Notes
Aug 19, 2022
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Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike works for G1 Runhappy Travers

by NYRA Press Office



·    Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike works for G1 Runhappy Travers

·    Skratch Kat tries to keep Bauer’s prosperous meet going in G1 Alabama

·    Nostalgic to stretch out in G1 Alabama; With the Moonlight ready to shine in G2 Lake Placid

·    Fingal’s Cave breezes for $200K Fleet Indian; Lady Jasmine on target for $150K P.G. Johnson

·    Rookie Report: Highly regarded Winchell homebred Echo Again to debut on Saturday

RED TR-Racing's Rich Strike breezed five-eighths in 59.82 seconds Friday over the main track under exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course. 

Trained by Eric Reed, the Keen Ice chestnut arrived at Saratoga on Sunday afternoon. 

"He worked really good. He worked faster than we thought he would, but he did it easily," Reed said. "I think my question on him liking the track was answered this morning. He came home well. It is probably as good as he worked, even since before he did going into the [Kentucky] Derby. He was supposed to go :49 or :50. He did it all on his own. He was galloping over the track." 

Rich Strike was claimed for $30,000 out of a maiden claiming score in September at Churchill Downs and found his best form at Turfway Park, finishing third in the Leonatus in January, fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial in March, and third in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks in April to land on the precipice of the Kentucky Derby field. 

When Ethereal Road scratched from the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike drew in and shocked the world with an 80-1 upset victory from the outermost post 20, besting Travers rivals Epicenter and Zandon, who finished second and third, respectively. 

Rich Strike skipped the Grade 1 Preakness in favor of the 12-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, finishing a distant sixth in a key race that runner-up Nest exited to win the Grade 1 CCA Oaks at Saratoga and third-place finisher Skippylongstocking departed to win the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby. 

Reed said Rich Strike has settled in well to his new surroundings at Saratoga. 

"Everything is in good shape. All we have to do is do some paddock schooling and keep him happy and healthy," Reed said. "He’ll go to the paddock Sunday morning after he gallops. He will walk through it on Monday. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll plan on taking him there in the afternoon." 

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Rich Strike is out of the graded stakes winning Smart Strike mare Gold Strike, who was named Canada's Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2005.

***

Skratch Kat tries to keep Bauer’s prosperous meet going in G1 Alabama 

One would be hard-pressed to find a trainer with a pound-for-pound better Saratoga meet than Phil Bauer, who has won four-of-seven starts this summer at the Spa. On Saturday, Bauer will saddle Rigney Racing’s Skratch Kat for her graded stakes debut in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama.  

Bauer contested last year’s running of the historic 10-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies with Played Hard, who finished a distant fifth following a local nine-furlong allowance optional claiming score. Skratch Kat, a daughter of Arrogate, enters this year’s Alabama off similar form and was last seen defeating graded stakes placed Runaway Wife and next-out winner Colorful Mischief in a July 1 allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs. 

“Two totally different types,” Bauer said when asked of any similarities between the two fillies. “With Played Hard, our focus this year was to get her to turn off a little bit. She was so keen that it ended up costing her a better placing last year. This filly, hopefully the race will come back to her.” 

Skratch Kat will square off against sophomore filly division leaders Nest, a last out winner of the Grade 1 CCA Oaks on July 23, and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath in the Alabama. Although listed at 30-1 on the morning line, Skratch Kat does have the advantage of considerable two-turn experience, having made all five of her lifetime starts going a two-turn mile-and-a-sixteenth.

Bauer said Skratch Kat, who will break from the rail under Julien Leparoux, is a bona fide two-turn horse. 

“I think that’s safe to say. We felt early on that distance would only help this filly,” Bauer said. “She’s a lighter framed, lighter made type of horse. She seems to get across the ground fairly easily. I don’t think we brought her up here planning on running in the Alabama, but that’s where we ended up. She’s a happy horse and we’re taking on two or three of the better horses in the division. Hopefully, we can have one of our better days.” 

Played Hard contributed to Bauer’s successful summer with a triumph in a second-level allowance optional claimer on August 4 at Saratoga going one mile from the Wilson Chute. The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly was second in last year’s Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct and will be in search of additional black type for her next outing. 

“There are a few spots we’re eyeballing, but we haven’t circled anything just yet,” Bauer said. “There’s the [Grade 1, $600,000] Personal Ensign next Saturday, but I think we want to keep her confidence going, find a lighter spot and take on the heavy hitters later on in the year.” 

Bauer has had a presence at Saratoga every year since 2018, and said the past few years have been a learning experience. 

“It took us a few years to catch the learning curve and figure out what to bring up here. The last couple years have been pretty good for us, so we’ll continue to take that approach,” Bauer said. “Obviously, you need things to go your way on the other end, but we’ve been very fortunate. This track to me suits the galloping type for the two turns. There’s a different angle thrown at us this year with the [Wilson] chute, but I think we’ve taken it in stride. It’s hard to find mile and an eighth races anywhere else in the country on a consistent basis and that’s one of the things we come up here for.” 

Bauer mentioned Claytnthelionheart as an example of his approach. The 6-year-old Declaration of War gelding boasts four victories in 28 lifetime starts, all of which took place at Saratoga. He won going nine furlongs for a $40,000 tag on August 11. 

“This is the only place he wins but it’s his style of running that the track suits him because of the turns and distances. Going home, it’s hard to find races like that unless it comes off the turf,” Bauer said. “When you circle the spots and bring them up here, you always hope for the best. I think the horses have been in the right spots so far so now we’re getting into deeper waters. Hopefully, the trend will continue and well get some more luck our way. But to be able to go home with as much as we’ve done, we got to be happy.”

In addition to Played Hard and Claytnthelionheart, Bauer also visited the Saratoga winner’s circle this meet with Warrior Johny, who defeated winners in a Thursday afternoon allowance to garner a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure; and One More Baby, who won by 10 3/4 lengths on August 4 and was haltered for a $20,000 tag. 

“We love coming up here and usually as Churchill starts to wind down, we start to select the ones that are going to make the trip up here and try and bring horses that have good conditions,” Bauer said. “This year, we brought more that we could be aggressive with and that’s worked out, too. It just depends on timing, like everything in horse racing. The few that have won up here won at a good spot in their cycle.”

Nostalgic to stretch out in G1 Alabama; With the Moonlight ready to shine in G2 Lake Placid 

Ever since Nostalgic secured her first graded stakes victory in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Gazelle in April at Aqueduct, her connections have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to try added ground. The Godolphin homebred will have that opportunity on Saturday when the Medaglia d’Oro filly tries 10 furlongs for the first time in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga Race Course. 

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Nostalgic has raced twice since her Gazelle conquest when finishing a troubled 10th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs, where she finished 11 1/2 lengths in arrears of Alabama-rivals Secret Oath and Nest. Nostalgic earned Grade 1 black type for the first time last out in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, finishing third behind Nest, who turned the tables on Secret Oath in that race. 

Godolphin USA’s director of bloodstock Michael Banahan said the well-bred filly should enjoy the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. 

“It looks like she wants the distance by the way she runs and she’s bred for it. Ever since she won the Gazelle earlier on, [jockey] Jose Ortiz mentioned several times that the Alabama’s distance is going to suit her. Hopefully, that can get us in the mix,” Banahan said. “Obviously, we’re running against two of the best fillies in the country so she’s going to have to have something in her armor to get her a bit closer. She’s run against them before but hasn’t quite got it done yet. So hopefully, that extra distance will help.” 

Nostalgic was beaten 15 1/4 lengths in the CCA Oaks, but Banahan was pleased with the effort and said she seems to enjoy her surroundings at Saratoga. 

“She ran OK in the CCA Oaks and I think she likes Saratoga,” Banahan said. “We’re a little more hopeful than anything else. We realize how big an ask it is against those other two. Hopefully, we can get another Grade 1 placing with her. That would be good and it would be icing on the cake.” 

Banahan welcomed the opportunity to keep Nostalgic in training for next year, and said that she could have some better options as an older filly. 

“I suppose we’ll figure that out at the end of the year. She would look like physically that she could be a real nice 4-year-old,” Banahan said. “More than likely if she’s doing well, we’ll keep her in training and see if we can get a nice 4-year-old career out of her. There’s more opportunities to get a distance of ground as a 4-year-old, which is nice.” 

Godolphin will be seeking their second Alabama conquest, after sending out 2012 winner Questing en route to Champion 3-Year-Old Filly honors that same year. 

Jose Ortiz will retain the mount aboard Nostalgic from post 5 at 12-1 odds.

Lightning could strike twice for the boys in blue on Saturday as With The Moonlight spins back on two week’s rest for the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid, a 11/16-mile test for sophomore fillies over Saratoga’s inner turf course. 

Trained by Newmarket-based Charlie Appleby, the Frankel bay Frankel made her North American debut when second to McKulick in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 9, but made her second stateside start a winning one in the Grade 1 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 7. 

Banahan said the current long term goal is the Grade 1, $600,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on October 15 at Keeneland. 

“Charlie Appleby was keen to run her back with the goal being the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland and knowing that there wasn’t really a good opportunity to have a prep race before that, for her specifically,” Banahan said. “He decided to run her back a little quick after the Saratoga Oaks and have a nice six-week run to Keeneland to the Queen Elizabeth, which is our main goal.” 

With this year’s Breeders’ Cup being held at Keeneland, Banahan said a start in the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on November 5 is not out of the question. 

“I suppose it depends, but the Queen Elizabeth is the race Charlie is looking at for the time being,” Banahan said. “The distance will really suit her. Obviously if she does well, we could wheel her back especially since the race is at Keeneland. That will be a conversation to have at that stage.” 

Luis Saez will pick up the mount aboard With The Moonlight, who will break from post 1 as the 9-5 morning line favorite.

***

Fingal’s Cave breezes for $200K Fleet Indian; Lady Jasmine on target for $150K P.G. Johnson 

Alifyfe Racing’s Fingal’s Cave breezed five-eighths in 1:02.45 over the main track Friday in a final tune-up for next Friday’s $200,000 Fleet Indian, a 1 1/8-mile dirt route for sophomore fillies, on New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course. 

The Carpe Diem filly has been perfect in three starts dating back to her debut in May at Belmont Park where she defeated fellow state-breds by 8 1/2-lengths sprinting six furlongs. After graduating, the David Donk trainee was asked to stretch out an extra panel and did so with ease under jockey Jose Ortiz, posting a nine-length romp, against state-breds, in a first-level allowance on June 25 over Big Sandy. 

Most recently, Fingal’s Cave was asked to go two turns against open-company July 29 at the Spa, a race she took the field gate-to-wire in to remain unbeaten and record a career-high 89 Beyer Speed Figure. 

“The two-other-than did not fill so we elected to run in an open-company,” said Donk. “But it also gave us, more importantly, the opportunity to run her at a mile-and-an-eighth, which was great.” 

After watching the workout this morning, Donk had praise for both horse and rider entering the race. 

“She’s done, knock on wood, really well since she’s run,” said Donk. “She breezed really well today, Jose breezed her and hopefully that sets us up for next Friday.” 

Fingal’s Cave will face stakes company for the first time in the Fleet Indian, but has already passed the two-turn test entering Friday. 

Purchased for $75,000 out of the 2021 Ocala Breeders’ Sale for 2-Year-Olds in Training in April, Fingal’s Cave has proven her worth with $148,500 in earnings from those three wins. 

Lady Jasmine, trained and co-owned by Donk with John T. Behrendt, Charles K. Marquis, Suzanne K. Haslup, Sean Carney, William J. Punk, Jr., and Philip DiLeo, was a debut winner on August 3 at the Spa traveling 1 1/16-miles over the turf. Lady Jasmine sat off the lead down the backside before taking aim and prevailing by 1 1/2-lengths under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

The Cairo Prince bay will make the jump to stakes company in the $150,000 P.G. Johnson, a 1 1/16-mile turf route for juveniles, on September 1 at Saratoga. 

Lady Jasmine returned to the work tab on Thursday, breezing a half-mile in 49.55 seconds on the main track, for the first time since graduating. She will now be tasked with defeating open company. 

“The waters get a little deep,” said Donk. “Johnny liked her when he got off her, so it’ll be a big test for her, but it’ll give us an idea of maybe what we have.” 

Purchased for $45,000 out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale, Lady Jasmine has already made that back, earning $48,400 from her maiden score. 

Philip A. Gleaves, Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard’s graded stakes-placed Thin White Duke was last seen beaten just a neck by six-time graded stakes winner Golden Pal and three-time graded/group stakes winner True Valour in the Grade 3 Troy on August 5 at Saratoga. The 4-year-old son of Dominus is likely to take advantage of his allowance eligibility next week at Saratoga, though Donk did mention the $150,000 Lucky Coin September 2 as a possibility as well.  

“He’s been in great form and done really well here,” said Donk. “His head’s buried in the feed tub out of the race. In a perfect world, I think he’s back in allowance next week.” 

Thin White Duke became graded stakes-placed after the third place finish in the Troy which also saw him earn a career-high 99 Beyer Speed Figure, surpassing a previous high of 85, and build on an impressive resume at Saratoga, where he boasts a 5-1-3-1 record. 

Donk took over training duties from former conditioner and part-owner Philip Gleaves, who retired from training last year, and is 7-1-1-1 this campaign.

A lifetime winner of $344,001 and 17-3-3-5, Thin White Duke re-established himself as a turf horse this year after making just three of his first ten starts on the lawn as a 2 and 3-year-old. 

Donk also provided an update on Philip Gleaves, Joseph Straus and Hugh Fitzsimons’ Yes and Yes, who was last seen finishing fifth behind stablemate Thin White Duke in the Grade 3 Troy, and will wait to find a spot at the Belmont at the Big A meet. 

Another horse that Donk took over training duties for Gleaves this year, Donk said he was informed by the former conditioner that the Saratoga grass has never been his forte. 

“We ran him long. We ran him short. He didn’t fire the last time,” Donk said. “He’s done well so we’ll just wait on him and run him at Aqueduct.” 

The 6-year-old gelded son of Sidney’s Candy started the year with Donk 3-for-3, sprinting his way through allowance conditions before a pair of off-the-board graded stakes finishes at the Spa.

Yes and Yes has banked $325,680 in 24 career starts for his connections, with an in-the-money record of 5-4-4.

***

Rookie Report: Highly regarded Winchell homebred Echo Again to debut on Saturday 

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Echo Again will make his career debut for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen in Saturday’s seventh race at Saratoga Race Course – a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for juveniles. 

Despite the name, the gray or roan colt is of no maternal relation to 2021 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu, although both horses are by leading second-crop sire Gun Runner. A fourth-generation Winchell homebred, Echo Again is out of the dual-stakes placed Tapit mare Teardrop, who is a full-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Pyro, who won the 2009 Forego at the Spa. 

Echo Again is a half-brother to graded-stakes placed Pneumatic, who finished fourth in the 2020 Belmont Stakes, and stakes-placed Costa Terra. He hails from the broodmare line of Carols Christmas – a blue hen mare for the Winchell family, who was claimed for $25,000 and produced graded stakes winners Olympio and Call Now as well as black type producing mare Carols Wonder. 

David Fiske, racing and bloodstock advisor to Winchell Thoroughbreds, said Echo Again has been highly touted since pre-training at El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas – operated by Asmussen’s parents Keith and Marylin Asmussen. He has been regularly working in company with another talented Asmussen-trained and Winchell-owned colt Disarm, who broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths on August 4 at the Spa. 

“He’s been working with Disarm so he can hang with him,” Fiske said. “He’s been pretty highly regarded ever since he was down in Laredo. So, we’ll see what he can do this week. He was an individual that, around Christmastime, was one of Steve’s favorites when he would go down to his parents in Laredo to look at all the yearlings. He always liked that colt. We’ve done well with that line over the years. Carols Christmas has got to be the most prolific $25,000 claim of all time” 

Breaking from post 5 as the 9-5 morning line favorite, Echo Again will be ridden by Joel Rosario. 

Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey will saddle a pair of well-bred first time starters in Spinzar and Game Change

Spinzar, owned by Gainesway Stable and LNJ Foxwoods, was a $450,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. A gray or roan son of Tapit, he is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Fleet of Gold, whose dam was 2006 Champion Older Female Fleet Indian. He also comes from the same family as 2018 Champion 2-Year-Old Game Winner. 

Breaking from post 6 at 8-1 odds, Spinzar will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. 

Allen Stable’s Game Change was bought for $850,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Gainesway. The son of Candy Ride is out of the Pulpit mare Sweet Corine – a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winner Verrazano. 

Game Change, 15-1, will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 7. 


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Notes
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Asmussen reflects on meaning of G1 Runhappy Travers triumph with Epicenter

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When Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen started his first horse, Track Ambassador, at Ruidoso Downs in 1986, he did so with storied racetracks like Saratoga Race Course in the back of his mind as places of legend, hoping to one day make it to the Spa to leave his mark at the nation’s oldest sporting venue. 36 years later, his i​mpact at Saratoga has been monumental, adding to his long list of accomplishments with a 5 1/4-length triumph in Saturday’s 10-furlong Grade 1 Runhappy Travers by Epicenter to earn his first win in America’s oldest race for sophomores.

Leading third crop sire Not This Time represented by Epicenter and Ain’t Life Grand in G1 Runhappy T
Notes
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Leading third crop sire Not This Time represented by Epicenter and Ain’t Life Grand in G1 Runhappy Travers

NYRA Press Office

​Albaugh Family Stables’ Not This Time may have had a short-lived racing career, but the son of Giant’s Causeway is making up for lost time as a highly influential stallion. The leading third crop stallion will be represented by two contestants in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers in 7-5 morning line favorite Epicenter and 20-1 Iowa-bred longshot Ain’t Life Grand.