Caesars Turf Triple series a long term possibility for Sy Dog

April 17, 2022

  • Dutrow hopes Saturday allowance kicks off prosperous year for High Opinion
  • G1-placed Make Mischief earns 99 BSF for return allowance victory
  • Weaver barn in good form at Big A spring meet
  • Aqueduct Racetrack Week 4 stakes probables

After beginning his 3-year-old season on a winning note, Sy Dog is a possibility for the NYRA’s Caesars Turf Triple series this summer, according to trainer Graham Motion. 

The Caesars Turf Triple for sophomores kicks off with the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational on July 9 at Belmont Park, followed by the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 6 at Saratoga Race Course and concludes with the $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational in September at Belmont. 

Head of Plains Partners’ Sy Dog, undefeated in three starts, made a triumphant return to action in the Grade 3 Transylvania last Friday at Keeneland. The son of Slumber saved ground as last-of-6 under Irad Ortiz, Jr. down the backstretch before making a three-wide move in the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length. The effort, which registered a career-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure, was Sy Dog’s first start since a narrow victory in the Central Park on November 27 at Aqueduct Racetrack, where he displayed a similar late turn-of-foot. 

“I think he wants to go further,” Motion said. “In the mornings, he acts like a horse that wants more distance. It was impressive to watch him lay off a slow pace like he did. He did the same thing at Aqueduct also.”

Motion added that Sy Dog will likely use the Grade 2 American Turf on May 6 at Churchill Downs as a springboard to the Belmont Derby. 

“If I don’t run him there, it will be a while before his next start,” Motion said. “I’m inclined to run him if he’s doing well, which he is at the moment.”

While Sy Dog has sights set on the Turf Triple series, his stablemate Spendarella, also unbeaten in three starts, will remain at middle distances for the time being. The New York-bred daughter of Karakontie was a gate-to-wire winner going one mile in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on March 5 at Gulfstream Park. One month later, she captured the Grade 2 Appalachian on April 9 at Keeneland. 

“She’s been precocious at a mile, and I’m inclined to keep her at that distance,” Motion said. “I’m not sure eventually how far she’ll want to go, but I don’t want to change anything right now.”

A Gainesway Stable homebred, Spendarella is out of the Unusual Heat mare Spanish Bunny, whose other progeny of note include multiple graded stakes placed full-sister Spanish Loveaffair, and Grade 1-winning half-sister Spanish Queen. 

Motion said the multiple graded stakes-placed Deep Impact filly Harajuku has been retired following a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Orchid on April 2 at Gulfstream Park. The Flaxman Holdings homebred was a Group 3 winner in France for trainer Andre Fabre before finishing third in her North American debut in the Jockey Club Oaks in September at Belmont. Transferred to Motion following that effort, Harajuku was unplaced at graded takes level in New York before shipping to South Florida for the winter, where she added three stakes placings to her ledger. 

“She was so valuable that they made the decision to breed her,” Motion said. 

Harajuku retired with a 15-2-3-3 record and $245,331 in earnings. Her dam Phaenomena is a full-sister to Group 1-winner Nightime, who produced 2020 Cartier Horse of the Year Ghaiyyath and Grade 1-winner Zhukova. 

Dutrow hopes Saturday allowance kicks off prosperous year for High Opinion

Woodford Racing and Team D’s multiple graded stakes placed High Opinion is set to commence her 5-year-old campaign in Saturday’s sixth race at Aqueduct Racetrack, a six-furlong allowance optional claimer on the outer turf. 

The Tony Dutrow-trained and co-owned Lemon Drop Kid mare has not raced since finishing second in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel on October 23 at Belmont Park. High Opinion, who has finished second in all three stakes outings, completed the exacta in the Winter Memories in November 2020 at Aqueduct and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa in August at Saratoga. 

Last summer’s campaign included a pair of starts at ten furlongs over Belmont’s inner turf, resulting in a respective fifth and close second. She defeated winners last summer at Saratoga going one mile en route to the Ballston Spa. 

“Starting off last year, I was not convinced of her distance capabilities and I felt like we needed to know that,” Dutrow said. “I tried her a couple of times at a mile and a quarter and although she was second, it wasn’t ideal for her. That took up a couple of months. At that point, I was satisfied that I had a great feel for what High Opinion wanted and what to do with her future. So, we went to Saratoga and she did very well. She won up there at an abbreviated distance and came back in the Ballston Spa and ran a very good race. Now we know what her preferred distance and all that went well.”

Dutrow said he is hopeful that High Opinion can make the grade this season. 

“Our goal would be to win a graded stake with her,” Dutrow said. “She’s fresh, she’s happy, she’s in great shape, she’s all the things you would want her to be going into her 5-year-old turf season.”

High Opinion broke her maiden at third asking in October 2020 at 97-1 odds following unplaced efforts earlier that year on both surfaces. 

“The first time I ran her, I ran her on the dirt. I wanted to get a race into her so when turf season started, I could go right in with a race into her and not have to be a first time starter,” Dutrow recalled. “She didn’t run as well when I brought her on the turf the first time. So we got her fixed up, gave her the time she needed and got her right. We ran her seven-eighths and she ran big.”

High Opinion will be reunited with Eric Cancel, the pilot aboard her maiden score and her next-out second in the Winter Memories. She will break from post 5. 

“Eric is a very good rider and has ridden her before,” Dutrow said. “We’re getting her started going six furlongs. It’s not what she wants but she will get her year started. We’ll go from there, but I don’t see why she wouldn’t be the same horse that she was last fall.”

Dutrow saddled Buy Land and See to a runner-up finish at allowance optional claiming level on the grass on Thursday at Aqueduct. The Joseph Imbesi homebred was forwardly-placed despite stumbling at the start, and fought gamely in upper stretch, finishing three-quarters of a length to late-charging winner Flop Shot. 

“Things didn’t go perfect for him yesterday, but that’s racing,” said Dutrow. “He ran big, and seems to have come out of it well.” 

Dutrow added that Buy Land and See would likely return for the same condition at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old son of Cairo Prince captured the Awad at Belmont during his juvenile season for trainer Steve Klesaris. 

G1-placed Make Mischief earns 99 BSF for return allowance victory

Gary Barber’s multiple graded stakes-placed Make Mischief returned victoriously from a six-month layoff to earn a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure in Thursday’s seventh race, a one-mile optional claimer for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack. 

Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, Make Mischief made her first start since a third-place effort in the Empire Distaff Handicap on October 30 at Belmont Park. Ridden to victory by Dylan Davis, the 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief battled for the lead for the first quarter-mile with Flashndynamite before taking a half-length advantage at the half-mile marker and widening her margin at each point of call. She crossed the wire 10 1/4-lengths clear of Cafe Society and Flashndynamite, who dead-heated for second. 

“It was excellent,” said Shane Tripp, Casse’s Belmont-based assistant. “Mark and his team down in Ocala had her ready – she was down in Florida this winter.” 

Bred in New York by Avanti Stable, Make Mischief put together a solid sophomore campaign in 2021 that earned her a nomination for Champion New York-Bred 3-Year-Old Filly. She started the year off with a pair of wins in a seven-furlong optional claimer and the one-mile Maddie May, both at the Big A, before finishing fifth in the Busher Invitational. 

With one more allowance win in March at Aqueduct, she stepped up in class and earned two consecutive graded placings, finishing third in the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs and a determined third in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont. 

Tripp said Make Mischief showed her class in the Acorn when she ran down Grade 1 winner Dayoutoftheoffice to secure show honors by a nose. 

“That was a tough bunch she was up against,” said Tripp. “She loves New York and loves training here at Belmont. It feels good to be back. I love training horses here.” 

The bay was also dual graded-placed as a juvenile, posting runner-up finishes at Saratoga Race Course in the Grade 3 Schuylerville and Grade 2 Adirondack. She boasts a record of 5-4-3 from 16 starts, including three other stakes placings, and earnings of $489,150. 

“She just shows up every time,” Tripp said. “She’s so consistent and so honest. She loves to be in training and those kind are hard to find.”

Weaver barn in good form at Big A spring meet

George Weaver is tied for second with Jeffrey Englehart in the Big A trainer standings with five wins at the Big A spring meet heading into Friday’s card. The Weaver barn has posted a record of 10-5-0-1 at the Big A dating back to March 31, Opening Day of the spring meet, when 5-year-old Boom Boom Kaboom graduated in his 24th career start in a six-furlong state-bred maiden claimer.

Assistant trainer Blair Golen, who oversees a 31-horse stable at Belmont, credited the veteran with kicking off the barn’s good run of form.

“I think Boom Boom Kaboom broke his maiden and opened up the floodgates,” said Golen, with a laugh. “It’s so nice to fill out my stall app and not have to check off maiden for him. He always paid his way and is a sound horse.”

Owned by Thomas Brockley and Jeffry Olesko, the New York-bred son of Emcee boasts a ledger of 24-1-4-6 with purse earnings of $107,674. 

Blair is hopeful the solid recent run, which includes maiden special weight scores with True Empress, Golquist, and Heat’s On Zap, will continue in stakes action when she saddles a trio of horses in search of black type, including James Politano’s Ohtwoohthreefive, Pick Six Racing’s Tommy Gunand MyRacehorse, R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Celebrity News.

The stakes-placed Ohtwoohthreefive, by Union Rags, is targeting the $100,000 Woodhaven, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for sophomores on Saturday, April 23. Out of the Galileo mare Urban Hill, Ohtwoohthreefive has done his best work on the turf, including a maiden score in October at Belmont and a narrow nose loss in the Central Park in November at the Big A to Sy Dog, who exited that effort win the Grade 3 Transylvania on April 8 at Keeneland.

Ohtwoohthreefive, who breezed a bullet half-mile in 48.25 Friday over the Belmont main track, returns to turf after off-the-board efforts on dirt in the Jerome in January at the Big A and on synthetic in an optional-claimer in February at Turfway Park.

“We gave him a chance on the dirt here and on the poly at Turfway and then backed off on him,” Golen said. “He breezed excellent today and I’m happy with him. He’s training well.”

Tommy Gun, a maiden son of Union Jackson, is pointed to the $200,000 NYSSS Times Square, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for eligible New York-sired sophomores on April 23. The dark bay finished fourth on debut in a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight on March 31 at the Big A after dueling on the front end.

He breezed five-eighths in 1:03.04 Friday over Big Sandy.

“He tucked up a lot out of that race. He breezed fine today and we’ll give it a shot,” Golen said.

Celebrity News, by Laoban, is training toward the $200,000 NYSSS Park Avenue at 6 1/2-furlongs for eligible New York-sired sophomore fillies on April 24. 

She finished a game second in her March 25 debut sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs at Aqueduct. The $100,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase registered a 52 Beyer.

Golen said Celebrity News is training well into her stakes debut in which she is expected to meet Yo Cuz, who has won stakes in each of her last three starts.

Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing’s Heat’s On Zap, a Kentucky-bred sophomore Ghostzapper colt, garnered an 83 Beyer in a six-furlong maiden special weight turf sprint against older company on April 10 at Aqueduct. 

The $240,000 OBS June 2-Year-Old and Horses of Racing Age purchase, who is out of the multiple stakes winning Unusual Heat mare Pacific Heat, won gate-to-wire at second asking under Eric Cancel.

“Eric rode a perfect race. He put him on the lead and kept him going forward and he ran excellent,” Golen said.

Golquist, a 3-year-old chestnut son of Nyquist, won gate-to-wire under Cancel in an off-the-turf state-bred maiden special weight sprint on April 8, earning a 65 Beyer.

Golen said Golquist could target the $125,000 Mike Lee, a seven-furlong main track sprint for state-breds on Big Apple Showcase Day on Monday, May 30 at Belmont.

“He didn’t have many breezes into that first start. We’d like to try turf eventually but I wouldn’t rule out the Mike Lee. I think he’ll move forward off that race,” Golen said.

Aqueduct Racetrack Week 4 stakes probables

Saturday, April 23, 2022

$100K Woodhaven

Probable: Chanceux (Todd Pletcher), Fort Washington (Shug McGaughey), Heaven Street (Christophe Clement), Ohtwoohthreefive (George Weaver), Unanimous Consent (Chad Brown)

Possible: Maseta (Linda Rice) 

$200K NYSSS Times Square Division 

Probable: Kazmike (Dimitrios Synnefias), Mister Larry (Orlando Noda), Mo Dancin (Linda Rice), Surprise Boss (Juan Vazquez), Tommy Gun (George Weaver), Unique Unions (Richard Schosberg)

Possible: Kenner (Jamie Ness) 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

$100K Memories of Silver

Probable: Alittleloveandluck (Michael Dini), Lay the Groundwork (Chad Brown), McKulick (Chad Brown), Pizza Bianca (Christophe Clement), Sail By (Leah Gyarmati) 

$200K NYSSS Park Avenue Division

Probable: Bank On Anna (Phil Serpe), Celebrity News (George Weaver), Galaxina (James Bond), Gris Tormenta (Thomas Morley), Kisses for Emily (Louis Linder, Jr.), Starship Laoban (Jamie Ness), Yo Cuz (Bill Mott) 

Aqueduct Notes

Photo: Sy Dog (SR Photo) 

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