by NYRA Press Office
Already boasting a deep appreciation for the history of Saratoga Race Course, trainer Mark Casse is relishing the opportunity to have star filly Wonder Gadot make some of her own in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
Winner of the first two legs of Canada's Triple Crown, the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales, Gary Barber's Wonder Gadot will face males again when the 1 ¼-mile Mid-Summer Derby is run for the 149th time on August 25.
No filly has won the Travers since Lady Rotha in 1915. The last filly to try it, Davona Dale, was fourth as the favorite in 1979.
"I've been coming here since I was like 7 years old," Casse said. "When I first thought about it and Gary and I talked about it ... we didn't think about how much excitement it would bring, but it's bringing that and I think it will continue to build which is just great. I love that."
Wonder Gadot worked a half-mile in 48.07 seconds Friday morning over Saratoga's main track, her first breeze since a front-running 5 ¾-length triumph in the Prince of Wales on July 24. The time ranked fifth of 60 horses at the distance.
Going out shortly after the track opened at 5:30 a.m. with exercise rider Chris Garraway up, the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was caught going her opening quarter-mile in :24 1/5 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01 and six furlongs in 1:14 2/5.
"She worked ... wonderful," Casse said of the filly nicknamed 'Wonder Woman.' "It was how she did it. She got away a little slow. Chris had never breezed her before but we radioed him and told him to pick it up a little bit and as soon as he asked her, she took off. Then we called back and told him to slow her down.
"We were aiming for 48, and then he dropped her head a little bit and she took off again. She got over it really well," he added. "Her first work back we didn't want her to do too much. That was as fancy as it gets. I would give it an A-plus work."
Wonder Gadot has a record of 5-4-3 and bankrolled more than $1.3 million from 13 career starts. She won the Grade 3 Mazarine and Grade 2 Demoiselle at 2, and had run second or third in her first six starts this year including a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks before the Canadian Triple Crown races.
Following the retirement of undefeated Triple Crown champion Justify last month, Casse and Barber decided to reroute Wonder Gadot from a planned start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama for 3-year-old fillies August 18 and take aim at the Travers.
"We're running in there because, one, we've had great success running our fillies against colts," Casse said, "and when I looked at the numbers and everything and the fact that she's already beaten colts, I think we have a legitimate chance. I'm not in there for the show. I think we've got a big shot to win. I think that's the consensus. We're definitely not hunting bear with a switch.
"I would never want to let her down," he added. "I am about as confident as you can be in horse racing. I am just confident when the dust clears, she is going to be part of the equation. We talked about it, and take nothing away from the Alabama, if she were to have won the Alabama -it's one of the greatest races in North America - but if she were to win the Travers, they will know about her around the world. If [she] wins the Travers, she will be remembered forever."
Wonder Gadot is expected to maintain her regular work schedule leading up to the Travers, Casse said.
"She's in a nice pattern so she doesn't have to do anything different," Casse said. "She has a pattern that she's lived by, and we won't change anything. You'll see her have a similar type work probably next Friday."
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Tenfold to work this weekend ahead of G1 Travers
Tenfold is expected to return to the worktab on Sunday morning at Saratoga as he preps for the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers, said Scott Blasi, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
The work, set for 6 a.m., will be the first for Tenfold since winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 28 at the Spa. The Curlin colt bested Flameaway by three-quarters of a length to win at 1 1/8 miles and will now take aim at the Mid-Summer Derby, contested at 1 ¼ miles.
The Jim Dandy was the first stakes win for Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred, who had previously run fifth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, third in the Grade 1 Preakness, and fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont. Following the win in his Saratoga debut, Asmussen said Tenfold would have two works before the Travers.
Blasi said regular jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. is expected to be aboard for Sunday's work.
Midnight Bisou came out of her last breeze on Monday in good order as she points to the Grade 1 Alabama on August 18. One of the top contenders for the 3-year-old filly division, Midnight Bisou ran second to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22 at Saratoga.
On Monday, Midnight Bisou breezed five furlongs in 1:01.02 on the Oklahoma training track. The daughter of Midnight Lute has already registered four graded-stakes wins in the current campaign, racking up victories in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and Grade 2 Mother Goose, the latter on June 30 at Belmont.
"Her last work was nice and if everything continues to go right, we'll train up to the Alabama," Blasi said.
Asmussen will saddle a pair of talented juveniles in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite. Out of the six-horse field, only Sir Truebadour has graded-stakes experience, wiring the field to win the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on June 30 at Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky-bred, who was purchased for $300,000 at Fasig-Tipton's Yearling Sale last summer at Saratoga, drew post 5 and is 9-2 on the morning line with jockey Joel Rosario aboard.
"He's been very precocious early on for us, we need him to continue to improve," Blasi said.
His stablemate, Tight Ten, will make his stakes debut from post 4 at 5-2 odds. The son of Tapit earned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden win on June 28 at Churchill, capturing the six-furlong sprint in front-running fashion.
"Tight Ten was impressive racing greenly in his maiden special weight, and he won anyway, so we think he has a tremendous amount of talent," Blasi said.
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Consistent Lottie seeks first stakes victory in G3 Fasig-Tipton Waya
Jack Swain III's multiple graded-stakes placed Lottie, narrowly beaten in last year's running, will go after her first career stakes triumph in Sunday's Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya.
The Waya, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at 1 ½ miles on the inner turf course, was originally scheduled for August 4 but postponed due to severe thunderstorms that day. Lottie will break from the rail in the redrawn field of eight.
"I like that they redrew the race because we went from the eight to the one, which helps her I think," trainer Graham Motion said. "I think she's better the longer she goes. She ran so well up here last year in the same race. It was a very good effort that day."
Lottie, a 5-year-old Arch mare, closed to be second by a half-length to Estrechada in the 2017 Waya, which marked her graded-stakes debut. She returned to the Spa turf to run fifth in the Grade 3 Glens Falls, then closed her campaign running third in the Grade 3 Dowager and fifth against males in Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup, beaten 4 ½ lengths.
Motion didn't bring Lottie back until May 5 in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park, where she raced in a stalking position all the way around and finished second, a half-length behind winner Holy Helena and a nose in front of Santa Monica.
A fluke injury kept Lottie away from the races since then, but she shows a steady string of works for her return both at Motion's Fair Hill (Maryland) Training Center base as well as a five-furlong breeze in 1:04.09 over Saratoga's Oklahoma training turf August 6.
"I thought she ran really well last time. Actually I was surprised, because I was questioning whether she was fit enough coming off the layoff," Motion said. "Unfortunately she came back and cut herself in the paddock, and she must have done it with her other leg, right on the pastern. We had to put stitches in and that's why it's taken so long to get her back to the races. One of the risks of turning horses out, I guess."
Santa Monica returns in the Waya, one of two horses trained by meet leader Chad Brown, along with Homeland Security. Santa Monica won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly June 30 at Woodbine going 1 ¼ miles, while Homeland Security is coming off a one-length triumph in the 1 ½-mile River Memories July 8 at Belmont.
"This is a very competitive race. [Santa Monica] makes it very competitive coming off winning a Grade 2 and now she's running in a Grade 3," Motion said. "But, if [Lottie] runs back to her form and back to last year's race, she's very solid."
Completing the Waya field are Savannah Belle, Mom's On Strike, Tricky Escape, Queen of Connaught and Summersault.
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Catholic Boy gives connections confidence in prepping for Travers
Trainer Jonathan Thomas said everything is on target for G1 Runhappy Travers hopeful Catholic Boy, who exited his five-furlong work on the main track in 59.66 seconds Monday in good order.
The breeze, under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, was his second at Saratoga since his victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on July 7.
"He came out of his last work really well," Thomas said. "We're happy with what he did out here on the main track. Everything is in play at the moment, we're just taking it week by week."
The Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready gives Thomas versatility in selecting prospective starts for his ridgling. After breaking his maiden over turf at first asking as a 2-year-old at Gulfstream, he returned over a month later, winning the 2017 Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga.
His only career loss on grass came when fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in November at Del Mar before returning to capture the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct in the finale of his juvenile campaign.
Catholic Boy began his 3-year-old year with a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on February 10 at Tampa Bay. He continued his journey along the Triple Crown trail by finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream.
After it was discovered that he bled in the Florida Derby, Thomas decided to give the earner of $1,172.000 some time off. After a freshening of few months, Catholic Boy returned with wins in his next two starts, the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge on June 2 at Belmont and the Belmont Derby one month later.
"I think the target of the Belmont Derby was very intriguing knowing that he was adept on the grass," said Thomas. "The timing was such that it looked like the most logical target for him. I never thought the mile and a half of the Belmont was really something we wanted to tackle so we circled the Belmont Derby and worked backwards after the Florida Derby."
Thomas said he has faith that Catholic Boy would be tough to contend with in the Travers. More than a few factors have given him the confidence over the last few weeks.
"Obviously we have two more opportunities to breeze him on the main track and see if through a body or work, two more works on the main track, would give us any indication. Javier seemed to be really thrilled with how he breezed the other day, so that gave me a lot of confidence," he said.
"Every time we put a bridle on him, he's tried, so I don't see why this [Travers] would be any different," he added. "There's also big residual ramifications for being a stallion if we were to get it done. I'm lucky to train him and I'm also a fan of him as a horseman because he's sound, hard-sknocking and trying. He's a beautiful colt, so I have a responsibility to try and get him into the stallion barn , and this [Travers] will go a long way. He's really accumulated a little fan base, and as a fan he's just a fun horse to train. It's a lot of fun being around him. I wouldn't be opposed to breezing him on the turf once in between, too."
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Baker looks to finish meet strong; Joking eyes return at Belmont
With three wins, two seconds, and a pair of third-place finishes from 18 starters at the meet through Friday, trainer Charlie Baker said he is hoping to keep the momentum going until through Saratoga's Labor Day conclusion.
"This meet's been OK," Baker said. "You always hope for a little better, but we're running all right and hoping for some more winners down the road if everything works out, but we've been hitting the board, so it's been encouraging."
Tiznow's Smile earned a trip to the winner's circle on Wednesday, charging late with a closing kick to capture an allowance optional-claiming race by a neck, returning $42.60 for a $2 win wager, Baker reported the 4-year-old New York-bred filly by Tiznow returned from the race in good order and would continue to go through her conditions.
"She was training better than she was previously heading into the race," Baker said. "We did some blood work on her and she was low in a few areas, but I think we got her back right after her last race. I didn't think she was going to run that big, but we were pleasantly surprised, and I think perhaps we'll try her in an open allowance. I think she needed a little more distance and wants two turns."
Multiple stakes winner Gold for the King, who last out finished fourth in the John Morrissey on July 26, exited the race in good condition but would receive a freshening before his next start.
"I'm going to give him [Gold for the King] a little break right now and we'll point to a race at Belmont for him next," he said.
Baker also reported multiple graded-stakes winner Joking,who has been unraced since winning the Grade 1 Vosburgh in 2016 and was scratched earlier this year from returning in the Grade 2 True North in June at Belmont, is still in training and will eye a return sometime during the Fall Championship meet at Belmont Park.
"He's still at Belmont," Baker said. "We don't bring him to Saratoga, but he's doing OK. "We're hoping to run him at Belmont sometime, but we haven't decided where yet. It's just been irritating where small issues have prevented him from running but nothing major, so hopefully we'll get him right and ready to return this fall."
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Saratoga Race Course Week 5 stakes probables
Wednesday, August 15: The $100,000 Bolton Landing
Probable: Avocado Toast (Tom Albertrani); Drynachan (Chad Brown); Elsa (Michael Stidham); Shang Shang Shang (Wesley Ward); Fightress (Norm Casse)
Possible: Questionoftheday (Michael Trombetta)
Thursday, August 16: The $100,000 Union Avenue
Probable: Absatootly (Charlie Baker); Bonita Bianca (Jason Servis); Holiday Disguise (Linda Rice); Mizzen Max (Michelle Nevin); Picco Uno (Js. Servis); Swing and Sway (Ron Moquett); Wonderment (Ken McPeek)
Friday, August 17: The $100,000 Skidmore
Probable: Chase Greatness (Horacio DePaz); Chattel (Brandon McFarlane); Fluminense (Steve Asmussen); Stayontherind (Andrew Valenzuela); Swamp Rat (Phil Gleaves); Yes and Yes (Phil Gleaves)
Possible: Voodoo Song (Linda Rice)
Saturday, August 18: Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama
Probable: Auspicious Babe (Dallas Stewart); Coach Rocks (Dale Romans); Eskimo Kisses (McPeek); Figarella's Queen (Brad Cox); Midnight Bisou (Asmussen); She's a Julie (Asmussen); Talk Veuve to Me (Rodolphe Brisset)
Possible: Alberobello (Todd Pletcher); Chocolate Martini (Tom Amoss)
Saturday, August 18: Grade 2, $300,000 Lake Placid
Probable: Andina De Sur (Albertrani); Capla Temptress (Bill Mott); Daddy is a Legend (George Weaver); Rushing Fall (Brown); Thewayiam (Graham Motion)
Sunday, August 19: The $100,000 Summer Colony
Probable: Awestruck (Rusty Arnold); Forever Liesl (Nevin); Moonlit Garden (Christopher Davis)
Monday, August 20: The $100,000 Evan Shipman
Probable: Control Group (Rudy Rodriguez); Hit It Once More (Gary Sciacca); Papa Shot (Linda Rice); Twisted Tom (Brown); Wine Not (Weaver); Winston's Chance (Debra Breed)
Possible: Can You Diggit (Jimmy Jerkens); Pat on The Back (Jeremiah Englehart); Uncle Sigh (Chris Englehart)
Monday, August 13: The $100,000 Saratoga Dew
Probable: Frosty Margarita (Rudy Rodriguez); Land Mine (Phil Serpe); Verdant Pastures (Charlton Baker)
Possible: Frost Wise (Dilger)