Motion to send Highland Chief, True Valour and Sy Dog for Spa stakes

July 27, 2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Graham Motion, who has won 19 graded stakes races at Saratoga dating to a win in the 1998 Grade 3 Lake George by Caveat Competor, will look to add to his Spa ledger this summer with Highland Chief (IRE), True Valour (IRE) and Sy Dog.

Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s Irish-homebred Highland Chief arrived in Saratoga on Tuesday to prepare for Sunday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green, an 11-furlong inner turf test for older horses. 

“I’ve been happy with him,” Motion said. “He does find it hard in the hot weather, which is why I was anxious to get him up there early because it’s cooler in the mornings and I think he appreciates that.”

The 5-year-old Gleneagles bay captured the Grade 1 Man o’ War in May at Belmont, besting multiple Grade 1-winner Gufo and Yibir, the reigning Champion Turf Male. Last out, Highland Chief finished fourth to the victorious Tribhuvan in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan, a race that runner-up Adhamo exited to capture the Grade 1 United Nations last weekend at Monmouth Park.

Entries will be taken for the Bowling Green on Thursday.

R.L. Johnson’s 8-year-old Irish-bred True Valour was a pacesetting third last out in the six-furlong Grade 1 Jaipur on June 11 at Belmont, one start following a gate-to-wire score in the 5 1/2-furlong King T. Leatherbury on April 23 at Laurel Park.

True Valour will breeze on Saturday at Motion’s Fair Hill base in preparation for the Grade 3, $300,000 Troy going 5 1/2-furlongs on August 5.

Motion said the evergreen bay relishes his career.

“He’s a really cool horse to be around. It’s hard for me to believe he’s the age he is. He loves training,” Motion said. “He’s the first horse I see in the morning when I come in the barn. He’s such a cool character. He gets turned out in the paddock for half an hour first thing and then he goes out in the first set every day. He loves eating; he loves training – I’m loathe to give him a day off, to be honest.”

sy dog the central park
Sy Dog in the Central Park. (Susie Raisher)

Head of Plains Partners’ Sy Dog will look to get back to winning ways following his sixth-place finish last out on July 9 in the Grade 1 Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational, the first leg of the Caesars Turf Triple series for sophomores.

The dark bay Slumber colt will continue on in the Turf Triple in the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational at 1 3/16-miles on August 6. The series concludes with the Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 12 furlongs during the Belmont fall meet.

Motion said Sy Dog will breeze this weekend with Belmont Derby fifth-place finisher Royal Patronage (FR), who is also possible for the Saratoga Derby.

“He’ll breeze here this weekend and then ship up with True Valour,” Motion said. “We’ll decide after the breeze if we want to run him [Royal Patronage] back or skip this one.”

Sy Dog won his first three career starts, including scores in the Central Park in November at Aqueduct and the Grade 3 Transylvania in April at Keeneland. He finished a closing third in the Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill ahead of the Belmont Derby.

Spenderella won the 2022 Appalachian presented by Japan Racing Association with Tyler Gaffalione up. (Coady Photography)

Gainesway Farm’s Spendarella breezed five-eighths in 1:01.40 Monday over the Fair Hill all-weather surface in her first breeze back since finishing a strong second in the Group 1 Coronation on June 17 at Royal Ascot.

“She actually did a little more than I meant her to do. She really breezed a half, but she galloped out the five-eighths,” Motion said. “She seems great. I hadn’t breezed her by design. I wanted to give her plenty of time to get over her trip. She got really tired in that race, I thought. It was very hot that day and I thought it got to the bottom of her a little bit. I didn’t want to be in a rush to get her back on a work schedule.

The 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Karakontie won her first three starts, including scores in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park and Grade 2 Appalachian at Keeneland ahead of her 4 3/4-length defeat by Inspiral in the one-mile Coronation.

Motion said Spendarella is targeting the nine-furlong Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on August 20.

“To win a Grade 1 would be huge for her,” Motion said.

Leverett Miller and Penelope Miller’s Nymph graduated at first asking on July 20 at Delaware Park, posting a game neck score in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. The sophomore daughter of Dominus is out of the stakes-placed D’wildcat mare C d’Cat, who is a half-sister to New York-bred stakes winner Wudda U Think Now.

“It was so nice because we’d been so patient with her,” Motion said. “She had little issues and had been very sick last year and had some little nagging issues, so to have her come out and run like that first time was really rewarding. I’m so glad for them. It was a good effort, and we’ll probably keep her at home for now.”

From the rail out: #4 Matareya, #2 Inventing, #3 Divine Huntress and #1 Dream Lith battle it out in the Acorn on June 11 at Belmont. (Hugh Deucey)

Motion also noted that Crystal Cliffs (FR), recent dead-heat winner of the Grade 2 Nassau at Woodbine, would target the Grade 1 Beverly D. on August 13 at Churchill Downs; while Maryland-bred Divine Huntress, who ran second last out in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, is pointing to Saturday’s seven-furlong Miss Disco against fellow state-

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Photo: Highland Chief in the Man o’ War (Chelsea Durand)

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