HOF Stakes: Straight Story in the Right Spot?
After trainer Alan Goldberg watched the results of the Secretariat (gr. IT) for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park last weekend, he knew he’d made the right decision to skip the race in Chicago with Richard Santulli’s Straight Story.
In the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) on July 18, Straight Story finished in front of the eventual Secretariat winner, Take the Points, beaten a head by rising turf star Battle of Hastings. Now, Goldberg heads into the $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 14 at Saratoga with the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile turf race.
“We always thought he was a good horse,” said Goldberg. “We knew he was going to be a turf horse all along.”
In four career starts on the turf, Straight Story has won nearly $300,000 with a maiden win and a 6 1/2-length allowance win against New York-breds and two seconds, the Virginia Derby and another head loss to Battle of Hastings in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) on June 20.
“We could have gone to the Secretariat, but the Hall of Fame Stakes gave us more time,” said Goldberg. “We would also have had to fly him out there and give him a long van ride. Here, it would be only a four-hour van ride.”
Straight Story, by Giant's Causeway —Eventail, by Lear Fan, was bred in New York by Gallagher’s Stud. He will break from the inside post with John Velazquez in the irons.
Among the nine challenging Straight Story in the Hall of Fame are El Crespo, a stakes-winning half-brother to Rey de Café who is 2-2-1 from six starts on the turf. In his most recent start, El Crespo was sixth in the Virginia Derby, and trainer Rusty Arnold is hoping that the less-than-firm turf conditions were a factor.
“I’m hoping the soft ground in Virginia bothered my horse,” said Arnold, who saddled El Crespo to victory in the grade III Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park. “There was a lot of rain in Virginia that day. We’ll know when he runs back here. He’s a particular horse that wants it hard. He has run well in three of his races on hard ground.”
Dogwood Stable’s Lime Rickey, second in the Palm Beach and third in the Colonial Turf Cup, and Glen Hill Farm’s No Inflation, looking for his first stakes win after three straight narrow misses in the American Derby (gr. IIT), Jefferson Cup (gr. IIT), and the Arlington Classic, should attract some support as well. In six career races on the grass, No Inflation has finished no worse than third.
Like Goldberg, trainer Tom Proctor had two options for No Inflation: the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame or the Secretariat. As No Inflation has run longer in his last two races, Proctor believes this race is more suited for his horse.
“I wanted to shorten my horse up a little bit,” said Proctor, who had briefly considered putting No Inflation on the Triple Crown trail. “He has run well, but not well enough. He’s been getting a little better.
“I tried him on the dirt once because he was impressive on the PolyTrack. He ran so badly on the dirt, we decided to keep him on the grass. I got the Derby out of the equation really quickly. His dad (Repriced) has nothing but turf horses. Very few run well on the dirt.”
$150,000 Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:56 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
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