Boisterous may have won the Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) last time out at Belmont Park, but he isn't scaring away competition from the Aug. 17 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course.
Thirteen turf contenders have entered the 1 1/2-mile turf event, including July 6 United Nations (gr. IT) winner Big Blue Kitten and runner-up Teaks North, world record-holder Twilight Eclipse—second in the July 13 Man o' War—and Man o' War third-place finisher Exclusive Strike.
Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor , earned his first grade I victory for Phipps Stable and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey in the 1 1/8-mile Man o' War, which he took with a four-wide rally from upper stretch. The victory pushed the bay runner's earnings past the million mark and gave him his second straight graded score off a win in the June 9 Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT).
The same connections took the Man o' War last year with turf superstar Point of Entry , who is currently sidelined after undergoing surgery for a slight condylar fracture of his left hind cannon bone.
Boisterous, who spent a brief time at Fair Hill Training Center near Elkton, Md., for a little rest following his Man o' War win, will be ridden from post 11 by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. He carries 123 pounds, co-highweight with Big Blue Kitten, who breaks from the 2 hole under Joe Bravo.
Big Blue Kitten, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy , came off a second to his Man o'War-winning rival in the Monmouth Stakes to take the United Nations with a strong closing rail run. Jersey riding ace Bravo got the credit for the gutsy move to victory for Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. Big Blue Kitten won the 2011 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga and collected his first grade I win at Monmouth Park last time out.
Runners-up to those two in their respective outings wheel back for another shot at taking them down.
Twilight Eclipse, who races for West Point Thoroughbreds, set the world record for 1 1/2 miles on the turf when he won the March 23 Pan American Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park. The 4-year-old Purim gelding took a corkscrew route to the winner's circle, stalking the pace on the inside, coming around Teaks North on the final turn, moving back to the rail, then slipping through the inside to gain the lead en route to a four-length victory.
Since then, he has fired decent efforts for trainer Tom Albertrani, fifth over soggy ground in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT), and second in the Man o' War by 2 1/4 lengths. From post 4, Javier Castellano rides as part of a 120-pound impost.
Teaks North, the 2011 United Nations winner, has won two ungraded stakes this year; the Jan. 19 Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/8-mile event which he took wire-to-wire for a 2 1/2-length victory, and the May 15 Good Reward Stakes going 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Belmont Park. In the latter, the 6-year-old Northern Afleet gelding stalked the pace and bid at the quarter pole, winding up clear by 1 3/4 lengths as the main competition got tangled up with traffic troubles behind him. Luis Saez has the mount from the 3 hole; Teaks North carries 116 for trainer Michele Nevin.
Exclusive Strike, trained by Jason Servis for Mr. Amore Stable, was making his first start in grade I company in the Man o' War, and had not raced in a graded event since the 2011 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIIT), in which he finished sixth. The 6-year-old Smart Strike gelding will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. carrying 116 from post 10.
An intriguing addition to the field is Wertheimer & Frere's homebred Nutello, a 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt who makes his first U.S. start for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias. Third in last year's Prix du Jockey Club-French Derby (Fr-I), Nutello comes off a seventh in the July 17 Grand Prix de Vichy-Auvergne (Fr-III) for Laffon-Parias, who won the United Nations in 2010 with Chinchon. Jose Lezcano rides from post 6; the bay colt carries 116.
Stormy Lord was claimed for $50,000 by Mike Maker for Ken and Sarah Ramsey last time out while winning a June 13 one-mile turf allowance at Churchill Downs. The 6-year-old Ontario-bred son of Stormy Atlantic makes his grade I debut with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons. He will race as part of an entry with Big Blue Kitten.
Also stepping into grade I company for the first time are Bran Jam Stable's Star Channel and Howard Bender's Colonial Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIT) winner London Lane. Star Channel, a 4-year-old English Channel ridgling, will be ridden from the inside by Jose Ortiz for trainer John Toscano, Jr. London Lane gets the services of Horatio Karamanos from post 12 for trainer Lawrence Murray.
Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable's Al Khali comes off a sixth in the Man o' War, and seeks his first win for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott since taking a March 9 allowance at Tampa Bay Downs. Alastar Thoroughbred Racing's Tahoe Lake was fifth in the 2012 Sword Dancer and has raced just three times since then—a fourth in the 2012 Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Kentucky Downs, and respective fifth and fourth in two allowance races June 8 at Churchill and Aug. 4 at Saratoga.
Calumet Farm's Optimizer, fifth in the Man o' War and second two starts back to Point of Entry in the June 8 Woodford Reserve Manhattan, has performed strongly in top-level graded stakes but seeks his first win since the Feb. 23 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT). The 4-year-old English Channel runner was second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the May 4 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill earlier in the year.
Richard Santulli's 4-year-old Dylan Thomas filly Tannery completes the field. Lightly raced since winning the May 25 Sheepshead Bay Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park going 1 3/8 miles against her division, the Alan Goldberg trainee has made just one outing, finishing eighth and last of all in the June 29 New York Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont after hitting the starting gate at the break. She carries 113 and will be ridden by Angel Serpa from the outside.
$600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, approximate post 5:12 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Star Channel (FL), J.L. Ortiz, 116, J T Toscano, Jr.
2. a-Big Blue Kitten (KY), J. Bravo, 123, C C Brown
3. Teaks North (FL), L. Saez, 116, M Nevin
4. Twilight Eclipse (KY), J. Castellano, 120, T Albertrani
5. a-Stormy Lord (ON), S. Bridgmohan, 116, M J Maker
6. Nutello (KY), J. Lezcano, 116, C Laffon-Parias
7. Al Khali (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 116, W I Mott
8. Tahoe Lake (BRZ), R. Maragh, 116, G Carwood
9. Optimizer (KY), J. Alvarado, 116, D W Lukas
10. Exclusive Strike (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 116, J Servis
11. Boisterous (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 123, C R McGaughey III
12. London Lane (MD), H. Karamanos, 118, L E Murray
13. Tannery (IRE), A. Serpa, 113, A E Goldberg