Trainer Christophe Clement said he hopes a change in race dynamics will help Summer Front earn his first Grade 1 victory when he competes in the $400,000 Jamaica Handicap on October 6 at Belmont Park.
Belmont is the site of Summer Front's lone graded stakes victory, a half-length triumph in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 16. The Waterford Stable representative returned to take the Duluth overnight stakes on July 22 at Saratoga, then finished third in the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 18 at Arlington Park after racing just off a slow pace, leading into the stretch, and yielding late to Bayrir and Finnegans Wake.
"I thought (in the Secretariat), even though he finished third, he lacked a bit of racing luck," Clement said. "He was closer to the pace than I would have liked, and the race was a little bit against him."
The Secretariat was Summer Front's first loss in six starts on the turf. Four of his five victories on the grass have come in stakes.
"He was unbeaten on the turf until he went to Chicago. I got him beat, as usual," Clement quipped.
Clement said he plans to breeze Summer Front on the turf this weekend.
Trainer Tom Bush said Friday that Grade 3 Saranac winner Unbridled Command is under consideration for the Jamaica and that a decision will be made after a work this weekend.
"I want to work him first, and I've got to figure out when that's going to happen," Bush said. "The latest has got to be Monday because this race is Saturday. Then we can take a breath and figure out whether it's the right race for the horse."
With Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Dullahan and Summer Front likely both pointing for the Jamaica, Bush is well aware of the level of competition.
"Dullahan, he's an unbelievable horse," Bush said. "He hasn't won on the turf, but he's run fast numbers on it even when he didn't win, so he'll be tough.
"Summer Front and Unbridled Command are very close on the numbers, but Summer Front has run against a lot better horses than Unbridled Command has ever run against, and that probably means more than the numbers. I would love to just walk him across the street and run, but I'm not sure it's the right race for the horse."
Whether or not the Lakland Farm representative runs in the Jamaica, Bush is very pleased with Unbridled Command's recent development.
"He's matured a lot," Bush said. "You can tell. He's a horse with some confidence and he's going the right way, and he's coming out of his races healthy. All those things are real positives. He showed up (in the Saranac). We needed to improve to run good in there, and fortunately we improved. Whether we can improve more than that, I don't know."
The Jamaica is one of three Grade 1 races kicking off the three-day holiday weekend, with the $400,000 Frizette and $400,000 Champagne, both "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge races for juveniles, highlighting the October 6 card.
According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, others likely for the Jamaica are Irish colt Amira's Prince, who would be making his American debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; European import Cogito, most recently second in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam; Shkspeare Shaliyah, winner of last year's Grade 3 Pilgrim; Optimizer, winner of the Grade 3 Kent; and multiple stakes winner King Kreesa.
Undefeated Shanghai Bobby, winner of the Grade 2 Hopeful, looks to extend his record to four-for-four in the Champagne, the winner of which earns an automatic berth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on November 3. Also targeting the one-mile race are Hopeful runner-up Fortify; maiden winners Archwarrior and Goldencents, and European maiden Chief Havoc. Grade 2 Sanford winner Bern Identity, third in the Hopeful last time out, and Keep the Canoli, winner of an allowance on September 14 at Laurel, are questionable.
Stonestreet Stables' sensational Dreaming of Julia, who has won her two starts by a combined margin of 26 3/4 lengths, heads the probable starters for the one-mile Frizette. My Happy Face, an eye-popping 21 1/4-length maiden winner at the Spa, and Woodbine-based Nancy O, a maiden who was most recently third in the Grade 2 Natalma, are also likely. Recent maiden winner Carameaway and Grade 1 Spinaway runner-up Sweet Shirley Mae are possible.
The October 7 card is highlighted by the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim and the Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Grillo, both "Win and You're In" events for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf. Likely for the 1 /16-mile Pilgrim are Grade 2 With Anticipation winner Balance the Books; the Irish-bred Cerro, a maiden winner in Italy; Notacatbutallama, fourth in the With Anticipation; recent maiden winners Noble Tune, Quinzieme Monarque, Read the Proposal and Sonofasamurai, and Special Skills, placed second after winning the Nick Shuk Memorial at Delaware Park.
Among the two-year-old fillies likely for the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo are Watsdachances, who took the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga in her American debut; Effie Trinket, winner of the restricted Aristie on the main track at the Spa; Kitten's Dumplings and Summer of Fun, fourth and 10th, respectively, in the Grade 2 Natalma at Woodbine, and recent maiden winners Buckingham Bull, Sustained, and Three Hearts.
Among the probables for the Columbus Day (October 8) feature, the $150,000 Pebbles for three-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf, are Ainsley, Channel Lady, and Ski Holiday, with Disposablepleasure possible.