Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I) winner Currency Swap returns to the scene of last year's great triumph at Saratoga Race Course as the 5-2 favorite in a field of seven for the $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) July 29.
The Amsterdam, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint that serves as a stepping-stone to the Aug. 25 Foxwoods King's Bishop (gr. I), is a showcase for the fastest runners in the country and goes off as the 10th race of the day with a planned post of 5:56 p.m. EDT. Caleb's Posse , Discreetly Mine , Quality Road , and Kodiak Kowboy won the past four editions.
Currency Swap has lived an eventful year for owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence since breaking his maiden by six lengths at Saratoga last August and going on to win the Hopeful (gr. I) over Trinniberg on closing day of the 2011 meet.
The son of High Cotton was given nearly five months off by trainer Terri Pompay following his Hopeful victory because of surgery for an ankle chip, and resumed training in late January in Florida. He returned to the races in a Gulfstream Park allowance March 16, finishing seven lengths behind subsequent Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Gemologist . Off that one-turn mile, he was sent to the April 7 Illinois Derby (gr. III), in which he suffered a rough journey and wound up 11th.
Pompay takes responsibility for the misadventure.
"We had a little bit of twinkling of the Triple Crown trail at that time of year, and he ran with Gemologist," she said. "We had enough earnings to get in the Kentucky Derby if we did one thing more. We wanted that opportunity to make that decision. He ran into that monster in the allowance race, and then he ran in the Illinois Derby and it was a nightmare trip, so we still don't know if he can go long. We decided we'd regroup and go back to the sprints."
Since the Illinois Derby, Currency Swap has taken the May 12 You And I overnight stakes and then finished second to Trinniberg in the Woody Stephens (gr. II), both at Belmont Park. In the latter, he earned a lifetime-best 102 Beyer speed figure. He last turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 1/5 at Monmouth Park July 18.
"We're good and tight and ready and fresh," Pompay said. "His last breeze was really good, and the one before was really good. The owners decided they wanted to do the Amsterdam and then the King's Bishop, if everything goes good. He likes the track, it's the place to showcase good horses, and he's a really nice horse."
Other contenders include Mill House's Doctor Chit, fresh off a scorching victory in the ungraded Western Larla Stakes at Belmont July 5. A winner of three of four starts, the son of War Chant has not lost since finishing sixth in his debut on the turf at Saratoga last July.
The 3-1 second choice on the morning line, Doctor Chit was a $375,000 purchase at the 2011 OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. He broke his maiden at Keeneland in April and took an allowance on the artificial surface at Woodbine in May prior to the Western Larla.
"He's holding his form well," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Winning at three different tracks is hard to do and we'll ask him to step up one more time."
Both Currency Swap and Doctor Chit like to be on the pace, although Pletcher said, "I don't know if he has to be on the lead. He puts himself there pretty comfortably, though, so we're not going to discourage him."
Currency Swap isn't the only horse in the field to have tangled with Trinniberg. Fort Loudon, recently transferred from the barn of Stanley Gold to Hall of Famer Nick Zito, beat him by a neck in the Carry Back (gr. III) at Calder Casino & Race Course July 7.
Fort Loudon, 7-2 on the morning line, heads into the Amsterdam on a three-race win streak, all in Calder stakes. With a 7-0-2 record from 14 career starts, his losses following his maiden victory last July at Calder were a sixth in the Florida Derby (gr. I), a fifth in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) to eventual Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags , fourth in the Holy Bull (gr. II), and a seventh behind Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
"He's been here for a while," Zito said. "He ran unbelievably in the Carry Back. I wanted to give him a little bit more time, but the way he came up, what are you going to do?"
Another Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, shows up with Fog City Stable and George Bolton's Gun Boat, recent 2 1/2-length winner in a Betfair Hollywood Park allowance race against older horses. The son of Congrats , 4-1 on the morning line, is grade III-placed and was beaten just a length when fourth in last year's Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).
"He ran pretty fast the other day when he won, and I thought it's a good spot," Baffert said of the Amsterdam. "It's a tough race. Everybody brings their cream here."
Yet another Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, will saddle Laurie's Rocket for the first time in the race after a transfer from the stable of Dallas Stewart.
The son of Bluegrass Cat , owned by long-time Lukas client Willis Horton, won the Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April, then finished second in the Chick Lang on Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course. In his last start, he chased Trinniberg and Currency Swap before fading to ninth in the Woody Stephens.
Lukas confessed to not knowing much about Laurie's Rocket, 15-1, who he has worked twice at Saratoga since the horse shipped up from Kentucky.
"The one thing I'm concerned about is doing as good as Dallas did with him," he said. "He's been doing pretty good sprinting."
Unbridled's Note (8-1), winner of an allowance over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs last out for trainer Steve Asmussen, and graded-stakes-placed Politicallycorrect (10-1) complete the field.
$200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II, Race 10, approximate post 5:56 p.m. ET), 3YOs, 6 1/2 furlongs
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1.Gun Boat (FL), J. Rosario, 117, B Baffert
2.Fort Loudon (FL), F. Jara, 123, N P Zito
3.Unbridled's Note (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 117, S M Asmussen
4.Currency Swap (FL), R. Maragh, 121, T M Pompay
5.Laurie's Rocket (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 119, D W Lukas
6.Politicallycorrect (KY), V. Santiago, 117, W A Ward
7.Doctor Chit (KY), R.A. Dominguez, 121, T A Pletcher