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Saratoga Race Course Notes - July 22

By NYRA Press Office | 07/22/2013 04:21 PM ET
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese


  • Vyjack looks to return to form in G2 Jim Dandy
  • Derby winner Orb flourishing in Fair Hill, Md. trains toward G1 Travers
  • Dilger still on Cloud 9 after Wired Bryan’s Sanford victory
  • Bruce Brown thinking Breeders’ Cup with Strong Impact following Fiddlers Patriot win
  • Weekend Hideaway stays on the turf to compete in Thursday’s Smirnoff Sorbet Quick Call
  • Bush to send out Beautiful But Blue in competitive Lotsa Talc on Thursday
  • “Steeplechase Thursdays” kicks off with Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes
  • G2 Fourstardave contender Lea breezes on the turf
  • “An Evening with Tom Durkin” Wednesday at Saratoga Public Library
  • Former trainer Jack Bradley dies at 83

Rather than give Vyjack one final work before Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, trainer Rudy Rodriguez decided to break from routine.

Winner of the Grade 2 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack over the winter, Vyjack has breezed three times since his eighth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes on June 8. Most recently, he went five furlongs in 1:00 at Saratoga on July 16, his second straight bullet work.

“He had a nice open gallop [Sunday], so I think we should be in good shape,” Rodriguez said Monday morning. “I worked him a little bit before the [Kentucky] Derby, I worked him a little bit before the Belmont, now I’m cutting back a little bit. I just wanted to change things up a little bit, maybe give him another couple days rest, and maybe he’ll give us a good race.”

The 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy will be the first start since the Belmont for Vyjack, the gelded bay son of Into Mischief who ran 18thof 19 in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 after suffering his first career loss in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. In the Wood, he was third, beaten just a length by Verrazano.

Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, graded stakes winners Code West, Freedom Child, Looking Cool, Moreno and Will Take Charge, along with Mylute, fifth in the Derby and third in the Preakness, are also eyeing the Jim Dandy, Saratoga’s local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers here on August 24.

“If he shows up, I think he can compete with these horses,” Rodriguez said. “If he doesn’t, then we’ve got to regroup and maybe back off, give him two or three months on the farm and bring him back fresh. He’s a gelding, so we don’t need to squeeze everything out of him.”

*          *          *

Sitting in his office at the Oklahoma training track Monday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey reached over and rapped twice on his wooden desk for luck when asked about his Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, who remains at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

Owned by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, Orb took up residence at Fair Hill on June 9, the day after finishing third in the Belmont Stakes. He has breezed three times since his arrival, including a half-mile in 49.20 seconds on July 20, as he trains up to the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 24.

“Orb’s doing really good,” McGaughey said. “I was down there Saturday when we worked him, and I thought he did great. He looked great, his attitude’s perfect. As of today, all systems are ‘go.’ He was going down there for two weeks, and he’s been there for [six] now, so he must be doing something right.”

McGaughey has taken advantage of the facility at Fair Hill, which includes a hyperbaric chamber, cold water spa and water treadmills for horses, as well as paddocks, rolling hills and wooded walking trails.

“A horse can be a horse there,” McGaughey said. “I had never been to that place before, and when I went down there I could see what the situation was. There was no sense in bringing him out of there. It’s in a country-type atmosphere, the track’s good, it’s not crowded and there’s a lot of amenities there that we don’t have here. I think it’s worked out really well; in fact, I went from one horse there to eight.”

Assistant trainer and exercise rider Jennifer Patterson is at Fair Hill with McGaughey’s horses, stabled with trainer Bruce Jackson. McGaughey hopes to get in at least two more works before bringing Orb to Saratoga in mid-August.

“I got a text from Bruce Jackson yesterday,” McGaughey said. “[Orb] just walked yesterday after working and [the text read], ‘Orb quite fresh this morning.’ Everything’s good. He did so well at Payson Park, but this is Payson Park on steroids with all those amenities.”

*          *          *

Text messages from Australia, phone calls from Ireland and e-mails from Germany were the order of the day for 35-year-old Michael Dilger, whose 2-year-old Wired Bryan gave the trainer his first win at Saratoga and first stakes victory in Sunday’s Grade 2 Sanford.

“He’s doing a lot better than I am; I’m still hoarse,” said Dilger, who has been training on his own since January following a seven-year apprenticeship as an assistant to Todd Pletcher.  “He seems good this morning, and we’re very happy with him.”

Dilger said that the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 2 was under consideration for the gray New York-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, who was bred and is owned by Anstu Stables.

“It’s possible,” said Dilger. “That’s a decision we’ll make in the next few days.”

*          *          *

Trainer Bruce Brown is thinking Breeders’ Cup with La Marca Stable’s Strong Impact after the New York-bred delivered a three-quarter-length victory against open company in yesterday’s $100,000 Fiddlers Patriot at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf.

The Fiddlers Patriot was the first stakes win for Strong Impact, who was claimed by Brown for $35,000 during the 2011 Saratoga meet. Freshened during the winter following a pair of lackluster performances on the dirt at Aqueduct Racetrack, Strong Impact returned from a five-month layoff to win an optional claimer turf sprint on June 19, at Belmont Park, and then delivered a strong turn of foot to catch Tightend Touchdown in the Fiddlers Patriot.

“He’s come back this year better than ever,” said Brown. “He’s coming back each year a little bit better. I wasn’t expecting him to run as well as he did in his first race back. It was seven-eighths and I would have been happy with just a good effort, but he exceeded expectations that day, and yesterday was great.”

Brown said Strong Impact likely will make his next start in the $100,000 Troy on August 14 at Saratoga. Like the Fiddlers Patriot, the Troy is a 5 ½-furlong turf race.

Brown’s long-range objective for Strong Impact is the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November at Santa Anita.

“It’s a talented division, but it’s not a real deep one, and most of them were there yesterday,” said Brown. “He proved himself against them. He’s a New York-bred, so you go from looking at different New York-bred spots to looking for the big prize.”

Brown said Strong Impact’s stablemate Spring to the Sky is undergoing evaluation after bearing out on the turn and being vanned off after finishing last of nine in the Fiddlers Patriot.

“He’s comfortable and he cooled out OK, but he definitely has something going on,” said Brown. “We took some X-rays.”

*          *          *

Multiple stakes winner Weekend Hideaway will attempt to remain unbeaten on the turf when he competes in the $100,000 Smirnoff Sorbet Quick Call on Thursday.

The Smirnoff Sorbet Quick Call, a 5 ½-furlong dash, is restricted to 3-year-olds. 

A winner of the David Stakes and the Bertram F. Bongard against New York-breds as a 2-year-old, Weekend Hideaway captured his first 3-year-old stakes when trying turf in the Gone Fishin overnight stakes on June 28 at Belmont. In the Gone Fishin, Weekend Hideaway quickly seized a clear lead and ran away to a 4 ¾-length score.

Jose Lezcano, who was aboard for all three of Weekend Hideaway’s stakes wins, will ride the 3-1 morning-line favorite from post 4. Phil Serpe trains Weekend Hideaway for Red and Black Stable.

No Distinction, a winner of three straight, will make his turf, New York, and stakes debut in the Smirnoff Sorbet Quick Call. After breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park in April, the David Clark color-bearer rattled off an allowance triumph in May and optional claiming success in June at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Randy Morse, No Distinction, 7-2, will have the services of Robby Albarado from post 2.

The Brothers War, a listed stakes winner in France, will make his first stateside start in the Smirnoff Sorbet Quick Call. He was purchased privately by Team Valor and Allen Stable after taking the Prix Sigy at Chantilly and has made one start for his current connections, finishing 11th of 21 in the Grade 3 Jersey Stakes on June 19 at Royal Ascot. Rick Mettee now trains the son of War Front.

Alan Garcia will ride The Brothers War, 6-1, from post 8.

The field also includes the coupled entry of Salutos Amigos and I’m Wide Awake (6-1), as well as Stage Street (4-1), Central Banker (8-1), Bernie the Jet (15-1), and Strike the Note (8-1). The Truth and K G (7-2) was entered for the main track only.


*          *          *

Trainer Tom Bush knows he has his hands full Thursday when he sends out his multiple stakes winner Beautiful But Blue in the seven-furlong $100,000 Lotsa Talc for New York-bred fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up.

“You’ve got Miss Valentine, Clear Pasaj for Bruce Levine, and Willet,” Bush said, rattling off the names of some of the stiff opposition. “It’s a tough race. All those fillies are competitive probably in open races. It’s the improved New York program, for sure.”

Something will have to give in the Lotsa Talc, and the horses in the field of six scheduled to run make few errors. Combine each of the runners’ past eight races and you get a record of 18 wins, 15 seconds and eight thirds from 48 starts with only seven off-the-board finishes.

Beautiful But Blue, a 4-year-old Chester and Mary Broman homebred daughter of El Corredor, had a terrific meet at Saratoga last summer, winning the $100,000 Fleet Indian for state-breds by 2 ¾ lengths at the Lotsa Talc distance and then finishing a close-up third in the Grade 1 Test.

Since then, she has placed in four of five starts – all stakes races – but hasn’t won. Bush said Beautiful But Blue is in strong form, but he dismissed the suggestion that she might be at her best at Saratoga.


“She’s doing very well,” Bush said. “I’m tickled to death to run her. The race, they don’t give it away, that’s for sure. She won a stake at Belmont and won a stake here, too. She also won one at Aqueduct. She can run wherever; she’s versatile. She’s come back good this year and run very well twice. We’re expecting her to do the same again.”


*          *          *

Steeplechase Thursdays kick off on July 25 with the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, one of two Saratoga races for steeplechasing’s rising-star division. A field of 12 was entered for the 2 1/16-mile race over national fences, with the Jonathan Sheppard-trained entry of Martini Brother, winner of a Radnor Hunt allowance hurdle in May, and Powerofone, a two-time winner this spring, listed at 3-1 on the morning line.

Another emerging star is Clorevia Farm’s Dr. Skip, who has won his two career starts over fences by daylight. He most recently won a Parx Racing optional allowance by seven lengths on June 25 and is part of a 7-2 entry with Extraextraordinary.

Rounding out the field are Barnstorming,Forgotten Man,Alajmal, Kingdom,Sulwaan, Constant Contact, Sharp Numbers,andBodie Island.

*          *          *

Trainer Al Stall Jr. sent out rising graded stakes winner Lea for a four-furlong work in 48.60 seconds on the Oklahoma turf course Monday morning as part of his preparation for a run in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 10.

Lea, 4-for-7 lifetime with a victory over a strong field in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes last November at Churchill Downs, likely will face Horse of the Year Wise Dan for the second straight time in the Fourstardave, a prospect Stall doesn’t exactly relish.

Wise Dan beat Lea by two lengths in the Grade 2, $150,000 Firecracker Handicap on June 29 over yielding turf at Churchill Downs. Lea showed an affinity for the Saratoga turf last summer, breaking his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile race by three lengths July 21 and then coming back to win a 1 1/8-mile turf race by 1 ¾ lengths August 30.

Lea opened his campaign with an allowance win this year and then ran into Wise Dan.

“We ran in a couple races before coming to New York, and unfortunately Wise Dan is running at this level,” Stall said. “We’d sure like to get a firm turf course like he caught last year [here], just because of how well he ran. We were doing a little bobbing ourselves over that course at Churchill Downs. It wasn’t the course’s fault; it was the weather.

“He’s in good shape,” Stall said of Lea. “He’ll be ready to go.”

*          *          *

The Saratoga Springs Public Library is presenting “An Evening with Tom Durkin,” on Wednesday, July 24. The free program in the H. Dutcher Community Room begins at 7 p.m.

Durkin, NYRA’s track announcer since 1990, will discuss the 1988 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, which he considers to be the greatest day in American Thoroughbred racing history. All seven races – called by Durkin for NBC – will be shown during the program.

*          *          *

Former trainer John M. “Jack” Bradley died in Loudon, Tenn. on Sunday, July 21, said his daughter, Shan Koehler. He was 83.

Bradley, who grew up near Belmont Park, became a jockey at the age of 15, and after serving in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War, returned to the racetrack. After working as a hotwalker, groom, and assistant trainer, he took out his trainer’s license and won more than 2,000 races in New York, Florida, Maryland, Louisiana and Illinois before retiring in 2010.

Predeceased by his wife, Sue, Bradley is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Shan and Bob Koehler; his son, Kelley Bradley; four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and his brother and sister-in-law, Frank and Catherine Bradley.

Donations can be made to the Tellico Village Community Church, 130 Chota Center, Loudon, TN 37774.