- G1 Forego the likely next task at hand for G2 Nerud-winner Mind Control
- Ballydoyle contingent arrive at Belmont Park for Turf Triple series
- Original may target G1 Saratoga Derby; Bank Sting to step up in G3 Molly Pitcher
- G1 Belmont Oaks contender Plum Ali leads Clement turf workers
- Queen’s Plate contender Hombre earns 83 BSF; Step Dancer breezes for NYSSS Cab Calloway
Rick Sacco of Red Oak Stable, who owns Mind Control in partnership with Madaket Stables, said the multiple Grade 1-winner was bright eyed and happy on Monday following a redemption victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud at Belmont Park, where he denied horse-for-course Firenze Fire an eighth victory over Big Sandy.
Making his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, the Stay Thirsty bay ended an 0-for-6 slump, battling to the outside of Firenze Fire down the backstretch, ultimately getting the better of his foe by a head. Mind Control, who was reunited with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, replicated a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure garnered in his previous victory in the Grade 3 Tom Fool in March 2020 at Aqueduct.
Mind Control arrived at the Nerud, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Del Mar, off a close seventh in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on May 1 for his former conditioner Gregg Sacco. Mind Control finished second to Mischevious Alex in his 2021 bow in the Grade 1 Carter on April 3 at the Big A.
Sacco said the seven-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Forego on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course would likely be the next target. Both of Mind Control’s previous Grade 1 scores came in seven-furlong events at the Spa, capturing the 2018 Hopeful and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens.
“The Forego is our plan,” Sacco said. “When the horse was turned over to Todd, I told him that we wanted to point to yesterday’s race. I knew that would give him enough time to acclimate to Todd’s program.
“He came out of it awesome,” Sacco added. “He jogged super this morning and he was bright eyed, so now he’ll ship up to Saratoga, get freshened and they’ll get him ready for the Forego.”
Mind Control, bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable, is out of the Lightnin N Thunder mare Feel That Fire.
“The win means so much to Red Oak because we own the mare Feel That Fire, and we own her mother [Ubetwereven] as well,” said Sacco. “We have such nice foals out of these two mares in the pipeline, so when Mind Control wins, it means a lot to the operation.”
Sacco said Mind Control encountered considerable barriers during his 2020 campaign, including a couple of sloppy tracks. He was a distant sixth and eighth over off going in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter and last year’s Forego, respectively.
“For him to win after so many losses in a row was great. It was a tough campaign last year,” Sacco said. “You train for so long and hit a couple of sloppy tracks. After the first time he ran in the slop, he disliked it. At Saratoga, it was slop again. Two times in his career, he had really sloppy tracks, but you’re always working around the weather and working around getting them in the best possible condition. Last year was very tough. We didn’t have the type of campaign we wanted to have.”
Sacco said the post-position draw may have played in favor of Mind Control, who exited post 2 Sunday to the outside of Firenze Fire.
“Todd, John and myself knew that Firenze Fire was going to go from the rail,” said Sacco. “There were others that showed good speed, but not of our quality. Johnny said he wasn’t going to let the horse get away from him, and that if we got away clean, we were going to apply the pressure. He’s a fighter and he doesn’t lose those dog-fight type of races.”
Mind Control has a 2-year-old half-sister by Mineshaft named Goddess of Fire, who also will be trained by Pletcher.
“She breezed this morning at Saratoga in what was her second breeze for Todd,” Sacco said. “She has a good foundation underneath her and is a beautiful filly. Mind Control is a medium sized horse and will make a good stallion prospect. He is very correct and well-balanced. She’s a great big filly, so I’m sure Todd will take his time with her.”
Despite the differences in conformation, Sacco said Mind Control and Goddess of Fire both display the same professional demeanor.
“Mind Control is very straight forward. You tack him up, he wants to go do his business and not be fooled around with,” Sacco said. “The family is straightforward in the same manner. The whole time we had her on the farm, she just wanted to train and do her business. Both are very businesslike.”
Feel That Fire has a yearling by Candy Ride and is currently in foal to Uncle Mo.
Ballydoyle contingent arrive at Belmont Park for Turf Triple series
The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara arrived in New York by way of Ballydoyle Training Center in Ireland on Sunday evening for their respective starts in the first leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series on Saturday at Belmont.
Bolshoi Ballet targets the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational, while stablemate Santa Barbara will be entered in the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational. Both races are contested at 10 furlongs on the inner turf.
“They’re perfect. They’ve arrived in great shape,” said T.J. Comerford, travelling assistant for O’Brien.
Bolshoi Ballet, who finished seventh as the favorite last out in the Group 1 Epsom Derby, will look to give O’Brien a second triumph in the Belmont Derby after shipping Deauville stateside for a successful engagement in 2016.
The bay son of influential international sire Galileo won both his efforts in 2021 prior to the Epsom Derby.
“He’s in good order and looks well. We’re very happy with him,” Comerford said.
Owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Westerberg, Bolshoi Ballet is out of the Anabaa mare Alta Anna.
Santa Barbara arrives at the Belmont Oaks off a runner-up effort to Thundering Nights in the Group 1 Pretty Polly on June 27 at The Curragh. Since a first out maiden victory over the County Kildare green in September, the daughter of 2012 Epsom Derby winner Camelot has made her three following efforts against Group 1 company.
Out of the Danehill mare Senta’s Dream, Santa Barbara is a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup winners Iridessa [2019 Filly and Mare Turf] and Order of Australia [2020 Mile].
“She’s a filly that we think a lot of,” Comerford said. “She ran in some tough races this year after winning her maiden race. She’s taken everything in stride.”
Turf Triple contenders Tokyo Gold, Cirona and Nazuna arrived at Belmont on Sunday morning.
Trained by Shinya Kobayashi, Tokyo Gold will start in the Belmont Derby, while the Christophe Ferland-trained Cirona and Roger Varian-conditioned Nazuna will point to the Belmont Oaks.
Original may target G1 Saratoga Derby; Bank Sting to step up in G3 Molly Pitcher
Eric Fein’s Original earned a career-best 86 Beyer with a gate-to-wire score in Sunday’s $100,000 Manila, holding off a furious late rally from Public Sector in the one-mile Widener turf test for sophomores at Belmont Park.
The Kentucky-bred son of Quality Road, with Luis Saez up for trainer John Terranova, set a moderate pace over good going, kicking two lengths clear of the field at the stretch call en route to a head score.
“It was a gutsy race. He’s a real consistent horse. He always gives an honest effort,” said Terranova. “Fortunately, he handled the soft going and did that well yesterday. He used his speed to his advantage. Everyone backed off on him and Luis was able to get the jump on them and kick away.”
Original finished third in the one-mile Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy in January at Gulfstream and completed the trifecta in the 1 1/16-mile Woodhaven in April at Aqueduct.
Terranova said that the one-mile Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on August 6 at Saratoga is a possibility, but he would also like to see if Original can carry his speed for a bigger purse in the 1 3/16-miile Grade 1, $ 1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational, second leg of the Turf Triple series on August 7.
“I’m not so sure the mile is his game. We’ll see how he’s doing coming into Saratoga but it’s [the Hall of Fame] certainly a possibility,” said Terranova. “We’ve toyed with the idea of stretching him out further because he has speed that can carry. He’s very handy and can control the race at times. He’s got a turn of foot and he digs in and tries.
“The Saratoga Derby is a race we might think about if things are going well,” Terranova continued. “Speed can be a key weapon on the grass if your horse can carry it. He’s got the pedigree for it and the mind. He’s pretty smooth and chill.”
Terranova said Hidden Brook Farm and Joseph G. McMahon’s Bank Sting is on target for the Grade 3, $250,000 Molly Pitcher, a 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on July 17 at Monmouth Park.
The 4-year-old daughter of Central Banker, out of the Precise End mare Bee in a Bonnet, was a gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile Critical Eye last out over a muddy Belmont main track on May 31. Mrs. Orb, third-place finisher in the Critical Eye, came back to win the Caesar’s Wish on Sunday at Pimlico
Bred in the Empire State by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, Bank Sting worked six furlongs in 1:14.78 Monday in company with maiden-winner Life Change on a Belmont main track rated fast.
“She’s doing great. She had a big work this morning. She’s done nothing wrong and deserve a shot at that next level,” said Terranova. “We’re looking at the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth. We got some black type on her, so let’s see if we can get some graded type.”
G1 Belmont Oaks contender Plum Ali leads Clement turf workers
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Michael Caruso’s Plum Ali worked in company with Al Shira’aa Farms’ Mutamakina on the inner turf Monday at Belmont.
“It was a nice maintenance work. They both worked well and finished well,” said Clement. “One will go to the River Memories and the other will go to the Oaks. They were the best workers of my barn this morning.”
Plum Ali, runner-up last out in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Wonder Again, is pointed to Saturday’s $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, first leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies.
Mutamakina will be part of a strong one-two punch for Clement along with R Unicorn Stable’s Call Me Love, who worked a half-mile solo Monday on the inner turf, in preparation for Sunday’s 12-furlong $150,000 River Memories on the Widener turf for older fillies and mares.
Call Me Love, a 5-year-old Sea The Stars chestnut, won a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming event last out on May 23 on firm Belmont turf.
Call Me Love was winless in five starts against graded company last year, completing the exacta in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont and the 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa at Saratoga.
Clement said he was pleased with the easy half-mile breeze.
“It was easy by design,” said Clement. “She’s very fit. We let her stretch her legs a little bit.”fs
Queen’s Plate contender Hombre earns 83 BSF; Step Dancer breezes for NYSSS Cab Calloway
Robert Cudney’s Hombre earned an 83 Beyer for an impressive 3 3/4-length maiden win Sunday over yielding Belmont turf in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, the 3-year-old Tourist colt was bred in Ontario by Joey Gee Thoroughbreds. Out of the Perfect Soul mare Classic Soul, Hombre is a half-brother to the graded stakes-placed Speedy Soul.
With Dylan Davis up in Sunday’s second-out maiden score, Hombre rallied three-wide through the turn and made his winning bid at the five-sixteenths marker before drawing clear.
“When they got to the pole and he started to move, I thought don’t move too soon now, but he was just so smooth,” said Tagg. “He wasn’t chasing after him, he just went right around the other horses. It’s a pleasure to watch that.”
Hombre ran fifth on debut in April at Belmont after experiencing some trouble at the break.
“We thought he’d run well yesterday, but you never know. He’d only had one race,” said Tagg. “It was pretty smooth. He was running the whole way and when the jockey asked him for more, he went on with it.”
Tagg said the connections would like to point Hombre to the 10-furlong Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown slated for August 22 on the Tapeta at Woodbine Racetrack.
Hombre, who breezed over the Woodbine Tapeta last year when in the care of trainer Liz Elder, was sent to Tagg over the winter to prepare for a sophomore campaign.
Tagg said Hombre should be able to handle the surface change and stretch out in distance for the Queen’s Plate.
“We can send him up there a couple days ahead of time and let him gallop on it,” said Tagg regarding the Tapeta. “I don’t think he’d have any distance issues, but you don’t know until you try. He’s a nice looking horse. He’s well balanced, strong up front and strong behind.”
Tagg said Hombre came out of the race well and could make one start at the end of July at Saratoga before heading to Woodbine.
Hayward R. Pressman, Diamond M Stable, and Donna R. Pressman’s Step Dancer breezed on the Belmont inner turf Monday.
Tagg said the War Dancer sophomore, who rallied to finish second last out in the NYSSS Spectacular Bid on June 19 at Belmont, will target the NYSSS Cab Calloway, a one-mile turf test for eligible New York-sired sophomores on July 28 at Saratoga.
“That’s his first work since he ran. He went a half-mile on the turf and went well,” said Tagg. “We’ll probably run him back in the New York stallion race on July 28 at one mile on the inner turf.”
Step Dancer, bred in the Empire State by Sugar Plum Farm and Richard Pressman, finished third in the Grade 2 Pilgrim on October 3 at Belmont ahead of a score in Awad at 1 1/16-miles over yielding turf at the same track.
Tagg, who conditioned famous New York-breds Tiz the Law and Funny Cide, said Step Dancer has the talent to eventually return to graded stakes races.
“I think so,” said Tagg. “We’ve been pretty lucky with a couple New York-breds, but you never know where they’re going to come from. He’s not that big, but he’s put together well and moves well.”
NYRA Belmont Press Release
Photo: Mind Control ( NYRA Photo)