Headline Report looks for Ward’s First Sanford Win

July 15, 2021

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Trainer Wesley Ward will continue the tradition of using the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course to help springboard careers of talented juveniles, with the conditioner sending out Headline Report as part of a 12-horse field in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford for 2-year-olds going six furlongs on the main track.

The 106th edition of the Sanford, on the first Saturday of the 40-day meet at the Spa, will go off in Race 9 on the 11-race card that will be highlighted by the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana for older fillies and mares in Race 10. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Headline Report captured his debut by 2 1/4 lengths on April 23 at Keeneland, besting a five-horse field by completing the 4 1/2 furlongs in a final time of 51.75 seconds as the heavy favorite over a fast track. Ward, who will be seeking his first Sanford win, kept Headline Report training at Keeneland since, and the Gormley ridgling worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 from the gate on Independence Day.

Owned by Breeze Easy and bred in Kentucky by Ledgelands and Andrew C. Ritter, Headline Report started his career with lofty expectations after being purchased for $550,000 at the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

“We’re excited about that guy,” Ward said. “He’s been coming along pretty well. He had a nice work from the gate at Keeneland. We’re excited to get him in the Sanford.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez piloted Headline Report in his first start and will have the return call on Saturday, breaking from post 9.

Greg Tramontin’s Ottoman Empire rallied from seventh-of-11 in his debut to post a one-length victory in a five-furlong maiden special weight on June 20 at Churchill Downs. Trainer Tom Amoss said the Classic Empire colt had been training well at Churchill leading into his first race but then showed an ability to take dirt and adapt to racing circumstances under pressure.

“What I really liked was how he handled the shock that a lot of young horses get when breaking from the gate for the first time,” Amoss said. “When they all break at the same time and get that experience, they get dirt kicked in their face, which is a lot for a young horse to take in. He broke fine, but it was just a lot for him to take in at once and he handled it well.”

A $120,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Ottoman Empire showed a strong closing kick, rallying from third in the stretch to overtake Chileno and Conagher before holding off Texas Red Hot’s late charge.

“I really liked how he finished,” Amoss said. “He had a bit of a wide trip but he still finished up nice and strong.”

Bred in Kentucky by Pedro Gonzalez and Lenny Cohen, Ottoman Empire will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 7.

Bell Gable Stable’s Maryland Brando trounced an eight-horse field by 11 1/2 lengths in a five-furlong maiden sprint on June 2 at Delaware Park. The first-out effort for trainer Gary Contessa netted a 59 Beyer Speed Figure and showed the form that made the Flatter colt a $250,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale.

“I knew what I had; he won and he was being pulled up the last eighth of a mile,” Contessa said. “He drew away but there’s a lot more left in the tank with that horse. He just has everything in the right place. His mind is good – not great – but he’s very business-minded. He’s got a big, strong shoulder on him. As soon as I started training him, I pretty much knew what I had. He dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s.”

Bred in Maryland by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds, Maryland Brando has found a comfort zone training at Delaware Park but will now ship in for a race for the first time, drawing post 6 with Carol Cedeno aboard.

“I’m coming far enough in advance where he’ll get over it if he doesn’t ship well,” Contessa said. “I’ll school him a couple of times in the paddock, which you need in Saratoga. I’ve been at Saratoga for the last 35 years, so it’s an opportunity for me to be there and I think I’m bringing the right horse.”

Mueller Thoroughbred Stable’s Candy Landing also made an impact in his first start, cruising to a 4 1/2-length score that netted the Brendan Walsh trainee a 70 Beyer for his victory going 5 1/2 furlongs on June 11 at Churchill.

A son of Twirling Candy, Candy Landing will be shipping to Saratoga from his base at Churchill, drawing post 2 with James Graham in the irons.

Wit, owned by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable, showed the form that made the Practical Joke colt a $575,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, drawing away to a six-length score in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint over a good Belmont main track on June 5. Wit will enjoy a formidable trainer-jockey combination, as Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will saddle the horse with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard from the inside post.

Willis Horton Racing’s Seize the Night won on debut for conditioner Dallas Stewart on May 14 going five furlongs at Churchill and will take the step up in class, drawing post 11 in tandem with Jon Kenton Court.

Due Vini was a half-length winner in his first start on June 20 at Monmouth Park. Trained by Kelly Breen, the Florida homebred owned by Mr. Amore Stable will exit from post 8 as Luis Saez rides.

Kavod, who ran second in the Tremont for co-owner and trainer James Chapman, will be making his fourth career start. After running fourth on debut in April at Keeneland, the Lea colt earned a winner’s circle trip in April at Belmont before his stakes bow in early June. He is also co-owned by Tritain Biddinger. Manny Franco rides from post 10.

Palm Beach Racing’s Trust Our Journey, an American Pharoah chestnut trained by Carlos David, enters from a prominent third in the Tremont.

A maiden winner at first asking in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on May 1 at Gulfstream, Trust Our Journey will exit post 4 under Eric Cancel.

Cammarota Racing’s Lucago, third in his first start on June 3 at Gulfstream, won over the same track in his second start, besting Fishing for Fun by three-quarters of a length on July 1. Junior Alvarado will have the call from the outermost post.

Richie’s World Stables’ Dance Code edged For the Dreamers by a neck to win his debut going 4 1/2 furlongs on June 28 at Parx. Trained by Juan Vazquez, Dance Code will depart post 5 with Jose Lezcano aboard. 

Frank Catapano and Nicholas Primpas’ Catch the Smoke, a half-length first-out maiden-claiming winner on June 20 at Monmouth Park, will look to go 2-for-2 for trainer Wayne Potts, drawing post 3 with Dylan Davis on the bridle. 

Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the 40-day summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

NYRA Press Office

Photo: Headline Reports broke his maiden first outing at Keeneland April 23, 2021 for trainer Wesley Ward. (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

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