Stormy Lord, Barocci eye Knickerbocker; Ruthenia considers Athenia
Grade 2-winning Ontario-bred Stormy Lord is under serious consideration for a start in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker at Belmont Park, trainer Ian Black confirmed by phone on Sunday.
"It's 1 1/8 miles, and he likes some give in the ground," said Black, who trains the five-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding for David Willmot. "I thought we might get both (at Belmont)."
Stormy Lord is also nominated for next Sunday's Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine, his home track. The C$1.5 million "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge race is contested at 1 1/2 miles.
"I think there are a lot of Europeans coming in and at 1 1/2 miles, it might not be ideal," Black said. "I'll have a better idea in a couple of days, but I think it's better than 50/50 we're coming your way."
Stormy Lord exits a repeat win in the PTHA President's Cup at Parx Racing, his first victory since taking last October's Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine. The gelding was narrowly beaten in two starts at Woodbine prior to the PTHA President's Cup -- the Grade 2 Sky Classic and a turf allowance.
Overall, he has earned $1,153,686 and boasts a record of 9-7-1 from 27 starts, with six stakes wins including last year's Grade 2 Connaught Cup at Woodbine.
On Sunday, he turned in an easy breeze over the firm turf training track at Woodbine, covering five furlongs in 1:01 1/5.
"He went well," the trainer said. "Just breezing, happy to be out there."
Black said that if he chooses to run in the Knickerbocker, Stormy Lord likely will ship to Belmont on Thursday.
Barocci and Ruthenia have the Christophe Clement barn hedged for any possible turf course condition in the Knickerbocker and Grade 3 Athenia, also on Saturday.
Ruthenia, a four-year-old who won the Grade 3 Violet in May at Monmouth Park, is likely to run in the 1 1/16-mile Athenia for fillies and mares if there isn't too much give in the turf, according to Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Clement.
"At the moment the week is good in terms of the weather forecast," Lorieul said. "We just hope it stays that way because she's a small filly and I don't think she cares too much for good ground. We have a couple of other options (for the Athenia), a filly like Future Generation. It was off the turf the other day (when she was entered in Wednesday's Valor Lady overnight stakes), but the one we are at the moment pointing (to the Athenia) is Ruthenia."
Owned by Virginia Kraft Payson, Ruthenia finished fourth in her two most recent starts, the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap in June at Monmouth and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on August 25 at Saratoga.
Wildenstein Stable's Barocci, a four-year-old Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact, will make his North American stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Knickerbocker. He is 1-2-1 in four starts in the United States and comes into the Knickerbocker off a second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in an optional claimer on August 26 at Saratoga.
Lorieul said Barocci, who won a listed stakes in France over "heavy" ground, can handle any going but could have a distinct advantage over his Knickerbocker opponents if the Belmont turf comes up yielding or soft.
"This one, I don't think it will matter what kind of ground we have," Lorieul said. "He's run on everything, and maybe the cut in the ground would be in his favor. He's run in Europe, and with the way he moves in the morning you would think he would like a little cut in the ground.
"(Ruthenia) is more top of the ground; I don't think she would handle (soft turf) very well. She has a very good turn of foot and you have to place it, and it has to be firm, I think."
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