Lighthouse Bay in the Eye of the Storm for G1 Test
By John Scheinman | 08/21/2013 06:21 PM ET
To trainer George Weaver, there are races and then there are races. When his fleet 3-year-old filly Lighthouse Bay won the Prioress on July 27, it gave the former assistant to Todd Pletcher the first North American Grade 1 win of his career.
Now, Weaver has Lighthouse Bay trained toward a race he believes stamps greatness - the 88th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Test for 3-year-old fillies running seven furlongs on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The Test has been won by a galaxy of champions, including Moccasin, Gamely, Ta Wee, Desert Vixen, My Juliet, Lady's Secret, Safely Kept, Go for Wand and Indian Blessing.
Weaver is keenly aware of the value and prestige of the race.
"The Test has always been one of my favorite races," Weaver said. "When I was with Todd, we won it with Jersey Girl [in 1998]. It's like the Met Mile. It's like one of those races that carry a lot of weight, especially in the breeding shed. The Kentucky Derby is one of those races. The Met Mile is one of those races. The Test is just a classic, classic race."
Eight other runners are signed up to tackle Lighthouse Bay, the 4-1 third choice on the morning line, including last year's Grade 1 Spinaway winner So Many Ways, multiple-Grade 1-placed My Happy Face, Prioress runner-up Wildcat Lily, and undefeated California-based morning-line favorite Sweet Lulu, who will make her stakes debut.
The race, scheduled to go off at 4:05 p.m. as the ninth on the card, kicks off the $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4, which includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Ketel One Ballston Spa, the Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods King's Bishop and climaxes with the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers.
Lighthouse Bay, a daughter of 2004 Champion Sprinter Speightstown, won the Prioress by a half-length over Wildcat Lily at odds of 21-1. She had won two ungraded stakes races before that, the longest being the 6 ½-furlong Jostle at Parx Racing.
Weaver believes seven furlongs is within her scope.
"I'm thinking with her style of wanting to stalk the speed, it's going to give her a chance to get the seven-furlong distance, and we're going to give her a chance," Weaver said. "We won the Prioress, and it's a Grade 1, and everything's gone smoothly with her training since then. We're real happy with her."
While Lighthouse Bay seeks to stretch out, Michael Dubb's My Happy Face will attempt to win the Test by cutting back from 1 1/8 miles, which she ran when second to 3-year-old filly division leader Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at the Spa.
Trained by Chad Brown, My Happy Face, 3-1 on the morning line, finished second by a head to Dreaming of Julia in the one-turn Grade 1 Frizette last year at Belmont Park and then won the Grade 3 Tempted at Aqueduct Racetrack, both one-turn miles.
Brown had to decide whether to take on Princess of Sylmar again in the Grade 1 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles on August 17 or await the Test.
"Mike Dubb [and I] spoke about it at length," Brown said. "We just felt that even though her first time around two turns she ran very well in the Coaching Club, finishing second to the top filly in the division, ultimately trying to squeak another eighth of a mile out of her probably wasn't going to work as well as just cutting her back to seven-eighths, where she'll probably be coming from off the pace. We felt that was the lesser of two evils. I'm confident she can handle the cut-back."
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is shipping in from Del Mar for the Test with the undefeated Sweet Lulu, 5-2 on the morning line and a daughter of Mr. Greeley who has not been tested in three starts.
A $270,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland by owner Steve Beneto, Sweet Lulu won her first two starts on the Cushion Track surface at Betfair Hollywood Park and then won an optional claimer July 24 by 4 ¾ lengths in a mile race at Del Mar, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 while drilling stakes winner Bella Viaggia.
The second- through fifth-place finishers from the Prioress all come back to try the Test.
Wildcat Lily, 6-1, fresh off her victory in the Grade 3 Azalea at Calder Race Course, made all the pace in the Prioress before getting caught late by Lighthouse Bay and losing by a half-length. She is 0-for-2 at seven furlongs.
Irish Lute, 12-1, loomed boldly before flattening out in the lane, beaten 2 ¼ lengths in the Prioress. Trainer Dallas Stewart has liked the looks of his Midnight Lute filly since then.
"Very happy, looks awesome, trains very well," Stewart said. "She came out of her work [four furlongs in 49.93 seconds August 17 over the Oklahoma training track] bucking and kicking. It's a tough race. There are some nice fillies in there. I just hope she has a good trip. She's a fighter. She gets herself in position at the eighth pole, and she'll fight them from there. She's that kind of horse."
So Many Ways, 10-1, won the Grade 3 Schuylerville and Grade 1 Spinaway at the Spa last year and came back this year and took the seven-furlong Grade 3 Eight Belles on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs after two poor season-opening starts.
Trained by Tom Amoss for Maggi Moss, the daughter of Sightseeing subsequently finished third in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and fourth in the Prioress. She is undefeated at the Test distance.
I'm Mom's Favorite, 20-1, winner of the Miss Preakness Stakes over Lighthouse Bay on Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course, enters off a fifth-place finish in Belmont's Grade 3 Victory Ride on June 29, a race in which she faded in the lane.
Baby J steps into the Test off a nearly two-month freshening following her three-quarter-length victory in the Victory Ride.
Trainer Patrick Reynolds put Baby J, 12-1 on the morning line, through a six-furlong work in 1:14.50 this past Saturday and pronounced her ready to go.
"She went nice and easy and galloped out good, so we're going to take a shot at the Grade 1," Reynolds said. "She won the Victory Ride. She got knocked sideways at the eighth pole and got up and got the job done. When you have a horse like that, you've got a good shot."
Baby J won the Victory Ride at odds of 10-1 after being taken back off the pace in her prior allowance race by jockey Joel Rosario. Reynolds said the daughter of J Be K will be allowed to flaunt her quickness in the Test.
"She's a speedball, and she sulked a little bit," Reynolds said of the loss. "It was a mistake in judgment and planning."
Ju Ju Eyeballs, riding a five-race win streak, including back-to-back stakes scores at Monmouth Park, completes the field. She is 12-1 on the morning line.
The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Test: