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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Winner's Circle - Week Four at Saratoga Race Course

By | Sports

The following weekend at the Spa is packed with four Grade II races: one today, one on Saturday, and two for juveniles Sunday.

NBC travels to the Spa this weekend for live coverage of three Grade IIs. For Friday, August 10, turf reigns with the running of the Grade II $200,000 National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame for 3-year-olds and up at 9.5 furlongs.


This field is led by Daddy Nose Best, a wise-guy horse coming into this year’s Kentucky Derby off a powerful win the Grade III Sunland Derby. Trainer Steve Asmussen runs him back on the turf where he broke his maiden a year ago here at the Spa.

On July 14, Daddy Nose Best finished fourth on the grass at Arlington Park in the Grade III American Derby. Asmussen mused that his Scat Daddy-colt was hung in an awkward position.

“He was in a no-man’s land there,” Asmussen said. “It was danged if you do, danged if you don’t [tackle the leaders]. Nobody went by anybody that day. He had a nice breeze last Monday and I like how he comes out of his turf races better.”

Daddy Nose Best drilled five-eighths of a mile in 1:03 2/5 around the “dogs” (cones placed far from the rail to keep horses from running along the fence) on the Oklahoma Training Track.

It looks as though his calling is on the grass and he picks up leading-rider Ramon Dominguez and 2-1 favoritism.

Chad Brown saddles second choice Yari (7-2), a gelded son of First Samurai, who is 3-2-0 on the grass. The Hall of Fame will be his first crack at a stakes.

“We didn’t know what he was when he came in – dirt, turf, long, short,” Brown said. “It’s always a surprise when they can break out of the maiden claiming ranks and into stakes company.”

At 4-1, trainer Philip Gleaves shipped Csaba from his base in Calder for this Grade II.

“He’s graded-stakes placed on the grass this past winter at Gulfstream Park and coming off a nice win at Calder,” Gleaves said. “You’d think his pedigree – with Kitten’s Joy and War Chant [as broodmare sire] – screams turf, and we thought we’d give him another chance.”

Julien Leparoux gets the mount.

Spring to Sky, trained by Bruce Brown, is tagged with 12-1 odds on the morning line and is without a win on grass. That said, his trainer likes his chances for his horse, who gets Javier Castellano in the irons.

“I wasn’t training him to run long; he got pressed and hung in there,” Brown said. “I brought him up here early and trained him on the grass, and he just got better and better. His odds should come down. He’s from the family of [1999 female turf champion] Soaring Softly. He’s good on dirt, but he floats on the turf.”

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sends out the coupled entry of Skyring and Optimizer. Quick Wit, Shkspeare Shaliyah and Raconteur (Main Track Only) round out the field.

Saturday features the Grade II $500,000 Fourstardave and Shug McGaughey saddles Data Link, coming in off a blistering half-mile breeze in 46 and change. He won the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland and won his last start over Get Stormy in the Grade II Monmouth Stakes.

“[The Fourstardave is] going to be a solid race, but he’s a solid horse,” said McGaughey. “It will be the kind of race where whoever gets the best trip will probably win. They’ll be cooking in this race, too, with Wise Dan, Get Stormy and some others.”

Leading trainer Todd Pletcher, who already has eight wins with juvenile horses, plans on saddling four of them this weekend: two fillies in the Adirondack and two colts in the Saratoga Special.

Kauai Katie and Can’t Explain worked Monday morning at the Oklahoma Training Track. Kauai Katie went five furlongs in 1:02.57 and Can’t Explain drilled four furlongs in 49.67.

Pletcher’s colts—Drum Roll and Shanghai Bobby—both breezed five furlongs in 1:02.46 in preparation for the Saratoga Special.

How they came out of it

Last weekend’s Grade I Whitney Invitational and Grade I Vanderbilt showed track fans and handicappers alike why they run these races.

In the Whitney, Ron the Greek was heavily favored, but could do no better than second as Ian Wilkes’s Fort Larned hit the wire first at odds of 7-1.

“I always thought he belonged [up there] in the division,” said Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned for owner Janis Whitham. “You question yourself coming off a race like the Stephen Foster; you got beat, you got your head handed to you. But this horse keeps rattling off those 108 Beyer Speed Figures. He stays consistent.”

Ron the Greek and stablemate Flat Out closed strongly for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott to finished second and third.

“Both horses ran excellent,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott of Ron the Greek and Flat Out. “They were head and head coming down the lane, and both horses ran well and tried hard. I think we got parked out a little bit on the turn with Ron the Greek. Last time he had an inside trip and got up by a nose. Today he went around and it cost him that length [that he lost by].”

Todd Pletcher’s duo of Rule and Caixa Eletronica failed to fire and, as far as Pletcher was concerned, he saw no excuse.

“I’m not sure where either one would run, but I would say they’re doubtful for the Woodward,” Pletcher said. “Both came out of the race in good order. Nothing really unfolded as we thought it might. I thought Caixa Eletronica was in a really good spot at the three-eighths pole and then just kind of flattened out a little bit. Rule was never really able to get into the position we hoped for and flattened out as well. We’ll regroup with both.”

As for the Vanderbilt, the Dale Romans-trained Shackleford had little to show for all the hype and finished a distant eighth. Instead it was Poseidon’s Warrior who shocked the crowd in the mud to win at odds of 36-1.

Romans chalked up Shackleford’s performance to the slop.

“I didn’t expect him to run like that, but he’s 0-for-3 in the mud,” Romans said. “That’s the only excuse we can make for him. Johnny [Velazquez] said when he held him together he was moving along fine. Soon as he dropped his head, it was like he was spinning his wheels. Getting beat a nose or getting beat a neck, you think you’re going to have the best horse. Getting beat that far, something is wrong, and this time I’m just going to blame the racetrack. They had it in as good shape as they possibly can with that much rain.”

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