First, he was sprinting. Then, he was routing. Then, he was sprinting again. Then, he tried the grass. Then, he went back to sprinting. In the last 22 months, Bob And Beverly Lewis' Orientate has raced at eight tracks under nine different conditions. Now, midway through his 4-year-old season, he looks to have finally found his niche. That would be sprinting.
On Sunday, Orientate seeks his third graded stakes victory on the year as a prohibitive favorite in the 18th running of the $200,000 A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II). Eight colts and geldings were entered in the Vanderbilt, a six-furlong sprint over Saratoga's main track.
Orientate enters the Vanderbilt in career form and his take-no-prisoners running style has established him as one of the East Coast's leading sprinters. The Mt. Livermore colt boasts open-length victories in his last two starts – Churchill Downs' Aristides and Calder's Smile Sprint Handicap – and he will be the one to catch in the Vanderbilt.
"He's been very impressive in his last couple of races," Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "With me, he's the best sprinter in the country. We were very pleased with his last race."
Lukas was referring to the July 13th Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder, a race in which Orientate shrugged off his pace-pressing foes and ran six furlongs in a blistering 1:09 4/5. Fourteen days prior to the Smile Sprint, Orientate completed the 6 ½-furlong Aristides at Churchill Downs in a swift 1:14 2/5.
"He does better with time in between races, but when they're giving away $400,000 you've got to take a shot," Lukas said. "Calder's never an easy track to ship in and win over. I give him a lot of credit for running so well."
It's been almost a year since Orientate ran at Saratoga, but fans taking the expected short price on the colt will note he won two races here last year. Additionally, Orientate, the 121-pound highweight, is undefeated in three starts at six furlongs. Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey has the mount.
Trainer Victor Cuadra, conditioner of Say Florida Sandy, was relieved to find out that the quick-footed Echo Eddie would be shipping East for the Vanderbilt."We're hoping he keeps Orientate entertained on the front end," he said.Say Florida Sandy has compiled an amazing record of 29-15-11. He's also found a place in the record books as the leading New York-bred money earner of all time. The venerable 8-year-old will attempt to improve on his $1.8 million in earnings."He's still got that fire," Cuadra said. "He went off form for one race, but we did a little work on him and he's come back in great shape. He's a remarkable horse. He's got a lot of miles on him, but I don't see any signs of him slowing down."Trainer Darrell Vienna admits that Orientate poses a speed problem for Echo Eddie. He had the misfortune of dueling with Orientate in the Smile Sprint Handicap and paid the price, finishing a distant and leg-weary second."We traveled a long way and got our butts kicked," Vienna said. "I guess we're taking another shot at him."Echo Eddie is one fast California-bred. A gelding by Restless Con, he has compiled a 8-6-3 record from 19 starts with earnings of more than $900,000. His biggest effort to date was a second-place finish to Caller One in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba."He runs his race nearly every time," Vienna said. "He's had a pretty good year. His effort in Dubai was excellent."The $200,000 A. G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II)
PP. Horse (Jockey), Wt.
1 Late Carson (Edgar Prado), 113
2 Multiple Choice (Victor Carrero), 112
3 Texas Glitter (John Velazquez), 115
4 Run Kush Run (Jose Santos), 111
5 Beau's Town (Pat Day), 116
6 Orientate (Jerry Bailey), 121
7 Say Florida Sandy (Aaron Gryder), 115
8 Echo Eddie (Jorge Chavez), 117