(Edite NYRA report)
Michael Shanley's Whitmore's Conn has always been a horse who loves to run long on the turf. After he won the 2002 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT), trainer Randy Schulhofer tried the grade I's Sword Dancer Invitational and Turf Classic, but the son of Kris S. failed to hit the board.
One year later, after winning the Bowling Green again and taking his first grade I in Saratoga's Sword Dancer, Whitmore's Conn heads into the $500,000 Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) at 1 3/8 miles in the best form of his life.
"I hope he's not at his peak yet this year," Schulhofer said. "He should be a little later this year peaking than last year because we got a later start. He's doing absolutely superb."
Jockey Jean-Luc Samyn has gotten the best out of Whitmore's Conn, but he is sidelined with a broken leg and will be replaced by Hall of Famer Pat Day, who has won the last two runnings of the Man o' War aboard With Anticipation.
"Pat's got a lot of patience," Schulhofer said. "He doesn't get nervous in the big ones and he's been there a number of times. I'm a little disappointed in losing Jean-Luc, but as long as he's alright, he'll ride him again one day."
With his stretch-running style, it would seem that Whitmore's Conn needs a fast pace to win. As it turns out, he is just as effective coming from off slow fractions.
"I thought he needed a little hotter pace, especially in the Bowling Green," Schulhofer said. "I was very concerned with the slow fractions there and he overcame that. He's got a hell of a turn of foot towards the end."
The second-, third- and fourth-place finishers from the Sword Dancer - Macaw, Slew Valley and Denon - will also try the Bowling Green.
Macaw is winless in nine American starts for trainer Barclay Tagg, but has been a stretch threat in his last three races, finishing fourth and third in the Manhattan and Bowling Green.
"He's getting better every time," Tagg said. "It's better to have a fast pace and he likes soft ground."
Edmund Gann's Denon was fourth in the Sword Dancer after a tough trip. From the outside post, he got caught wide and perhaps made a premature move. He had the lead in the stretch, but faltered in the final furlong.
Aidan O'Brien also sent 3-year-old Carpanetto for the Man o' War. The lightly-raced Michael Tabor runner is 2-for-4 lifetime and will be making his U.S. debut Saturday. This will also be his first start in a group or graded stakes race.
"He had a few problems in the spring and didn't get to run," O'Brien said. "We always thought between a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half would be his best trip."
PP., HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1a. Deeliteful Irving, Michael Dickinson, Cornelio Velasquez, 126
2. Macaw, Barclay Tagg, Shaun Bridgmohan, 126
3. Lunar Sovereign, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 126
4. Whitmore's Conn, Randy Schulhofer, Pat Day, 126
5. Slew Valley, Gary Sciacca, Javier Castellano, 126
6. Carpanetto, Aidan O'Brien, Edgar Prado, 121
7a. Balto Star, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 126
8. Denon, Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, 126