Oceans Map seeks clear sailing in Japan Turf Cup

September 30, 2021

Tuned looking to extend streak to three in $100,000 All Along
Among five turf stakes on Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing

LAUREL, Md. – Oceans Map, a last out stakes winner at the distance for owner-trainer Gregg Sacco, looks to make it two in a row when the 4-year-old gelding lines up against six others in Saturday’s $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel Park.

The 58th running of the 1 ½-mile Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up and 50threnewal of the $100,000 All Along at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares 3 and older are among five turf stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 10-race Fall Festival of Racing program.

Co-headlining the card are the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies, both going 1 1/16 miles. Rounding out the stakes action is the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up sprinting 5 ½ furlongs.

First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

By Liam’s Map, a multiple Grade 1 winner on the dirt, Oceans Map has seen his races get progressively longer since running third in a one-mile allowance April 17 on the Gulfstream Park turf, including an open allowance victory going 1 1/16 miles May 15 at historic Pimlico Race Course on the undercard of the 146th Preakness (G1).

 “It’s been a natural progression. We always wanted to try him at longer distances,” Sacco said. “These races, you can’t really train a horse to go a mile and a half. Either they can do it or they can’t. It’s fortunate that he can do it. We look forward to Saturday with him.”

Following his win at Pimlico, Oceans Map ran seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Monmouth (G3) after contesting the pace. He rebounded to be second by a half-length in June 28 allowance at Delaware going the same distance, then ran last of 10 in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1) July 17 at Monmouth Park.

“In the U.N., I didn’t give [jockey] Isaac Castillo the greatest instructions. I told him to take him back and make one run. He fought him in that race, and it really wasn’t his fault. He only got beat 10, 11 lengths to some of the better mile and a half horses in the country,” Sacco said. “It was a deceivingly good race, so that encouraged us to run him in the stake at Delaware. He was able to settle him and come running and he finished full of run. I think he’s a natural at the distance. We were very encouraged by the race and hopefully he’ll run another good one for us in Maryland.”

Oceans Map earned his fifth career victory and first in a stake in the 1 ½-mile Cape Henlopen Aug. 16 at Delaware, his most recent start, where he pulled clear in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths over Real Factor, who also returns in the Japan Turf Cup.

“The only two bad races he had all year, one was the Grade 1 and the other he got in a speed duel on a soft turf which he didn’t’ really handle that well. [Jockey] Jose Ferrer was trying to fight him off the speed, but he just was rank,” Sacco said. “He’s really run well for us all year, going back to Gulfstream. He’s improved as a 4-year-old, with maturity and distance. The last race he was full of run at the end.

 “It’s all about the trip, but we will let him run his race,” he added. “Break, drop his hands and wherever he settles, he settles. Then, when the running starts, see what happens.”

Mychel Sanchez has the call on Oceans Map from Post 5.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Tide of the Sea won the 1 ½-mile W. L. McKnight (G3) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream to kick off his 5-year-old campaign, but the son of grass champion English Channel has gone winless in six subsequent starts for trainer Mike Maker, all in stakes, four of them graded. Included in that stretch are runner-up finishes in Gulfstream’s 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida (G2) Feb. 27 and the 1 ½-mile Grand Couturier July 5 at Belmont Park.

Marianne Stribling, Force Five Racing and Two Rivers Racing Stable’s A Thread of Blue has tried the distance once before, running fourth after setting the pace in the 2019 Jersey City Derby Invitational. That effort was sandwiched by a front-running 13-1 upset of the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby Invitational and a runner-up finish in the 1 1/8-mile Hill Prince (G2). Trainer Kent Sweezey is hoping to regain that form in his first stakes attempt since last August.

Alberts Racing’s Johng has won three of his last four starts dating back to mid-May, all at Pimlico, the most recent coming in an off-the-turf allowance Aug. 22. The 4-year-old gelding will be stretching out after running nine of his last 10 races at 1 1/16 miles and moving to Laurel, where he is 1-for-11 lifetime.

Also entered are Gunnison, winner of the 2018 Tale of the Cat at Saratoga; and Hierarchy, fifth in the Sept. 8 TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs.

Tuned looking to extend streak to three in $100,000 All Along

Having exchanged one streak for another, Al Shaqab homebred Tuned goes after her third consecutive victory and second straight in a stakes in Saturday’s $100,000 All Along.

Since winning her North American debut in October 2019 at Keeneland for trainer Graham Motion, Tuned had lost seven starts in a row, four of them in stakes company, including a runner-up finish in the 2020 My Charmer (G3) at Gulfstream.

Tuned started out this year running fourth in Gulfstream’s Marshua’s River (G3) and The Very One (G3), then was second in a Keeneland allowance and sixth in the June 12 Mint Julep (G3) before finding her groove this summer at Colonial Downs.

Going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf July 20, 5-year-old Tuned forged a short lead at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 1 ¼ lengths over favored Empress Eleanor. She followed up with a dramatic last-to-first triumph in the TAA Old Nelson, coming six wide to emerge from a three-way photo a neck ahead of runner-up Market Rumor.

“I like this filly. She’s always been kind of a hard-knocking filly. She deserved a stakes win. It would be great to get another one if we can,” Motion said. “I’m thrilled that she finally got on track because she’s one that we’ve always liked a lot. Clearly, she loved Colonial, but she’s done well since. I’d have to think she’d be one of the favorites in here, and she’s had a good four, five weeks here.”

One of Tuned’s foes will be her stablemate, Gainesway Stable’s Oyster Box, a 3-year-old daughter of Tapit that will be facing older horses for the first time. She is coming off a runner-up finish in the 1 1/8-mile Pucker Up (G3) Aug. 14 at Arlington Park, where she was beaten three lengths by Shantisara, who came back to win the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational Sept. 18.

“I had her in the Pebbles [Sept. 19] at Belmont and she had a terrible post. I thought it was a really difficult race, so this was kind of our Plan B, taking on the older mares,” Motion said. “She’s one we’ve always thought very highly of.”

Oyster Box went 2-0 to open her career, capturing her debut last fall at Belmont and an optional claiming allowance Jan. 6 at Tampa Bay Downs. She has faced stakes company since, running third in the Florida Oaks (G3) and fourth in the Memories of Silver and Regret (G3) prior to the Pucker Up.

“I don’t exactly know what kind of trip she wants. Her mom [multiple graded-stakes winner Starformer] was more of a mile and a quarter-type horse. To me she acts like a mile, mile and an eighth might be her maximum,” Motion said. “But, she trains very forwardly and she’s had plenty of time since Arlington. I didn’t think she had any excuses that day, but she’s a filly we’ve always liked a lot.”

Feargal Lynch has the call on Tuned from Post 5 at topweight of 122 pounds in the six-horse field and Charlie Marquez will ride Oyster Box at low weight of 117 pounds from Post 2.

Sweet Sami D, third in the 2019 Monmouth Oaks (G3) and July 4 Caesar’s Wish, the latter at Pimlico; Niceno, a last out allowance winner over the all-weather surface at Presque Isle Downs Aug. 23; Scatrattleandroll, front-running winner of an off-the-turf allowance Aug. 28 at Delaware Park; and Take Charge Tina, racing first off the claim for owner-trainer William Earl Atkins, complete the field.

The All Along is named for the French-bred filly that won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Rothmans International, Turf Classic and Laurel’s Washington D.C. International in the span of 41 days in 1983 en route to becoming the first foreign-based horse to be voted U.S. Horse of the Year. A winner of nine races and more than $3 million in purses from 21 starts, she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1990.

David Joseph/MJC Press Office

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David Joseph/MJC Press Office

Photo: Oceans Map won a 1 1/16 mile Allowance at Pimlico on May 15, 2021 by 2 ½ lengths under Jose Ortiz. (Maryland Jockey Club)

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