<b>Saratoga Notebook: Sky Mesa One to Watch; Buddha Returns to 'Serious' Training; Easyfromthegitgo Chooses Jim Dandy; Gygistar Pointed to King Bishop; Gold Mover Waits for Belmont</b>

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack

John Oxley's 2-year-old Sky Mesa turned in an impressive performance in his maiden debut Saturday, winning the six-furlong third race by 7 3/4 lengths.

Under jockey Edgar Prado, the Pulpit colt stalked the early pace, made a four-wide move to the lead coming off the turn and cruised through the stretch in a hand ride to win in 1:10.97.

Ozzie Cat, an Overbrook Farm homebred son of Storm Cat, was second.

Oxley purchased the colt for $750,000 at the 2001 Keeneland September sale.

"He might have a shot to take us down the trail," trainer John Ward said. "I was happy with him. He just showed you what he is, a very methodical, strong, physical kind of an animal. Speed is not his game, strength is, but he's got enough speed to be tactical."

Ward said the colt may make his next start in the Hopeful (gr. I) on Aug. 31.

Buddha Gets Back On Track

After a series of setbacks, Gary and Mary West's Wood Memorial winner Buddha is ready to resume serious training.

"We're going to find the perfect track and go," trainer Jim Bond said Saturday morning. "He will definitely work this week."

Buddha has not raced since beating Medaglia d'Oro and Sunday Break in the Wood at Aqueduct on April 13. He was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the day before the race after bruising a hoof. A cough and a pulled muscle in his rear end kept him out of other races since the Derby.

Although the muscle problem hasn't kept the colt from the track in the morning, he has been limited to gallops.

"He's been training every day, but we're picking it up a little bit," Bond said.

Bond would not say what comeback race he has in mind, but said it was likely that Buddha would compete some time in September.

Trainer Johnson Extends Streak

Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson extended his streak of saddling at least one winner at Saratoga to 42 years Saturday when Romp and Stomp came up the hedge to take the fifth race – at odds of 10-1.

Easyfromthegitgo Opts for Jim Dandy

Iowa Derby winner Easyfromthegitgo will be among those challenging Medaglia d'Oro in today's $500,000 Jim
Dandy.

Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said Saturday morning that the 3-year-old colt will bypass the $1 million Haskell, to be run at Monmouth Park about a half-hour after the Jim Dandy. Easyfromthegitgo was entered in both races.

"I think our horse has shipped alot these past four starts, and I think it will do him well to run where he's at," Blasi said. "Not to mention, he's 5-1 here and 12-1 over there, so it looks like
a better spot."

Since leaving Fair Grounds in March, Easyfromthegitgo has run in Kentucky, Baltimore, Delaware and Iowa, running fifth to Haskell favorite War Emblem in the Preakness.

He made his career debut at Saratoga last Aug. 25, running second by two lengths to Burnt Ember. He finished his 2-year-old season year with two wins and three seconds in five starts.

"He's acclimated very well up here," Blasi said. "We had him here last summer and he did well and went on and had a great year. He hasn't had a break since he's been up here last year. He's held good weight and, physically, he's in very good condition. We're
happy to have him here."

Hennig Comfortable with Skipping Jim Dandy

Trainer Mark Hennig said Saturday morning that he was comfortable with his decision to keep stakes winner Gygistar out of the Jim Dandy in favor of the Grade I King's Bishop Aug. 24.

"To me, he just wasn't back to full strength," he said. "He's not quite a hundred percent. I heard him cough once. He did scope well, but his hair coat isn't back to the way it looked before he got sick.

"I thought we were just trying to force him in a spot that looked like a good spot for the money and it really wasn't in the best interest of him in the long run. The way he's doing, we might even set him back further. If he's not a hundred percent and we run him,
he might be missing the King's Bishop and later races. I'm a lot happier with the decision just to be patient."

Winner of the Dwyer (gr. II) July 7, Gygistar worked five furlongs in :58 3/5 July 28, the fastest of 34 horses that day, in his most recent work.

We worked him and it was like a hundred degrees for three days and he just didn't perk right up out of it like he normally would," Hennig said. "I just figured I'm not going to push this."

Sloppy Track Blamed for Gold Mover's Flop

A second Henig trainee, Gold Mover, fourth as the 3-2 favorite in Friday's Honorable Miss, did not care for the sloppy main track.

"She's fine, a little frustrated probably," Hennig said. "She just didn't seem to handle the going at all. When she was losing ground down the backside, I was concerned right away."

Hennig said jockey Jerry Bailey attempted to put Gold Mover in contention, but the filly couldn't handle the surface. It was the first time in 23 career starts – including a victory over champion Xtra Heat last month in the Princess Rooney at Calder – where she met an off track.

"We had to know. We had to find out, I guess," Hennig said. "It's amazing that three years down the road she's never been on anything but a fast track. I'm glad it rained yesterday and not at Calder.

"Jerry said her only step that she was comfortable with the surface was when she broke. As soon as her front feet came down, she was struggling to get hold of
it. He was trying to get her going but she never could really get herself together."

Hennig said that Gold Mover won't run again at this meet this summer.

"We'll wait and give her six weeks until the Floral Park, the race she won last year," he said. The Floral Park will be run Sept.14 at Belmont Park.

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