Stakes Advance
Aug 1, 2020
News Image
Francesca LeDonne Photo

Runhappy Travers (G1) contenders on the work tab

by NYRA Press Office

  • Hall of Famer Castellano hoping to extend his Runhappy Travers record
  • Vosburgh (G1) could be next for Volatile
  • Rookie Report: Uyuni will see more ground in second start; Asmussen debuts speedy firster for Phoenix Thoroughbreds

Sackatoga Stable's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes-champ Tiz the Law was the first horse on the Saratoga Race Course main track Saturday morning, breezing five furlongs in 59.44 seconds in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers slated for August 8.

"I wanted to go in a minute and he went in a minute. It was perfect," said trainer Barclay Tagg. "We couldn't have worked better. He came back good and he was breathing good. Everything was good. He's a gem to work with. He is doing perfectly as far as I'm concerned. I don't know what else we can do for him. I like this colt. Why wouldn't you? We've got a nice horse."

The "Mid-Summer Derby," to be contested at 1 1/4 miles for the country's most talented 3-year-olds, is one of three Grade 1s on the day, joining the $300,000 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going seven furlongs in a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

The day will also see sophomore fillies compete in the prestigious Grade 1, $300,000 Longines Test at seven furlongs, with the card bolstered by the Grade 3, $200,000 Troy, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for older males, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Waya, a 1 ½-mile turf route for older fillies and mares.

Sent out at 5:30 a.m., Tiz the Law recorded splits of 23.4, 36 and out in 1:13.2 over a fast main track with exercise rider Heather Smullen aboard.

"He's a little more relaxed in the morning," said Smullen. "He's nice and professional and does his job. There is always adversity. If he sees someone, he will get strong. He will get aggressive. He's a racehorse. Luckily, there was no one out there today. He went out there today and did what I told him to do. He was strong and consistent. It sure seems like it [that he's ready for the Travers]. He's done everything they have asked him to do."

A three-time Grade 1 winner, the son of second-crop sire Constitution followed up his August 2019 debut win at the Spa with a four-length score in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont. He completed his juvenile campaign with a close third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, contested on a sloppy strip at Churchill Downs.

Tiz the Law launched his sophomore season at Gulfstream Park with a three-length romp in the Grade 3 Holy Bull in February. He then dominated the nine-furlong Grade 1 Florida Derby by 4 ¼ lengths on March 28.

Last out, Tiz the Law captured the first leg of the revised Triple Crown when 3 ¾-lengths the best in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

Tagg and Sackatoga Stable traveled the Triple Crown road in 2003 with another New York-bred in Funny Cide. The Distorted Humor chestnut prevailed by 1 ¾-lengths in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby under Hall of Famer Jose Santos. He followed up with a 9 ¾-length score in the Grade 1 Preakness, but finished third in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes after setting the early pace in his Triple Crown bid.

Sackatoga Stable's operations manager Jack Knowlton said he was pleased with his colt's final preparations.

"Fortunately, he's an easy horse to deal with. He gallops out the way you want him to gallop out. Everything looks as good as it can be," said Knowlton. "I want to enjoy the next week because it is going to be a lot of fun. We will get to do a lot of things and we will enjoy the moment at Saratoga. Hopefully, everything will work out. We've got four weeks to hopefully win another [Kentucky] Derby.

"It's exciting [to be here for the Travers]. My second biggest disappointment with the whole Funny Cide run was not being able to even run in the Travers," added Knowlton. "When he got sick, that was a bigger disappointment after not winning the Triple Crown. Now, we've got a second chance. It's not often you get second chances the way we have with this horse and to do things that we couldn't do. We checked one box by winning the Belmont. It would be wonderful to check this box to win the Travers. I have a lot of confidence that he's going to get the mile and a quarter."

Bred in New York by Twin Creeks Farm, Tiz the Law is out of the graded stakes-winning Tiznow broodmare Tizfiz. He has accumulated earnings of $1,480,300.

Tiz the Law, who leads all contenders with 272 Derby qualifying points, will contest a unique Triple Crown scenario that will continue with the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, rescheduled from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, September 5, as the second leg of the Classic series. The Grade 1 Preakness, originally slated for May 16, will close out the Triple Crown on October 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

Runhappy Travers contenders Country Grammer and Shivaree breezed at 8:45 a.m. after the break on the Saratoga main track, while possible entrant Mystic Guide breezed at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland.

Paul Pompa, Jr.'s Country Grammer, last out winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan for trainer Chad Brown, worked a half-mile in company Saturday morning on the main track in 47.66. The Tonalist bay was clocked the opening quarter-mile in 24 flat.

A maiden winner at second asking when travelling nine furlongs in November at the Big A, Country Grammer was fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in his seasonal debut in February at Gulfstream. Following a closing third in a one-turn, 1 1/16-mile allowance event on June 4 at Belmont, Country Grammer made his return to two turns a winning one in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan on Opening Day July 16 at Saratoga.

The experienced Shivaree, trained by Ralph Nicks for Jacks or Better Farm, was clocked five furlongs in 1:03.27 after the break on the Saratoga main.

"It looked like he went well. He's a tough horse and he handles everything fine," said Nicks. "He handled shipping up there fine. He seems to be in good form. It was a nice maintenance breeze on the bridle, just kind of cruising around there this morning so all is well. We decided last week to take a shot, and everything's good."

The Awesome of Course colt, a Florida homebred, boasts a record of 12-3-3-2 with purse earnings of $345,505. He captured the Buffalo Man and Limehouse at Gulfstream to kick off his 3-year-old campaign and was the runner-up in both the Grade 3 Swale and Grade 1 Florida Derby at the Hallandale Beach oval. Last out, Shivaree failed to fire when 11th in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on July 11 at Keeneland.

Junior Alvarado will have the call in the Runhappy Travers.

Godolphin homebred Mystic Guide, a late-running third in the Grade 3 Peter Pan for trainer Mike Stidham, added blinkers for his five-eighths work in 1:01 flat Saturday at Fair Hill.

"We felt like he was a little more handy with the blinkers on," said Stidham. "He broke off three lengths behind another horse. We told the rider to stay even with the other horse down to the wire and he galloped out well. He went out in 13 and change. I was very happy with the addition of blinkers."

Stidham said he will consider both the Runhappy Travers and the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy at nine furlongs on September 5 for Mystic Guide.

"We're considering the Travers and we're also considering maybe waiting and running in the Jim Dandy," said Stidham. "We haven't decided yet but this definitely was a work we were going to use to see if the blinkers helped, which they seemed to, and then decide how aggressive we want to be. Obviously, going into the Travers would be a bit of an aggressive move."

By Ghostzapper, the Kentucky homebred colt is out of five-time Grade 1-winner Music Note. Mystic Guide made his first two starts at Fair Grounds including a debut third in a six-furlong sprint in February ahead of a five-length maiden score when travelling 1 1/16-miles on March 21 that earned an 84 Beyer.

Mystic Guide rallied to finish second behind Tap It to Win in a June 4 allowance around one-turn with eventual Peter Pan victor and likely Runhappy Travers rival Country Grammer 1 1/2-lengths back in third.

With Jose Ortiz aboard for the first time in the Peter Pan, Mystic Guide settled in eighth position in the nine-furlong event rallying wide to finish third, 3 1/2-lengths back of the victorious Country Grammer, who was a neck better than Caracaro.

The probable field for the Runhappy Travers, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, is also expected to include Caracaro [Gustavo Delgado], Max Player [Linda Rice], Uncle Chuck [Bob Baffert] and South Bend [Bill Mott].

*         *         *

Hall of Famer Castellano hoping to extend his Runhappy Travers record

Global Thoroughbred and Top Racing's Grade 3 Peter Pan runner-up Caracaro, trained by Gustavo Delgado, worked six furlongs under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in 1:15.99 Saturday morning on the Saratoga main track shortly after the renovation break.

The lightly-raced colt moved easily through splits of 26.2, 50.1 with a long gallop out past the wire.

"He's a good mover. Today, it wasn't about looking for time, it was more like a two-minute lick starting from the three-quarters and letting him gallop out," said Castellano. "He just ran three weeks ago, so today was a good maintenance work. He galloped out beautiful past the wire but I didn't let him overdo it. He handled the track well. He did everything the right way today."

The Uncle Mo bay, a $95,000 Keeneland November Sale purchase,followed up his January 11 maiden win at Gulfstream with a strong second off the layoff in the July 16 Grade 3 Peter Pan, earning 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

Castellano has won the Runhappy Travers a record six times having captured the Mid-Summer Derby with Bernardini [2006; 2-5, $2.70*], Afleet Express [2010; 7-1, $16], Stay Thirsty [2011; 5-2, $6.80*], V.E. Day [2014; 19-1, $40], Keen Ice [2015; 16-1, $34] and Catholic Boy [2018; 7-1, $16.20].

"I really love this race. To me, it's one of the best races in the country. It always has the best 3-year-olds," said Castellano. "All jockeys and trainers are all trying to win a race like the Travers. I'm very fortunate to be a part of its history winning with six horses. Even myself, when I say that number, I say, 'Really? I did that?' I've been so lucky and I've had a lot of support from my agent, the trainers and owners who put me on horses with opportunities to win these big races."

While Bernardini and Stay Thirsty were favorites, Castellano has also found Travers success with longshots including V.E. Day, who nosed out Wicked Strong in 2010, and Keen Ice, who upset 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah to end his eight-race win streak.

"You have to be patient and confident in both yourself and the horse to put everything together and have a good result," said Castellano. "Some of the winners were favorites like Bernardini and Stay Thirsty, but Afleet Express was a longshot and V.E. Day was a longshot that paid big. And then American Pharoah came and we won with Keen Ice."

To add to his Runhappy Travers ledger, Castellano and Caracaro will have to topple another strong favorite in Grade 1 Belmont Stakes hero Tiz the Law, but the Hall of Fame rider said he is cautiously optimistic.

"It's not an easy race to win," said Castellano. "You need to time it right and you don't want to overdo it early because it's not going to pay off. You have to be patient and ride like they are the best horse in the race.

"Tiz the Law is the horse to beat, but you never know," added Castellano. "American Pharoah was supposed to be unbeatable that day, but this is horse racing and you just never know."

*         *         *

Vosburgh (G1)could be next for Volatile

Following a victory in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt last Saturday, Volatile could target more Grade 1 action going six furlongs on the NYRA circuit in the Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won the Vosburgh in 2009 with Kodiak Kowboy, Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farms' Volatile made his graded stakes debut in the Vanderbilt in which he secured a tepid pace and maintained his advantage throughout the journey to win by 1 ¼ lengths. The son of Violence registered an outstanding 112 Beyer from his previous effort in the Aristides at Churchill Downs, which he won by an emphatic eight lengths.

The long term goal with Volatile remains the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland.

"We have to finalize plans with our partners at Three Chimneys, but it's very likely he'll run next in the Vosburgh at Belmont," said Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO Amer Abdulaziz. "He's come out of the Vanderbilt well and seems very pleased with himself. The timing of the Vosburgh works very well giving him around six weeks to the Breeders' Cup Sprint which is the target now."

Bred in Kentucky by Hill n' Dale Equine Holdings and Stretch Run, Volatile is by Violence and is out of the Unbridled's Song broodmare Melody Lady, whose dam was Grade 1-winning millionaire Lady Tak. He was acquired for $850,000 from the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. 

*         *         *

Rookie Report: Uyuni will see more ground in second start; Asmussen debuts speedy firster for Phoenix Thoroughbreds

Sunday's 10-race card at Saratoga gets started with a field of six juveniles plus one main-track only entrant in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the Mellon turf course.

Trainer Wesley Ward sends out Flaxman Holdings' Uyuni, who makes her second start after finishing a distant fourth over the turf on July 1 at Gulfstream Park.

The bay daughter of Uncle Mo is out of the Pulpit broodmare Pachattack who was a stakes winner overseas and a graded stakes winner in North America.  

"Uyuni has a much better chance going longer," Ward said. "She has the experience with a race under her belt that will help her."

Uyuni will be piloted by jockey Manny Franco from post 4.

The Spa's leading trainer, Christophe Clement, will look to continue his success when saddling Delaware Destiny on behalf of Stuart Grant's The Elkstone Group.

The bay filly by freshman stallion Exaggerator is out of the graded stakes-winning Smarty Jones broodmare Nikkis Smartypants and was bred in New York by SF Bloodstock. She comes from the same family as dual Grade 1-winner Diamondrella and stakes winner Highest Honors.

Delaware Destiny will break from the far outside under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

In Race 6, an overflow field of juveniles will take to the main track in a six-furlong maiden event.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen will debut Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Lady Lilly, a daughter of freshman sire and 2016 Kentucky Derby-winner Nyquist.

Lady Lilly, bred in Kentucky by Mueller Thoroughbred Stable, is out of the three-time stakes-placed Pulpit broodmare Miss Inclined, who is a half-sister to turf graded stakes winner Rush Bay.

Lady Lilly has trained forwardly for Asmussen, arriving at her debut off two bullet works including a five-furlong effort in 59.40 seconds from the gate July 22 on the Saratoga main track. She followed up with a three-furlong breeze in 37.71 on July 29 on the Oklahoma training track.

"We're happy with her and think she'll go well," said Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO Amer Abdulaziz. "She came in from Cash Asmussen's pre-training operation with some good reports and that's continued since she joined Steve. Her works have been good so while it's best not to be overconfident when running against some other good-looking types in a Saratoga maiden, we think she'll put up a decent showing."

Lady Lilly was purchased for $280,000 from last year's 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

"She's just a really nicely put together filly and we expected her to be relatively sharp and precocious. Let's hope we're right," Abdulaziz said.

Jockey Joel Rosario will be aboard Lady Lilly from post 6.

Highly regarded freshman stallion Runhappy will be represented by My Alluring Lady, who makes her debut for trainer Danny Gargan and owners Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, R. A. Hill Stable and Corms Racing.

Runhappy, the 2015 Champion Sprinter now standing at Claiborne Farm, captured that year's Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga for owner Jim McIngvale, traveling seven furlongs in a stakes record 1:20.54. A $100,000 bonus will be paid to any offspring of champion sprinter Runhappy who wins an unrestricted maiden race during the 2020 Saratoga summer meet.

A $300,000 acquisition from last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale, My Alluring Lady is out of the Curlin broodmare Charismata. 

Gargan said My Alluring Lady has trained well heading into her debut, recording a half-mile breeze in 47.60 seconds on July 25 over the Saratoga main track.

"She's a nice filly," Gargan said. "She's got a lot of talent. She's working well. I think Asmussen's filly is going to be tough, but we ought to make a good account of ourselves."

My Alluring Lady was bred in New York by Billy Terrell and Boyd T. Browning, Jr. and will have Manny Franco aboard from post 5.

Michael J. Ryan's Beautiful Farewell, a bay daughter of freshman sire Frosted trained by Michael Stidham, earned a 57 Beyer when third, defeated 1 ¼-lengths, taking on the boys first out in a 5 ½-furlong maiden sprint at Belmont Park.

"She ran at Belmont against colts first time out and was third," said Stidham. "She's back in against fillies and if she runs well there, we could be looking at trying her in a stake at some point. She seems like she has a decent future."

Trainer Chad Brown will saddle Peter Brant's Mo Dean - a $575,000 purchase from last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

The bay daughter of Uncle Mo is out of the Malibu Moon broodmare Don'tforgetaboutme, who is a half to graded stakes winners Mo Tom and Red Ruby as well as multiple Grade 1-placed Beautician.

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pilot Mo Dean from post 4.

All News Stakes Advance Stakes Recap Headlines Notes Features

More Stakes Advance