by NYRA Press Office
Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, who makes Saratoga Springs his local residence for the majority of the year, is gearing up to kick off another Saratoga meet with a formidable contender, Mitchell Road, in the first Grade 1 event of the meet, the $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward.
Bred by Jamie V. Shields, Jr., who also co-owns with E. J. M. McFadden, Jr. the 4-year-old English Channel bay is unbeaten in three starts this year, including a victory in the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico Race Course in her most recent start, where she recorded a career best 95 Beyer Speed Figure.
"She really stepped forward last time," said Mott. "It was a very good effort."
After breaking her maiden in her second start in February 2018 at Gulfstream Park, she finished second by a half-length in an optional-claiming tilt and has remained unbeaten since, wheeling off four consecutive victories including stakes wins in the Gallorette and Albert M. Stall Memorial at Fair Grounds in her last two starts.
Mitchell Road, out of the War Chant mare Quake Lake, is a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Country House. To win the Diana, she will have to topple a field loaded with graded stakes winners, including the Chad Brown-trained Rushing Fall, Homerique, and Sistercharlie while competing at the 1 1/8 mile distance for the first time.
Mott said Mitchell Road will need to continue improving to secure the win.
"It's a very competitive field," said Mott. "She'll need to step up again, but she's been working well and we'll take our shot."
Mott also said last year's Grade 1 Woodward winner Yoshida is continuing to do well and is targeting the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on Saturday, August 3, while 3-year-old Tacitus, who last out finished second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets would breeze this weekend eyeing a start in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, July 27.
"He [Tacitus] is doing well," said Mott. "Weather permitting we'll breeze him again on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I don't see a big difference in change in him from the Belmont. He was doing good then and has continued to come along, so we'll take things day by day."
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War of Will could target G2 Jim Dandy; G1 Runhappy Travers remains possible
Gary Barber's Grade 1 Preakness-winner War of Will is now stabled with trainer Mark Casse's contingent in Saratoga and could potentially target the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on Saturday, July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
War of Will, who ran ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 8, registered a four-furlong breeze in 49.40 seconds on the Churchill Downs main track on Sunday and is expected to work again this weekend before Casse said he will make a decision.
Casse also said the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24 would be the long-term plan.
"He worked extremely well the other day at Churchill. The plan is to give him a couple of days here and then we'll put another breeze in," Casse said. "Depending on how he breezes, we'll seriously look at the Jim Dandy."
War of Will ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown, including placing seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4. Having already raced six times as a sophomore, including back-to-back wins in the Grade 3 Lecomte in January and the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds, Casse said having some time following the "Test of the Champion" is beneficial. He also said the War Front colt would be kept on dirt despite having a pedigree that could suggest potential turf success.
"It would be interesting to see how he ran on the grass," Casse said. "But maybe he's just a better horse now. He's not going to get that opportunity anytime soon. He ran a lot of races in a short period of time. You could see where his weight wasn't right. He also fought a bit of a skin rash prior to the Belmont and afterwards, so it took us a little while to get back and get it cleared up. But I think he's a happy, healthy horse now."
War of Will, 4-1-1 with earnings of $1,491,569 in 11 career starts, would be making his first start at the Spa should he run in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy.
"We would run him in the Jim Dandy and the Travers would be the main goal," Casse said.
Casse will saddle a pair of contenders in the Grade 3, $150,000 Forbidden Apple on Friday at the Spa, with Team Valor International's First Premio and Live Oak Plantation's March to the Arch.
March to the Arch rallied from ninth to win the Grade 2 Wise Dan by a neck over All Right on June 15 at Churchill, earning a personal-best 98 Beyer.
The 4-year-old son of Arch drew post 5 and is 6-1 on the morning line.
"We have two good chances for the Forbidden Apple," Casse said. "March to the Arch had a little bit of a troubled trip in the last start and was able to overcome that."
First Premio was fifth in the Wise Dan off a troubled trip. The son of Pure Prize will be looking for his first graded stakes win in his sixth try, drawing post 2. He is 10-1 on the morning line.
"He just got hung out wide last time," Casse said. "I think he ran 70 feet further than everyone else, so that's significant. Hopefully, they both run well now. They're both training well."
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Mr Havercamp to the forefront in G3 Forbidden Apple
Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry's homebred Mr Havercamp, named for a character in the film Caddyshack, makes his return to Saratoga in Friday's Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, a one-mile test for 4-year-olds and up on the inner turf.
After winning his first two career starts at Woodbine in impressive fashion for trainer Catherine Day Phillips, Mr Havercamp shipped to Saratoga for the 2017 Grade 3 Saranac and ran fifth, defeated less than four lengths, in a race that saw the first three finishers - Voodoo Song, Yoshida, and Bricks and Mortar - go on to become Grade 1 winners. He was defeated a nose for fourth that day by eventual Grade 2 winner Rocketry.
Day Phillips said she was impressed with the field while standing in the paddock ahead of the event.
"Look at the horses in that field. Before the race, when they were all walking around, I thought, 'Oh my God, look at these horses,'" recalled Day Phillips. "It was a very impressive group of horses and obviously they've gone on to be who they are now. It was all right there in front of us at the time.
"He ran a little bit green that day," continued Day Phillips. "When everyone was taking back, he was going up into horses and when everyone took off, he took back. It was a step in the wrong direction through the whole race really. It was only his third lifetime start and his first two starts were pretty easy, so he didn't really have that experience around horses the way the other horses that had run more often had."
A five-time stakes winner, Mr Havercamp broke through at the graded level last season, sprinting to victory in the grassy Grade 2 Play the King at Woodbine and came back to finish a strong second in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, a one-turn turf event won by Oscar Performance. He then demonstrated his versatility by adding a second graded score in November when victorious in the Grade 2 Autumn on Woodbine's Tapeta surface.
Day Phillips said Mr Havercamp is training well into Forbidden Apple, while coming off a nearly seven-month layoff since finishing off-the-board in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale on a soggy turf at Gulfstream Park.
"He's doing well," said Day Phillips. "His long term goal is the Woodbine Mile and we're getting going and getting back on track to hopefully where he's been. He's had quite a layoff and it's a lot to ship and run against the best, but he's a good horse and deserves a chance.
"The Woodbine Mile was a huge effort, but the Play the King was also a huge race. Every time he ran it was exciting," she added. "Every race is special with him."
Junior Alvarado, who piloted Mr Havercamp to a fourth-place effort in the Forbidden Apple last year when it was contested at Belmont Park, will guide the 5-year-old son of Court Vision from post 5 on Friday.
Day Phillips said the veteran rider will have options in terms of race tactics for the dark bay gelding.
"It's a matter of getting him comfortable in the race. That will be for Junior to figure out," said Day Phillips. "If there's a lot of speed, he won't be as close. Just getting him into his stride is the most important thing, and where he is in the race we'll find out. We haven't by design put him closer or taken him back."
Day Phillips said a return to Saratoga has brought back fond memories, in particular, her win in the 2005 renewal of the Saranac, which she won with Canadian-bred Jambalaya, who went on to win the Grade 1 Arlington Million in 2007.
"Both trips to Saratoga were hugely memorable. With Jambalaya it was our first time having shipped anywhere, so it was a really big deal," said Day Phillips. "He ran a huge race and it was our own horse, so it was extra special. It was an all in the family kind of thing."
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Listentoyourheart to target Rick Violette; Gucci Factor likely to target fall meet but holds out Saratoga hope
Castleton Lyons' Gucci Factor could run during the Saratoga summer meet, though trainer Christophe Clement said he hasn't finalized plans yet and could wait until New York-bred stakes for the fall meet.
Gucci Factor earned a personal-best 98 Beyer Speed Figurer for his win in the Grade 3 Poker on June 16 at Belmont Park after edging Hembree by a nose in the one-mile race on firm turf. The 6-year-old son of Gio Ponti [who was a two-time Eclipse Award-winner as Champion Grass Horse for Clement from 2009-10] has won his last three starts dating back to an optional claimer in December at Tampa Bay Downs before winning the Kingston on May 27 at Belmont.
"He's doing OK. He needed a bit of time from his last race, so I'm not sure if he should run in Saratoga or not," Clement said. "We have New York-bred stakes in the fall, so that's a possibility, but I'm not sure."
Gucci Factor has not run at Saratoga since finishing eighth against allowance company in July 2017 on dirt. Since being moved to turf in December of 2017, save for a fourth-place finish at 1 1/16 miles on the main track in May 2018, Gucci Factor has won six times in eight career starts on grass, including victories in five of his last six starts.
Clement has a pair of 2-year-olds making their first career stakes appearances through the first two weeks of the Saratoga meet. Tomato Bill, a 3 ¾-length winner in his debut on May 22 at Delaware Park, will run in the Spa's first 2-year-old stakes of the meet for males in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford on Saturday.
The son of More Than Ready, owned by George Bolton, Three Chimneys Farm, Barry Lipman, Lady Sheila Stable and David Lipman was a $500,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton New York Sale. He has been breezing at Saratoga, including a five-furlong effort on the main track Saturday in 1:01.74.
Clement's other juvenile who is stakes-bound is Listentoyourheart; a maiden winner by 1 ¼ lengths on June 23 in a five-furlong sprint at Belmont. The New York-bred son of Afleet Alex is targeting the $100,000 Rick Violette, contested at six furlongs, on Wednesday, July 17.
Listentoyourheart, a Merrylegs Farm homebred, put in his final breeze before that start, going four furlongs in 51.28 seconds on the Oklahoma training track on Wednesday morning.
"He breezed this morning and I was very happy with the work," Clement said.
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Carrera Cat purr-fect in her last four starts
Stone Bridge Farm and Very Un Stable's Carrera Cat had to wait until her eighth start to graduate, but since that four-length score in November at Aqueduct Racetrack, the 4-year-old Courageous Cat bay hasn't turned a hair, adding three more wins to her ledger.
"She's had a lot of immaturity issues and some physical issues, but I'm hopeful that's all behind us now," said trainer John Morrison. "It's a case of her growing up. She's always had ability, but I think physically she's finally developed into the mare we thought she would be."
The fleet-footed filly, bred in New York by W.S. Farish, emerged from her front-running maiden win to score by 10 1/2 lengths in a muddy seven-furlong allowance on New Year's Day at the Big A and followed up with a narrow neck score in a May optional-claimer at Belmont Park.
Last out, with regular rider Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Carrera Cat was again confronted with an off-track, splashing to a 3 1/4-length score in an open allowance tilt on June 13 at Belmont.
Although nominated to the Caress, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint on July 20 at Saratoga, Morrison said the filly is aiming at another allowance race to bridge the gap to the long-term goal - the $100,000 Union Avenue, a 6 1/2 furlong sprint on the Saratoga main track for New York-bred fillies, 4-years-old and up.
"We're looking at an allowance race and the main goal is the Union Avenue in August, so this is the best way of getting her there," said Morrison. "She does well with everything being spaced out at about a month, so we try to keep it that way."
Carrera Cat breezed four furlongs in 48.25 seconds on July 6 at Belmont Park and Morrison said he will wait to ship the talented bay upstate closer to her next start.
"She had a good work and came out it well. Everything with her is very positive right now," said Morrison.
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Long Weekend to wait for G2 Saratoga Special
Trainer Tom Amoss has opted to bypass the Grade 3 Sanford with impressive maiden winner Long Weekend in favor of the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite on August 10.
The B.C.W.T Ltd.-owned son of Majesticperfection won his career debut at Churchill Downs by 5 lengths over a fast main track going five furlongs. The race ended up being an unusual one when post time favorite Dennis' Moment clipped heels with another foe at the half-mile pole and unseated his rider.
Long Weekend would eventually go on to win under a hand ride by jockey Miguel Mena.
"There was a lot of hype amongst a few horses in there," Amoss said. "Mine was one, the horse of Dale Romans [Dennis' Moment], who unfortunately clipped heels, was another. But in any case, you can't take away from anything that our horse did. He ran great."
Long Weekend was purchased for $225,000 from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Spring Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in April from the consignment barn of breeder Woodford Thoroughbreds.
"Our bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle found the horse at the sale, called me and her exact words were, 'This one you can't miss' and she was right," Amoss said. "We purchased the horse and he never missed a beat once he arrived at the barn. He got ready very quickly and ran a real nice race."
Long Weekend is out of the stakes placed Olmodavor broodmare Liza Too, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winners Dads Caps and Paulassilverlining.
Amoss reported that Joel Politi's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress has settled in well to her trainer's base at Saratoga and will train for the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test on August 3.
"She's going to run in the Test," Amoss said. "I've looked over the probables for that race and the final time is going to be fast. It'll be fast early and she'll be a part of that."
Serengeti Empress is scheduled have her first work over the Saratoga main track sometime this weekend.
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Saratoga Week 2 Stakes probables
Sunday, July 14:
$100,000 Coronation Cup
Probable: A Bit of Both (Jason Servis); Abyssinian (Wesley Ward); Bohemian Bourbon (Ian Wilkes); Catch a Thrill (Mark Casse); Eyeinthesky (Casse); Midnight Fantasy (Joe Sharp); My Galina (Jorge Abreu); O'Keeffe (Larry Rivelli)
Wednesday, July 17:
$100,000 The Rick Violette
Probable: Bull of Bayern (Rudy Rodriguez); Listentoyourheart (Christophe Clement); Mission Wrapitup (Bruce Brown); Torres Del Paine (Graham Motion)
Possible: Justintimeforwine (Gary Contessa); TheItalianAmerican (Contessa)
Thursday, July 18:
Probable: Classy Sadie (Contessa); My Italian Rabbi (Jeremiah Englehart); Time Limit (Mike Maker)
Friday, July 19:
Grade 3, $150,000 Lake George
Probable: Blowout (Brown); Dogtag (Brown); Regal Glory (Brown); The Mackem Bullet (Ward); Winter Sunset (Wayne Catalano)
Possible: Feel Glorious (Clement); Hotsy Totsy (Clement); Panther Hit (Tom Albertrani);
Saturday, July 20: Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks Probable: Champagne Anyone (Ian Wilkes); Guarana (Chad Brown); Point of Honor (George Weaver) Possible: Boxwood (Eddie Kenneally); Safta (Dermot Magner)
$200,000 Caress Probable: Broadway Run (John Terranova); Fire Key (James Ryerson); Goldwood (Jorge Duarte, Jr.); Miss Gossip (Eduardo Caramori); Mominou (Jimmy Toner); Morticia (Rusty Arnold) Possible: Factorofwon (Clement); Mrs. Ramona G. (J. Englehart)