by NYRA Press Office
St. Elias Stable’s Grade 1 Carter Handicap winner Army Mule arrived Thursday morning at Todd Pletcher’s barn at Saratoga, where he will continue training for a fall campaign, according to his conditioner.
The 4-year-old Friesan Fire ridgling has been out of action since winning the seven-furlong Carter by 6 ½ lengths on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack. He earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory, his first stakes attempt. In May, Army Mule was withdrawn from consideration for the one-mile Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap for a freshening.
Pletcher said Army Mule returned to training while at James Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Ocala, Florida, and noted that the connections expect to take their time with the lightly raced Pennsylvania-bred.
“He just arrived this morning and he looks great,” said Pletcher. “We’ll gallop him here for a while and see what his fitness level looks like and map out a schedule. He’s been back galloping at Crupi’s farm for a little while, so hopefully, we’ll have him back on the worktab in the next couple of weeks.”
Pletcher and Vinnie Viola of St. Elias hope Army Mule’s fall campaign will culminate in the Breeders’ Cup November 3 at Churchill Downs, with both the Dirt Mile and the six-furlong Sprint being solid options.
“I need to talk to Mr. Viola a little more about it specifically,” Pletcher said. “We do have the Breeders’ Cup in mind, but we’re not sure which race yet. Ideally, we’ll get one start in between now and the Breeders’ Cup.”
A perfect 3-for-3, Army Mule was an $825,000 2-year-old in training purchase. He debuted as a sophomore and won by 8 ½ lengths at first asking in April 2017. Army Mule returned the following January to earn a 104 Beyer with a 7 ½-length optional-claiming score prior to his Carter victory.
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Bravazo looks to follow in Will Take Charge’s hoofprints in G1 Travers
Calumet Farm's Grade 1 Travers-bound Bravazo was feeling fine following Wednesday morning's breeze, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. The son of Awesome Again worked a half-mile in 51.60 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. Lukas said the time wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but the 82-year-old conditioner said he will rebound with a sharper plan for next week's breeze en route to the Kentucky-bred's start in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 25.
“Slow, not what I wanted, but slow is better than fast,” Lukas said. “I was looking for a little bit more, but he went by himself. I drilled on him [the exercise rider] that this work was not the one; next week is the one I want to be sharper. I told him don't overdo it. He went too slow, but by a jump or two.
“The easiest thing for a trainer to do is to take a slow work and correct it, but when you get a fast one, a bullet work, boy, you lay awake a little bit. How do you get them back? You left him out there in the morning, and you know it. Now, you've got to really make an adjustment when they go too slow. I'll probably work him back Monday, cut him back in six days where normally I work in seven or eight days.”
The work was the first since Bravazo's runner-up finish to Good Magic in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 29. His lone win this year came in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 17 at Fair Grounds before starting in all three Triple Crown races, where he finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Preakness and sixth in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Lukas, who added that jockey Luis Saez will remain aboard Bravazo in the Travers, said his colt will be a much better horse when he leaves the gate in the Mid-Summer Derby. He compared Bravazo’s growth to 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge, who finished out of the money in all three legs of that year’s Triple Crown before running second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and winning the Travers the following month. He eventually fell a nose behind Mucho Macho Man in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“Well we might have to change our strategy in the race a little bit, depending on who goes,” Lukas said. “The thing about this horse is he's developing a lot like Will Take Charge. He started getting good at this time of the year. He started developing and started getting stronger. That’s what I see happening here, so I’m hoping that's what's going to happen. We may have to change our strategy a little bit. Chad Brown’s horse [Good Magic], from where I'm sitting, I think that's a good horse. It's going to be a damn good Travers.”
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Realm to target Belmont Fall Meet after first stakes win in Sunday’s Alydar
Realm came out of his win in the $100,000 Alydar on August 5 at Saratoga in good order, trainer Barclay Tagg said Thursday morning, and will now have at least a month before his next race.
Making his first stakes appearance in eight starts spanning 13 months, Realm rallied to edge Kurilov by a head in the 1 1/8-mile Alydar on the main track for his first stakes win in six attempts, besting a field that included graded stakes veterans Patch and Timeline.
Now 5-years-old, Realm has shown flashes before, running third in the 2016 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap to cap his 3-year-old campaign before starting 2017 with a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope and second in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper, both at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s very fast and he’s a good horse, but he’s delicate, mentally and physically,” Tagg said. “So, we have to nurse him along, but he’s sound and has been training well. I liked his chances going in there, and he pulled it off.
“He tries so hard,” he added. “He ran third in the Cigar Mile when he was 3 years old, and we just wanted to try and get some black type with him. He’s a horse who’s had some minor physical problems, an ache and a pain here and there, so he’s been a work in process, but everything went right the other day.”
Tagg said Realm needs at least 30 days between races and is likely to return during the Belmont Fall Meet.
“We’ll just see what comes up in the next [condition] book,” Tagg said.
After three races against optional claimers, Highland Sky returned to stakes competition earlier in the summer meet, running fifth in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 28. Rainfall made the turf soft, which Tagg said didn’t suit the 5-year-old Sky Mesa gelding.
“He’s a very good horse, but he doesn’t like soft [turf]. Once you get him in there and it gets soft, you can’t take him out very well,” Tagg said. “He didn’t run terrible. He could have handled the [competition], he’s a come-from-behind horse, but he came out of the gate slogging the whole way.”
Tagg said he hasn’t decided on the next spot for Highland Sky.
Verve’s Tale has come close to adding a second graded stakes to her ledger, posting a runner-up effort and four third-place finishes in her last six starts – all against stakes competition – as she awaits her next spot. Tagg said he might target the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame going 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, October 6 at Belmont Park.
Tagg said he was considering the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign on Travers Day, August 25, but might wait for the fall meet for a softer landing spot with the Personal Ensign being a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Churchill Downs.
“We’d like to win a Grade 1 with her, but we’re having trouble winning a Grade 3 with her,” Tagg said. “Everybody is going to want to go in that one and maybe pass on the Beldame, so it might help getting that Grade 1 black type.”
After needing 11 starts to break his maiden, Im the Captain Now earned his first Saratoga win, besting an eight-horse field by 1 ¼ lengths to win an allowance race on Sunday. The victory marked his second in four starts, with three on-the-board finishes. After being purchased for $15,000, the 4-year-old gelding has earned $196,750 for Sure Thing Stables.
“He’s paid his way, you can’t complain about that,” Tagg said. “He comes from behind, that’s the way he runs. He comes out of the gate slow and wanders around, and then he takes off. I don’t know where we’ll run him back next, but it probably won’t be here [Saratoga]. I’d like to win a stakes with him, and if the conditions are right, he can probably do it.”
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Mott hopes outside post, good ground play in Yoshida’s favor in Fourstardave
Multiple graded stakes winner Yoshida is set to make his first start since finishing fifth in the Group 1 Queen Anne on June 19 at Royal Ascot as he looks to rebound in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap at one mile on Saratoga’s inner turf.
Yoshida, owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing and Head of Plains Partners, drew post 7 with Manny Franco in the irons.
“He’s doing well,” Mott said at his barn Thursday morning. “He seems to have handled shipping and returning from Europe very well. After a couple of weeks, he was bouncing right back, and he’s had a fair amount of time and he’s worked well and traveled well, so we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
Yoshida has handled soft to yielding turf well, winning the Grade 1 Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs and the 2017 James W. Murphy at Pimlico Race Course, giving Mott confidence with potential rain in the forecast. Mott also said drawing the outside post could be advantageous.
“It’s hard to know how much give they’ll be in the ground, but he does handle it well,” Mott said. “Even if it doesn’t rain anymore, it might have a little give in the ground, but I’m not praying for rain by any means; we’ve had enough. As far as his post, there’s some speed in there, so hopefully that will help spread out the field and he won’t have to be seven-wide going into the first turn. They should spread out where he should be able to get, so I think it will be OK.”
Mott also reported multiple graded stakes winner Elate and Curlin winner Hofburg each exited their breezes from Monday morning in good order and remained on target for their respective assignments in the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign and Grade 1 Travers, both on August 25.
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Zennor back from lengthy layoff to defend title in rescheduled Lure
Godolphin Racing's Zennor will return from a year-long layoff to defend his title in Saturday's $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure – delayed a week due to adverse weather last weekend.
It will be the first start for the 6-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding since he took last year’s 1 1/16-mile turf stakes by a length over Projected. Last year, Zennor recorded three straight wins, capped by his first career stakes victory for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Gary Barber’s Conquest Panthera will get a bit of class relief in the Lure after two consecutive Grade 2 starts at Woodbine. Last time out, the 6-year-old gelding by Kitten's Joy closed well for third in the June 30 King Edward at a mile on the grass. The Mark Casse-trained Kentucky-bred will make his fifth start of the year on Saturday.
Also returning from last week’s Lure entries are Mr. Cub, Dalarna, Inspector Lynley, and Blacktype. Projected joins the field as a supplemental entrant for trainer Chad Brown, while Forge was entered this time around for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. You’re to Blame and Secret Passage are entered for the main track only.