SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Woodford Thoroughbreds and Bobby Flay’s First Captain is training well at Saratoga towards a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 3 at Saratoga which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The 4-year-old Curlin colt finished a heartbreaking second last out in the 10-furlong Grade 2 Suburban on July 9 at Belmont, defeated a nose by Dynamic One.
“He’s doing well. He came out of his race well and shipped up here really well,” McGaughey said. “We have five or six weeks until we run again, so we’ll have a fresh horse.”
McGaughey said he was pleased with the Suburban effort in which First Captain was game to the wire, completing the exacta by three-quarters of a length in front of Untreated in a thrilling finish.
“It was a heckuva race. I thought he ran really well,” McGaughey said. “The winner ran really well and the horse that ran third ran really well. He just came out on the short end of the picture, but I can’t be disappointed with the way he ran at all.”
Should a Grade/Group 1 winner start in the 2022 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the purse will be increased to $1.25 million. In addition, the first four placings of the Grade 2 Suburban will have their nomination, entry and starting fees waived should they start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Bred by co-owner Bobby Flay, he is out of the graded stakes-winning and Grade 1-placed A.P. Indy mare America. He was a $1.5 million purchase from Stone Farm’s consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale in August 2019.
A five-time winner from eight starts, First Captain has won at distances ranging from seven furlongs to the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3 Pimlico Special in May.
“I think he wants to be back off the pace a little bit and going a distance of ground,” McGaughey said.
McGaughey said Winngate Stables’ multiple graded-stakes winner Kathleen O. is back in training at Churchill Downs.
“She’s jogging and doing fine,” McGaughey said. “She did really well with her time off and she looks good now. She’s put on some weight.”
McGaughey said he has no set plan yet with Upstart sophomore, who was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs. Kathleen O. won her first four starts, including scores in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks at the Hallandale Beach, Florida oval.
McGaughey said Annette Allen’s Stolen Holiday, a 5-year-old War Front mare, could target the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa, a 1 1/16-mile turf test on August 27. The consistent bay, who sports a ledger of 10-4-2-1, made the grade last out with a frontrunning score in the Grade 3 Eatontown on June 18 at Monmouth Park.
“She sure ran good the other day,” said McGaughey. “I think as long as its firm, she’ll be fine. We could look at the Ballston Spa.”
McGaughey said that Allen Stable’s Fort Ticonderoga, who was vanned off following Saturday’s ninth race at Saratoga, is in good order.
“He cooled out fine and walked fine this morning,” McGaughey said.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: With Luis Saez in the irons First Captain taking the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) by a head over Vindictiv under Irad Ortiz, Jr., at Pimlico May 20, 2022. (Jim McCue/MJC)