Saratoga Notebook: Volponi's Jockey Audible; Slow Go for Blazing Fury; Sky Mesa Pushed Back; Frankel Plots

By Mike Kane

Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson tried to out-think Breeders' Cup Classic (gr.I) winner Volponi Wednesday. He was at least partially successful.

Under jockey Jean-Luc Samyn, Volponi covered three furlongs in :34.64 in his lone work for Saturday's Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr.II). Johnson said he decided to use Samyn, who has ridden the horse in the past, for the drill rather than his new jockey Jerry Bailey because he didn't want Volponi to do too much. Bailey is replacing Jose Santos in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup.

Still, Volponi turned in the best at the distance by a full second.

"Bailey was going to work him," Johnson said. "But at about 7 o'clock my brain kicked in a little bit and I got to thinking that the first time Santos worked him he worked too fast, and the first time Samyn worked him as a 2-year-old he worked too fast."

Johnson called Bailey's agent, Ron Anderson, and said he was changing his plans and would have Samyn work Volponi.

"If it's good for the betterment of the horse, you're not going to hurt my feelings," Bailey said later in the morning to Johnson.

After the breeze, Johnson said he was happy with the work, especially that Volponi didn't go in :33, and that he is looking forward to seeing Volponi end his streak of four second-place finishes this year. In his most recent start, he lost to Medaglia d'Oro and Bailey in the Whitney Handicap (gr.I) on Aug. 2.

"I'd like to see him win a race, yes," Johnson said. "He's been in some tougher races this year up to this stage than he was last year. Much tougher."

Toner Stressing Patience with Blazing Fury
Trainer Jimmy Toner was pretty sure of one thing after graded stakes winner Blazing Fury finished fourth in an allowance race Wednesday: the 5-year-old gelding isn't a candidate for major races such as the Turf Classic Invitational (gr.I) or the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr.I) this year.

The 1 3/16-mile allowance run over a yielding turf course was Blazing Fury's first race since undergoing tendon surgery late in 2002. Blazing Fury, winner of the Saranac (gr.III) in 2001, was headed to the Turf before he was injured. The wet weather and injuries suffered training on the dirt this year further delayed his return.

"He would have had to run really big to go anywhere," Toner said. "Right now, our concern was we had just been so far backed up that just getting back to the races was our main concern and getting a race into him because he was starting to go over the top as far as training is concerned."

Toner said the conditions were difficult for a horse coming back from a 10-month layoff.

"The horses in front of him all came off recent races," Toner said. "I think that goes to show you where it's at, as far as fitness is concerned.

"Normally, if it's firm ground he can come back and run good, but this got a little tiring for him today. We'll just take our time and be patient with him. We'll just take it one step at a time.

Ward Pushes Sky Mesa Back a Bit
Trainer John Ward decided Wednesday morning to push back a breeze by Travers (gr.I) candidate Sky Mesa until Thursday morning. Sky Mesa was second in the Haskell Invitational (gr.I) on Aug. 3.

Ward said he wasn't sure what condition the track would be in because it rained in the Saratoga area Tuesday.

"That was number one, we couldn't figure that one out," Ward said. "But the main reason is that these racetracks have been under such pressure from the water that (Tuesday) was the first dry day. I knew that they would come in and work them, grade them, try to make them perfect and because of the weather forecast have to seal them back down, so they were going to be very fast. I like to work on a racetrack that is second-day dry and has been raced over all day long. That's why we chose to back it up a day."

Frankel Plots
While he is planning to enter three horses in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr.II) Saturday, trainer Bobby Frankel said Wednesday that only one or two will start.

Frankel said he expects to enter Blue Burner, El Gran Papa and Thunder Blitz in the1 1/4- mile race. Track conditions Saturday will determine which ones will got to post.

"I'm only going to run Thunder Blitz if it's off," Frankel said.

Blue Burner, a half-brother to retired stakes winner Mizzen Mast, worked four furlongs in :47 2/5 Wednesday.

"He's a nice horse, I like him," Frankel said.

El Gran Papa worked six furlongs in 1:15.46 over the main track Wednesday morning.

"I'm not thinking about the race," Frankel said. "He went nice and easy."

Frankel sent out several of his other stakes winners Wednesday. Go for Wand winner Sightseek breezed four furlongs in :49 4/5, Met Mile winner Aldebaran covered five furlongs in 1:01 3/5.

Frankel said that Empire Maker may have his only breeze before the Travers on Sunday morning.

Around the Spa
Trainer Phil Serpe jumped into a tie for second in the trainers' standings with six winners when Formal Attire won the sixth race Wednesday. Todd Pletcher, the runaway leader in the standings with a record-tying 24 victories, saddled three horses Wednesday but did not have a winner.

Pletcher's unbeaten Sanford (gr. II) winner Chapel Royal worked in company Wednesday with Purge, a maiden who was entered in the race that was cancelled Sunday following a downpour that left standing water on the track. They went five furlongs on the main track in :59 2/5.

Chapel Royal is headed to the Hopeful (gr.I) on Aug. 30.

"He's such a smart colt and he's improved so much," Pletcher said. "That race is a good fit for him."

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