For those shopping for new trainers, two of the top horsemen in the country, Tom Albertrani and Eoin Harty, are now able to take in outside clients after working several years solely for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin and Darley stables.Both were instrumental in the success of many of Sheikh Mohammed's leading stars. Albertrani, a former assistant to Bill Mott, has operated Godolphin's New York stable, and even though the horses raced under the name of trainer Saeed bin Suroor, he was in charge in the daily training of major stakes winners such as Fantastic Light, Daylami, Sulamani, E Dubai, Lailani, and many others. Albertrani's wife. Fonda, was the regular exercise rider of Cigar until she and Tom moved to Dubai at the end of 1995.Harty has been around his share of champions and classic winners as former assistant to Bob Baffert. Harty, a native of Ireland, was hired by Sheikh Mohammed to develop the 2-year-olds in California before they were shipped to Dubai in the winter to prepare for the classics. Harty saddled the one-two finishers of the 2001 Breeders's Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Tempera and Imperial Gesture, and captured the 2003 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) with Ruler's Court. He also developed the grade I-winning Street Cry, winner of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I).With Sheikh Mohammed maintaining stables in California and New York, under Darley Stable, while basing his big-gun Godolphin forces in Europe, Albertrani and Harty are now allowed to train for outside clients.Heard around Saratoga
-- Ken Ramsey, still ecstatic over the uspet victory of his and his wife Sarah's Roses in May in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), said the son of Devil His Due likely will make one more start before the Breeders' Cup Classic – powered by Dodge (gr. I). Ramsey and trainer Dale Romans had been considering the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park, but are now leaning toward the 10-furlong Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).-- With Ghostzapper heading for the Philip Iselin Handicap (gr. III) at Monmouth, Bobby Frankel may use the Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) for Peace Rules' final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic.-- George Rowand, whose family owned siblings Miss Josh and Royal Mountain Inn (Barclay Tagg's only two grade I stakes winners before Funny Cide), is completing a book about his family and its career in Thoroughbred racing that is due out next summer. He said the story of Bonner Farm is one of great warmth and a triumph of the family spirit, and of the remarkable success of their broodmare, Highland Mills, dam of four graded stakes winners.-- Ben Glass, racing manager for Gary West, said that Wood Memorial (gr. II) winner Buddha was bred to 182 mares, getting 93% in foal. Glass is high on a 3-year-old filly named Sweet Lips, who is in the care of Bobby Frankel. Glass is still devastated over the loss of Dollar Bill, who died last week of laminitis.-- Chris Clement reported that top handicap star Dynever is finishing up a little break and is due to begin breezing next week. Clement hopes to have him back to the races by September.-- Bert Linder, who celebrated his 50th anniversary as a consignor at Saratoga, sold a Storm Cat filly during the first session for $385,000.Observations
While watching Azeri grazing one afternoon, I grabbed hold of her halter to lift her head up when she pulled away to try to get back to her grass. I was amazed by the sheer power of that slight movement, as she almost pulled me down to the ground with her. I cannot recall feeling that much pound-for-pound power in a horse, especially a filly. That feeling, and watching her rip the grass out of the ground with more aggression than I've ever seen from any horse, revealed a great deal about why this 6-year-old mare is so special.Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone, who will try to win the Travers (gr. I) in his first start since knocking off Smarty Jones, was out for a roll in the sand pen and looked sensational. The diminutive son of Grindstone has really filled out and put on more muscle.Another 3-year-old who has made great strides physically from the last time I saw him in the flesh is Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner Purge, who has developed into a handsome, powerhouse of a colt. A cone placed in the shedrow in front of his stall serves as a reminder for all unsuspecting passersby to protect any and all limbs.Keep an eye on Chekhov, a $3.3 million Keeneland 2-year-old purchase by Pulpit, who has caught the attention of clockers. Trained by Patrick Biancone, this is a big, strong colt with a ton of pedigree who is inbred to Secretariat's dam, Somethingroyal, as well as Buckpasser and Native Dancer.Commentary: Spa 2-year-old stakes program
There were 22 horses nominated to the grade I Hopeful Stakes. In one person's opinion, there is a reason why eight of them have had only one start in their career and five others have had only two starts. NYRA's thinking in eliminating the grade II Saratoga Special and Adirondack Stakes and moving up the dates of the grade I Hopeful and (now grade II) Spinaway makes sense in some way in order to insure stronger fields for the grade II Sanford and Schuylerville, while attempting to restore the once-prestigious Futurity Stakes (downgraded this year to gr. II) to the prominence it once had. However, they could have achieved the same goal had they simply restored the distance of the Hopeful, Futurity, and Champagne to what they once were. After all, they used to run four 2-year-old stakes at Saratoga when it was a four-week meet, any one of which could serve as a prep for the Futurity, if not the Hopeful. The bottom line is that many trainers are incensed over the new scheduling, and their displeasure is understandable.The Hopeful should not be seven furlongs and the Futurity should not be a mile. Both used to be run at 6 1/2 furlongs and seven furlongs, respectively, and that's the distance they should be run at now. Aug. 21 is too early to ask 2-year-olds to step up to seven furlongs. Many are just coming off 5- and 5 1/2-furlong maiden wins and have no place to run. If you miss the Hopeful, then you've got 2-year-olds having to jump from 5 1/2 and six furlongs to a mile in the Futurity. All this new schedule does is enable the Hopeful horses to come back in the Futurity. But it still leaves everyone else hung out to dry, having to jump up to a mile in early September. Put the Futurity back to seven furlongs and you'll see deep, top-class fields again. When the Hopeful was 6 1/2 furlongs, it was won by champions such as Secretariat, Native Dancer, Whirlaway, Affirmed, Foolish Pleasure, Buckpasser, Summer Squall, and Chief's Crown. Since it was changed to seven furlongs in 1994, it has made no impact at all on the classics, producing mostly sprinters. Now, you've got 22 horses nominated to the Hopeful, and only two of them are graded stakes winners. There are just too few places to prep for a seven-furlong grade I race run on Aug. 21. The Champagne, which was a much classier race when it was run at a mile, should be shortened as well, making the Hopeful, Futurity, and Champagne a much more natural progression. There is very little difference between 1 1/16 miles and one mile at Belmont. And at a mile, the Champagne would serve as a better prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).