Saratoga Race Course Notes

August 8, 2021

Knicks Go records 111 Beyer in G1 Whitney romp

Bella Sofia earns triple digit BSF after acing G1 Longines Test

War Like Goddess impressive in G2 Glens Falls score

Maxfield maintains perfect in-the-money record with Whitney second

Swiss Skydiver a brave fourth in G1 Whitney; New York-bred G1 winner Simply Ravishing returns Thursday

By My Standards doing well after losing shoe in Whitney; possible for G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup

Saturday’s cross-breed Cross Country Pick 5 registers $60K total pool; pays $699

Record breaking handle on Whitney Day

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go continued to flaunt his winning ways, defeating a compact but talented group of all graded stakes -winning millionaires in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Whitney.

Trained by Brad Cox, the now four-time Grade 1 winner arrived at the nine-furlong Whitney, which offered a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, off a sharp in hand victory in the Grade 3 Cornhusker on July 2 at Prairie Meadows.

Knicks Go captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream Park.

Piloted by Joel Rosario on Saturday, Knicks Go led the field at every point of call and drew away in the stretch to a 4 ½-length win, garnering a 111 Beyer Speed Figure.

Cox said he has not yet made plans for a next start for his talented son of Paynter, but he would like to race him once before the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6 at Del Mar.

“We’ll let the dust settle, but my thoughts would be to give him a race five to six weeks out [from the Breeders’ Cup Classic],” Cox said. “I haven’t really dug into it yet, the biggest thing is how he came out of yesterday’s race. It would be nice to get a race into him between now and then, but where that might be I don’t know.

“I was really pleased with how he looked this morning,” Cox added. “He ate up well, so everything is really positive.”

Knicks Go made his first start for Cox in February 2020 with an allowance optional claiming triumph at Oaklawn Park. Following an eight-month hiatus, Knicks Go burst back onto the scene with a Keeneland allowance optional claiming score ahead of a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at the Lexington oval.

Cox said Knicks Go has taken big leaps forward in his 2021 campaign.

“He was a very good horse last year and he’s a better horse now,” Cox said. “Last year he was able to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile against a great group of horses. He had one prep going into that about five weeks out. This year, he’s been able to race throughout the winter and rebounded well. He’s had three races this summer, so he’s been campaigned with more foundation this year, so I just have to think he’s a better horse. He’s a more accomplished horse and built a nice foundation.”

Boasting a record of 22-8-3-1, Knicks Go has lifetime earnings of $5,368,995.

***

Bella Sofia earns triple digit BSF after acing G1 Longines Test

Michael Imperio, Vincent Scuderi, Sofia Soares, Gabrielle Farm, Mazel Stable Partners and Matthew Mercurio’s Bella Sofia ensured her graded stakes debut was a memorable one when she drew away for a 4 1/4-length score in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies sprinting seven furlongs.

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez entered the daughter of Awesome Patriot in the prestigious race on Whitney Day following a 6 1/2-length victory against allowance company going six furlongs in July at Belmont. Stretched out on Saturday, Bella Sofia tracked Illumination’s early fractions before closing strong under jockey Luis Saez, resulting in a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure after improving to 3-1-0 in four starts.

“The thing that impressed me was that she let Luis do whatever he wanted to do,” Rodriguez said. “The way she broke, I thought she was going to go to the lead. But Luis let the horse go in front of her, and to see her relax and be very kind, that was impressive. When Luis asked her, she was there.”

Bella Sofia was unraced as a juvenile but showed her potential in an impressive debut in which she topped a six-horse field by 11 1/4 lengths going six furlongs on Belmont’s Big Sandy on May 6.

Graduating to stakes company next out in the six-furlong Jersey Girl the day after the Belmont Stakes on June 6, Bella Sofia ran a competitive second, one length behind winner Australasia, before registering that blowout win last month.

Rodriguez said Bella Sofia, who was bred in Kentucky by Two Tone Farms, was worth the wait as she has never registered a speed figure below 90.

“Everything was happy and quiet with her today,” Rodriguez said. “She looks a little tired, but she’s all good.

“Sometimes, you need to wait,” he added. “She had some of little issues and bumps in the road when was she a baby, but she’s behind all that now. She looks very happy right now.”

Purchased for $20,000 at the 2020 Ocala Breeders’ 2-Year-Old Sale, Bella Sofia has already amassed earnings of $405,100. Rodriguez said he has not picked out a next target yet.

The victory marked the first graded stakes win for Rodriguez in four years, with the previous occurrence also taking place at Saratoga when Lady Ivanka captured the 2017 Grade 1 Spinaway. In total, Rodriguez has tallied seven Grade 1 wins, with four of those coming in 2014.

Rodriguez will have an opportunity for additional graded stakes success as Doctor Jeff remains likely to go in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite. The 6 1/2-furlong main track sprint for 2-year-olds will mark Doctor Jeff’s second career start following a 2 1/4-length debut win on July 10 at Belmont in a race that was moved off the turf.

The Street Boss colt, a $90,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, posted a bullet five-furlong breeze Sunday over the Saratoga main track, clocked in 59.61 seconds as the fastest in a group of 22. It was his third consecutive work at the track since shipping from Belmont in July.

Jockey Joel Rosario, aboard for that debut win, was aboard for the work and will have the return call next week.

“He breezed great this morning and we’re very happy with the way he’s been training over here,” Rodriguez said. “We’re still looking at the Special. We’re just living the dream right now.”

***

War Like Goddess impressive in G2 Glens Falls score

George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess rallied from last-of-7 to capture Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls, a 12-furlong inner-turf test for older fillies and mares.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 4-year-old English Channel bay notched her third straight graded win, encompassing the Grade 3 Orchid in March at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 3 Bewitch in April at Keeneland.

Mott said he was pleased with the winning trip engineered by regular pilot Julien Leparoux.

“I thought she accelerated very good. I couldn’t describe it any other way other than impressive,” Mott said.

Mott said he would point War Like Goddess to the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl on September 4 at Saratoga, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Natalie Baffert and Debbie Lanni’s Du Jour, who exited post 2 under Joel Rosario, finished third just 3 1/2-lengths back of winner State of Rest in Saturday’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational.

The Temple City bay captured the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill before finishing fourth last month in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational in his first start for Mott.

“I thought he ran well to be third. I wasn’t disappointed,” Mott said. “He had a little bit of trouble getting through. As he was coming through they kind of squeezed him a little bit, but he still ran well. We’re happy with his performance.”

Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector earned a 102 Beyer in a convincing front-running score in Friday’s nine-furlong Alydar.

The 4-year-old Bernardini colt, who was making his first start for Mott, captured the Grade 2 Blue Grass last August at Keenland and the Ellis Park Derby last August for former conditioner Tom Drury, Jr.

He entered the Alydar off a trio of off-the-board efforts.

“He had kind of lost his way a little bit, but it looks like he’s back into form,” Mott said.

LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s High Oak, an impressive maiden winner in June at Belmont, and Grade 1 Jackpocket Jaipur-winner Casa Creed breezed a bullet half-mile in 48.11 in company Saturday on the Oklahoma dirt training track.

“They both went well. I was very happy with them,” Mott said. “They both did what I wanted them to do. They maybe worked a little better than expected.”

High Oak, a 2-year-old son of Gormley, is pointed to Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite, a 6 1/2-furlong main track sprint for juveniles.

Casa Creed, a 5-year-old son of Jimmy Creed, scratched out of Friday’s Grade 3 Troy presented by Horse Racing Ireland after drawing post 12. Mott said Casa Creed will now target the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 14, a “Win and You’re In’ qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“We didn’t like our post the other day and I think we’d prefer to take our chance in another race,” Mott said. “Not that we think it’s an easier spot, but maybe we’ll get a little better draw and have a chance at a better trip.”

Casa Creed will stretch back out to one mile in the Fourstardave after an impressive rally to win the six-furlong Jackpocket Jaipur. Mott acknowledged that the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, to be contested at five furlongs at Del Mar, would likely be too short for the late-running Casa Creed.

“That’s probably not his cup of tea,” Mott said.

***

Maxfield maintains perfect in-the-money record with Whitney second

Godolphin homebred Maxfield matched a career-best 105 Beyer for his runner-up effort in Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney.

With Jose Ortiz up for trainer Brendan Walsh in the nine-furlong test, Maxfield stalked from fourth position before making a late move to complete the exacta 4 1/2-lengths back of the Brad Cox-trained winner Knicks Go.

“He ran great and we’re very proud of him as always. He put in a good effort,” Walsh said. “He beat some nice horses and got beat by a very good horse. It happens.

“Brad’s horse is a very good horse and when he gets alone on the lead, he’s very tough to beat,” Walsh added. “He ran well and it’s a little more experience for him.”

The 4-year-old Street Sense colt boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 9-7-1-1 with purse earnings in excess of $1.4 million. He entered the Whitney off consecutive Grade 2 scores at Churchill Downs in the Alysheba in April and the Stephen Foster in June.

“We’ll leave him here for a while and see how he comes out of it and come up with a plan,” Walsh said.

***

Swiss Skydiver a brave fourth in G1 Whitney; New York-bred G1 winner Simply Ravishing returns Thursday

Peter J. Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver chased gate-to-wire winner Knicks Go throughout Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney, ranging up three-wide with a threatening move late in the final turn before fading to fourth in her first start since a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in April.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, last year’s Grade 1 Preakness-winner was initially targeting the Grade 3 Shuvee on July 25 before having to change course when their barn was placed under a precautionary quarantine, related to a positive case of Equine Herpesvirus-1 in their barn, which is shared with trainer Jorge Abreu. The quarantine was lifted on August 1 and all horses cleared without symptoms.

Assistant trainer Francis Chiumiento said he was proud of the performance by the filly, who was being piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the first time.

“I thought she proved how good she is and Irad was really happy with how she ran,” Chiumiento said. “He felt she had a shot to win at some point. These are all good indicators. She came back well and she’s happy and content.

“I brought here in here around June 18 and she was doing everything just great,” he added. “We were going to run in the Shuvee and the Personal Ensign and then the outbreak happened. Thank God we contained it and none of our horses were affected. We did everything right.”

The Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, is slated for Travers Day August 28.

Three Chimneys Farm and Fern Circles Stables’ King Fury, who had initially targeted the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 31, finished 10th in Saturday’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational after a wide trip exiting the outside post in the 11-horse field.

Chiumiento said King Fury should benefit from the experience as he points to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.

“He was hung out wide the whole time,” Chiumiento said. “He needed a race, too. Unfortunately, we were using a $1 million race as a prep. He handled the turf well but he was wide the whole time. He needed that race to tighten him up and I think he’ll be very strong for the Travers. He came back happy and walked great this morning.”

Chiumiento said he appreciated the presence of NYRA Safety Steward Juan Dominguez for his assistance in negotiating the quarantine protocols.

“It was a pressure cooker but we did everything right. We made sure all the staff followed the protocols, from wearing gloves to disinfecting every stall. We took it serious and we know Jorge Abreu did as well.” Chiumiento said. “I really want to commend Juan Dominguez. He and I worked together and he did a tremendous job to make sure this didn’t spread. He and Martin Panza [Senior Vice President of Racing Operations] were here, as well as Keith [Doleshel, Racing Secretary], almost every day and I have to commend them for that. They didn’t have to do that. We made sure it was controlled and that there wasn’t a chance for it to spread.

“We were prepared to do really well and it’s frustrating because we don’t know now how we’d have done,” Chiumiento added regarding their initial targets. “Kenny handled it with tremendous class. He’s just a very down-to-earth and classy man. He was cool, calm and collected.”

On Thursday, Harold Lerner, Magdalena Racing and Nehoc Stables’ Grade 1-winner Simply Ravishing returns in the nine-furlong $120,000 Saratoga Dew for New York-bred fillies 3-years-old and up.

A $50,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, the 4-year-old Laoban bay won 3-of-5 starts in her sophomore season, including a maiden win on the turf last August on debut and a 6 1/2-length score in the off-the-turf P.G. Johnson in September.

Simply Ravishing made the grade with a 6 1/4-length score in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades in October at Keeneland before finishing fourth in both the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill in November.

She launched her current campaign in April with an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.

Simply Ravishing has breezed extensively on the Oklahoma training track dating back to June 26 when she fired a bullet three-eighths in 35.86 and followed a week later with a bullet half-mile in 48.08.

“She’s doing good. She’s a cool filly and does everything right,” Chiumiento said. “She trains like a gorilla. She puts up bullets. I think she’ll be right there.”

***

By My Standards doing well after losing shoe in Whitney; possible for G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup

Trainer Bret Calhoun said he experienced “the highs and lows of racing in a matter of ten minutes” after seeing Mr. Wireless capture a second graded stakes triumph in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer before saddling By My Standards to a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

Second in last year’s Whitney to Improbable, Allied Racing and Spendthrift Farm’s By My Standards stumbled and lost a front left shoe a few strides leaving the gate. Unable to catch pacesetter and winner Knicks Go, By My Standards trailed throughout finishing 15 ½ lengths off the winner.

Calhoun said By My Standards, a 5-year-old son of Goldencents, emerged from the race in good order.

“For what he went through he came back pretty well, better than expected,” Calhoun said. “He stumbled twice and wasn’t going to do too well without a shoe. The foot is a little sore and we got lucky it didn’t tear anything up. He’s just a little bruised up is all.”

A four-time graded stakes winning millionaire, By My Standards arrived at the Whitney off a runner-up effort despite a troubled trip in the Grade 1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 5 at Belmont Park.

Calhoun said By My Standards could target the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 4 at Saratoga. 

“The Whitney was a race we had dialed in for quite some time,” Calhoun said. “Obviously, you don’t know what to take from that race other than just drawing a line through it. We’ll figure out where we go. I wouldn’t think the Jockey Club is impossible. Knicks Go ran them off their feet, went fast early and he kept on running. He just ran that race he ran in the Breeders’ Cup.”

Mr. Wireless notched a second graded stakes triumph in the West Virginia Derby after winning the Grade 3 Indiana Derby on July 7 at Indiana Grand Race Course.

Calhoun said the JIL Stable-owned son of Dialed In could return in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on September 25 at Parx.

***

Saturday’s cross-breed Cross Country Pick 5 registers $60K total pool; pays $699

An all-stakes cross-breed Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday paid $699.25 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager. The total pool was $60,003.

The wager, which featured thoroughbred racing from historic Saratoga Race Course and Monmouth Park, also encompassed two prestigious harness races from the Meadowlands.

Thoroughbreds started the action when State of Rest won the Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational to capture the second leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for 3-year-olds in Race 9 at the Spa. The Irish-bred State of Rest, trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, topped Solider Rising by one length in the 1 3/16-mile contest on the Mellon turf course in a final time of 1:53.35. Off at 21-1, State of Rest returned $44.20 on a $2 win wager.

Monmouth, located in Oceanport, New Jersey, hosted the $100,000 Tyro for juveniles going five furlongs on the turf in Race 12. Her World, an Irish bred trained by Wesley Ward, romped by six lengths as the even-money favorite, paying $3.80. Under jockey Paco Lopez, Her World completed the course in 56.62 seconds.

A unique wrinkle to the Cross County Pick 5 came in the third leg when standardbreds took center stage with the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks in Race 14 at the Meadowlands. The prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies saw heavy favorite Bella Bellini win in rein to driver Dexter Dunn. The R. Nifty Norman trainee paid $3 to win in capturing the race for trotters.

Saratoga’s feature, the 94th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney in Race 10, saw Knicks Go surge to the front and go wire-to-wire to best the five-horse field under jockey Joel Rosario, who notched his second career Whitney victory. Trained by Brad Cox, Knicks Go won by 4 1/2 lengths as the favorite, paying $4.10, and hit the wire in the 1 1/8-mile contest in 1:47.70.

Standardbreds closed out the sequence when another favorite – Captain Corey – won the 96th running of the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-olds in Race 15 at the Meadowlands. Trainer and driver Ake Svanstedt led Captain Corey [$4.60] to victory in the one-mile stakes for trotters.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit NYRABets.com.

***

Record breaking handle on Whitney Day

Saturday’s 12-race Whitney Day card, featuring five graded stakes and highlighted by Knick’s Go’s convincing victory in the 94th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney, generated record all-sources of $36,820,234, eclipsing the previous Whitney Day record of $35,796,435 set in 2020.

On-track handle was $6,707,742 and paid attendance totaled 38,525.

2019 Whitney Day, which was held on August 3, yielded all sources handle of $31,835,864 and on-track handle of 7,078,192.

For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit NYRA.com.

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