draw into the field for the Turf Sprint, covering four furlongs in 49.04 seconds.
"I thought they both went well," said Pletcher. "Hi Happy seems to have maintained his form. He didn't seem to handle Saratoga particularly well, especially the Bowling Green when it was very soft that day. I thought he ran well in the Knickerbocker at a distance that's a little shorter than his ideal best, but I like the way he's trained since then until now. We just have to see if we get a little lucky with the rain at Churchill, but we'll worry about that at we get closer. With Blind Ambition, we're kind of waiting to see if he can get in or not."
On Thursday morning, Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon winner Current wrapped up his final preparations for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf breezing five furlongs on 1:01.05 seconds over the Belmont main.
"I thought it was a very good work," said Pletcher. "A very strong gallop out and he seems to be coming up to the race just as you'd hope he would."
Set to ship to Churchill from Belmont on Monday, Pletcher's Belmont contingent will join Pakhet who ran second in the Grade 2 Jessamine on October 10 at Keeneland and is entered for Juveniles Fillies Turf. Pakhet breezed this morning at Churchill, completing an easy four furlongs 51.40 seconds.
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Final breezes for Breeders' Cup contenders
With incoming inclement weather forecasted Saturday in the New York Metropolitan area, several Breeders' Cup connections opted to put in their final works Friday morning at Belmont before shipping to Churchill Downs on Monday.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile contender Code of Honor, trained by Shug McGaughey for owner William Farish, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.71 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard, who will have the riding assignment. The Noble Mission colt finished a game second in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 6.
Belmont fall meet-leading trainer Chad Brown sent a number of his troops to the Belmont inner turf, including Breeders' Cup Turf contender Robert Bruce and Turf Mile entrant Almanaar where they breezed four furlongs in 49.77 seconds in company. Sistercharlie heading to the Filly and Mare Turf went four furlongs in 48.04 seconds, while Fourstar Crook and A Raving Beauty entered for the Filly and Mare Turf and Mile respectively competed five furlongs in 50.04 seconds in tandem. Santa Monica, pointing for the Filly & Mare Turf, covered four furlongs in 50.23 seconds, while Mile contender Analyze It went a half-mile in 49.55 seconds.
Belmont main track workers for Brown included Juvenile contender Complexity who went four furlongs in 48.32 seconds. Grade 1 Beldame winner Wow Cat breezed a half-mile in 49.07 seconds in her final prep for the Distaff. Juvenile Fillies Turf contender Newspaperofrecord, who captured the Grade 2 Miss Grillo, worked a half-mile in 48.44 seconds.
Jason Servis sent two of his five contenders, Firenze Fire and Uncle Benny, out to breeze on Friday morning. The veteran conditioner also has a trio of Turf Sprint contenders in World of Trouble, Rainbow Heir and Vision Perfect. Firenze Fire, who is pointed at the Dirt Mile, worked a half-mile in 49.63 seconds. Uncle Benny, who is taking aim at the Juvenile Turf, worked a half-mile in 50 seconds flat in company.
Dream Pauline, on the outside looking in as part of the overflow for the Filly & Mare Sprint for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, worked five furlongs in 1:00.99 on the Belmont main.
Rounding out notable Breeders' Cup workouts on Friday at Belmont was Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational winner Disco Partner who breezed four furlongs in 50.77 seconds on the Belmont main for trainer Christophe Clement. Joel Rosario, who will have the assignment in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, was aboard for the work.