Trainer Steve Asmussen has switched gears with Daddy Nose Best , attempting to take the 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy from Triple Crown contender to quality turf runner in the $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 10 at Saratoga Race Course.
The 1 1/16-mile event for sophomores has drawn eight other runners, with Dogwood Stables' Raconteur entered by trainer Todd Pletcher for the main track only.
With his dynamic score in the Sunland Derby (gr. III) in late March, Daddy Nose Best headed into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) as one of the hottest 3-year-olds in the country. But the bay colt failed to deliver in the first two legs of the Triple Crown for Bob and Cathy Zollars, suffering a troubled trip when finishing 10th in the Derby and then performing listlessly in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), crossing the line 27 1/2 lengths behind winner I'll Have Another in ninth place.
The colt made his initial reputation on turf, however, breaking his maiden last year at first asking on the same Saratoga lawn he'll cover as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Hall of Fame. Two races later, despite being rank, bumped, and four wide, he finished a close-up sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.
Daddy Nose Best, fourth in the American Derby (gr. IIIT) last time out at Arlington Park July 14, worked five furlongs in 1:03.45 around the "dogs" on the Oklahoma turf course July 30. Meet-leading jockey Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount from post eight.
"He had a nice breeze last Monday, and I like how he comes out of his turf races better," Asmussen said.
Trainer Philip Gleaves has shipped Csaba (pronounced CHA-ba) to Saratoga from his base at Calder Race Course in Florida for Seahorse Stable and Bruce Hollander. The son of red-hot turf sire Kitten's Joy has failed to win in two tries on grass, but the defeats were by small margins to stakes winners Summer Front and Howe Great.
Gleaves trained the hard-hitting handicap horse Mambo Meister and dearly wanted Csaba to win the inaugural running of the stakes race named in his honor in May at Calder, but was beaten by a half-length. In his most recent start, Csaba rode the rail and ripped off an 8 1/4-length victory on the dirt at Calder in the El Kaiser Stakes, earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
"He's graded-stakes placed on the grass this past winter at Gulfstream Park and coming off a nice win at Calder," Gleaves said. "You'd think his pedigree—with Kitten's Joy and War Chant as broodmare sire—screams turf, and we thought we'd give him another chance."
Jockey Julien Leparoux will ride the 4-1 third choice from post three.
Another Hall of Fame entrant without a turf victory but a good chance to win is Spring to the Sky for trainer Bruce Brown and owner Anthony McCarthy. The son of Langfuhr has competed on the grass in his past two starts—the Hill Prince (gr. III) in June at Belmont Park and the Duluth Stakes on the third day of the Spa meet —and both times was defeated by Summer Front despite powerful efforts. Jockey Javier Castellano takes over the mount on the 12-1 shot leaving the six hole.
"He breezed great, unbelievable," Brown said after Spring to the Sky worked five furlongs in :59.08 on the Oklahoma training turf course, the best of 10 works Aug. 3 at the distance.
Spring to the Sky was 37-1 in his turf debut and 19-1 last out when third in the Duluth. Brown discounted the Hill Prince, run at a mile after a six-furlong dirt race.
"I wasn't training him to run long; he got pressed and hung in there," Brown said. "I brought him up here early and trained him on the grass, and he just got better and better. His odds should come down. He's from the family of 1999 female turf champion Soaring Softly. He's good on dirt, but he floats on the turf."
Spring to the Sky likes to run on the pace and likely will have to deal with the speedy Yari, a gelded son of First Samurai in the barn of trainer Chad Brown. Yari has a record of 3-2-0 from five grass starts for Lake Lonely Racing, and he picked up his first win on the grass in March in a $35,000 maiden-claiming race. The Hall of Fame will be his first try in a stakes race.
"We didn't know what he was when he came in—dirt, turf, long, short," Brown said. "It's always a surprise when they can break out of the maiden claiming ranks and into stakes company."
The former was a gate-to-wire winner of the James W. Murphy Stakes on the grass Preakness Day at Pimlico and a close-up third in the American Derby, just ahead of Daddy Nose Best. Optimizer, meantime, has competed in seven graded stakes races this year, including all three Triple Crown events. In his most recent start, he was fourth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) on the turf at Colonial Downs.
Optimizer broke his maiden on the grass at Saratoga last year in his first career start at 27-1.
The field will be completed by Michael Bruder's Quick Wit, 8-1, fifth in the American Derby for trainer Dale Romans after a sharp allowance score on the turf at Churchill Downs, and Shivmangal Racing Stable's Shkspeare Shaliyah, 20-1, winner last October of the Pilgrim (gr. IIIT) on the grass at Belmont for trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal.
$200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 9, approximate post 5:30 p.m. EDT), 3YO, 1 1/16 miles (turf)