SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After knocking on the door in his two starts this year, Donegal Racing’s Ready to Purrform led each step of the way and got the job done in Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, a one-mile inner turf test for sophomores at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Brad Cox, the son of Kitten’s Joy improved from two in-the-money efforts at stakes level this year to score his first graded victory in his sixth lifetime outing. Ready to Purrform previously earned a stakes win when taking the Laurel Futurity in October at Laurel Park in his first start against winners after a debut maiden score in September at Ellis Park.
Under expert handling by Joel Rosario, Ready to Purrform broke from post 5 in the field of eight and quickly took the lead from the rail-skimming Chanceux under the wire for the first time. Post-time favorite Tiz the Bomb moved up into second as the field rounded the first turn through an opening quarter mile in 23.66 seconds over the firm turf.
Ready to Purrform held a comfortable advantage over Tiz the Bomb down the backstretch as Chanceux and Double Clutch were on even terms for third with the half-mile in 47.17. Tiz the Bomb inched closer to just a half-length back in the final turn, but Ready to Purrform shook off his back-peddling rival and was still the one to catch at the top of the lane.
Wit, under Jose Ortiz, broke outwardly at the start and settled along the rail in sixth before launching a strong bid down the center of the racetrack with Celestial City putting in a run to his inside as Ready to Purrform found more at the eighth pole. With Wit steadily improving position, Ready to Purrform was never in trouble past the sixteenth pole and maintained his lead to cross the wire 1 1/4 lengths the best in a final time of 1:33.99.
Wit managed to collar Celestial City to secure place honors by a half-length with Tiz the Bomb rounding out the superfecta. Double Clutch, Wow Whata Summer, Stolen Base and Chanceux completed the order of finish. Dowagiac Chief was scratched.
Cox said he planned for Ready to Purrform to be on the lead, something the chestnut colt did for the first time in his career.
“It didn’t look like there was much speed on paper. It looked like the one [Chanceux] would go and maybe we could track that colt, but he didn’t get away quite as well as we did,” said Cox. “Joel did take this colt away and let him warm up a bit because that was the intent on being forwardly placed with the lack of speed on paper. Overall, I’m very proud of the performance. I thought it was a big race. This was a good group of horses in here. He showed up and put them away turning for home and he really ran well.
It was the eighth graded-stakes win of the meet for Rosario, adding to scores in the Grade 1 Diana [In Italian], Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap [Jackie’s Warrior], Grade 2 Shuvee [Clairiere], Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap [Kimari], Grade 2 Jim Dandy [Epicenter], Grade 3 Forbidden Apple [City Man] and Grade 3 Quick Call [Big Invasion].
Rosario said he followed Cox’s instructions.
“He told me to get him out and see where we are and it looked like I could have gone to the lead at that point,” said Rosario. “I just let him find his stride forward and if any other horse decided to go, we would let them go. We were in control at that point, so I just let him do his thing.”
Rosario added Ready to Purrform showed a new dimension in his ability to establish command.
“He put in a nice run today. He showed a different style by going to the lead, but he was able to keep it going with that speed,” Rosario said. “He looked like he was enjoying everything up there and he just kept going with the speed he has.”
Cox agreed, and said that being able to set the pace in longer turf races could be a valuable asset for Ready to Purrform going forward.
“I do think he’ll stretch out. I think he’s bred to stretch out. He showed the new dimension today of being forwardly placed and we’ll start talking about races a mile and an eighth and beyond that even,” said Cox. “It may be more of a benefit and an advantage because sometimes there is a lack of pace in these turf races at a mile and an eighth and beyond.”
Ready to Purrform kicked off his sophomore campaign with a determined runner-up finish to Joe in the James W. Murphy on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course after going three wide and closing from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace. He followed with his last out third-place finish in the Manila 3 1/4 lengths behind Annapolis on July 4 at Belmont Park.
“I thought the horse at Pimlico maybe had a little more of a ground-saving trip. We might have been a touch wide and they got a little better trip than us that day,” said Cox. “But overall, he’s performed well. He ran well last time in the Manila, but he did get a little warm on us. He’s a little bit of a hot-blooded colt and it’s got hot out today, but I thought he settled a little better today in the paddock and maybe warming up before the race he was a little settled as opposed to the way he was at Belmont last time.”
Ready to Purrform was bred in Kentucky by Bonne Chance Farm and banked $110,000 for his victory. He improved his record to 6-3-1-1 while returning $9.80 for a $2 win bet.
Ortiz said he was pleased with the effort from the dual main track graded-stakes winner Wit, whom he breezed over the turf for the first time two weeks ago.
“He broke out a little bit, but I had a good trip and saved a lot of ground. I tipped out and got a good run home,” Ortiz said. “We were working on the turf and he worked really nice, so we’re happy the way he’s been coming along on the turf. I think down the road he will be better on the turf.”
Live racing resumes on Saturday at Saratoga with the lucrative Grade 1, $1 million Whitney card, which also features the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby, the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test, the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls and the $135,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
Mary Edddy/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Ready to Purrform winning the G2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (Chelsea Durand)