OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Springing upsets in Grade 1 turf races in New York is nothing new for trainer Graham Motion, who captured back-to-back editions of the Grade 1 Manhattan with Ascend [27-1] and Spring Quality [18-1] in 2017-18, as well as taking this year’s Grade 1 Man o’ War with 19-1 longshot Highland Chief. On Saturday, the affable Englishman has his sights set on lighting up the tote board in the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic with Alex M. Campbell’s homebred Bye Bye Melvin.
A dark bay or brown 5-year-old gelding by Uncle Mo, Bye Bye Melvin arrives at the prestigious 12-furlong turf test off a gate-to-wire performance on September 1 at Saratoga, capturing a nine-furlong allowance optional claimer in his second start off a 14-month layoff. He was a close fourth beaten a neck in his previous start for the same condition, setting a moderate tempo but was collared in the final furlong and finished behind next-out graded stakes winner Emaraaty.
Although yet to have gone the 1 1/2-mile distance, Motion expressed faith as Bye Bye Melvin is a half-brother to five-time graded stakes-winning turf stayer Mean Mary, who captured back-to-back editions of Belmont Park’s Grade 2 New York [now Grade 1] for Motion. Both horses are out of the Grade 1-winning Dynaformer mare Karlovy Vary.
“I thought both his races at Saratoga were really solid,” said Motion, who captured the 2014 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic with eventual Champion Older Horse and Turf Male Main Sequence. “The mile and a half is a little bit of an unknown, but Mean Mary certainly didn’t mind the distance. I guess being by Uncle Mo it makes you question it a little bit perhaps but to me, he’s kind of a galloping horse. He’s a really cool and super talented horse.”
Motion said Bye Bye Melvin and Mean Mary have comparable personalities.
“She was certainly tough, but she mellowed as she got older. He mellowed as a gelding. Certainly, they have similar traits,” Motion said.
Feargal Lynch will pilot Bye Bye Melvin, listed at 8-1 on the morning line, from the rail in the seven-horse Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Motion said he was planning on entering Highland Chief for the same race, but had to regroup when the son of Gleneagles came up with a cough.
“He had a cough and his bloodwork wasn’t right. That’s why I didn’t enter him this week,” Motion said. “He’s trained but hasn’t had proper training the past couple of days just because we wanted to go easier on him. It’s that time of the year where it rains and the weather changes. Hopefully, he gets over it quickly.”
Motion said the Mrs. Fitriani Hay homebred, who hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Bowling Green in July at Saratoga, could now target the Grade 3 Sycamore on October 14 at Keeneland.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Bye Bye Melvin wins the 2020 renewal of the G3 Saranac (NYRA/Coglianese)
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