SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Internationally acclaimed trainer Aidan O’Brien will be represented by Group 1-winning millionaire Broome in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer, at Saratoga Race Course.
Broome will mark O’Brien’s fourth attempt at capturing the 12-furlong inner turf test for older horses following previous efforts by Idaho [6th, 2017], Seahenge [9th, 2018] and Japan [2nd, 2021]. The Sword Dancer, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Keeneland, is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 13-race Runhappy Travers Day card. First post is 11:35 a.m. Eastern with the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers set as Race 11 at 5:44 p.m.
Owned by Masaaki Matsushima, Mrs. John Magnier, Michel Tabor and Derrick Smith, Broome boasts a ledger of 25-8-6-0 for purse earnings in excess of $1.9 million. He won 4-of-11 starts last year, including scores at The Curragh in the 10-furlong Group 3 Alleged over good going and the 10-furlong Group 2 Mooresbridge on soft footing, as well as the 12-furlong Group 1 Prix de Saint-Cloud over soft turf at Saint-Cloud Racecourse in France.
The 6-year-old Australia bay has made three starts this season led by a 3 1/4-length score in the 12-furlong Group 2 Hardwicke on good-to-firm ground in June at Ascot. He enters from a prominent fourth in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at 12 furlongs on July 23 at Ascot.
O’Brien said the Hardwicke effort demonstrated Broome has returned in peak form.
“He made the running. It was a good effort and we were delighted with him,” said O’Brien, who is in search of his first win at the Spa. “It was probably his best run of the year, really. We felt he came back every bit as good if not better than before. He’s a horse that’s maturing very well.”
While often prominent in his races overseas, Broome closed from 12 lengths off-the-pace under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to finish second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Del Mar, finishing just a half-length back of the late closing Yibir, who went on to be named Champion Turf Male.
“It was just the way Ortiz rode him. He took his time on him,” O’Brien said.
Both Tribhuvan and Channel Maker, part of the pace presence in the Turf, return in the Sword Dancer.
O’Brien said the rainfall on Tuesday evening and expected precipitation on Friday could benefit Broome.
“I don’t think he’ll mind it. He has form with ease in the ground,” O’Brien said. “I spoke to the lads and they’re happy with the way he’s training. Hopefully, he will run well.”
Ryan Moore, also in search of his first Spa score, retains the mount from post 3 aboard Broome, who is assigned 122 pounds.
Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo posted a neck score over the O’Brien-trained Japan in last year’s Sword Dancer for conditioner Christophe Clement.
The multiple Grade 1-winning 5-year-old son of Declaration of War, who captured the 2020 Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, boasts a ledger of 18-8-3-5 for purse earnings in excess of $1.5 million. He has made four starts this season, including a win in the Grade 2 Pan American in April at Gulfstream Park ahead of a runner-up effort to Highland Chief in the Grade 1 Man o’ War in May at Belmont Park.
Last out, the Kentucky-bred chestnut closed to finish fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 23 at Monmouth Park, defeated 2 1/2-lengths by returning rival Adhamo.
Miguel Clement, son and assistant trainer to Christophe Clement, said Gufo’s strong record at the Spa could be beneficial.
“It’s always pleasing when you see a horse have a good track history. Nevertheless, he performs at every track I believe,” Clement said. “If you look at his career, he’s performed well in Florida, he’s performed well in New Jersey, New York, California, you name it. So he’s just a very top class horse that performs everywhere.”
He will exit post 6 carrying 122 pounds under returning rider Joel Rosario, who has won 10 graded races this summer at Saratoga and is one win shy of the meet record shared by Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and John Velazquez.
Clement said Gufo will add blinkers for Saturday’s title defense.
“We’re going to put blinkers on this time to help Joel get a bit closer to the field,” Clement said. “He’s very straightforward and more keen to do his job. The last two starts perhaps he was a bit further back than ideal so we just put a pair of blinkers to help out Joel.”
Clement will also saddle Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso’s Soldier Rising [post 8, Jose Ortiz, 118 pounds].
Soldier Rising competed in two-thirds of the Turf Triple series last year, finishing a closing second to State of Rest in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational ahead of a stalking second to Yibir in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont. The 4-year-old Frankel bay enters from a rallying head score in a 1 3/16-mile optional-claiming event here on July 31.
“Soldier Rising is training very well. He’s a top-class horse. He ran second last year to two remarkable horses in both Yibir and State of Rest,” Clement said. “This year he’s had a good preparation. He had a nice prep here at Saratoga where he won rather well even if maybe the distance was a touch short for him. He’s training well, he’s sound and you have to go for it.”
Clement said both horses will benefit from the stretch out in distance.
“Both of them well relish the mile-and-a-half,” Clement said. “The United Nations was a mile-and-three-eighths, he’ll [Gufo] love the extra furlong and Soldier Rising the other day, his allowance victory was a mile-and-three-sixteenths, the extra trip I don’t think will be any impact. For both horses, pace is critical. We just have to get lucky enough to get some pace for us to run at.”
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Channel Maker will make his fifth Sword Dancer appearance which includes a win in 2020 en route to Champion Turf Male honors.
“It’s all the horse, all the time. You just try not to make too many mistakes trying to get him there,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott of the hickory chestnut, who ran second in 2018, fourth in 2019, and sixth a year ago.
The 8-year-old English Channel gelding has amassed earnings in excess of $3.6 million through a record of 46-9-6-5. His other Grade 1 wins came at Belmont Park in the 2018 and 2020 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the 2019 Man o’ War.
Mott, whose past Sword Dancer winners also include Fraise  and Broadway Flyer , shares the record for most scores in this event with three with trainer Chad Brown.
Channel Maker has won 2-of-3 starts this season, taking the Grade 2 Elkhorn in April at Keeneland and the Grand Couturier by a neck over Soldier Rising last out on July 8 at Belmont Park.
“We gave him time over the winter. We gave him a vacation and started him back at Keeneland and he won and we’ve been running him every month, six weeks, whenever a race comes up,” Mott said. “The competition is going to be a little deeper here. We realize that. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same as before but it’s a Grade 1 so there will probably be somebody in there that can run a bit. The timing of it is OK, and coming off a win is good. Going into a race like that, it was good to see he was game last time.”
Bred in Ontario by the Tall Oaks Farm of Ivan Dalos, Channel Maker will exit post 9 carrying 120 pounds under Luis Saez.
Chad Brown will saddle a trio of contenders in Adhamo [post 1, Flavien Prat, 124 pounds], Rockemperor [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 122 pounds] and Tribhuvan [post 7, Manny Franco, 124 pounds] as he looks to add to past Sword Dancer success with Big Blue Kitten , Flintshire  and Annals of Time .
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Louis Lazzinnaro’s Adhamo notched his first win in North America last out with a 1 1/2-length score in the Grade 1 United Nations. The 4-year-old Intello colt had hit the board in three previous attempts in graded company, including a second in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds in February, a third in the Grade 1 Turf Classic in May at Churchill Downs and a second in the Grade 1 Manhattan to Tribhuvan in June at Belmont.
The Irish-bred chestnut captured the Group 3 Prix la Force in April 2021 at Longchamp for his former conditioner Frederic Head.
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Wonder Stables, Michael Kisber and Michael J. Caruso’s Rockemperor enters from a half-length score in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 31 at the Spa.
The 6-year-old Holy Roman Emperor bay, who captured the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont, sports a record of 25-5-5-6 for purse earnings in excess of $1.1 million. He finished fourth in this event last year.
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Tribhuvan, a 6-year-old French-bred son of Toronado, posted a sharp frontrunning score in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June at Belmont ahead of a pacesetting fourth last out in the United Nations.
Initially campaigned in his native France, Tribhuvan joined Brown’s stable in 2020 and enjoyed a tremendous run last year, taking the Grade 2 Fort Marcy at Belmont and the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth. He finished fifth in last year’s Sword Dancer in his lone Spa start.
Three Diamonds Farms’ multiple graded stakes winning millionaire New York-bred Cross Border is entered for his third Sword Dancer appearance following a runner-up effort in 2020 and a third-place finish a year ago.
Trained by Mike Maker, the 8-year-old English Channel ridgling posted a record of 9-2-1-3 last year, including scores in the Grade 2 Bowling Green here and the Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park.
A six-time winner at the Spa, Cross Border was a perfect 3-for-3 here in 2019 in turf tilts against winners. He captured the Lubash in August 2020 at the Spa ahead of a victory in the Grade 2 Bowling Green via disqualification.
Cross Border has yet to hit the board in four starts this season, entering from a fifth-place finish last out in his title defense in the Bowling Green on July 31.
Bred in the Empire State by Berkshire Stud and B.D. Gibbs, Cross Border, who is cross-entered in Friday‘s West Point presented by Trustco Bank, will exit post 2 under Tyler Gaffalione with an assigned 120 pounds.
Mary Abeel Sullivan Revocable Trust’s Mira Mission [post 10, Julien Leparoux, 118 pounds], a 4-year-old Noble Mission gelding, captured the Grade 3 Canadian Turf in March at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Mira Mission was a close second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic in May at Churchill and enters from a non-threatening sixth in the one-mile Grade 3 Forbidden Apple on July 15 at the Spa.
Rounding out the field is Cold Hard Cash [post 4, John Velazquez, 118 pounds], who makes his stakes debut from a five-length score in an off-the-turf open 10-furlong optional-claimer contested over a sloppy and sealed main track on July 28 at the Spa.
Trained by Linda Rice, the 5-year-old Maclean’s Music gelding is a New York homebred for Barry Schwartz, boasting a record of 8-2-2-2 on the turf.
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By Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Gufo takes the 2020 edition of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational (Chelsea Durand)