Despite overnight rains that left Saratoga's main track muddy for the second consecutive morning, some key workouts were recorded Sunday for two grade I stakes for 3-year-olds contested at the spa next Saturday, the 1 1/4-mile Travers and the seven-furlong King's Bishop.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Nick Zito worked two horses, including George Steinbrenner's Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Bellamy Road, who went in company with Chief Commander and Go Now, covering five furlongs in :59 4/5, handily. His workmates each were timed one second slower.
This was the beaten Kentucky Derby (gr. I) favorite's sixth recorded workout since returning from a splint injury that flared up after his seventh-place finish in the Run for the Roses. Zito has consulted with Steinbrenner on whether to run the son of Concerto in the $250,000 King's Bishop or the $1 million Travers and said a decision will not be announced until entries are taken on Wednesday.
"The boss wanted to (enter) both races," Zito said of Steinbrenner. "They do that at other tracks, but they don't do it in New York because it's a state rule. The plan is to make a decision on Wednesday."
Zito said Robert La Penta's Andromeda's Hero, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and most recently third in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), will contest the Travers. The Fusaichi Pegasus
colt went five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, going in company with Confirmed and Indy Star, both of whom were timed in 1:01 3/5. He wore blinkers for the second consecutive work and will wear them in the Travers, the first time he will race with the equipment. "They're not severe blinkers, but they're enough to make him focus," Zito said.
"Both horses worked well," Zito said. "(The track) definitely had a cushion. You get tired when you work on a track like that. You can see the times, how laboring the track probably was. Lost in the Fog went in 1:00 4/5, so you can see it was a heavy track."
Zito seemed to be leaning toward the Travers in light of how Bellamy Road galloped out strongly after his five furlongs. "Both races for Bellamy Road are obviously tough, even though he's an amazing horse with a lot of ability," he said. "They're tough because one's a sprint race, and you're coming back against Lost in the Fog. On the other hand, the Travers at a mile and a quarter, I don't think the competition is (as good as) Lost in the Fog. But that mile and a quarter...he hasn't run in four months. Either race is a tough decision. I need to think about it. I want to make sure I do the right thing."
Zito's reference was to Harry Aleo's Lost in the Fog, a son of Lost Soldier
who will be the heavy favorite in the King's Bishop after running up a perfect 8-for-8 record over six different racetracks. Aboard for the work was Edgar Prado, who galloped Lost in the Fog from the stretch to the five-eighths pole, where the timed workout began. Trainer Greg Gilchrist clocked Lost in the Fog's final quarter-mile in :24 flat.
"He did everything by himself," said Prado. "Whatever you ask him to do, he'll do it. We just wanted him to start easy and finish strong, and that's what he did. I was concerned how he was going to handle the track because it was greasy with water underneath the surface. But his class and talent just carried him through that."
Prado was aboard Lost in the Fog when he won the Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) on Belmont Stakes day. Russell Baze, who was injured at the time, has ridden Lost in the Fog to his seven other wins.
Gilchrist, who awoke at 3 a.m. to the sounds of a heavy thunderstorm, had concerns working Lost in the Fog on a wet track while equipped with a bar shoe protecting a quarter crack on his left hind foot.
"I didn't want to take the bar shoe off because I was afraid he would split the quarter crack open," Gilchrist said. "At the same time, I was concerned about him slipping. I cautioned Edgar about that, and to help the horse around the turn. He told me the horse didn't feel anything through the work. I also told Edgar I'd rather have him go a little too slow than too fast."
Todd Pletcher plans to work Melnyk Racing Stable's Flower Alley, the 5 1/4-length Jim Dandy winner, on Monday morning. The Distorted Humor
colt will work in company with Go for Wand (gr. I) winner Ashado, who is pointing for Friday's Personal Ensign (gr. I).
"I felt I had a better chance for a good track tomorrow," Pletcher said. "If it doesn't rain at 3 a.m. for the third consecutive time, we will have a fast track. We would rather go one day later on a safe and faster racetrack. Today was one of those days that I would only work a horse if I felt it was the only day I could work them."
Bob Baffert took a similar approach with Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Roman Ruler. The California-based trainer had planned to arrive in Saratoga Springs Sunday evening to supervise a Monday morning workout for the Fog City Stable star, but he changed his plans after getting the weather reports and now plans to work the son of Fusasichi Pegasus on Tuesday.