by Brian Bohl
Leonard Green, Aron Yagoda and Empire Racing Club's Proven Strategies will look to capitalize on a distance cutback in his stakes debut in the fifth running of Friday's $100,000 Skidmore for juveniles going 5 ½ furlongs on Saratoga Race Course's Mellon turf.
Proven Strategies finished fifth at the Skidmore distance on June 29 at Woodbine in Rexdale, Ontario over the Tapeta all-weather track. Shipping from Canada, the Sky Mesa colt was stretched out to 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf labeled good on July 27, leading the 10-horse field under jockey Tyler Gaffalione before tiring late in a fifth-place effort.
The Mark Casse trainee will now hope a shorter distance will suit his natural speed.
"Tyler put him to sleep on the lead because we knew we were the speed, but he couldn't hold on. So, going five and a half on the grass, we think he's pretty salty in there," Casse assistant Jamie Begg said. "This is his premier distance, so that's why we're going for it."
Gaffalione will have the return call from post 2.
K E M Stables' Memorable is the lone entry in the eight-horse Skidmore with graded stakes experience, running fifth last out in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 13 over Saratoga's main track.
Memorable won his debut on May 2 at Churchill Downs before running in New York for the first time in his second start, running fifth in the Tremont on June 7 on Belmont Park's Big Sandy. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will switch the Uncle Mo colt to turf for the first time in his fourth career start, drawing post 1 with Ricardo Santana, Jr. set to ride.
Another Miracle, owned by Leonard Green and Jonathan Green, will make his stakes bow after breaking his maiden at second-asking, leading gate-to-wire in a 5 ½-furlong off-the-turf sprint on July 24 at the Spa for trainer Gary Contessa.
Purchased for $210,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale, the son of Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah ran second to Green Light Go, winner of Saturday's Grade 2 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite, on July 4 at Belmont in his debut on July 4 at Belmont. He will now run on grass for the first time, breaking from post 3 in tandem with Manny Franco.
"I wouldn't mind if the race came off the turf, but if you look at the American Pharoah winners, there's been eight maiden winners and seven have been on the grass," Contessa said. "His last two works have been on the grass and have been absolutely stellar."
Another Miracle breezed three furlongs in 35 seconds flat on Saratoga's Oklahoma training track on Sunday.
"He has Medaglia d'Oro through the dam side [through Retraceable], which is another strong turf presence, so I think he'll be all right," he added. "This morning, he floated over the turf course when we blew him out. I'm sure when it's all said and done, I'm sure American Pharoah will be a great dirt sire and a turf sire. It's nice knowing you have that going for you. I like the distance for him, too."
Contessa said the only two options for Another Miracle were the Skidmore or wait for the Grade 1, $350,000 Runhappy Hopeful at seven furlongs on the dirt on Closing Day, September 2.
"There's no allowance races, it's just stakes only," Contessa said. "I'm taking the easier way, but you never know, the Hopeful is two weeks later and we'll nominate and see. But he worked well over the turf, so I'm expecting a big race out of him. It doesn't hurt, after seeing the race yesterday with Green Light Go; that stamped us as legitimate. So, we'll see."
Montauk Daddy ran second to Tuggle, who went on to finish third in the Saratoga Special, in his debut that was moved off the turf on June 21 at Belmont and won his first turf start on July 6 in Elmont. The Linda Rice trainee, purchased for $160,000 at the Ocala 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in April 2018, will exit post 6 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Rounding out the field is Now Is, second in the Tyro on August 3 at Monmouth Park for trainer Phil Gleaves, in his first Saratoga start [post 8, Hall of Famer John Velazquez]; River Hawk, a debut winner for trainer Edward Allard looking to go 2-for-2 [post 4, Jose Ortiz]; Venerate, a first-out winner on July 4 for trainer Antonio Sano [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]; and Frosted Rose, a winner in his second start on August 1 at Saratoga conditioned by Michael Trombetta [post 5, Joel Rosario].
The Skidmore is carded as Race 9 on Friday's 10-race card with an approximate post time of 5:18 p.m. Eastern. First post time is 1 p.m.