Like the King will look for turf success against formidable Brown duo in G3 Saranac
by Brian Bohl
Kentucky Derby-participant Like the King has continued to acclimate to a surface change in his last two starts and will now look to become a duel-surface graded stakes-winner as he headlines a six-horse field of 3-year-olds in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Saranac at 1 1/16 miles on Saratoga Race Course’s inner turf.
The 114th running of the Saranac, slated as Race 8 on the 12-race card, will be part of a packed day that includes the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold up for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/4 miles in a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar; the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl for older fillies and mares going 1 3/8 miles on the turf [“Win and You’re In” for Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf; and the Grade 3, $250,000 Prioress for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs. First post will be 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
M Racing Group’s Like the King earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby by capturing the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks in March over Turfway Park’s all-weather track. Trainer Wesley Ward took a shot with the Palace Malice colt in the “Run for the Roses,” as Like the King finished 12th in the 19-horse field on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
Ward then switched Like the King to turf, where he ran fifth in the Audubon going 1 1/8 miles on May 29 at Churchill Downs in his first attempt. He improved next out going the same distance, finishing second, one length behind Yes This Time, in the Grade 3 Kent on July 3 at Delaware Park.
“He earned his way in there,” Ward said about the Kentucky Derby. “I kind of thought at least going into the race, he comes from behind and you never know what happens when you have horses that make one big run. We knew we were overmatched looking at his odds and all that. Unfortunately, we were beaten on the square by better horses, but I thought his future was going to be on the grass.”
Like the King continued to train at Keeneland before shipping to Saratoga for his first start at the historic track, posting a bullet five-furlong breeze in 59.80 seconds on August 30 over the main track.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride, departing from post 2.
Chad Brown, who is looking to secure his fourth Saratoga training title for a meet that concludes on Monday, will send out two contenders who will look to boost his win total.
Klaravich Stables’ Public Sector will look for his second graded stakes win of the meet after tallying a one-length score in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame on August 6. The British-bred son of Kingman has only failed to come in first or second once in seven career starts, when capping his 2-year-old campaign with a 12th-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November at Keeneland.
Public Sector has started his sophomore year with two wins and two seconds, including a runner-up in the Manila on July 4 at Belmont before his Saratoga triumph last month under jockey Flavien Prat, who helped Public Sector adapt to a moderate pace before coaxing a strong turn-of-foot in powering home a winner over Annex.
On Saturday, Irad Ortiz, Jr., the winner of the last three Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Rider, will pick up the mount and break from the inside post.
“It really was a great ride last out by Flavien,” Brown said. “He continues to improve and develop into a real top horse, so hopefully it's another step forward again.”
Jeff Drown and Don Rachel’s Founder is also a last-out stakes winner, posting a 1 1/4-length victory in the Tale of the Cat going 1 1/16 miles on July 31 at Monmouth Park. The stakes win marked Founder’s second career turf start, with his first foray on the grass a sixth-place effort against optional claimers on June 4 at Belmont.
The Upstart ridgling’s next attempt on turf was thwarted when rained forced his July 3 start to a sloppy and sealed main track, where Founder still ran second before his breakthrough in the Tale of the Cat over firm going.
“He's really improving. I think he's found a nice new path on the turf,” Brown said. “Hopefully, he's another one that continues to improve.”
Jose Ortiz will be in the irons from post 5 for Founder, a $600,000 purchase at the 2020 OBS Sale.
“Observing his training and with his turf breeding on the bottom, we thought we'd give it a shot and so far, it’s worked out,” Brown said.
Founder is out of the Bernstein mare Blue Beryl, who graduated on debut on the Belmont turf in 2015.
Brown also has Risk Taking, eighth in the Grade 1 Preakness in May at Pimlico, entered for the main track only.
Repole Stable’s lightly raced Never Surprised went 2-for-2 as a juvenile, winning his debut on November 8 at the Big A before capturing the Central Park later that month at the same track. After running second in his 2021 bow in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy in January at Gulfstream Park, Never Surprised will be making his first start off a seven-month layoff for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
A son of Constitution, Never Surprised was purchased for $200,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Meet-leading rider Luis Saez will pick up the mount for the first time, drawing post 4.
Roseland Farm Stable’s He’spuregold will put his two-race winning streak on the line, making his first Saratoga start off victories at Monmouth, including a last-out one-length score in the Irish War Cry Handicap on July 24 going one mile.
Trainer Kelly Breen saw He’spuregold earn a personal-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure for his last-out win. Overall, the gelded son of Vancouver is 2-2-3 in eight career starts. Ricardo Santana, Jr. will have the call from post 3.
Rounding out the field is Mohs, who will graduate to stakes company for the first time after notching two wins in six career starts for trainer Patrick McBurney. Tyler Gaffalione will pick up the mount, breaking from post 6.
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