Henny Hughes, Silver Train Head Vosburgh
Updated: Saturday, October 7, 2006 12:59 PM
Posted: Thursday, October 5, 2006 3:54 PM
(from NYRA release)
Something will have to give when Henny Hughes and Silver Train clash in Saturday's 67th running of the $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I). As part of Belmont Park's "Super Saturday," the six-furlong race will be one of five grade I stakes offered. While superstar Bernardini will anchor the card in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Vosburgh should offer a tremendous match-up between the two best sprinters the East Coast, if not the entire country.
Just don't blink, or you may miss it.
Pardon Silver Train if he thinks he owns Belmont's main track. The 4-year-old son of Old Trieste has a record of five wins in seven starts over Belmont's "Big Sandy." Among those wins were last year's TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), where he defeated eventual Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Lost in the Fog, and this year's Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). Using a unique combination of speed and staying power, Silver Train, owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, has been virtually unbeatable since being transferred to trainer Rick Dutrow Jr's barn in May of his 3-year-old season. In his last five starts at Belmont, the lowest Beyer Speed figure he has registered is a 108. Dutrow is at a loss to explain why his colt loves Belmont so much.
"To be honest, I really have no idea why he is so good at Belmont," Dutrow said. "I'm glad I don't have to try and figure it out, because I just don't know. There's just no way to explain it."
While Dutrow hasn't ruled out a return engagement in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at six furlongs at Churchill Downs Nov. 4, the Vosburgh has long been the major fall goal for Silver Train. Off since winning the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont July 16, Dutrow's colt has thrown five straight bullet workouts from his home base at Aqueduct.
"Since I have had him, this is the absolute best he has ever been," Dutrow said. "All I care about is how he breezed this morning, and how he looks afterwards. After the race, I will worry about what's next. This is an extremely important race for him. Henny Hughes is a monster. After this one we will explore all our options. Certainly the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Hill `n' Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I, $300,000 at Aqueduct Nov. 25) will be looked at."
While Silver Train's plans after the Vosburgh are still up in the air, Henny Hughes has his sights firmly set on Churchill Downs for this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes the Vosburgh in the perfect spot to get him there.
"We did think about training him up (to the Sprint)," McLaughlin said. "He does run well fresh. But the Breeders' Cup is going to have a full field, it's usually a roughly run race, and this will give us two shots at beating older horses. The timing of the Vosburgh works perfectly into our schedule."
When last seen, the son of Hennessy was blitzing fellow 3-year-olds in the King's Bishop (gr. I) on the Travers' undercard at Saratoga. While never being asked by jockey John Velazquez, he crossed the wire more than five lengths in front, stopping the timer in a fast 1:21 4/5 for the seven furlongs. He earned a 108 Beyer for his effort and is two-for-two at six furlongs. McLaughlin is not concerned about the cutback to that distance on Saturday.
"I have absolutely no reservations about shortening him up," McLaughlin said of Henny Hughes, who will carry 122 pounds, getting a two-pound break from the older horses under the Vosburgh's weight-for-age conditions. "He runs just as well at six furlongs as he does at seven."
While McLaughlin admits this year's Sprint is the main goal, he is quick to point out he is not dismissing the Vosburgh as a prep race. A win would only enhance his colt's chances of becoming champion sprinter.
"The Vosburgh is a very important race in itself," McLaughlin said. "If we win this it will help our chances as Eclipse Award winning sprinter."
While Silver Train and Henny Hughes loom as the most logical winners, the Vosburgh is not a two-horse race. Far from it.
Also expected to be in the lineup is Joseph Allen's War Front. Trained by Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, the 4-year-old homebred will be looking to secure his first grade I victory Saturday.
Second last out to dual grade I winner Pomeroy in the Forego Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, the Danzig colt has long been threatening to jump up and win a big one. That day, breaking from the far outside post in a field of 11 under jockey Jose Santos, War Front cut himself at the start and was still only beaten a little more than two lengths for the top prize.
"He cut himself leaving from the gate," Santos said. "Maybe that's why he got a little tired at the end. All things considered, the horse ran great."
Earlier this summer in the Tom Fool, coming off a five-month layoff, he was beaten only a neck by Silver Train. Earning a career-best 115 Beyer that day, he showed he belongs with the nation's elite sprinters. Getting War Front to the races has been Jerkens' biggest problem.
"He had a few problems earlier this winter at Gulfstream," Jerkens said. "That's why we had to stop on him a little bit. It wasn't by design. He has had a lot of little things bother him along the way."
The new face in the Vosburgh will be Attila's Storm, trained by Rick Schosberg. The 4-year-old colt has been off since January after suffering a minor leg injury, and Schosberg knows he faces a tough task on Saturday.
"Ideally, we would like to have had at least one prep race in him," Schosberg said. "The big three in there are going to be extremely tough. Henny Hughes, Silver Train, and War Front, they are all great horses. After this race, we will know if we are able to get him ready for the Breeders' Cup off of only one prep race."
Although Attila's Storm will be coming in off an injury, Schosberg does not see that being a factor in the Vosburgh.
"He's just doing so well, really training great," Schosberg said. "After last year, when he ran a close fourth in the Breeders' Cup (beaten only a little more than three lengths), we just felt he deserved the chance to come back and try again. The injury will not be an issue on Saturday."
Schosberg was also looking at the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Keeneland for his colt, but decided it was more prudent to run in the Vosburgh.
"We were 50-50 (to go in the Phoenix)," Schosberg said. "But after looking at it, we decided it was better to stay here and just walk him over, as opposed to shipping. What if he doesn't handle the new Polytrack surface that they have now at Keeneland? Then, we wouldn't know where we stand. Plus, it's a grade I (the Vosburgh) and worth $400,000. Believe me, up until the van was leaving, we weren't sure if we should be on it or not. But this just seemed like the better spot to be."
Rounding out the field in the Vosburgh will be Monmouth shipper Who's the Cowboy. Trained by Kevin Sleeter, the 4-year-old gelding is four-for-five this year, but will be taking a major class rise in the Vosburgh. He has yet to win a race outside of New Jersey and will be facing the sternest test of his career.
Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I)
Post Horse Trainer Jockey Weight
1 Henny Hughes Kiaran McLaughlin John Velazquez 122
2 War Front H. Allen Jerkens Jose Santos 124
3 Who's the Cowboy Kevin Sleeter Eddie King Jr. 124
4 Attila's Storm Richard Schosberg Patrick Valenzuela 124
5 Silver Train Richard Dutrow Jr. Edgar Prado 124
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