Barry Schwartz's New York-bred The Lumber Guy, winner of last year's Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (gr. I), will try for back-to-back victories when he faces seven opponents in the six-furlong event at Belmont Park Sept. 28.
Last year's score nearly propelled the 4-year-old son of Grand Slam—Boitono, by Unbridled's Song, to a Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) victory and Eclipse Award after he finished a fast-closing second to eventual sprint champion Trinniberg at Santa Anita Park.
This year, however, things have not gone as smoothly. Following a pair of disappointing efforts in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) and San Carlos (gr. II) at Santa Anita, he was given time off att Schwartz's Stonewall Farm, returning with a second-place finish in a state-bred stakes at Saratoga.
"The time at the farm did wonders for him," Schwartz said. "He ran well in the Breeders' Cup off the plane, but just didn't take to the surface at the winter meet."
Once again this year, the winner of the Vosburgh will receive an all-expenses paid berth in the BC Sprint as part of the "Win & You're In" challenge series. The Vosburgh is race 7 on Belmont's "Super Saturday" program with a 4:13 p.m. EDT scheduled post.
Schwartz considers The Lumber Guy the best horse he's ever bred, along with the top-class filly Three Ring.
"He came so close to winning the Breeders' Cup," Schwartz said. "His dam was Broodmare of the Year in New York and The Lumber Guy was her third stakes winner. She died foaling The Lumber Guy and he was raised by a nurse mare. And The Lumber Guy also was New York-bred Horse of the Year.
"If he had won the Breeders' Cup Sprint he probably would have gotten the Eclipse Award, because the horse that beat him got it," Schwartz said. "I bought the mare at Keeneland. We knew he was special when he won his first start by seven lengths. Mike (trainer Hushion) was always high on him.
"Mike thought he had lost a lot weight when he got back from California and wanted to give him some time, so we sent him to Stonewall Farm (in Westchester County) for two months and then came back to Belmont."
If The Lumber Guy is going to repeat he will have to defeat several top-class sprinters, most notably Zayat Stables' Justin Phillip , winner of the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) and third in the seven-furlong Forego (gr. I), both at Saratoga.
The Lumber Guy drew post 5 and gets the services of Mike Luzzi, while Justin Phillip will break from post 2 with John Velazquez aboard.
Also expected to provide stiff competition are Bahamian Squall , winner of the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder before finishing second in the Vanderbilt; the 3-year-old Forty Tales, winner of the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) and a fast-closing fourth in the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I); Strapping Groom, who won the Forego at odds of 15-1; and Private Zone, who ships in from California after capturing the Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar for trainer Doug O'Neill. Previously, the son of Macho Uno had finished second in the Malibu and grade II Palos Verdes before finishing ninth, beaten 4 3/4 lengths, in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) at Meydan.
$400,000 Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (gr. I, Race 7, 4:13 p.m.) 3YO and Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Forty Tales (KY), J Castellano,122, T A Pletcher
2. Justin Phillip (KY), J R Velazquez, 124, S M Asmussen
3. Bahamian Squall (FL), L Saez, 124, D Fawkes
4. Strapping Groom (KY), J Alvarado, 124, D Jacobson
5. The Lumber Guy (NY), M J Luzzi, 124, M E Hushion
6. Palace (NY), C H Velasquez, 124, L Rice
7. Candyman E (KY), J Bravo,124, M Mareina
8. Private Zone (ON), M A Pedroza, 124, D F O'Neill