by NYRA Press Office
Barry K. Schwartz's Voodoo Song will try to keep his undefeated record at Saratoga Race Course intact on Monday when he breaks from the rail in a field of six in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf.
Last year, the popular New York-bred English Channel colt won four straight races on the turf in the 6 ½-week Saratoga meet, beginning with an open $40,000 claiming event on opening weekend and culminating with a hard-fought neck victory in the Grade 3 Saranac on the meet's final Saturday. Voodoo Song came into this summer with two wins from four starts in 2018, including a one-length victory in the Forbidden Apple on July 14 at Belmont Park, and promptly picked up where he left off.
The 4-year-old chestnut colt stepped up into the Grade 1 ranks with aplomb in the Fourstardave Handicap at a mile on the inner turf on August 11. Voodoo Song outfooted the early speed with his characteristically devil-may-care running style, but kept enough in the tank to hold off a late run from Delta Prince to record the fan favorite's fifth straight win at the Spa.
"We're pretty excited about it," trainer Linda Rice said of the Baruch. "Hopefully, we get through Monday's race unscathed and move on to the Shadwell Turf Mile [October 6 at Keeneland] and then hopefully the Breeders' Cup."
Rice said she's been pleased with Voodoo Song's development since his scintillating sophomore summer, noting that the connections have enjoyed the added benefit this year of picking their spots.
"Last year, he ran four times and won four, but this year we've given him more time between races," she said. "He clearly deserves it and he's performed well that way.
"We were pretty pleased with his maturity from three to four," Rice added. "We got him started early in April just to get a run in him and then we ran him seven furlongs. That was unbelievable; to run in 44 [seconds] and change [for a half-mile]. A horse that runs a mile and three-eighths usually cannot withstand a 44-and-change half and keep going. I was really impressed with him that day...then we ran in the Poker, very tough race, first time behind horses, it was a sneaky good effort [and] then another good effort in the Forbidden Apple. So, I think that we've been pleased with his progression at 4."
Installed as the even-money morning-line favorite, Voodoo Song will be ridden again by Jose Lezcano.
Also entered in the Bernard Baruch - immediately preceding the Grade 1 Hopeful, the final stakes of the 2018 Saratoga meet on Labor Day - are Pin Oak Stable's Synchrony, last-time out winner of the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth Park; Inspector Lynley, fresh off a victory in the Fasig-Tipton Lure on August 11; Shadwell Stable's European arrival Qurbaan, making his U.S. debut for the Kiaran McLaughlin barn; and a pair of Juddmonte Farm homebreds in Projected and Forge for meet-leading trainer Chad Brown and Hall of Famer Bill Mott, respectively.
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Restless Rider anxious for third straight win in G1 Spinaway
Trainer Kenny McPeek has already pulled off one Grade 1-sized upset in the 2018 Saratoga meet, having sent Eskimo Kisses to a dramatic, last-to-first victory at odds of 9-1 in the Alabama on August 18. On Saturday, he'll try for another one when he saddles Restless Rider in the $350,000 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies.
"She's extremely talented and we've been waiting for this particular race," said McPeek, who trains Restless Rider for Fern Circle Stable and Three Chimneys Farm. "We think it sets her up for a really good fall. We didn't want to press on her too early in the season. She's already shown that he had a lot of raw talent and this is a good next step."
On paper, the gray daughter of Distorted Humor is perfect in two starts, even if the execution didn't always go to plan. In her debut, Restless Rider was fractious behind the gate, dropping jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. and falling before reloading to post a 2 ¾-length win in the June 8 maiden special weight.
She came back three weeks later in the six-furlong Debutante on June 30 at Churchill Downs, where she raced near the pace and checked sharply on the backstretch when he pacesetter pulled up abruptly after the half-mile pole. Restless Rider recovered quickly, reengaged the pace with a six-wide move into the stretch and drew off to an eye-catching 11 ¼-length victory.
"She's got such a quick turn of foot that she can overcome stuff. She's a rapid-fast and extremely smart filly," McPeek said. "She's tactical. You can lay her off of the pace but if you wanted her to go to the front, she'd probably go. Good horses overcome a lot of things and she certainly acts like she's that kind of horse."
Hernandez has the return call aboard Restless Rider and drew post 11 in the 12-horse field for the Spinaway, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Juvenile Fillies in November at Churchill. The $150,000 yearling purchase has been installed as the 6-1 third-choice on the morning line behind Chasing Yesterday, half-sister to American Pharoah for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and Catherinethegreat, the gate-to-wire Grade 3 Schuylerville winner for the Mark Casse barn on opening weekend.
"Anytime you can get Grade 1 status for a filly, you're going to go for it. We pulled it off once this meet with Eskimo Kisses in the Alabama, so we'll try it again," McPeek said.
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Classy Act looks to end meet on high note in Sunday's G2 Prioress
Classy Act is looking to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Test when she competes against nine challengers in the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
Carl Moore's Classy Act dueled at the front with fellow Prioress contender Mia Mischief in the seven-furlong Test on August 4, setting the speed through the opening quarter-mile and staying just one-length off Mia Mischief a half-mile in. But trainer Bret Calhoun said Separationofpowers' wide move nearing the turn might have caught Classy Act, who wears blinkers, off guard.
"It was kind of a strange race. It's one you draw a line through," Calhoun said. "It looked like she was in total control of the race and that horse [Separationofpowers] went way wide and I think she [Classy Act] didn't feel anything and then got spooked. She just put on the brakes. She came back like she had never run a race and was bucking and squealing."
Since then, Calhoun said Classy Act has continued to train well at Saratoga, including a four-furlong breeze in 50.99 seconds on the Oklahoma training track on Tuesday.
"She's been razor-sharp since then and training great," Calhoun said. "It [the Test] was a big disappointment because going into that race, I felt positive. The way she was going early in that race, it looked like she was in control. But she got spooked, but that's like her; that's why we have the blinkers on her. It keeps her more focused. If she feels the horses and sees them, she's fine.
"She's done well since that time. Looking at her, this is probably the best she's been," he added. "I've never been able to get her coat like I wanted and now, for the first time, she's been able to pop some dapples. She has high energy coming into the race. I think it's hard to run twice here - two hard races - but she ran and got experience here and it didn't take too much out of her."
The Into Mischief filly had success earlier this year on the Kentucky Oaks trail, finishing second to 3-year-old filly division leader Monomoy Girl in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on February 17 at Fair Grounds. After running 10th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on May 4 at Churchill Downs, Classy Act defeated optional claimers at seven furlongs and returned to stakes company to run second behind Dixie Serenade in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at 6 ½ furlongs on July 8 at Belmont Park.
Now racing at the Prioress distance of six furlongs on what is expected to be a fast main track, Classy Act drew post 6 and is 12-1 on the morning line. Dream Tree, the 3-1 favorite trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, will break from post 8 and Mia Mischief, at 5-2, will be on Classy Act's inside from post 4.
"I think we drew well, it gives us some options," Calhoun said. "She's a fast filly, but I've always thought that having a bit of a target has always helped her. You have Mia Mischief on the inside. Last time, they sat off of it on the inside. This time, they may be forced to go a little bit. If they go, we might find ourselves sitting off of them, which would be fine."
Classy Act will be running at six furlongs for the first time since her runner-up debut effort in September 2017 at Churchill.
"It's a great distance for us; she's fast enough. It's not like your waiting around. They're going to be rolling," Calhoun said.
Finley'sluckycharm came out of her seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina on Travers Day in good order and remains on target for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on November 3 at Churchill, Calhoun said.
After winning the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap at the start of the Saratoga meet on July 25, Calhoun said he wasn't surprised the 5-year-old Twirling Candy mare struggled coming back to run against top caliber competition in a short time, but viewed the Ballerina as a way to keep her on track to challenge in the Breeders' Cup on full rest.
"She's shown as a 5-year-old that she can't bounce back from those huge efforts in four weeks time. Going in, she just didn't have the energy level that I thought she needed," Calhoun said. "It was hard to get a read on her, because she's not really fond of the heat and humidity, and it's been like that most of the time up here. It cooled off a little and her energy level picked up. But it was a tough spot. If I didn't run there, it would have been a huge gap between there and the Breeders' Cup. This way, I get 10 weeks, and she's responded well [to that time off]. If everything goes smooth, I think we'll have a really good [chance] in the Breeders' Cup."
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Elate gearing up for a return this fall at Belmont Park
Hofburg, the winner of the Curlin on July 27,is back on track after being withdrawn from last Saturday's Grade 1 Runhappy Travers due to a fever, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said.
"He may go to the Pennsylvania Derby," Mott said. "He's back on the track training. He looks good."
The 3-year-old son of Tapit won the Curlin by five lengths at Saratoga Race Course after finishing third in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The Pennsylvania Derby would be the sixth start of the year for Hofburg, who began his sophomore season with a maiden-breaking victory at Gulfstream on March 3 after starting only once at 2, finishing fourth in his debut last September at Saratoga.
Hofburg finished second behind three-length winner Audible in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, then finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Last Saturday's Grade 1 Personal Ensign runner-up Elate has returned to training and will likely make her next start downstate at Belmont Park, Mott said. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d' Oro fell short by a neck to rival Abel Tasman in the 1 1/8 mile Personal Ensign, her second start this year after she debuted with a 3 1/4 length victory in the Delaware Handicap on July 14 at Delaware Park.
"She's been back on the track. She seems okay," Mott said. "I was heading to the Beldame with her. That's my plan. That's been my plan. She'll stay up here until the Beldame until it's time to go down for that."
The multiple Grade 1 winner missed by a head to Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks last year at the Spa, then returned to win the Grade 1 Alabama by 5 1/2 lengths and added the Grade 1 Beldame to her resume on September 30 at Belmont Park. She ended her year with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November Del Mar.
WinStar Farm and China Horse Club's Japanese-bred Yoshida is set to start in Saturdays Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward, and will make his first start on dirt after 10 career starts on grass. The 4-year-old colt by Heart's Cry returned off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Queen Anne on June 19 at Royal Ascot, and repeated that finish in the Grade 1 Fourstardave on August 11 at Saratoga.
"I haven't even looked at it [the field]. For us it's a matter of looking at him in a field of horses going a mile and an eighth in the dirt," Mott said. "We've got to see what he can do. We think there's some possibility that he would handle it, but you never know until you put him out there in the afternoon. Nine furlongs is different than going five eighths or three quarters or half miles you know what I mean, he does that all the time. When you put them in a real race, it is the true test. It's kind of a fact-finding mission to see what he can do."
Yoshida closed out his 3-year-old year with a closing victory by a neck in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on October 7 at Belmont Park, then began her 4-year-old year by winning her lone Grade 1 victory in the Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
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Owner-trainer St. Lewis expects strong Woodward effort from G1 Discreet Lover
Owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis's feels confident in his 5-year-old horse Discreet Lover, who will make his 43rd lifetime start in Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward. The horse by Repent arrived at his temporary stall on the Saratoga Harness track backstretch after a four-hour drive from Park in Pennsylvania. His companion, Norma's Charm will start in Friday's eight race at Saratoga.
"He doesn't ever get respect, but we don't look for respect," St. Lewis said. "We like the money. Every time we bet him across the board, we know we are going to get our money back. He is just an honest little horse who just tries all the time. I wish I could have 20 like him."
The Woodward will be the fifth start at Saratoga for Discreet Lover, who finished fifth in last year's Grade 1 Whitney and Woodward respectively. Discreet Lover has started in seven races this year, highlighted by his closing 2 1/2 length victory in the Grade 2 Excelsior on April 7 at Aqueduct. Since then, he has finished off the board at Charles Town, Pimlico and Belmont before he closed for third in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7 at Belmont.
Discreet Lover closed well on the outside to finish third behind winner Diversify, and second-place finisher Mind Your Biscuits in the slop in his second try at the Whitney on August 4 at 38 to 1. With that effort behind him, the 60-year-old trainer from Trinidad and Tobago expects better from his horse.
"Last year, I knew it was tough against Gun Runner," he said. "I know Gun Runner was the best horse in the world. You get beat 14 lengths by Gun Runner and you are running versus the best horses in the world. Gun Runner is out of the picture and they are beating me five lengths, three lengths. Without Gun Runner, I thought I had a very good chance this year. He is getting better and better and better and better. The last race he ran a 103 Beyer for first time. I expect him to run a 107 or 108 this time. Anyone wants to beat him, they have to run that fast to beat him."
The Florida-bred has earned a reputation for facing strong horses in tough races over his career. Entering Grade 1 competition for a small operation such as St. Lewis, who oversees a barn of 26 horses at Parx, can be intimidating to some, but it doesn't bother St. Lewis.
"I am a small stable and you got Pletcher in there, you got Chad Brown in there, you might have Baffert in there, everyone knows them," said St. Lewis. "You only know of Uriah's name because of Discreet Lover. When Discreet Lover goes, you probably won't ever hear Uriah St. Lewis again unless I get another good horse. On my little race track, I don't win at a high percentage either, but they will remember my name just like some other little guys that come by.
"I expect to win. I didn't come here to run worse than first. I think we should win by two or three lengths. Easy. This horse is training spectacular. He worked about nine days ago and he came back like he didn't do anything. We don't want him to peak yet. We want him to run good. We want him to peak at the Breeders' Cup or the race in January [Pegasus]. After that, we will tell him he can go home and get a nice vacation. I want to make him a stud after that."
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Ninth annual Run For The Horses 5K to be held Saturday
The ninth annual 5K run/walk for the Horses and Kids' Fun Run will be held Saturday morning at the Orenda Pavilion at Saratoga State Park.
The event, which was originally run by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, benefits several area horse rescue organizations that are part of the Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors of Saratoga.
The 5K run/walk registration is $30 while the children's race registration is $5. Check-in begins at 7 a.m. with the kids' run starting at 8 a.m. followed by the 5K race at 8:30 a.m.
Along with the races, leashed dogs and their handlers can compete in the canine division. Refreshments and prizes will be available in all race/walk and canine divisions. Several retired Thoroughbreds will participate in the walk. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2LJA7R1.
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Belmont Park Opening Weekend stakes probables
Friday, September 7: The $100,000 Christiecat
Probable: Broadway Run (John Terranova); Escapade (Jonathan Thomas); Factorofwon (Christophe Clement); Lady Suebee (Chad Brown); Miz Mayhem (Jason Servis); Mominou (Jimmy Toner); Souper Striking (Michael Trombetta)
Saturday, September 8: The $100,000 Allied Forces
Probable: Dirty (Jeremiah Englehart); Like What I See (Gregory Sacco); Totally Boss (Rusty Arnold); World of Trouble (Jason Servis)
Possible: Colonel Tom (George Weaver); Irish Territory (Bill Mott); Reed Kan (Jason Servis)
Sunday, September 9: The $100,000 Royal Delta
Probable: Dreamcall (Steve Asmussen); Frostie Anne (Rudy Rodriguez); Tiger Moth (Brad Cox)
Possible: Berned (Graham Motion); You Know Too (Michael Gorham); Your Love (Brown)