SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ multiple graded stakes placed Moretti will attempt to defend his title against a talented field of older horses in Thursday’s $120,000 Birdstone, a 1 3/4-mile main-track marathon at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the Medaglia d’Oro bay, out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, is a half-brother to millionaire 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway.
Purchased for $900,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, Moretti blossomed last season, posting a record of three wins and three seconds in six starts, including stakes scores in the Flat Out at Belmont and Birdstone at Saratoga to go along with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont.
Pletcher, a five-time Birdstone winner, said Moretti is working well into Thursday’s repeat bid, including a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.88 on July 29 on the Spa main track.
“He’s doing well. We know he likes the distance,” Pletcher said. “It’s just a matter of keeping him happy and fit. He’s coming off a couple of solid efforts and we’re looking forward to giving it a try again.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be tasked with engineering the title defense from post 4.
“I think the main thing is to get into a comfortable rhythm rather than worry about who’s on the lead or stalking,” Pletcher said. “In these types of races, you just want to get into a good rhythm. You don’t get many opportunities at this distance, so we’ll give it our best shot.”
Flying P Stable’s Lone Rock made the grade last out, romping to an 11 1/4-length score in the 12-furlong Grade 2 Brooklyn presented by Northwell Health on Belmont Stakes Day June 5.
Claimed back by trainer Robertino Diodoro for $40,000 out of a winning effort in November at Churchill Downs, Lone Rock captured a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer in February at Oaklawn Park in his next outing.
The 6-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding has made his last four starts at 1 1/2-miles, finishing second in the Temperence Hill in March ahead of an optional-claiming score on April 11, both at Oaklawn. He returned on short rest to capture the Isaac Murphy Marathon on April 27 at Churchill ahead of an eye-opening effort in the Brooklyn that registered a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
Lone Rock posted a bullet half-mile on the main track in 46.60 on July 22 and worked an easy half-mile in 52.19 Friday over sloppy going on the Oklahoma training track.
“He’s a horse that loves his job and he’s training great. He bounced out of that race like it was nothing,” Diodoro said. “On Belmont day it was a little warm and to run that far, you’d think it would take a little bit out of him but he’s come back like a monster.”
Ramon Vazquez retains the mount from post 3.
Centennial Farms’ multiple graded stakes-winner Rocketry has finished third in the last two editions of the Birdstone.
Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the 7-year-old bay by Hard Spun finished off-the-board last out in the Brooklyn and will look to return to the form that saw him capture the 1 5/8-mile Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance in November at Keeneland.
“That one horse [Lone Rock] looks like a standout in that category. If ever he’s going to beat horses like that, it’s going this distance,” Jerkens said. “That’s what happened in Kentucky. The pace was just too sharp for going that far and they came back to him, and he went by them in the very end.”
Ricardo Santana, Jr. picks up the mount from post 7.
Lothenbach Stables’ Ry’s the Guy, sixth last out in the Brooklyn, broke through at stakes level in September, taking the 12-furlong Champions Day Marathon at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, the 5-year-old Distorted Humor bay breezed a half-mile in 48.44 Thursday on the Saratoga main track.
“He came out of the last race good and I’m happy with him. It won’t be an easy assignment; we’ll be facing some of the same horses,” Wilkes said. “He has no problem with the track. He’s trained here and got over it fine. His works have been solid. I’m very pleased with his breezes here. We’ve had a little bit of cool weather and that’s helped.”
Ry’s the Guy will exit the inside post under Chris Landeros.
Final Turn Racing Stable and Noda Brothers’ You’re to Blame, runner-up in last year’s Birdstone, made an impressive first start Sunday for trainer Orlando Noda with a 9 1/2-length off-the-turf optional-claiming romp traveling nine-furlongs over a fast main track.
Also sired by Distorted Humor, the 7-year-old veteran of 37 career starts who captured the 2018 Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at Parx, will exit post 6 under Jose Ortiz.
Rounding out the field are graded-stakes placed He’s No Lemon [post 2, Manny Franco], and stakes-placed Shooger Ray Too [post 5, Joel Rosario]
The Birdstone is slated as Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 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.
2020 Birdstone Replay
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NYRA Press Release
Photo: Moretti winning the 2020 Birdstone. (NYRA/Susie Raisher)