Chess Chief Hopes to Put Rivals in Check in Jockey Club Gold Cup

September 2, 2022

Sabra Tuff on the Muscle for Spinaway

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— The Estate of James J. Coleman Jr.’s graded stakes winning Chess Chief looks to light up the tote board in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Keeneland.

Contested at the Classic 10-furlong distance on Saratoga Race Course’s main track, Chess Chief will break from post 4 under jockey Manny Franco.

The 6-year-old son of Into Mischief was fifth in this event last year and most recently was third in the Alydar August 4 at the Spa. He closed out his 2021 campaign with a win in the Tenacious at Fair Grounds Race Course, where he has posted all five of his wins through 34 career starts and purse earnings of $894,369.

The hard-knocking Virginia-bred made the grade in March 2021 in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic and finished sixth in his title defense this spring.

Despite being made the longest shot of 30-1 on the morning line, trainer Dallas Stewart said he is expecting his horse to run a big race.

“He’s a real warrior. He ran in this race last year but was coming off a bad grass race,” said Stewart. “This year he’s had a race over the track and a couple of real good works over the main track. He galloped as fresh as a 2-year-old this morning.”

Chess Chief’s most recent work was at five-eighths on August 28 over the Spa main track, covering the ground in 1:01.25.

Stewart is no stranger to Grade 1 success at the Spa, including the 2017 Personal Ensign with Forever Unbridled and the 2015 Ballerina with her full-sister Unbridled Forever.

“We won a couple Grade 1s here before,” said Stewart. “We only bring a small amount of horses, but it’s just like any other race. You’ve got to get in there and fight it out.”

Valene Farms’ talented graded stakes placed Sabra Tuff will attempt to make the grade in the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway. Carded as Race 11 Sunday, the meet’s prestigious race for juvenile fillies is contested at seven furlongs on the main track.

Third in the Adirondack last out, which was won by returning rival Naughty Gal, Sabra Tuff graduated at first asking in June at Churchill Downs and made the jump to stakes company, finishing second in the six-furlong Debutante at the Louisville oval to another returning rival in Wonder Wheel.

Stewart said he has a lot of confidence in the grey daughter of Cross Traffic, who posted a bullet five-eighths breeze in 1:00.67 August 27 over the Oklahoma training track.

“I like her a lot. I think the seven-eighths will fit her well,” said Stewart. “There’s some nice fillies in there, but I think we match up pretty good.

“She’s had a race over the track, and she came back with a bullet work getting prepped for the race,” added Stewart. “She’s trained terrific. She’s all class. She’s been here. She’s put the calories on and looks good.”

Bred in Louisiana by Tom Curtis and Wayne Simpson, Sabra Tuff boast a ledger of 3-1-1-1 and has banked $88,120.

NYRA Press Office

Photo: Chess Chief (Coglianese)

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