Rebel’s Romance looking fit and ready coming out of quarantine across Union Ave July 23. (Susie Raisher)
NYRA Press Office
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Godolphin’s reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Rebel’s Romance will take his world tour back to North America in Sunday’s 65th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green going 1 3/8 miles over the Saratoga Race Course inner turf.
Rebel’s Romance captured last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Keeneland, providing international racing and breeding powerhouse Godolphin with their fifth victory in the prestigious race. A winner in four different countries, the Charlie Appleby-trained 5-year-old Dubawi gelding captured Germany’s Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten and Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne en route to his Breeders’ Cup conquest, where he came from 10th-of-13 to secure a 2 1/4-length victory over fellow European invader Stone Age.
En route to his German endeavor, Rebel’s Romance won England’s Group 3 Glorious at Goodwood and Fred Archer at Newmarket in his turf debut. During his sophomore season, he captured the Group 2 United Arab Emirates Derby over the main track at Meydan Racecourse and had won his first two lifetime starts over all-weather surfaces in England. He enters from an uncharacteristic seventh in his lone defeat on turf in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March at Meydan, where he finished 11 lengths in arears of highly-regarded Japanese-based Equinox.
“He’s a well-travelled horse; Germany, Keeneland, England and Dubai,” said Appleby’s traveling assistant Chris Connett. “He’s traveled this trip pretty well and he’s settled in good shape. He’s a typical Dubawi, he’s got better with age. He’s a big horse that’s really grown into his frame. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him at his best on Sunday.”
Rebel’s Romance has won over a variety of different turf conditions, including firm, good and good-fast.
“He’s pretty versatile,” Connett said. “The ground in Germany was on the softer side, Keeneland was definitely on the quicker side of things. I’d say ground wise it doesn’t really matter that much.”
Rebel’s Romance arrived at his Breeders’ Cup Turf endeavor in the shadows of his accomplished stablemate Nations Pride, who captured last year’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational and Grade 3 Jockey Club Derby Invitational after finishing second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on the NYRA circuit.
“The team always has held the horse in high regard,” Connett said of Rebel’s Romance. “As a 3-year-old, he won the UAE Derby on the dirt. Up until this year in Dubai, he was unbeaten on the turf. He’s a classy animal. Nations Pride had the form and was quite impressive in his runs out here. He had been here and done it before whereas Rebel’s Romance hadn’t been around the tighter turned tracks. The way he’s training out here at the moment, I think he’ll perform nicely on Sunday.”
Rebel’s Romance will leave from post 9 in rein to Richard Mullen.
Trainer Graham Motion will saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Albert Frassetto’s The Grey Wizard [post 7, John Velazquez], who arrives from a runner-up effort behind the Appleby-trained Siskany in the two-mile Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup on June 9.
The 4-year-old Caravaggio gelding was in 11th-place early and inched his way into contention down the final backstretch run and launched a wide bid in upper stretch. He finished two lengths behind the winner while staving off a late inside rally from 44-1 shot British Royalty. An allowance winner going 10 furlongs at Santa Anita and 12 furlongs at Keeneland, The Grey Wizard finished second to Nations Pride in last year’s Jockey Club Derby.
“I’m very happy with him. We’ve kind of pointed for this race for a while,” Motion said. “He seems like he keeps improving every time I run him. I wish this was a mile and a half – the distance is what really helps him. He’s not very quick from the gate and that’s part of the problem; it puts him at a disadvantage. Johnny knows him so well, and that’s a big help. We’ve taken some shots with this guy, but he’s always kind of responded. He’s a horse that has improved a lot since we got him, and I’m not saying that because of us, I’m saying that because he’s gotten older and figured it out.”
Trainer Christophe Clement will saddle Soldier Rising [post 5, Jose Ortiz] and Tawny Port [post 10, Joel Rosario] in attempt of his fourth Bowling Green victory.
Soldier Rising, owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso, is five-time graded stakes-placed but is still in search of his first graded stakes triumph. The 5-year-old Frankel gelding finished second in Belmont’s Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 Manhattan this year while completing the trifecta behind former stablemate Gufo in last year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer.
Clement said the Bowling Green will likely propel the hard-luck Solider Rising into a return engagement in this year’s Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer going 12 furlongs on August 26.
“One day it will be his day,” Clement said. “He came out of the Manhattan in good shape and has trained well. The plan is to go Bowling Green to Sword Dancer.”
Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port is a new addition to Clement’s stable but will make his grass debut following a distant seventh in the Grade 3 Ben Ali in April over the Keeneland main track for previous conditioner Brad Cox. The Pioneerof the Nile 4-year-old was fifth in both the Grade 3 Mineshaft in February at Fair Grounds and Grade 3 Essex in March at Oaklawn.
A winner over Turfway Park’s synthetic in his first pair of starts, Tawny Port won the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland and Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown during his sophomore campaign.
“He trains well on the grass. He looks like a nice stayer, so we’re going to try him and see what happens,” said Clement, whose Bowling Green accolades include Flag Down , Honor Glide  and Grassy .
Andrew Farm, For The People Racing Stable and Windmill Manor Farm’s Verstappen [post 4, Declan Cannon] will seek to recapture the winning form that earned him a victory in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 22 going 12 furlongs at Keeneland.
Trained by Brendan Walsh, the 4-year-old War Front gelding was seventh in the 11-furlong Man o’ War on May 13 on short rest at Belmont before cutting back in distance to finish third in the 1 1/16-mile Jonathan Schuster on July 8 at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
“He ran very well the last day at Indiana. We knew that would be a little sharp for him, and he nearly won it. It was way too short for him, but we were looking at the big picture to come up here and have a go at the Bowling Green,” Walsh said. “I probably ran him back a little quick in the Man o’ War off of his huge run at Keeneland, but the race was there, and you take these shots. This time around, he’s been here two weeks and we were able to work him on the turf here. He’s fit and ready to go.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle 2020 Champion Turf Horse Channel Maker [post 8, Manny Franco], who seeks his first victory since besting Solider Rising in last year’s Grand Couturier at Belmont. The evergreen 9-year-old English Channel gelding was a last out 10th in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup and will compete in his fifth Bowling Green. Channel Maker captured the 2018 edition of the Bowling Green, where he dead-heated for victory with Glorious Empire, before finishing fourth , third  and seventh .
Completing the field are the Chad Brown-trained pair of Highest Honors [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Rockemperor [post 2, Flavien Prat]; Grade 3 Dinner Party winner Never Explain [post 3, Luis Saez] for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey; and three-time winner Strong Quality [post 6, Florent Geroux] for Hall of Famer Mark Casse. Marc Keller’s stakes-placed Bobby Ribaudo-trained homebred Daunt [post 11, Javier Castellano] is also eligible.
The Bowling Green is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.