by Brian Bohl
A Thread of Blue ready for anything in Awad
A pair of turf races are set to bolster the Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler Handicap on Saturday’s live racing program at Belmont Park with the $100,000 English Channel for sophomores and the $100,000 Awad for juveniles, both at a mile on the Widener course.
In the fourth running of the English Channel, carded as Race 8, Oak Bluff Stable’s homebred Therapist will make his anticipated return following a seventh-place finish last time out in the Grade 3 Saranac on September 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
Therapist started his career with a three-race win streak for trainer Christophe Clement, including a one-length score in the Awad last fall. Turned out for the winter, the chestnut New York-bred got back in action in March at Gulfstream Park with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Palm Beach and a win in the Cutler Bay.
He followed up in the Grade 2 Penn Mile in June, finishing sixth, before posting back-to-back victories in the New York Stallion Series. Therapist stretched out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Saranac and tired late to finish an even seventh. Clement said the original target following the Saranac was the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds on the grass on October 6, ultimately won in impressive fashion by fellow Clement trainee Have At It, before the trainer decided to point Therapist to the English Channel three weeks later.
“[The Hill Prince] came up a little bit quick and I wanted to give him a bit more time, so this became the ideal race for him,” said Clement. “He’s a very nice horse and he’s trained very well. He doesn’t have to race against New York-breds. He’s proven to be effective in open company, so he’s not just a nice New York-bred, he’s just a nice horse.”
Therapist will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 6.
Chiefwood Stable’s Ontario-bred Rose’s Vision will look to fire fresh for trainer Stuart Simon. The son of Artie Schiller was given time off after a neck victory over eventual Hill Prince winner Have At It in the restricted Better Talk Now on August 27 at Saratoga. The win punctuated a busy 3-year-old campaign for Rose’s Vision, which also included runner-up finishes in the Plate Trial and the Toronto Cup to bookend a 14th-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Queen’s Plate, all at Woodbine this summer.
“We kind of wanted to freshen him up and have him good and ready,” said Simon. “He seems to be doing really fine, so I’m excited about coming back to run him. [Have At It] came back with a graded stakes win, so I think that solidifies [Rose’s Vision] as a legitimate horse here.”
Rose’s Vision will have the services of Jose Lezcano. The pair will break from post 7.
Rounding out the field for the English Channel are Hill Prince runner-up Sand Dancer, recent allowance winner Robin Hood, European invader Medal of Honour, stakes winner Majestic Dunhill, Mo Diddley, Smooth B, Hizeem, and Golden Brown.
Earlier on the card, nine 2-year-olds will kick off the day’s stakes action in the sixth edition of the Awad in Race 4.
A Thread of Blue will represent trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Leonard Green. A son of Hard Spun, A Thread of Blue made his debut on the dirt on August 11 at Saratoga Race Course where he finished sixth. Returning to finish second in his turf debut on September 8 at Belmont, he made his third career start in an off-the-turf maiden special weight to graduate by two lengths on October 7.
“The first time he ran on the dirt, we were disappointed,” said McLaughlin. “We think he’s a nice horse, so then we thought turf, and he ran real well finishing second to a horse going to the Breeders’ Cup in Current. We entered back on the turf and it rained off, and we ran and he won. There’s a chance of rain Saturday, but we’ll be ready either way. He’s doing very well. Either surface would be OK.”
A Thread of Blue will depart from post 5 with Junior Alvarado aboard.
Trainer Todd Pletcher entered a pair in Empire of War for Three Diamonds Farm and main track-only entrant Good Good for Calumet Farm.
By Declaration of War, Empire of War ran fourth in his debut on August 11 at Saratoga before finishing third over a sloppy track on September 9 at Belmont. Trying turf for the first time on October 6, he won from post 11 by 1 ¼ lengths.
Empire of War, who is among the overflow field for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, will leave from post 6 with Manny Franco in the irons.
Good Good, a Quality Road colt, won his debut on June 30 at Gulfstream before finishing third in the Skidmore on August 17 at the Spa. Most recently, he finished ninth in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile on September 1.
BranJam Stable’s Laurel Futurity winner Order and Law will try for his second straight stakes score for trainer Louis Linder, Jr. Also part of the overflow for the Juvenile Turf, the 2-year-old Violence colt will be ridden by Feargal Lynch from the outside post 9.
Also on tap for the Awad are Grade 3 Pilgrim runner Ole Mole, Absolved, and Honorable Hero. Kentucky Wildcat and Till Then are entered for the main track only.