Edited from a release
H. Allen Jerkens has been involved the racing industry as once a steeplechase rider and now a Hall of Fame trainer over five decades. Over the period, one of the titles Jerkens has earned is "The Giant Killer" for being able to upset some of the greatest horses in Thoroughbred history, some of them occurring at Saratoga Race Course. Jerkens shocked the racing world when Onion defeated the Big Red Machine known as Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Handicap (gr. II). Also in that same year, Jerkens defeated Secretariat again in the Woodward Handicap (gr. I) with Prove Out. Two years ago, Jerkens posted another upset with Shine Again, who defeated sensational sprinting filly Dream Supreme in the Ballerina Handicap (gr. I). Shine Again came back last year to do it again in the Ballerina as she defeated Raging Fever.
Jerkens' role as the spoiler may not happen on Friday as Shine Again could be the likely favorite in the grade III, $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for fillies and mares running at six furlongs. Shine Again, owned by Allaire du Pont's Bohemia Stable, will be carrying the top weight of 120 pounds, including regular rider Jean-Luc Samyn.
"We know that we aren't a cinch for this race," Jerkens said. "I'm really not concerned about the weight. I am more concerned about how the race is going to shape up--running style and trip." The 6-year-old mare by Wild Again could have had a four-race winning streak heading into the Honorable Miss if it wasn't for Shawklit Mint, who led from the start in the mud in the three-horse field of the grade II Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park in June. It was the fourth consecutive victory for Shawklit Mint.
"She just jumped ahead of us and we couldn't catch her," Jerkens said. "But you can't win them all. Shine Again has been doing well since that race. We decided to give her some time off since there were no races available for her unless we shipped out of town. Moreso, I wanted to save her for the fall, especially when there are some good races coming up."
One of the advantages Shine Again may have against the six-horse field is her liking for Saratoga. Shine Again has won two and finished second once in four races at this track. Her only off-the-board finish was her debut where she was fifth to Dream Supreme as a 2-year-old; she was runner-up to Mandy's Gold in the 2002 Honorable Miss, which was run in the slop and which set her up for her Ballerina victory.
"She always runs well here and at this distance," Jerkens said. "Two of her best races have been the Ballerina. All we can do is send her out there and hope for the best."
Another mare who has a liking for Saratoga is Edward Evans' Raging Fever
, who has finished no worse than second at this track and is undefeated in two races at this distance. The race she won at Saratoga was the grade II Adirondack as a 2-year-old. However, in four races against Shine Again, the 5-year-old mare has only managed to finish ahead just once. That race was in the grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap last October in which Raging Fever and Shine Again were second and third, respectively, to Nasty Storm. "
Jerkens' horse is tough to beat," Mark Hennig, the conditioner of Raging Fever, said with a laugh. "Between Raging Fever and Gold Mover, I am sure Jerkens wishes neither of my horses were around, too. But you have to do what you have to do. You really cannot avoid each other." Raging Fever is coming off a second-place finish in the Chicago Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park in mid-June when she set the pace and finished second to For Rubies. Raging Fever has not run since that race, but she has posted two "bullet" workouts, which may be an indication that she's ready for a big race. "I wanted to give her some more time in between races to keep her fresh," Hennig said. "She usually runs better that way. We also brought her here to Saratoga early to get her acclimated and she has responded well. We're just hoping she can perform well."
Leading jockey Jerry Bailey replaces Aaron Gryder on Raging Fever, who will carry 118 pounds and breaks from post position 1. A horse who may be overlooked in the Honorable Miss is Peter Angelos' Willa On the Move. Angelos moved the filly from Rodney Jenkins' barn to Tony Dutrow after she finished fifth to Go for Wand (gr. I) winner Sightseek in the grade II Top Flight at Aqueduct in November.
"I've always been training for Peter Angelos," Dutrow said. "When I got the horse, I noticed she had problems with her shins. We brought back slowly and she has been going well."
Willa On the Move has only started once this year--in the restricted Xtra Heat Stakes at Belmont Park where she was placed first through disqualification after Redhead Riot drifted out and brushed into her. Before the disqualification, Willa On the Move lost the photo to Redhead Riot in a 1:09 3/5 for six furlongs.
"One thing she proved in that race is that she's an honest filly," Dutrow said. "She was able to come off nearly a seven-month layoff to run that huge of a race. Along with that, she has some class behind her." Last year as a 3-year-old, Willa On the Move was second to You and finished head of the once highly-regarded Bella Bellucci in the grade I Acorn at Belmont. In eight career races, Willa On The Move has finished no worse than second with the exception of the Top Flight.
The Field for Friday's grade III Honorable Miss Handicap:
PP, horse, trainer, jockey, weight
1--Raging Fever, Mark Hennig, Jerry Bailey, 118
2--Smok'n Frolic, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 117
3--Redhead Riot, Laurie LaFavres, Javier Castellano, 113
4--Shawklit Mint, Patrick Reynolds, Richard Migliore, 115
5--Shine Again, H. Allen Jerkens, Jean-Luc Samyn, 120
6--Willa On the Move, Tony Dutrow, Edgar Prado, 114