Saratoga Race Course Notes - July 24
By NYRA Press Office | 07/24/2013 02:54 PM ET
Stewart bullish on G2 Jim Dandy contender Perfect Title
G1 winner Currency Swap returns in Friday optional claimer
Optimizer likely for G1 Sword Dancer after brief consideration for Whitney; Skyring to face Wise Dan in G2 Fourstardave
Fort Larned emerges from Tuesday breeze in good shape, will breeze again prior to G1 Whitney
On paper, Perfect Title may be one of the least accomplished horses to go to the gate for Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, but that is of little concern to trainer Dallas Stewart.
Bred and owned by Charles Fipke, Perfect Title will be making his stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, his eighth career start. It comes seven weeks after the Perfect Soul colt circled the field to beat older horses at the Jim Dandy distance at Churchill Downs.
"Did y'all see his last race?" asked Stewart, who then called up the replay on his cell phone outside his Saratoga barn. "I know we're trying the big time here, but he's bred for it. He won as easy as a horse can win going a mile and an eighth. I was like, 'You know what? Why not.' I'm telling you, this son of a [gun] can run."
Out of the unraced Monarchos mare Title Seeker, Perfect Title is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed Seeking the Title, an Iowa Oaks winner also owned and bred by Fipke and trained by Stewart.
"He's a grandson of Personal Ensign," Stewart said. "He's definitely got the pedigree."
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who has been up for four of his past five races, including each of Perfect Title's career wins, will be aboard in the Jim Dandy.
A strong effort will land Perfect Title in the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 24, where he could face his stablemate, Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul, who is running in Sunday's Haskell Invitational.
"He'll be 30 or 40-1, you watch," Stewart said. "I think he's a good horse. He's got the credentials, pedigree-wise. It'll be interesting."
Seeking a spot to bring her first career Grade 1 winner back to the races, trainer Terri Pompay found one at her - and her horse's - favorite track.
A native of Saratoga Springs now based in New Jersey, Pompay will saddle multiple graded stakes winner Currency Swap in Friday's opener at Saratoga Race Course, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs.
Making his first start in 9 ½ months, the 4-year-old High Cotton colt drew post three in the six-horse field with regular rider Rajiv Maragh aboard.
"We're basically just trying to get a good starting race into him that he could be effective in," Pompay said. "He hasn't run in a long time, and we'd like to get him back on track and, hopefully, run in a stake toward the end of the meet. Any allowance race is going to be tough, because that's how they are at Saratoga, but it's not like putting him right in a stake. At least maybe we won't get the real heavy heads."
Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, Currency Swap has earned three of his four career wins at Saratoga, including the Grade 1 Hopeful in 2011 and the Grade 2 Amsterdam in 2012. Also a debut winner here in 2011, he was sixth as the favorite in the Grade 1 King's Bishop last summer.
"He's been here since last weekend," Pompay said of Currency Swap. "He loves it here. He's a hambone, you know? He walks around the paddock like he owns it. He's always been good here. He loves it here, and he's got the big, wide turns on the track. He's just very comfortable here. I'm happy to have him back."
Currency Swap hasn't raced since finishing seventh of eight in the $300,000 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing last September. A week after the race, he underwent tie-back surgery to fix what had been a slowly developing breathing problem.
"They basically tie the flap back," Pompay said. "He had one flap that, even when he won the Amsterdam, was starting to get lazy, and that didn't let him get his air totally. He still won even though he was a little bit handicapped at that point.
"You really can't do the surgery until they're pretty far along, and it gets a little paralyzed," she added. "We kind of had to wait. After the race he ran at Philadelphia, it was evident that he was laying perfect and trying, he just had his head up and was struggling to breathe a little bit, and we decided it was time to do it."
The surgery was performed by Dr. Eric Parente.
"He did a great job. It's very neat," Pompay said. "A lot of horses can't come back to their full potential after this surgery, but he's doing great. He's healthy, eating great, looks great, and doesn't make a noise. Even last year, while it was in the process of getting paralyzed, he was making sound and we could hear it.
"He's a big, heavy kind of horse, a heavily muscled horse, so he might need the race. That's why I was trying to find an easier spot for him, but he hasn't shown me anything to think he won't be where he was."
After toying with the idea of running Optimizer in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap on dirt August 3, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has opted to point his multiple-graded stakes winner toward the Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 17.
That race is a 1 ½-mile grass race, and Lukas said Wednesday morning he is leaning in that direction rather than the Grade 1 Arlington Million the same afternoon at Arlington Park.
"I put him in there to take a look at it," Lukas said of nominating Optimizer to the Whitney. "He ran a pretty decent race on the dirt the last time he ran on it."
Optimizer, a 5-year-old son of English Channel, won back-to-back Grade 3 turf stakes this past winter at the Fair Grounds. While he has not been to the winner's circle in his past six starts, he finished second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 4 at Churchill Downs and second to Point of Entry in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan on June 8 at Belmont Park.
In his most recent start, Optimizer was fifth in the Grade 1 Man o' War on July 13 at Belmont Park, having raced farther off the pace than normally over a turf course labeled "good."
"He didn't care for the surface," Lukas said. "He bobbled all the way around there. I didn't like the way he was handling the grass on that particular day. He's run on every kind of surface, every place in the world. He runs every time you lead him over there. I think we'll run in the Sword Dancer."
Optimizer's stablemate, Skyring, is preparing for his own confrontation with Wise Dan in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 10.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said Janis R. Whitman's Fort Larned came out of his Tuesday breeze (five furlongs in 1:01.19) in good shape and that the 5-year-old will have another workout sometime between now and his title defense in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 3.
"[The timing] will depend on him," said Wilkes. "What day, I'm not sure. It just depends on where he is. I'll watch him go back to the track."
Fort Larned's Tuesday breeze came three days after he was credited for a five furlong work in 1:03.81. The son of E Dubai is entering the Whitney off a 6 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15 at Churchill Downs.