by Brian Bohl
Gunnevera shipped in well to Saratoga and has settled in ahead of Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets, trainer Antonio Sano said Thursday morning.
The Dialed In colt will be making the fourth start of his 4-year-old campaign, coming off a victory in an optional claimer on August 10 at Gulfstream Park in his first race since running eighth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup on March 31 at Meydan.
"He's doing great; he likes the track and it's a big field, but he's in good condition and I'm hoping for a big race," Sano said.
The Woodward attracted a full 14-horse field, with Gunnevera drawing post 9. Installed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite, Sano said a crowded starting gate shouldn't be a hinderance for the three-time graded stakes winner.
"My horse is close every race, he just needs good position and no trouble with such a big field," Sano said. "I'm hoping he rates behind the pacemaker."
Owned by Margoth, Gunnevera will hope to utilize his closing speed in his first appearance at the Spa since running second to West Coast in the 2017 Grade 1 Travers. That effort at 1 ¼ miles marked the first of three consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, as he netted a 104 in the Mid-Summer Derby before earning a 109 in a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Del Mar and a 101 for his third-place finish behind West Coast and eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on January 27 at Gulfstream.
After winning at 1 1/16 miles in an optional claimer earlier this month, Gunnevera will be stretching out to the Woodward distance of 1 1/8 miles. He ran third at that distance in two previous starts: the 2017 Grade 1 Florida Derby and the Pegasus World Cup, after which Gunnevera was given a nearly five-month break.
"I didn't want to rush my horse, I took my time and told the owners when he was ready, he'd run," Sano said. "After he races, I take the time to see when he's ready for another race. The horse ran well and it was more than three weeks for the Woodward, so we decided to go."
Gunnevera will be aiming for his second win in three starts on the Spa main track after winning the 2016 Grade 2 Saratoga Special as a juvenile.
"He likes the Saratoga track; he's settled in nice," Sano said.
Sano will also saddle Bella Ciao in the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway for juvenile fillies on Saturday. The Flatter filly broke her maiden at second asking with a three-quarter length score on July 26 at Gulfstream Park.
Bella Ciao will now make her stakes debut in the 127th running of the Spinaway, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Churchill Downs.
Edgard Zayas, who will also ride Gunnevera in the Woodward in Race 11, will have the call in the Spinaway in Race 10. Bella Ciao drew post 9 at 30-1.
After running third in her debut at 5 ½ furlongs on July 7 at Gulfstream, she won at six furlongs later in the month and will be stretching out to the Spinaway distance of seven furlongs.
"It's seven furlongs and her first stakes, but she's training very good," Sano said. "She's a good at [closing]."
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Good Magic to head to Stonestreet Stable to rest after Saratoga meet
Good Magic will be sent to Stonestreet Stable for some rest and relaxation in the days following the end of the Saratoga meet, trainer Chad Brown said Thursday morning. The 3-year-old Curlin colt ran ninth in last Saturday's Grade 1 Runhappy Travers and has been under the weather since his disappointing effort, according to the meet's current leading trainer.
"He's still here, he came out of the race actually sick," Brown said. "He had a high white [blood cell] count, so we've been treating with antibiotics and the horse actually looks better today, but I'm not comfortable shipping the horse until early next week.
"He's going to get a checkup at Rood and Riddle first. I want to wait to see how he checks out first."
The 2017 champion 2-year-old male broke awkwardly in the Travers - his first race since his three-length victory in the Grade 1 Haskell on July 29 at Monmouth Park - and remained three lengths off the lead before settling wide into the first turn. Good Magic, who usually stalks the pace in his races, remained towards the back of the back and came up empty turning for home, besting only filly Wonder Gadot to the wire. Browns said he couldn't confirm the colt's illness has anything to do with his sluggish performance in his sixth career Grade 1 start.
"I'm not sure, it could," said Brown. "I don't want to speculate much. I want to be thorough about getting him evaluated to see if there's anything physically that's bothering the horse as well. The first thing we noticed was that the horse was sick; he was not himself the next day. His bloodwork indicated that he was sick. He had an infection somewhere. His white-cell count was high, so we've been on top of that [and] treating it."
Good Magic, owned by eFive Racing and Stonestreet Stables, began his year with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth on March 3 at Gulfstream, then won the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass by 1 1/2 lengths on April 7 at Keeneland.
He then went on to a runner-up finish behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs then returned two weeks later running fourth in the Preakness on May 19 at Pimlico.
Brown said he wants Good Magic to be well and have clean bill of health before he speculates on his campaign leading up to the Breeders' Cup.
Brown added that Grade 1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski is in good shape following his eighth-place finish in the Travers. He added that Gronkowski is still on target for the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29 at Belmont.
"He didn't handle the track," Brown said. "He didn't fire for whatever [reason], but he seems to come out of the race in good health. He's already shipped to Belmont Park. The plan is to train to the Jockey Club Gold Cup."
The Belmont was the first race in the U.S. for the son of Lonhro. The Kentucky-bred won four from six starts in Europe highlighted by his victory in the 32red Burradon Stakes on March 30 at Newcastle.
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Golden Brown ready for return to turf in G3 Saranac
Golden Brown, coming off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park, will return to the turf on Saturday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac.
Golden Brown, a New Jersey-bred son of Offlee Wild, made his first two starts on the dirt at Monmouth Park and broke his maiden in his third attempt over a sloppy track on February 24 at Parx Racing.
Owned by ABL Stable, Dominic Bossone, Peter Donnelly and Jacob Schnoor, Jr.,Golden Brown returned to Monmouth after that effort and won a state-bred allowance race on May 26. He followed with a respectable second facing elders for the first time in the Dan Horn Handicap on June 17 at Monmouth.
"We thought that his Tomlinson number suggested he might like the turf and his mother has also thrown some turf runners so that was the idea for initially trying the turf," McBurney said. "After his turf debut, which was solid against fellow state-breds, we knew we made the right call."
Following his second-place finish first out on the grass, Golden Brown entered the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park, winning by an impressive 1 ¾ lengths in pulling off the upset at 15-1 odds. With not many turf options at Monmouth following the victory, McBurney opted to take advantage of an invitation to the Haskell. He said his colt is now primed and ready to run back on the turf in the 111th running of the Saranac.
"After the Kent, we received an invitation to the Haskell and with not many turf options around at the time we opted to give him another try on the dirt at home," said McBurney. "The timing kind of worked out to take the chance because he's had enough time to recover and enter into the Saranac now. He's had three works since the Haskell and progressed each time, so we're looking forward to Saturday but know we're also need a bit of racing luck, as you do anytime you're running at Saratoga."
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G1 Spinaway entrant Reflect gets a feel for the Spa
Impact Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stable's California-based Reflect has settled into her temporary digs at Saratoga in good order as she prepares for her bid in the Grade 1 Spinaway.
The chestnut filly by Trappe Shot broke her maiden at first asking, taking a five-furlong maiden special by 5 ¾ lengths on June 7 at Santa Anita Park for trainer Keith Desormeaux. She came back two months later in the Grade 2 Sorrento at seven furlongs on August 5 at Del Mar, where she chased the early pace before fading to fifth behind Bellafina.
"She won easy for us first time out and then I think she had to hustle too much in her last race," said Julie Clark, assistant to Desormeaux. "She broke real sharp and stayed up close to the pace and I think she just tired a little bit. Her first race was early at Santa Anita and then there was nowhere to run until Del Mar. So, she had been on the shelf for about two months and she's a big, heavy-bodied filly, so it's not ideal to keeping her fit. She probably kind of needed that race."
Ridden by Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux in her first two starts, Reflect will have Manny Franco in the saddle for the Spinaway, where she drew post 10 at 10-1 on the morning line in the full field of 12.
Reflect arrived from Southern California on Tuesday and got her first look at the Spa Wednesday morning with an easy gallop around the main track, said Clark. She'll gallop on Friday, following Thursday's walk day.
"The exercise rider said she handled the track really well, which is always good to hear because it's so different than Santa Anita and Del Mar," said Clark. "She's done really well. She got to work out some of the energy they get sometimes from shipping. Plus, it's nice to come here and keep her at seven furlongs and she's such a kind filly that I think she'll relax [on Saturday]. She doesn't have to be up there on the pace and hopefully, she'll have enough to work out a good trip."