SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Christophe Clement sent out five of his top turf stakes contenders to breeze over Saratoga Race Course’s Oklahoma lawn on Sunday morning, led by Otter Bend Stables’ dual Grade 1-winner Gufo and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles’ Grade 3-winner City Man.
Gufo, who won last year’s Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer, is slated to defend his title in this year’s edition on August 27. The son of Declaration of War breezed in company with the New York-bred City Man [48.56], coasting through a half-mile in 47.91 seconds over the firm turf. Gufo sported blinkers for his latest work, an addition that will also be made for his run in the Sword Dancer.
“They’re both doing very well. City Man waited a bit for Gufo, Gufo came on and they both finished it together” said Clement’s son and assistant, Miguel Clement. Gufo is going to go to the Sword Dancer with a pair of blinkers. We’re hoping it will keep him more in contact with the field.”
This year, Gufo returned from a five-month layoff to win the Grade 2 Pan American in April at Gulfstream Park before a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Man o’ War in May at Belmont Park. He followed with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard and an even fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations last out on July 23 at Monmouth Park.
“He’s doing very well. Last year, we ran in the race at Belmont and did not [run again] until the Sword Dancer. This year, we went to the United Nations in between, so the spacing is a bit shorter,” said Clement. “But the horse looks tremendous, he’s eating all the time, he’s working well, he’s sound and we’re very happy with him.”
City Man, a dark bay son of Mucho Macho Man, rallied from 7 1/2 lengths off the pace last out in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple on July 15 at the Spa, drawing away to a 2 3/4-length score for his second win of the year and first career graded win. City Man is on target to attempt a repeat victory in the $200,000 West Point Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for New York-breds 3-years-old and up on August 26 at the Spa.
“That was a lot of fun,” Clement said. “He’s cool. He’s won a stake every year since he was two and it’s terrific. He’s sound and running better than ever. It shows you that they do reward you and improve with age. His last race was probably visually one of the best, if not the best performance he’s produced.”
Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Messidor (IRE), winner of a third-level optional claimer at the Spa on July 27, had her first work back since the 1 1/4-length victory. The 4-year-old daughter of Vadamos covered a solo half-mile in 49.55.
“She’s doing very well,” said Clement. “She’ll run in either the Ballston Spa [on August 27 at the Spa] or at Kentucky Downs.”
Rounding out the quintet were Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Soldier Rising (GB) and West Point Thoroughbreds and Dream With Me Stable’s Parnac (FR). The two worked together with Soldier Rising completing the half-mile in 48.91 and Parnac in 48.71.
Soldier Rising, a gelded son of Frankel, was last seen grinding out a determined win by a head in a third-level allowance optional claiming event on July 31. He was previously a close second in the Grand Couturier in July at Belmont and picked up a Grade 1-placing with a runner-up effort behind State of Rest in last year’s Saratoga Derby Invitational.
“He’s being considered for the Sword Dancer, so it’s a one-two punch in there,” Clement said.
Parnac, a bay Zarak filly, made her stateside debut with a fourth-place finish in allowance company on July 8 at Belmont. Previously trained by Andreas Wohler, Parnac graduated at first asking in an allowance on October 2 at Mulheim in Germany. She returned 22 days later to capture the Grosser Preis der Mehl-Mulhens Stiftung at Hanover to cap her juvenile campaign.
Clement said her next start is still to be determined, but that the filly “looks tremendous and was nice overseas.”
NYRA Press Office
Main Photo: Gufo winning the Pan American at Gulfstream Park April 2, 2022, with an ESF of 112. (Lauren King)