Led by impressive True North Handicap (gr. II) winner Trappe Shot, eight older sprinters will try to catapult to the top of the sprint standings in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 7 at Saratoga.
Mill House’s Trappe Shot, the 7-5 morning-line favorite, won the June 11 True North by 8 1/2 lengths in the mud and is unbeaten in two starts this season. The 4-year-old Tapit colt will not have an easy time continuing his win streak however, especially breaking from the outside against a capable bunch that includes grade I winner Noble's Promise and Calibrachoa, a two-time graded stakes winner this year. Also in the field is grade I placed Apriority and Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) runner-up Hamazing Destiny.
Post time for the six-furlong Vanderbilt is set for 5:45 p.m. EDT.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Trappe Shot seems to have found his niche sprinting after racing around two turns in the second half of 2010. He won the Waldoboro Stakes at Monmouth Park in May and one month later took over early en route to his True North romp—both at six furlongs.
“We feel like he’s there right now, so it’s important to win a grade I for him as a stallion and maybe as champion sprinter,” said McLaughlin. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but he’s doing very well.
"His last race was probably his best race breaking. He stumbles a lot, so hopefully he breaks well. You don’t want to give up too many lengths going six furlongs against this type.”
Trappe Shot won three sprints early in his 3-year-old campaign before scoring in the Long Branch Stakes around two turns. He was second in the Izod Haskell Invitational (gr. I) prior to a failed ninth-place finish in the Travers (gr. I) last summer. The chestnut colt has been off the board in both of his starts at Saratoga.
John Velazquez will ride Trappe Shot, who will tote top weight of 118 pounds. McLaughlin has won this event twice with Intidab in 1999 and Abraaj in 2008.
Noble’s Promise (8-1) has also found his way sprinting after spending the fall of 2009 and the first half of 2010 routing. The 4-year-old son of Cuvee won the Jimmy V Stakes late last year and earned his first graded stakes win while sprinting in the June 4 Aristides (gr. III) June 4, both at Churchill Downs. He was third, beaten one length, in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder last month.
Noble’s Promise, owned by Chasing Dreams Racing 2008, won the grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in 2009 at 1 1/16 miles. He has earned more than $1 million from his 15 lifetime starts. Ken McPeek has assigned Alan Garcia to ride and they will break from the rail.
Calibrachoa (8-1) has won three times since being claimed for $40,000 by trainer Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole. All three wins came at Aqueduct, including the Toboggan (gr. III) and Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III). He was never a factor when finishing third in the True North last out. Javier Castellano will take over riding duties on the 4-year-old son of Southern Image.
Donald Dizney’s Apriority is still searching for his breakthrough win despite coming close in his last two starts. The 4-year-old Grand Slam colt led into the stretch but fell short by 1 1/2 lengths in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 9 at Aqueduct and in his last start was beaten a nose in the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) on Kentucky Derby Day. Both of those were at seven furlongs.
Apriority (3-1) has won four times in Florida for trainer David Fawkes since last November and was also second by a head in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita in January. He was scheduled to go in the Smile Sprint but was withdrawn from consideration after developing a foot abscess and has trained up to the Vanderbilt. He had a work over the Saratoga main track Aug. 1 after recently shipping up from Florida. Ramon Dominguez will have the mount for a second straight time.
“We might be a little behind the eight ball, but we need to run and he usually brings his ‘A’ game over,” said Fawkes.
Hamazing Destiny (5-1), second in the James Marvin Stakes July 22 for D. Wayne Lukas in his first try since the BC Sprint, is also looking for his first stakes win.
“The comeback effort was really strong, to have that long layoff and go seven-eighths," said Lukas, who trains the 5-year-old for Westrock Stables and Barry Butzow. “The only concern now is whether it was too strong."
$250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Noble's Promise (KY), A Garcia, 117, K G McPeek
2. Bank Merger (KY), J R Leparoux, 116, S bin Suroor
3. Atta Boy Roy (WA), J L Castanon, 115, V Lund
4. Hamazing Destiny (KY), J Lezcano, 115, D W Lukas
5. Calibrachoa (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher
6. Sean Avery (KY), J Bravo, 115, A Iwinski
7. Apriority (FL), R A Dominguez, 116, D Fawkes
8. Trappe Shot (FL), J R Velazquez, 118, K P McLaughlin