SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The aptly named Kneedeepinsnow will make his Grade 1 debut in Saturday’s $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap for horses 3-years-old and upward sprinting six furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Matt Shirer, the 6-year-old son of Flat Out is distinctly marked with two white stockings on his front legs that reach his knees, making him easy to spot among Shirer’s six trainees he has stabled at Saratoga this summer.
“He looks like he’s been standing out in the snow,” said Shirer. “He’s a cool horse and pretty as can be, especially out on the track.”
Kneedeepinsnow, owned by Jeremy Sussman, Ten Strike Racing and Cory Moelis Racing, enters from a game third-place finish behind last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West in the Kelly’s Landing on July 2 at Churchill Downs. There, he led the field of seven through splits of 22.33 seconds, 44.80 and 1:09.07 before being collared at the stretch call. He kept on well under Ricardo Santana, Jr. to hold onto show honors as Aloha West and graded stakes-winner Miles Ahead sprinted to the finish 2 1/4 lengths ahead of him.
“He’s doing very good and got here a couple days ago. He ran huge last time,” said Shirer. “He set a fast pace and still held on for third. He got beat by the Breeders’ Cup Sprint champ from last year, so no shame in that. He’s fantastic and he’s training better than he ever has.”
It was the second stakes placing for Kneedeepinsnow, who finished second to Isolate in the Work All Week at Hawthorne two starts back. The two stakes efforts came in his first two outings for Shirer, who haltered Kneedeepinsnow for $80,000 out of an impressive optional claiming victory sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on April 29 at Keeneland, garnering a career-high 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
The 6-year-old chestnut will test his Grade 1 ability in deep waters on Saturday, facing the formidable reigning Champion Male Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior and Grade 1-placed Ny Traffic. His other outings at the graded level were two distant finishes in the Grade 3 Palos Verdes last January and Grade 3 Whitmore in March; and a close fourth in the Grade 3 Green Flash in August at Del Mar.
“We all decided that we were up here at Saratoga and that we’d take a shot and see what happens,” said Shirer. “It will be pretty tough to beat Jackie’s Warrior, but he’s doing good, so we’ll take a shot.”
A win in the Vanderbilt would mark the first graded victory for both Shirer and Kneedeepinsnow, but Shirer said he just wants to see the evergreen gelding give a good account of himself.
“It would mean a lot. It’s a Grade 1, so we’ll see. I haven’t really thought about it or wrapped my mind around it,” said Shirer, with a laugh. “We’ll see what happens. I just want him to run good.”
Shirer has already visited the Saratoga winner’s circle this summer when his first starter of the meet, the New York-bred Quick Return, secured a 2 1/2-length victory in Race 3 on Thursday, a 6 1/2-furlong $12,500 claiming event over a good and sealed main track. The effort garnered a career-best 78 Beyer in his fourth win from 15 starts.
Though Quick Return was claimed out of the effort, Shirer said it feels good to enter a race like the Vanderbilt with a win at the Spa under his belt already.
“It’s always nice to win at Saratoga whether it’s a bottom claimer or a big race,” said Shirer. “He ran a good race and got a good number. He’s classy and a New York-bred, so I’m sure a lot of these guys knew him already. It was good to get off the mark early.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Kneedeepinsnow winning an allowance optional claimer in April at Keeneland (Keeneland)