Brilliant Speed, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) this spring, makes his return to the turf for trainer Tom Albertrani in the $100,000 Saranac Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the penultimate day of the 2011 season at Saratoga Race Course Sept. 4.
Eleven 3-year-old rivals await Brilliant Speed, 7-2 morning line choice, in the 1 1/8-mile Saranac. The inner track tilt is set for 5:12 p.m. EDT as the ninth race, immediately preceding the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies.
Brilliant Speed makes his first start on grass since being elevated to second following a third-place finish in the Hallandale Beach Stakes Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park. The Albertrani-trained King Congie, who was demoted from first to third in the Hallandale Beach for drifting out badly in the stretch, was also entered in the Saranac.
A Live Oak Plantation homebred that is by Dynaformer out of the Gone West mare Speed Succeeds, Brilliant Speed is bred for turf. He broke his maiden on Tampa Bay's grass course last December and has not been worse than third in five tries on turf.
Following his nose decision at odds of 19-1 over Twinspired in the Blue Grass over Keeneland's Polytrack, however, Albertrani pointed Brilliant Speed to a classic campaign. Brilliant Speed has run three consecutive races on dirt. He finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and most recently, fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga July 30.
“I thought he gave up a little too easily in the Jim Dandy,” Albertrani said of Brilliant Speed. “At the half-mile pole he looked ready to pounce on them, and then he flattened out. He came out of the race extremely well, as if he didn’t really try. It seemed like he didn’t care for the racetrack that day.”
Brilliant Speed, who drew post 5 in the big field, will once again be ridden by John Velazquez, who was aboard the colt in the Jim Dandy. Brilliant Speed brings a 2-2-3 mark in 11 races into the Saranac with earnings of $640,750.
Albertrani has not ruled out future starts on dirt for Brilliant Speed.
“We want to leave our options open,” he said. “I thought this was a good spot to bring him back in and I think he could be tough in here.”
West Point Thoroughbreds' King Congie missed by a head when third in the Blue Grass and followed that effort with a seventh-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The Badge of Silver colt was returned to the turf in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) at Colonial Downs July 16, finishing sixth in his most recent start. Rajiv Maragh has the call.
“That was a tough field (in the Virginia Derby),” said Terry Finley, founder and president of West Point. “He’s been pretty consistent all spring and summer, and he’s training well. We think he’ll show up and give a good account of himself. He’s not a horse that really wows you (in the mornings), but he shows up in the afternoon.”
Melnyk Racing Stables' homebred Clement Rock has won three consecutive races over the Woodbine turf for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Florida-bred son of Strong Hope carries top weight of 123 in the Saranac and spots Brilliant Speed six pounds.
The bay colt has back-to-back stakes victories in the Charlie Barley June 25 and most recently, in the Toronto Cup, which he won by a neck as the 7-10 favorite at the Saranac distance July 16. Eddie Castro rides for the first time.
Pletcher also entered Mill House's Queen'splatekitten, an Ontario-bred colt making his first appearance since finishing fifth in the Queen's Plate June 26. The son of 2004 American turf champion Kitten's Joy has a win and two seconds in three starts on grass, including a runner-up finish in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream March 12. Corey Nakatani acquires the mount.
Seal Cove, trained by Shug McGaughey for owner/breeder Stuart Janney III, won the Gleaming Stakes over a yielding Saratoga outer turf course as the favorite Aug. 8. He defeated Saranac entrant Canaveral by 1 3/4 lengths after rallying five wide on the final turn. A colt by Strong Hope out of the A.P. Indy mare Meghan's Joy, Seal Cove has won three of four lifetime starts and makes his graded stakes debut.
Donald Adams' Perregaux comes in off a second-place finish in Saratoga's National Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) on the inner turf Aug. 12, when he finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Big Blue Kitten at odds of 19-1. Trained by Neil Howard, the son of Distorted Humor ran third in the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs June 18.
$100,000 Saranac Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Inner Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Perregaux (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, N J Howard
2. Canaveral (GB), C H Velasquez, 117, D G Donk
3. Clement Rock (FL), E Castro, 123, T A Pletcher
4. Queen'splatekitten (ON), C S Nakatani, 117, T A Pletcher
5. Brilliant Speed (FL), J R Velazquez, 117, T Albertrani
6. Seal Cove (KY), J Castellano, 119, C R McGaughey III
7. Chinglish (KY), J Lezcano, 121, M A Hennig
8. King Congie (KY), R Maragh, 119, T Albertrani
9. Moonhanger (KY), J L Castanon, 117, B F Alexander
10. Sky Blazer (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, B Tagg
11. Live in Joy (KY), R Albarado, 119, W M Catalano
12. Pass the Dice (KY), K J Desormeaux, 117, W M Catalano