Saratoga Race Course Notes

August 5, 2021

Bolshoi Ballet in fine fettle ahead of G1 Saratoga Derby Invitational

Silver State hopes to strike gold in G1 Whitney

G1 Whitney post position for By My Standards a familiar spot for Calhoun

Hall of Fame induction a family affair for Casse

Trainer Chad Brown closing in on 2,000 career win milestone

Appleby trainees Secret Protector, Creative Flair and Lazuli continue preparations for graded-stakes engagements

Brown pleased with comeback victory from L’Imperator

G3 winner Masqueparade, third in G2 Jim Dandy, possible for G1 Travers

Champion Vequist training forwardly at Saratoga

Multiple G1-winner Code of Honor works a bullet in preparation for G3 Philip G. Iselin

Rookie Report: Brown debuts Arrogate colt on Saturday 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg’s Bolshoi Ballet was installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturdays’ Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational, the second leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for sophomores.

In July, trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore combined to sweep the respective 10-furlong first legs of the Turf Triple series with Bolshoi Ballet rallying to a 1 1/4-length score in the Belmont Derby Invitational in a final time of 2:04.42 over good turf. Two races prior, highly-regarded filly Santa Barbara found a seam between rivals late in the lane under Moore to capture the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, first leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies by a half-length in 2:03.76.

Bolshoi Ballet arrived at Saratoga Saturday with T.J. Comerford, O’Brien’s traveling assistant, again overseeing the preparations. Moore, in search of a first Saratoga win in his third attempt, will return to pilot Bolshoi Ballet from post 6 in the 11-horse field.

Comerford said Bolshoi Ballet, by the late Galileo, benefitted from his last-out win.

“Ryan rode him confident. I suppose he didn’t ride him as confident as the filly, but I actually thought on the day that the fillies race was ran slower, but it was actually a second faster,” Comerford said. “Really, this lad done well seeing that he didn’t get a proper true run gallop. He was just a little bit slow away. He’s a lot sharper now from that race coming here. He seems to have taken that race well and coming here is more straightforward for him.”

Comerford said Bolshoi Ballet should be able to handle the tighter turns of Saratoga’s Mellon turf course, as the powerful O’Brien stable looks for its first win at the Spa.

“We’ve come here a few times and failed, but this is the type of horse that should handle [his way] around here,” said Comerford. “It shouldn’t inconvenience him.

“It’s a tighter track here. The bends are more tighter. It’s not like Belmont with the sweeping bends and that’s all good, especially for international horses,” added Comerford. “As long as he gets a good jump from the gate, he should be OK. He’s drawn to go where he wants as well. He’s right in the middle in 6. There’s no point in making excuses. As long as he gets a true-run race, there will be no issue.”

Bolshoi Ballet visited the Saratoga main track on Thursday morning under the watchful eye of Comerford, who said they are replicating the preparation from their Belmont Derby experience.

“Every day we’re going from the 7 1/2-furlongs and we just canter around and every day we just do a little bit more just to stretch him a little bit,” Comerford said. “All his training was done at home and he’s fit and well.”

A victory on Saturday could set Bolshoi Ballet up to become the first horse to capture all three legs of the Turf Triple series that was inaugurated in 2019. The series concludes September 18 at Belmont with the 12-furlong $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Comerford said a return to Belmont isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Bolshoi Ballet, referencing the O’Brien stable’s prior success in 2011 with Cape Blanco who captured a trio of Grade 1s in succession in North America, taking the Man o’ War at Belmont in July of that year, the Arlington Million a month later and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational that October back at Belmont.

“Cape Blanco came back three times and won three times. So it is possible,” Comerford said. “The traveling is major for some people but when they’re used to it, it’s quite easy and it doesn’t take that much out of him. It takes a little bit out of him but not a lot.”

Comerford noted that Santa Barbara will target the Grade 1 Beverly D. on August 28 at Arlington Park.

***

Silver State hopes to strike gold in G1 Whitney

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Silver State has thrived since returning from a seven-month hiatus in October, demonstrating class and determination with gradual steps up the ladder from allowance winner to Grade 1 winner.

On Saturday, the talented Hard Spun bay will face off against some of the best older horses in the handicap division in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Whitney at Saratoga.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Silver State’s hot streak commenced at allowance level, when successfully notching his conditions at Keeneland and Churchill Downs last fall. He brought his winning form to Arkansas with a trio of stakes victories at Oaklawn Park.

After a hard-fought outside stretch run in the January 23 Fifth Season, he fended off graded stakes winning veteran Rated R Superstar to capture the Essex on March 13.

Silver State made the grade next out in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 17, where he was little further off the pace than usual, racing along the rail and taking some kickback down the backstretch. Approaching upper stretch, he was tipped out several paths wide and took command inside the eighth pole to win a by a half-length.

Silver State upped his win streak to six with a one-length score in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 5, where he cut back to one turn and defeated fellow Whitney-aspirants By My Standards and Knicks Go.

Despite the high hopes, things did not always come easy for Silver State. Following solid placings in the Grade 3 Lecomte [2nd] and Grade 2 Risen Star [3rd] at Fair Grounds in early 2020, he was put to the sidelines following a distant seventh in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans oval.

“Early in his 3-year-old year he behaved like he’d be a really good horse. Hence, why he ran in the Derby prep series in New Orleans,” said Winchell Thoroughbreds racing and bloodstock advisor David Fiske. “He probably just needed to grow up a little bit and fill out. Mentally, he’s always been fine. Silver State never had any issues. He’s always been a solid horse. When we brought him back in the fall, he was a bigger, stronger version of himself.”

The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event, offering an automatic entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6 at Del Mar. With a victory in the Met Mile under his belt, the option of pursuing the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile remains under consideration.

“He’s kind of standing in the median of the interstate at the moment,” Fiske said. “We haven’t really explored a mile and quarter but we’re going to run him on Saturday. It’s a ‘Win And You’re In for the Classic,’ so it would be nice to have.”

Asmussen and Winchell previously joined forces to capture the 2017 Whitney with Gun Runner. The subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year experienced an usual addition of weight when pacesetting longshot Cautious Giant sprung a horseshoe high into the air, eventually getting entangled in Gun Runner’s tail.

“I even suggested to Steve we tie a horseshoe to Silver State’s tail and see if that helps,” Fiske quipped. “For Gun Runner’s Whitney, we just flew up for the day. We went to the races, went out for a celebratory dinner and then flew home. I guess that made the day more memorable. The horseshoe in the tail and then Gun Runner being Gun Runner made for a big day.”

In 2017, all eyes were on Gun Runner, who went into the Whitney gate as the 3-5 favorite. Silver State, made 6-1 on the morning line, is a part of a more evenly-matched field which includes Grade 1-winner Maxfield and 2020 Preakness-winning filly Swiss Skydiver in addition to 6-5 morning-line favorite Knicks Go and By My Standards.

“You’re going to have to really earn this one. It’s a small but quality field,” Fiske said.

***

G1 Whitney post position for By My Standards a familiar spot for Calhoun

The draw for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Whitney evoked deja vu for trainer Bret Calhoun, who will see By My Standards depart from the inside post in a five-horse field for a second consecutive year in the prestigious 1 1/8-mile race that offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

By My Standards broke from the rail in last year’s edition and finished second, two lengths behind winner Improbable, to garner a 103 Beyer Speed Figure that remains the high-water mark in his 16-race career. The now 5-year-old son of Goldencents started the current campaign with a win by a nose over Rushie in the Oaklawn Mile in April before running second – a length back to fellow Whitney-contender Silver State – in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap going a one-turn mile on Belmont Stakes Day June 5.

Calhoun said By My Standards has trained forwardly since the Met Mile, recording three breezes at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia before shipping to Saratoga on Wednesday.

By My Standards, owned by Allied Racing Stable and Spendthrift Farm, is listed at 10-1 on the morning line. Knicks Go [6-5] and Maxfield [8-5] are the top-two morning-line favorites, with reigning champion 3-Year-Old Filly and 2020 Grade 1 Preakness-winner Swiss Skydiver [6-1] looking to defeat males again and Silver State [4-1] also posing a threat. 

“I would say the field is probably a little deeper this year for sure; it’s what you expect out of the Whitney, with such a strong, classy group of horses,” Calhoun said. “Things are going very well for him. He came out of that race good and has been training well since. It seems like he’s on top of his game. We’ve had him at Colonial and he’s had two long breezes over there and then just an easy half last week. It seems like he’s coming into it very well.”

By My Standards used last year’s Whitney edition to springboard a campaign that saw him win next out in the Grade 2 Alysheba in September at Churchill. The winner of the 2019 Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, who then participated in that year’s Kentucky Derby, sports a 7-5-1 overall record with earnings of more than $2.25 million.

“He’s a horse who has ‘been-there, done that.’ He’s shipped and won running at a lot of different places,” Calhoun said. “He’s an extremely classy horse and seems to handle everything. That’s the way it’s been here; he came here yesterday morning early and trained here today.”

Last year’s Whitney marked By My Standards’ only previous race at Saratoga. But Calhoun said that experience was beneficial going forward. 

“I do like the fact he’s run once over the Saratoga surface. I know sometimes that can be a little tricky, so it makes me feel a little bit more comfortable he’s already run across it and run well over it,” Calhoun said. “It’s a wide-open race with five really good horses. I truly believe any of the five are capable of winning the race.”

In 2020, By My Standards tracked in third position behind Mr. Buff’s early speed, following an awkward break in which he was a half-step slow before pursuing Improbable in the stretch. This year, Calhoun said the field will likely have to contend with Knicks Go looking to wire the field after posting a front-running 10 1/4-length score in the Grade 3 Cornhusker that netted him a 113 Beyer.

“I think it’s two different races. Last year, I think we were compromised at the start,” Calhoun said. “I think my horse and Tom’s d’Etat were a little unnerved in the gate and were a little tardy and we lost a little ground that we couldn’t make up late. This year, I think the pace will be more than honest, probably, with Knicks Go, who will take it to them with his high-cruising speed.

“He’ll either go out there and go all the way on strong fractions, or he won’t. I think everybody knows that and there’s not a lot anyone else can do,” Calhoun added. “I think it’ll be an honest pace. I think Swiss Skydiver will have him in her sights but I don’t think she’s capable of running with him and neither does anyone else in the race [to challenge for the speed], it does appear.”

After last year’s Whitney was contested without spectators due to the pandemic, Calhoun said having packed stands on Saturday for the race’s 94th running will improve the experience for all the connections.

“It was a strange year; you come to Saratoga usually and it’s large crowds and such a strong fan base, so for it to be completely quiet and nobody around was really strange,” Calhoun said. “Now, it adds more hype to a race that’s very prestigious.”

John Kerber, Iveta Kerber and Jon Lapczenski Ain’t No Elmers exited her third-place finish in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss on July 28 at Saratoga in good order but will likely not run again this summer at the Spa, Calhoun said.

The 4-year-old, who like By My Standards is the progeny of Goldencents, finished behind winner Bell’s the One and Lake Avenue in the six-furlong main track sprint last week.

“She came out of it very well and we were happy with the race,” Calhoun said. “I probably would have preferred not being in the one-hole and taking a little pressure that day. The horses that ran 1-2 were very strong and finished up very well, but I’m very happy with Elmers and I think one of these days she can get one of these stakes. I really don’t have anything planned for her in the near future. I won’t be bringing her back up here for the next one, but we’ll pick us a spot somewhere in the next month or so.”

***

Hall of Fame induction a family affair for Casse

Friday will be a capstone day for Mark Casse and his family when the trainer is inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in a morning ceremony prior to the afternoon races. His son Norman, who was his top assistant before going out on his own, and daughter-in-law and TVG analyst Gabby Gaudet could not be prouder.

“It’s very exciting. I know this has been one of Dad’s biggest goals his entire life so I’m sure he’s nervous and excited and we’re proud to be a part of that,” said Norm Casse.

Mark Casse was elected in 2020 but his induction ceremony, along with the rest of last year’s class, had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the 2020 and 2021 classes will be honored in a combined ceremony, which will be held in the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion beginning at 10:30 am.

Mark Casse, the 13-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s Outstanding Trainer who became a member of the Canadian Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in 2016, is only the fourth trainer to be a dual member of both Halls of Fame. He joins Horatio Luro, Lucien Laurin, and Roger Attfield.

“That’s pretty good company to be in,” his son said. “Overall, this is an exciting day and it’s a really cool group of people and horses being inducted. It’s a very special moment.”

The 2020 class includes horses Tom Bowling and Wise Dan, jockey Darrel McHargue, and Pillars of the Turf Alice Headly Chandler, J. Keene Dangerfield, Jr., and George Widener, Jr. The 2021 class is comprised of trainers Todd Pletcher and Jack Fisher and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Norm Casse is a third-generation horseman and the grandson of the late noted horseman Norman Casse. There will likely be a fourth generation as Norm and his wife, Gabby Gaudet, will be welcoming their first child. Fittingly, the baby is due on the 2021 Breeders’ Cup weekend.

“This has all been a whirlwind. There’s no other word to describe it,” said Gaudet, who was a member of the NYRA broadcast team as an on-air reporter and racing analyst before moving on to a similar role with TVG. “It’s been really busy for Norm and for me with all the traveling we’ve both been doing.”

Gaudet also has strong bloodlines in the sport. She’s the daughter of trainers Linda and the late Eddie Gaudet and the sister of trainer Lacey Gaudet. Her family has been a mainstay on the Mid-Atlantic circuit for decades.

“Both of our families are very excited. We’re just lucky that we have so much support behind us,” said Gabby. “Unfortunately, my family won’t be able to come to the ceremony tomorrow as my Mom is stuck in Maryland and my sister is stuck in Delaware. But we will be there supporting Mark and it will be such an exciting day for him. It’s such a big moment. There was so much uncertainty last year and you don’t want a moment like that to fall a little flat. I’m happy they’re incorporating this year and last year’s inductees. This deserves to have its own moment. Luckily, we’ll be here for it.”

Mark Casse will look to capture a unique double on Friday when he follows up on his induction by saddling Easy Time in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Race 7 at Saratoga.

***

Trainer Chad Brown closing in on 2,000 career win milestone

There are no charts or graphs or calendars, no countdown of any kind marking the occasion in trainer Chad Brown’s office. Already a four-time Eclipse Award winner and three-time leading trainer at Saratoga Race Course with 15 Breeders’ Cup victories and 11 champions at just 42 years old, the Mechanicville, N.Y. native is quietly closing in on another career milestone.

Now in his 14th full season of training, Brown won with his only two starters on Wednesday’s program at Saratoga Race Course, giving him 1,998 heading into Thursday’s card. His lone entrant Thursday is 4-year-old gelding Life On Top in Race 7, a one-mile starter allowance for 3-year-olds and up on the inner turf course.

“It’s getting close. It’s an accomplishment that I’m proud of for our team. It’d be great if it happened here at Saratoga. Our 1,000th win was here. That was memorable. To get to 2,000 at Saratoga, that would just be a real special moment for our team and for my family and everyone that has supported us. It’s our home track. It is pretty exciting.”

Brown earned his 1,000th win in style, capturing the John’s Call by 2 ¼ lengths with favored Mr Maybe on Aug. 24, 2016. He would go on to clinch his first Saratoga training title that year with 40 wins, a record he would break in 2018 with 46, a mark that still stands. Brown also finished first in 2019 with 41 wins.

“It will be a special moment when it happens, and there will be a time to reflect on the stats and the accomplishments later on down the line. With this business, you’ve got to just keep moving day to day,” Brown said. “You don’t really have time to stand still.

“But, I’m very appreciative. I take nothing for granted,” he added. “It’s important to say these types of accomplishments take a lot of hard work, a lot of good fortune, a lot of teamwork, a lot of support from owners, [and] a lot of great racehorses.”

Brown was voted four straight Eclipse Awards as North America’s leading trainer from 2016-2019, and during that time won his first Triple Crown race in the Grade 1 Preakness in 2017 with Cloud Computing.

Brown has trained 11 horses to 12 year-end championships, led by 2019 older turf male and Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. He also had the 2-year-old male champion of 2017 in Good Magic.

A former assistant to Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey and the late Bobby Frankel, whose framed photo overlooks Brown’s desk, he has 19 individual meet titles at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont Park and has been leading trainer on the NYRA circuit for six straight years, since 2015.

Brown set single-season career highs of 224 wins in 2018 and $31,112,144 in purse earnings in 2019, the latter a North American record. He has six entries on Saturday’s card, including Public Sector in the Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, Brown has Delaware, Flavius and Value Proposition entered in the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure; My Sister Nat and Orglandes in the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls; and Search Results and Always Carina for the Grade 1, $500,000 Test.

“It just takes so much,” Brown said. “As you get older you appreciate the milestones a lot more, I can tell you that.”

***

Appleby trainees Secret Protector, Creative Flair and Lazuli continue preparations for graded-stakes engagements

Godolphin’s Secret Protector, a Kentucky-bred son of War Front conditioned by Charlie Appleby, trained early Thursday morning on the Oklahoma dirt training track in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational.

Secret Protector went to the Oklahoma at 5:45 a.m. with stablemate Lazuli, who is entered in Friday’s Grade 3 Troy presented by Horse Racing Ireland, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for older horses.

The two horses trained separately under the watchful eye of traveling assistant Chris Connett.

“Secret Protector went a mile and did a nice canter to open the lungs up a little bit before Saturday,” Connett said. “He looked to be enjoying himself on the track. He was switching his leads correctly and his rider couldn’t be happier with him.

“Lazuli had a six-furlong canter. Nothing too strenuous,” Connett added. “He’ll go out tomorrow morning and have a little hack around”.

An $800,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Secret Protector was a dominant winner of the 1 3/16-mile Meydan Trophy in February ahead of back-to-back runner-up efforts to well-regarded Mohaafeth in 10-furlong events, including the Newmarket in May and the Group 3 Hampton Court last out on June 17 at Ascot.

Lazuli, a 4-year-old bay son of Dubawi captured the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury on September 20 and won the Group 3 Palace House at Newmarket on May 1 two starts later. He enters from a close sixth in the Group 3 Coral Charge Sprint over good-to-soft going at Sandown Park on July 3.

Jockey Luis Saez has the call aboard Lazuli Friday from post 10.

“He can just sit off the pace,” Connett said. “His last run was at Sandown. He travels really well throughout his races. That day it was just a bit on the soft side for him. He traveled really well into the race and just emptied a little bit on the softer going. Hopefully, he can have some quick ground on Friday.

“Drawn 10 is not ideal, but we’ll leave it up to the number one jockey in Saratoga to find a slot for him,” added Connett. “He’s pretty uncomplicated and he’ll finish all the way through the line. Hopefully, he can find a little cover and finish off really well.”

Creative Flair, a bay daughter of Dubawi, boasts a record of 6-3-1-1 and enters Sunday’s Saratoga Oaks Invitational from a close third in the nine-furlong Group 3 Prix Chloe, a head back of winner Noticeable Grace and a nose in arrears of runner-up Rougir on July 18 at Chantilly.

“She was possibly beaten by a better horse on the day. Her form is really good. She ran her race, she was just very unfortunate,” Connett said. “It was a bob of the heads that could have gone either way, but she’s a solid filly.”

The Irish-bred filly captured the 10-furlong Abingdon two starts back on June 10 at Newbury with a prominent effort.

“Her last start in England was a solid race. She’s pretty straightforward and we expect her to run pretty big on Sunday,” Connett said. “She’ll be just off the pace. Races in the ‘States’, they tend to jump a little quicker. Hopefully, she can sit just off it and come from there.”

Creative Flair also took to the Oklahoma dirt training track on Thursday.

“We were happy with her. She went a mile again this morning,” Connett said. “She’s getting more comfortable with the track out there. The first day she was having a look around at things, but she settled in and was a bit more concentrated on her efforts this morning.”

***

Brown pleased with comeback victory from L’Imperator

Trainer Chad Brown expressed satisfaction when Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Robert V. LaPenta’s L’Imperator shook off nearly a year’s worth off rust with a strong Wednesday allowance optional claiming win at nine furlongs over the Saratoga inner turf, registering a 97 Beyer.

The French-bred son of Holy Roman Emperor was last seen finishing sixth as the second choice in the Grade 3 Saranac last August at the Spa, which was won by longshot Bye Bye Melvin. The lackluster effort prompted Brown to hit pause on L’Imperator and start from scratch. The process was a long one for the horse’s connections, but their patience was rewarded when L’Imperator displayed a devastating late turn-of-foot in upper stretch to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

Before joining Brown’s stable, L’Imperator was a three-time winner in his native France.

“We had to do a total restart with that horse,” Brown said. “We castrated him and turned him out. He just ran so ugly last year that we pulled the plug. He’s obviously come back a much better horse. He’s much sounder and he’s moving well. It was quite the effort off the layoff.”

Brown said he is in no hurry to run L’Imperator at stakes level. 

“I’ll see what they offer later in the meet. If not, you’ll see him at Belmont,” Brown said.

While L’Imperator may race through a condition, other recent winners from the Brown stable are poised for stakes action later in the meet.

Peter Brant’s Sifting Sands, a 28-1 longshot winner of a July 24 allowance optional coming event at 1 1/16 miles over the Mellon turf, could race back in the $120,000 Better Talk Now on August 29 at Saratoga.

Rastafara, also a winner on July 24 for Brown and Brant, broke her maiden at third asking going one mile over the inner turf. The Irish-bred Shamardal sophomore is possible for a first-level allowance or the $120,000 Riskaverse on August 26.

Klaravich Stables’ Portfolio Company, a first out-winning juvenile over a good inner turf on July 17, will target the Grade 3, $150,000 With Anticipation on September 1.

Brown also visited the winner’s circle on Sunday with Doubledown Stables’ Miss Teheran who defeated dual graded stakes placed Platinum Paynter and three-time graded stakes placed New York Girl.

The daughter of Teofilo secured her second triumph his season, and made her 2021 debut a winning one in February at Gulfstream. Brown said Miss Teheran has stakes action on the horizon.

“Most likely,” Brown said. “Not exactly sure yet which stakes, but that’s where she’ll go.”

***

G3 winner Masqueparade, third in G2 Jim Dandy, possible for G1 Travers

FTGGG Racing’s Grade 3 winner Masqueparade, third by less than three lengths to champion Essential Quality in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 31, remains under consideration for the 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers August 28 at Saratoga Race Course.

Trainer Al Stall, Jr. said the sophomore son of Upstart continues to do well following his effort in the Jim Dandy, which snapped a three-race win streak that included the Grade 3 Ohio Derby June 26 at Thistledown.

“[The Travers] is a possibility, yes. Most importantly I’m happy with the horse, post-race, and I’ve picked him over pretty closely to make sure nothing was biting him,” Stall said. “We’re here and we’re happy with the way the horse came out of the race. That’s the most important thing. We won’t do anything different with him. We’ll just play around for a couple weeks to his next breeze and just decide what we want to do. But everything’s on the table.”

Sent off as the second choice in a field of five, Masqueparade pressed the pace of long shot Dr Jack for a half-mile through sharp fractions of 23.81 and 47.41 seconds before forging a short lead after running six furlongs in 1:11.13. The bay colt was third by a half-length at the top of the stretch behind Essential Quality and Keepmeinmind, who battled through the lane.

“He got a little tired in that race. I worked him twice, just due to shipping. He went up and back to Ohio and then he came up here,” Stall said. “He got a hair short the other day, but I thought he ran well, dueling with [Dr Jack. He] backed up pretty readily and I thought we fought on. The race was good and maybe he needed it a hair because of the surface and what he did in between. He’s rock hard fit now, and I’m anxious to see how he trains.”

Sold for $180,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2018, Masqueparade took four tries to break his maiden and then rattled off two more wins capped by the Ohio Derby, the second of three consecutive races at 1 1/8 miles. The Travers is contested at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles.

The prospective Travers field could include Essential Quality, Keepmeinmind and the top two finishers from the Curlin, also for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles July 30 at Saratoga, Dynamic One and Miles D, respectively. King Fury, winner of the Grade 3 Lexington April 23 at Keeneland and second to Masqueparade in the Ohio Derby, is also possible.

Stall, a winner of more than 1,700 career races including Blame’s upset of eventual Hall of Fame mare Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2010, has never had a Travers starter.

“We’ll take a long look at it. We haven’t had a chance to really assess the competition. I assume the first two from the Curlin, the first two from the Jim Dandy. We were third in the Jim Dandy. King Fury is there. I think everything from out west is on R and R,” Stall said. “We’ll just kind of watch all those things. It’s fun though. It’s fun to check things out like that. When you read the paper, it means something as opposed to just killing time.”

Champion Vequist training forwardly at Saratoga

Vequist, the defending champion 2-Year-Old Filly, is stabled at Saratoga and has recorded a solid three works during July as she readies for a return to the races.

“She doing very well and we’re excited about her,” said trainer Butch Reid, who saddles her half-sister Mainstay in Sunday’s Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes for juvenile fillies. “Vequist turned in a nice five-eighths [1:01.45 breezing] last week and did it with aplomb. She’s really happy and we’re looking for a race in about a month for her.”

Vequist, who is by 2015 Champion 2-Year-Old colt and 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist out of Vero Amore, has been idle since her only 2021 start in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream when she endured a terrible trip that resulted in her being eased and walked off the track.

“The [Grade 1] Cotillion on September 27th is the plan now and we’re hoping to get a race in her before then,” her trainer said.

Vequist and Mainstay were bred by owner Tom McGrath’s Pennsylvania-based Swilcan Stable.

“I think the mare has six fillies in a row so we’ve got a whole line of them waiting in the wings, and hopefully will follow in V’s footprints,” Reid said.

***

Multiple G1-winner Code of Honor works a bullet in preparation for G3 Philip G. Iselin

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey reported that Will Farish’s homebred Code of Honor is readying for his next start and said he was buoyed by the 5-year-old’s bullet breeze for five furlongs in 1:01.40 Wednesday on the Oklahoma dirt training track.

McGaughey said Code of Honor, the 2019 Grade 1 Runhappy Travers-winner, is likely to return to action in the Grade 3 Philip G.Iselin on August 21 at Monmouth Park.

“He is probably going to run in the Iselin. He has trained very, very well up here. He had a great work yesterday,” said McGaughey, who brought Code of Honor from his Fair Hill Training Center barn here at the start of the meet. “I’m looking forward to getting him back.”

Code of Honor, the 2019 Kentucky Derby runner-up, has made one 2021 start, finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on January 23rd.

McGaughey said First Captain, the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes winner who disappointed with a third-place finish as the short-priced favorite in the Curlin here July 30, will likely not start in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on August 28.

“We’re probably not planning on running in the Travers but if something happens where the race were to fall apart, we’re going to be ready. It probably will be more likely that the Pennsylvania Derby [on September 25 at Parx] is where we’re going with him,” he said.

***

Rookie Report: Brown debuts Arrogate colt on Saturday

Trainer Chad Brown will debut Peter Brant’s Big Skipper in Saturday’s fifth race at the Spa, a maiden special weight at seven furlongs over the main track.

The son of 2016 Travers winner Champion 3-Year-Old Arrogate was a $590,000 purchase by BSW/Crow at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

Bred in Kentucky by Pollock Farms, Big Skipper is out of the Speightstown mare Paradise Playgirl who also produced multiple stakes-placed Summer Reading as well as Queen’s Speech, a maiden winner for the Coolmore partners and Aidan O’Brien in November at the Curragh. He comes from the same family as Grade 3 winner Megascape, who won at stakes level on both surfaces, as well as multiple graded stakes winner Top Secret, who made nearly a million dollars on the racetrack.

“This horse acts like he has plenty of quality,” Brown said. “The more distance the better, so it’s good to get him started. He’s not a particularly quick horse. He looks like one that will be really nice when he goes further.”

Jockey Manny Franco rides from post 5.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen will saddle L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds Stellar Tap [post 7, Ricardo Santana, Jr.] for his debut.

The gray or roan Tapit colt was a quarter-million acquisition from the Blandford Stud consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Gioia Stella – a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Nereid and Grade 1-placed Sea Queen.

“With all the options that Steve has, usually he doesn’t take anything to Saratoga that he doesn’t think will fit,” said Winchell Thoroughbreds racing and bloodstock advisor David Fiske. “He’s one that has been training well. He’s kind of a big and leggy colt. I think Tapit’s progeny’s average winning distance is about eight furlongs, Seven-eighths is a tough distance to debut at, but we’ll see what he can do.”

Phipps Stable’s Imminent Storm [post 8, Jose Ortiz] brags a prestigious pedigree for the prominent family and Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey.

The homebred son of Flatter is out of Sea Trial, whose dam was 2002 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Storm Flag Flying, making him a direct descendant of Grade 1-winner My Flag and undefeated Hall of Fame champion Personal Ensign.

“We sold one out of her who is a 3-year-old [Charger]. He’s a nice-looking colt and finished second the other day in Indiana,” McGaughey said. “I like this colt. He’s a good-looking colt and I like the mare. I don’t know what’s in there, but I don’t think he’ll disappoint. It’s very gratifying to see these this line continue and these horses keep coming.”

Saratoga Race Course Press Release

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