Teaks North confirmed his status as one of the leaders in the turf division with his United Nations (gr. IT) win last month. The 4-year-old will now try to jump to the top of the standings when he takes on seven rivals in the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) Aug. 13 at Saratoga.
The son of Northern Afleet will tote high weight of 123 pounds and break from post 7 in the 1 1/2-mile turf event, which anchors Saratoga’s 11-race Saturday card. Eddie Castro will be aboard Teaks North once again, just as he was when the gelding won the June 12 Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the July 2 United Nations—both at Monmouth Park.
The Sword Dancer will be televised live from 5-6 p.m. ET on the VERSUS network as part of the NBC Sports “Summer at Saratoga” telecasts.
Earlier in the season Teaks North posted a narrow victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. IT) to jump start what has become a sensational 2011 campaign.
Trained by Justin Sallutso for Jules Boutelle, Teaks North has also finished off the board in three other starts this year. Since the United Nations win he has worked three times at Monmouth, including a four-furlong breeze in :48 4/5 on Aug. 8. This will be his first try at Saratoga in his 18th career start.
“He’s at the top of his game,” said Sallusto of the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. “I believe he’ll be very, very formidable on Saturday.”
Trainer Christophe Clement, who won this race back in 1999 with Honor Glide, has two chances this time around. He will send out three-time grade I winner and 5-2 favorite Winchester as well as Grassy, who was seventh in the Sword Dancer a year ago.
Winchester, a 6-year-old son of Theatrical, has started just once in 2011, finishing second in the off-the-turf Stars and Stripes (gr. III) July 23 at Arlington Park. Last year, the bay horse won the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont. A homebred of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, Winchester has earned more than $1.2 million from his 22 starts. Cornelio Velasquez will have the mount.
“He’s training well, running back a little quick, but is doing well,” said Clement. “We got what we needed [out of the race], but maybe it’s a little too quick. But he is doing well.”
Grassy, a 5-year-old El Prado horse, finished second in his last two starts including the Singspiel (Can-IIIT) June 26 at Woodbine. He won the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) last year at Aqueduct for his lone stakes victory. Clement said that Grassy would likely only run if the Saratoga turf course was soft Saturday.
Also with a pair of entrants is Bill Mott, a three-time winner of the Sword Dancer. Mott will saddle Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Drosselmeyer and Al Khali, who finished third in this race in 2010.
WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer will make his first start on turf since he began his career with a pair of losing turf tries in New York back in the summer of 2009. The Distorted Humor colt has won once in four dirt starts this year, the win coming two starts back in the May 15 One Count overnight stakes at Belmont.
“He’ll run over anything,” said Mott. “I think he handles the grass fine, the dirt fine, and Polytrack fine. The distance is important; obviously, he’s (a distance) horse. We’ll give it a try, and see how he does in good company on the grass and see what our options are later on.”
Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s Al Khali seeks his first win of the year after five losing efforts. Fifth last out in the July 9 Man o’ War (gr. IT), Al Khali scored one of his two graded stakes victories on the Saratoga turf in the 2009 Saranac (gr. IIIT). Mott said Al Khali would only run if the course was firm.
Other contenders include 7-year-old gelding Rahy's Attorney, an earner of more than $2 million from his 40 starts and fifth last out in the Singspiel; Boisterous, the third-place finisher of the Man o’ War in his graded stakes debut; and Bim Bam, who seeks his first graded stakes triumph in his seventh try.
$500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:50 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Drosselmeyer (KY), J Lezcano, 116, W I Mott
2. Grassy (KY), J Castellano, 118, C Clement
3. Rahy's Attorney (ON), E Wilson, 116, I Black
4. Bim Bam (FL), D Cohen, 116, R Moquett
5. Boisterous (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, C R McGaughey III
6. Al Khali (KY), A Garcia, 118, W I Mott
7. Teaks North (FL), E Castro, 123, J Sallusto
8. Winchester (VA), C H Velasquez, 120, C Clement