Casa Creed Looks to Decree Another Milestone at the Spa in G3 Poker

June 3, 2024

Casa Creed captures the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) Aug. 12 at Saratoga (NYRA/Coglianese)

By Brian Bohl – NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— While the official City Hall stationary at 474 Broadway states differently, six-time graded stakes-winner Casa Creed, dubbed the “Mayor of Saratoga,” will look to win his fourth consecutive start at Saratoga Race Course in headlining an eight-horse field in the 39th running of Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Poker for 4-year-olds and up competing at one mile on the Spa’s inner turf course.

LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Casa Creed earned fan-favorite status under Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott thanks to a bevy of highlights at the Spa, including back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap in 2022 and 2023. The 8-year-old son of Jimmy Creed will be making his 36th start overall [9-5-6 record] and will look to improve on a career bankroll that has already exceeded $2.6 million.

The unique circumstances of the 2024 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, slated for June 6 though June 9 at the Spa, will include 24 stakes races with purses totaling $10.25 million, highlighted by the 156th edition of the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. It also means another Saratoga appearance for Casa Creed in addition to the regular summer meet, which in 2023 included a one-length victory in the Grade 3 Kelso before his repeat Fourstardave score.

That effort spring-boarded him into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he finished third behind Mawj and winner Master of The Seas, who finished third in the Eclipse Award voting for Champion Turf Male. Casa Creed earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his 7-year-old finale, tying a career high. In March, Casa Creed commenced his 2024 campaign with a sixth-place effort in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse and will make his first start stateside this year off a two-month layoff.

“He’s doing really good right now,” said Mott, who has racked up four Poker wins [Ballagh Rocks in 2017, Clear Attempt in 2012, Courageous Cat in 2011 and Elusive Quality in 1998.] “I wish I knew the answer to why [regarding his Saratoga success]. He gets a hold of it, I guess. He’s always done well up here. He likes Saratoga, without a doubt.”

Mott also added the “mayor” could seek a proverbial third consecutive term as Fourstardave winner [and fourth start in the race overall], saying the Grade 1, $500,000 contest on August 10 that carries an automatic Breeders’ Cup entry to the winner is still in consideration.

“We’re going to try,” Mott said. “We’ve got this race and a couple more during the meet and we’ll concentrate on those.”

Before taking aim at summer glory, Casa Creed will have the services of jockey Luis Saez from post 2 in the Poker.

Mysterious Night wins the Summer (G1) Sep. 17, 2022, at Woodbine (Michael Burns)

Foreign shipper Mysterious Night will look to play spoiler and carries an impressive resume in having won graded or group stakes on both sides of the Atlantic already for trainer Charlie Appleby. He is also familiar with the Saratoga turf, running seventh in last year’s Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. The Godolphin homebred started the year in good form, winning a pair of races seven days apart in January at Meydan, including the seven-furlong Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort.

“Mysterious Night had a good winter in Dubai, winning the Fahidi Fort. He’s a solid-enough old campaigner at this point and he goes in well,” Appleby said.

The Irish-bred 4-year-old Dark Angel geldings’ other previous start in North America was a victory in the 2022 Grade 1 Summer victory at the Poker distance, with Mysterious Night stalking the pace before powering home a 5 3/4-length winner.

For his return foray to upstate New York, Mysterious Night will have the services of returning rider William Buick from post 1.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will bid to repeat in the Poker, following last year’s win with Emmanuel, with Joseph Allen and CHC Inc.’s Talk of the Nation [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]. The 4-year-old Quality Road colt has posted four wins and four runner-up efforts in nine career starts, starting his career under the stewardship of fellow Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

Talk of the Nation returned off a seven-month respite to run second to returning rival Carl Spackler by a head in the one-mile Opening Verse in May over the Churchill Downs turf. As a sophomore, the Kentucky homebred twice ran second in graded stakes, including the Grade 3 Manila in July at Belmont Park and the Grade 3 Bryan Station in October at Keeneland.

A four-furlong work in 49.25 seconds over the Oklahoma training track dirt on Saturday at Saratoga marked his third consecutive breeze over the surface, with Pletcher saying he was pleased with the effort.

“He works well over the dirt and he’s an accomplished turf horse, but his breezes on the dirt are always solid,” Pletcher said. “He’s pretty straightforward. We had to do a little extra paddock schooling with him at Churchill, but he behaved well on race day and I thought he ran very well off the layoff.”

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of strong contenders in Carl Spackler [post 3, Tyler Gaffalione] and Kubrick [post 6, Flavien Prat].

Carl Spackler, a 4-year-old Lope de Vega colt owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds has thrived at the Spa, winning 3-of-5 starts led by scores last summer in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame and Grade 3 Saranac.

He resurfaced in May at Churchill Downs with a stalk-and-pounce head score over Talk of the Nation in the Listed Opening Verse.

Carl Spackler worked five-eighths in 1:00 flat Saturday over the Oklahoma training turf.

“He worked his normal kind of snappy work. He’s doing really well,” Brown said.

Peter Brant’s Kubrick will look to shine in his third U.S. start, with the Irish-bred 4-year-old Dubawi colt winning his first start in the country in March at Tampa Bay Downs since transferring from the care of Jean Claude Rouget.

Kubrick, elevated to stakes competition last out, ran sixth against an accomplished field in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile in April at Keeneland and will look to be better for the experience in his Saratoga debut.

“I think the horse is going to be a nice horse here, but definitely over firm turf,” Brown said. “He [Rouget] is a great caretaker and true to form. You just have to transition them over to what we do over here. He’s a trainer I like working with. I’ve had success with his horses because they’ve been taken care of very well.”

Kubrick, who won the Group 3 Prix des Chenes in France as a juvenile, is a half-brother to the Brown-trained multiple Grade 1-winner Raging Bull.

Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse will send out Lucky Score [post 8, Joel Rosario], a dual graded stakes-winner at Woodbine Racetrack, and veteran Ice Chocolat [post 4, Jose Ortiz].

Lucky Score, a 6-year-old Ontario-bred son of Lookin At Lucky, has banked $626,380 through a 22-6-4-5 record. The versatile bay gelding won the 2022 Grade 3 Vigil over Tapeta and added the six-furlong turf Grade 2 Highlander in July in his most recent win.

Ice Chocolat, a 6-year-old Brazilian-bred, owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Deuts, is 6-6-4 in 25 career starts and will be looking to surprise with his first career graded stakes win.

Rounding out a talented group is George A. Sharp’s multiple graded stakes-placed Front Run the Fed [post 5, Jaime Torres] for trainer Caio Caramori, who has won back-to-back renewals of Colonial Downs’ Van Clief.

The Poker is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s 14-race card which is headlined by the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12. The blockbuster card includes six Grade 1 events among nine stakes races in total and featuring three Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifiers: the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap [Dirt Mile]; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps presented by Ford [Distaff]; and the Grade 1, $500,000 Jaipur presented by Resolute Racing [Turf Sprint].

In addition, the prestigious and historic Grade 1 races on Belmont Stakes Day will include the $1 million Resorts World Casino Manhattan, and the $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun. Belmont Stakes Day at Saratoga will be bolstered by the Grade 2, $350,000 True North and the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban for older horses at 10 furlongs. First post is 10:45 a.m. Eastern.

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