Jun 12, 2019
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Francesca LeDonne Photo

Turf Triple Series to be bolstered by Japanese-breds Master Fencer and Jodie

by NYRA Press Office

  • Voodoo Song targets Saratoga return; Blindwillie McTell to try the turf
  • Catholic Boy, Diversify continue serious business on Sunday morning
  • Rowayton impressive in New York debut for bustling Hollendorfer barn
  • Majid magic in Easy Goer
  • Secret Message points to G1 Diana
  • Mr. Buff to target Saginaw at end of the month
  • Cross Country Pick 5 with Monmouth Park and Woodbine handles $65K

The creation of the Turf Trinity and Turf Tiara as part of the 2019 Turf Triple Series, offering $5.25 million in purse money for sophomores over three legs at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course has captured international attention with a pair of Japanese-breds - U.S. Triple Crown competitor Master Fencer and Group 2-placed filly Jodie - expected for the inaugural series.

The Turf Triple will showcase 3-year-old turf runners with the first legs, both Grade 1 events contested at 10 furlongs [2,000 meters], slated for Saturday, July 6 as part of the Stars & Stripes Festival to be broadcast live nationwide on NBC.

The Turf Trinity kicks off with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 6. The first leg of the Turf Tiara will be the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, also on Stars & Stripes Day.

Katsumi Yoshizawa's homebred Master Fencer, trained by Koichi Tsunoda and piloted by Julien Leparoux, impressed with a rallying sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and went one better in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, with a late-closing effort to fall a head shy of Tax for fourth.

The Japanese-bred son of Just a Way was slated to leave New York on Thursday and return to his native Japan to prepare for a fall campaign, until Yoshizawa called an audible, deciding instead to meet the challenge of the Turf Trinity.

"We're excited for the challenge of the Belmont Derby," said Yoshizawa via translator Mitsuoki Numamoto. "Master Fencer has come out of the Belmont Stakes with good energy. He has raced twice on the turf in Japan and run well even though he did not win. I'm confident he will give a positive showing in the Belmont Derby on grass."

Tadakazu Obama's Jodie, a daughter of Daiwa Major bred by the famous Northern Farm, has contested all nine career starts on turf in her native Japan.

She graduated on debut last June in Tokyo and followed up with a good fourth in the Group 3 Niigata Nisai at Niigata at one mile [1,600 meters] on the turf. In November, Jodie captured the Akamatsu Sho over one mile of firm turf at Tokyo in November, but failed to menace when off-the-board in the Group 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies to close out her juvenile campaign.

Trained by Hirofumi Toda, Jodie returned with a flourish in February, finishing third in the Group 3 Daily Hai Queen Cup at Tokyo when racing at one-mile for the sixth time. She stretched out to 1 1/4 miles (2,000 meters) in April finishing third in the Group 2 Sankei Sports Sho Flora Stakes at Tokyo. Last out, in the 1 1/2-miles (2,400 meters) Group 1 Japanese Oaks, Jodie set the early pace before fading to finish 14th.

The Turf Tiara continues Friday, August 2 at Saratoga Race Course with the inaugural $750,000 Saratoga Oaks, held at 1 3/16-miles (1,900 meters) on the Saratoga lawn and broadcast live nationally on FS2, kicking off Whitney weekend festivities.

The second jewel of the Turf Trinity, the inaugural $1 million Saratoga Derby, will be contested at 1 3/16-miles (1,900 meters) on the Saratoga green on Sunday, August 4 and featured live on FS1.

The Turf Triple Series reaches its conclusion on Saturday, September 7 at beautiful Belmont Park with the inaugural edition of the $1 million Jockey Club Derby, third leg of the Turf Trinity, to be aired live across the country on NBC.

The final jewel of the Turf Tiara, the first-ever $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks slated for September 7 at Belmont Park, will be contested at 1 3/8-miles (2,200 meters) on the turf, and aired live on NBC, as part of an action-packed weekend of racing to raise the curtain on the Belmont fall meet.

For more information on the Turf Triple Series, please visit

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Voodoo Song targets Saratoga return; Blindwillie McTell to try the turf

Multiple graded stakes winner Voodoo Song posted his second breeze on the Belmont Park inner turf on Sunday following a layoff at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

Owned by Barry K. Schwartz, Voodoo Song finished 12th last October in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Trainer Linda Rice said she will target a summer return for the popular horse at Saratoga Race Course.

"He's doing well and continuing to come along," said Rice. "We're looking at targeting a return for him at Saratoga in the [Grade 3, $,150,000] Forbidden Apple [July 12] where we know he likes the course. It's exciting to have him back."

The 5-year-old son of English Channel, who won last year's edition of the Forbidden Apple at Belmont, has a stellar record of five wins from six starts at Saratoga including a victory in last year's Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap. He notched four wins from four starts at the Spa in 2017, highlighted by a win in the Grade 3 Saranac.

Rice also said 3-year-old multiple stakes winner Blindwillie McTell, who last out won the Mike Lee on May 27 at Belmont will look to make his turf debut in the $150,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes Spectacular Bid on June 23 for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs.

After running second in his debut at Aqueduct Racetrack last November, the Posse colt won the NYSSS Great White Way by 2 ½ lengths on December 16 and followed with a victory in the Rego Park on January 13.

He breezed four furlongs in 48.48 seconds on the inner turf on Sunday and Rice said she was happy with the work.

"He's continued to do well following the Mike Lee and I've been wanting to try him on the grass," said Rice. "We've been looking at the Spectacular Bid and he's on target to make his turf debut there."

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Catholic Boy, Diversify continue serious business on Sunday morning

Catholic Boy, a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt, breezed a half-mile on Sunday morning in 49.48 seconds at Belmont.

The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready made his 2019 debut in the Grade 2 Dixie on May 18 at Pimlico, which he won by a half-length. Trainer Jonathan Thomas is targeting the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban on July 6 for the two-time graded stakes winner.

"There was an incident with a loose horse that came down the lane during his work so [Hall of Fame jockey] Javier [Castellano] had to kind of back off the throttle a bit, but it didn't bother our schedule," Thomas said.

Catholic Boy was a dual graded stakes winner as a juvenile scoring wins on both dirt and turf when taking the Grade 3 With Anticipation over the Mellon turf course at Saratoga before winning the Grade 2 Remsen over the main track at Aqueduct. At 3, he won dual Grade 1s on dirt and turf when notching triumphs in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational and the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga, respectively.

Given his versatility, Thomas has plenty of options with the seven-time winner of 11 career starts. Thomas said races under consideration for Catholic Boy include the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 3 at Saratoga, the Grade 1, $1 million Arlington Million on August 10 at Arlington Park and the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on August 31 at Saratoga.

"The Suburban still has a big circle around it," Thomas said. "We're taking it race by race. Just kind of see where he takes us. The Suburban would answer some of these questions. There are some big targets this summer that we would want to be a part of."

Bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy has garnered a total of $1,992,000 in career earnings and has won six graded stakes events, four of which took place on grass. He is owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables.

Thomas reported that two-time Grade 1 winner Diversify is training forwardly towards his seasonal debut. The New York-bred son of Bellamy Road worked a half-mile in 50 seconds on Sunday morning.

"Diversify had a good, solid half-mile work with a particularly good gallop out," Thomas said. "We're just starting to give him what I would call heavier training. No concrete plans have been made, but he's coming along nicely."

Owned by Ralph and Lauren Evans, Diversify has not raced since a fifth-place finish last September in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, which he won in 2017. He was previously trained by the late Rick Violette.

Thomas went on to say that stakes winner Osare could target a spot towards the end of the Belmont Park meet after finishing fourth against allowance company on May 19 in her first start in eight months.

Owned by Bridlewood Stables, the half-sister to champion Arrogate earned black type when taking the Dueling Grounds Oaks last September.

"She came back pretty well off the bench," Thomas said. "We're looking around to see what our options are, possibly something at the end of the meet. I'm going to wait for the next condition book to come out before making a decision."

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Osare is by Medaglia d'Oro out of four-time stakes winner Bubbler.

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Rowayton impressive in New York debut for bustling Hollendorfer barn

OXO Equine's [Larry Best] Rowayton, a multiple Grade 1-placed son of Into Mischief trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, made a stylish New York debut in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race on June 6.

With Joel Rosario up, Roywayton tracked from third as Missle Bomb burst to the lead and set a sharp half-mile in 45.70 seconds. Payne, the mutuel favorite, got the jump on the field to take command at the top of the lane, but Rowayton found a seam along the rail and kicked home a 1 1/4-length winner, stopping the clock in 1:14.94.

Rowayton finished second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in his second career start and followed up with a third at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 American Pharoah.

Don Chatlos, New York-based assistant for Hollendorfer, said teaching Rowayton to switch leads efficiently was instrumental.

"As a 2-year-old, he was good but he showed some immaturity by not changing leads. In the Del Mar Futurity, he was second behind Game Winner and beat Roadster not changing leads," said Chatlos. "He went up to Santa Anita and did the same thing in the route race [G1 American Pharoah] that Game Winner won impressively and then went on to win the Breeders' Cup.

"The focus bringing him back is getting him to switch leads and be more focused," continued Chatlos. "You saw him switch leads the other day and what happened when he did it - you saw that acceleration and he finished huge. That was good to see from him."

Rowayton earned a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure in victory, two points better than the number assigned to Hog Creek Hustle for his victory in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun on Saturday.

"Jerry and Larry haven't mentioned any race yet, but they were very impressed he came out of the race with a 97 Beyer and the Woody Stephens was a 95. He fits with those kinds of horses," said Chatlos. "Another dimension is he'd been in front in all of his races and the older horse [Missle Bomb] beat him to the lead in there. Rosario made him settle and he did that nice. He didn't fight with him [Rosario] and then he finished up."

Chatlos said that a target has yet to be selected for Rowayton, but that the colt is in good order.

"He galloped today and is bouncing around in good shape," said Chatlos.

OXO Equine's Vegas Strong, purchased for $850,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale, recorded his first breeze on Friday at Belmont covering three furlongs on the Belmont main track in 39.09 seconds in company.

Chatlos said the 2-year-old son of Colonel John has impressed since arriving at Belmont.

"He's a nice horse. He's an old man for a 2-year-old. He'd been going on his own and training like our older horses," said Chatlos. "Chad Summers had a horse that was about the same fitness level as us and he went in company and it was a solid work."

West Point Thoroughbreds' Kanthaka, recently third in the Grade 3 Daytona at Santa Anita, breezed five furlongs in 59.40 on Sunday. The 4-year-old Jimmy Creed chestnut will make his next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker, a one-turn mile on the turf set for June 16 at Belmont.

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Majid magic in Easy Goer

Following his one-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Easy Goer, Zayat Stables' Majid is undefeated in four starts since joining the barn of trainer Rudy Rodriguez. The 3-year-old Shackleford bay was purchased for $295,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton March Sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Off the board in his first two starts - one for Todd Pletcher, another for Brad Cox - Majid was transferred to Rodriguez, who dropped the colt into a $30,000 maiden event on January 27 at Aqueduct which he won by a length.

The victory was followed by a one-mile score at Laurel in a $50,000 optional-claiming event and an $80,000 optional-claiming mile at Belmont ahead of the Easy Goer at 1 1/16-miles on Big Sandy.

Assistant trainer Gus Rodriguez said Majid is growing with confidence.

"He was improving with every race," said Rodriguez. "The key was to let him build up his confidence. At Aqueduct, we let him run for maiden $30,000 and he started to learn. They paid good money for the horse and he just needed to wake up - and he did."

Majid is tentatively pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer, a one-turn mile at Belmont on July 6 as part of the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.

"There's a race at the end of the meet - the Dwyer - it's a good spot for him, but we'll see. We'll have to talk to Rudy and the owners," said Rodriguez.

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Secret Message points to G1 Diana

Following a victory in the Grade 2 Nassau at Woodbine on May 26, trainer Graham Motion said he would point Secret Message to the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 13 at Saratoga.

Owned by Madaket Stable, ERJ Racing, Elayne Stable 5 and Bouchey Thoroughbred Ventures, Secret Message scored a second graded stakes win when taking the one mile turf event by three-quarters of a length over three-time graded stakes winner Starship Jubilee.

The daughter of Hat Trick was privately purchased by BSW Bloodstock's Brad Weisbord following a maiden victory at Turfway Park in January 2018. Later that year, she won the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park.

"She's just continued to improve since she came to the barn," Motion said. "We gave her some time off after [a sixth-place finish in the ] Queen Elizabeth II [at Keeneland] and had her freshened up at Stone Farm. It really looks like she's come back better and stronger than she has been."

Secret Message has won both of her starts this year including the Dahlia on April 20 at Laurel Park.

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Mr. Buff to target Saginaw at end of the month

Chester and Mary Broman's New York-homebred Mr. Buff will look to parlay a successful bounce-back third-place effort in the Commentator on May 27 at Belmont Park into another stakes appearance in the $100,000 Saginaw for state-bred 4-year-olds and up on Sunday, June 30, at 1 1/16-miles on the Belmont main track, trainer John Kimmel said Wednesday morning.

Mr. Buff, who ran a disappointing ninth in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 23 at Fair Grounds, cut back to one mile against New York-breds in the Commentator on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont and served as the pacesetter in the seven-horse field before finishing three-quarters of a length back to Giant Expectations and the winner Pat On the Back over Big Sandy.

The 5-year-old Friend or Foe gelding earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort; a big improvement over the 31 Beyer he garnered in his previous start.

"He came out of the race in good shape and we're looking at the Saginaw at the end of the month," Kimmel said. "It was a much better performance. To run a [31] the last time, I don't even know how to explain that. So I'd say after the [Commentator], that it's right back to where his level is. He did all the dirty work that day and never got a breather. The horse that he ran with, Haul Anchor, ended up last. He put him away, but then the next group came on, and he fought hard right to the wire."

Before the Commentator, Mr. Buff's previous six races were all at 1 1/8 miles, which included four consecutive wins heading into the New Orleans Handicap, encompassing victories in the Alex M. Robb and the Jazil at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"I think he's better at a mile and an eighth around two turns," Kimmel said.

The Saginaw will be contested around one turn, though Mr. Buff has enjoyed success at Belmont, going 2-1-3 in 10 career starts to account for a quarter of his career win total.

Mr. Buff breezed four furlongs in 50 seconds flat on the Belmont main track Sunday.

"It was a nice, easy breeze; just a maintenance half-mile he went in 50," Kimmel said.

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Cross Country Pick 5 with Monmouth Park and Woodbine handles $65K

Sunday's Cross Country Pick 5 sequence, featuring races from Belmont Park, Monmouth Park in Oceanside New Jersey and Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke, Ontario handled $65,592 returning $210.50 for the minimum 50 cent wager.

The multi-race wager began with a one mile starter handicap on the turf at Monmouth where Manhattan Racing Stable's King of Spades for trainer Kelly Breen bested stakes winner Macagone to earn the victory by 2 ¼ lengths, returning $9.40 for a $2 win wager.

In the next leg, the $75,000 Smart N Classy for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward, post-time favorite Horologist for trainer John Mazza and owner There's a Chance Stable wired the field of six, returning $2.10.

The sequence then switched to Belmont Park for a one-mile allowance race on the turf where homebred Everyonelovesjames for owner J R Stable and Hall of Fame conditioner Jonathan Sheppard bested a field of nine to win by 6 ¼ lengths, earning back-to-back victories after breaking his maiden on April 7 at Gulfstream Park.

The action then moved up north to Woodbine for the Grade 3, $125,000 Hendrie, where 4-year-old Summer Sunday for conditioner Simon Stuart and owners William and Ann Scott remained undefeated at Woodbine picking up her sixth consecutive victory over the track and first stakes win with an authoritative 1 ½ length victory, returning $5.

The sequence closed with the penultimate race from Sunday at Belmont Park, a six-furlong allowance race for 3-year-olds over the inner turf where Irish-bred No Bang No Boom, for owners Ice Wine Stable and trainer Wesley Ward wired the field with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, paying $7.40.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents, featuring a 15 percent takeout and a mandatory payout of the entire pool. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country.

For more information on the Cross Country Pick 5, please visit

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NYRA Press Office

Trainer Ken McPeek has garnered plenty of knowledge and experience since starting his first runner in 1985. He’s known for his fearlessness when taking a gamble with his horses, like when he sent out Sarava to a shocking 70-1 victory in the 2002 Belmont Stakes for the dark bay’s first try against graded company, and more recently, scored a Grade 1 Preakness victory with upset filly Swiss Skydiver in 2020.