Rocketry faces tough test in G3 Saranac
by NYRA Press Office
Centennial Farm's talented allowance winner Rocketry will take on a competitive field of nine as he makes his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds on the Mellon turf course Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Carded as Race 9, the 110th running of the Saranac will kick off the Woodward Day stakes action as the first of four graded stakes on Saturday's 12-race card, anchored by the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets.
Beaten two lengths in his his debut in a 7 ½-furlong maiden special weight on the turf in February, the bay Hart Spun colt graduated from maiden company in his fourth try with a wide, fast-closing move at 1 3/8 miles on the grass to win by 2 ½ lengths on June 9 at Belmont Park. He came back in an optional claiming event on July 2, crossing the wire in third after being hit by another horse in the stretch before being elevated to second via disqualification.
Last time out in a July 28 allowance at the Spa, the $450,000 yearling purchase rallied from near the back of the pack to register a 1 ½-length victory at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.
"He's a little different than your average horse but he's been a pleasant surprise," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "We didn't really know what to make of him for a while. He was slow to come to hand and didn't show a whole lot when he first started training, but once he got over to the races, he showed some [talent]. He's one of the few horses I have that, right from the start, I wanted to start on the turf because he had some decent works over it at Palm Meadows.
"It's not often you're cutting back to a mile and an eighth, but he's been very deliberate early on in his races, hopefully it'll set up a little bit for him and he can come on and get part of it at least," he added.
At 6-1 on the morning line, Rocketry will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from the outside post.
Among Rocketry's more seasoned rivals are Bricks and Mortar and Yoshida, the 1-2 finishers of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's Bricks and Mortar is undefeated in four career starts, including a pair of recent stakes wins this summer having taken the Manila by a neck on July 4 at Belmont and the Hall of Fame by three-quarters of a length at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, respectively.
"He ran great last time," said trainer Chad Brown. "He's been outstanding. I'm looking forward to trying him at a mile and an eighth."
Bricks and Mortar, by Giant's Causeway, will break from post 4 with Joel Rosario aboard as the 8-5 favorite on the morning line.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Yoshida started his career on a three-race win streak, including a four-length score in the James W. Murphy at Pimlico Race Course on May 20, and rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Belmont Derby on July 8 to finish second with a three-wide trip in the Hall of Fame.
"I didn't make any excuses for him last time. He was maybe a little wider than the winner but he still ran a good race," said Mott. "A good horse beat him, I guess. If the other loses the ground and we save the ground, maybe we win. But, he came out of it in good order. His works have been good. He's had good energy, eating well. We'll just hope for good weather."
Installed as the 5-2 second-choice, the Heart's Cry colt will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 2.
Also in the field is Barry K. Schwartz' Voodoo Song, who bears the rare distinction of making his fourth start in a single Saratoga meet following a trio of victories this summer for trainer Linda Rice.
Voodoo Song, a chestnut colt by English Channel, was transferred from retired trainer Mike Hushion at the end of the Belmont spring/summer meet and won his first start for Rice by a front-running 5 ¼ lengths in a $40,000 claiming race against open company at 1 1/16 miles on the grass on July 22.
He ran back four days later, this time in an allowance for New York-breds going 1 3/8 miles on the turf, drawing off by as much as 16 lengths on the backstretch to hold on to win by three-quarters of a length. In his third Spa appearance a month later, Voodoo Song led gate-to-wire to post a length victory on August 23.
"You don't find many of them that will do as well as he has running back," said Rice. "My theory is that maybe you can do it once, but it's rare that you can do it a couple times. He did get about a month between the last two races so he got enough time.
"In his case, he loves the Clare Court track here, eats everything in sight, and we've worked him through his New York-bred conditions," she added. "Now we're going into a 3-year-old stakes race, open company, so I'm not as confident that we're going to get the same result, but it's worth a try. Clearly, he's really liked the course here as well and he's seemed like a horse that has really relished going two turns."
Voodoo Song, 12-1, will have the services of Jose Lezcano from post 5.
Rounding out the field for the Grade 3 Saranac are a pair of Todd Pletcher trainees in Master Plan, second to Frostmourne in the Grade 3 Kent last time out, and Caviar Czar, making his stakes debut in his sixth start; Mr Havercamp, undefeated in two lifetime starts at Woodbine for trainer Catherine Day-Phillips; Mo Maverick, a 1 ½-length winner of the Lamplighter on July 29 at Monmouth Park for the George Weaver barn; and Makarios, most recently fifth in the Hall of Fame, for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.