Alex Lieblong’s Duke of Mischief topped the list of horses working at Saratoga on the morning of July 31 for the $750,000 Whitney Invitational (gr. I), turning in a bullet half-mile breeze over the main track in :46.88. It was the fastest of 62 drills at the distance.
Exercise rider Nick Esler was aboard Duke of Mischief, who was putting in his final serious move in preparation for the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Aug. 6.
“I thought he went excellent,” said an enthused David Fawkes, who trains the son of Graeme Hall. “Really good. He got over the track well. Nick said it’s probably a good thing we breezed him over the track because he said he was still feeling his way around there a little bit. Everything’s on go right now. He looked like he did it comfortably. He’s coming into this really good.”
Duke of Mischief was most recently fourth, beaten just two lengths, in the Stephen Foster (gr. I) June 18 at Churchill Downs. That effort followed an impressive victory in the Charles Town Classic (gr. III) April 15.
Multiple grade I winner Giant Oak also put in his final preparation for the Whitney with a bullet five-furlong work over the main track that went in: 58.97 seconds with regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan. It was the fastest of 47 moves at the distance.
“He broke off at the pole pretty calm,” said Arthur Coontz, assistant to trainer Chris Block. “Shaun had him into the bridle. Coming down the lane, Shaun and Giant Oak were going well. When he came back, Shaun said he went well in hand. He has handled this track really well since coming here.”
Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s homebred Giant Oak won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park in early February and was most recently fifth in the Foster. This was the second workout over the Saratoga main track for the 5-year-old horse since arriving nearly two weeks ago.
Also on the Saratoga work tab was Whitney invitee Rodman, most recently third in the Suburban Stakes (gr. II). He drilled five furlongs in 59.77, the second fastest of the day.
“It was a little faster than we wanted, but he had a target in front of him, so it wasn’t that surprising,” said Mike Hushion, who trains the 6-year-old son of Maliibu Moon for Barry K. Schwartz. “It was his typical, strong, five-eighths work for his race.”
Rodman is 1-2-1 from four starts this year, including a solid runner-up finish to fellow Whitney hopeful Tizway in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Memorial Day.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Mission Impazible drilled a solid half-mile in :47.80 on the main track to the satisfaction of trainer Todd Pletcher. Mission Impazible, the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) victor March 26, missed by a neck to Pool Play when second in the Foster.
Pletcher said that Mike Repole’s Giant Surprise , who was vanned off following a 4 ¼-length debut victory July 30 at Saratoga, has been diagnosed with a condylar fracture of his left front cannon bone and will undergo surgery Aug. 1.