Earlier this summer at Belmont, D' Funnybone easily dispatched of Discreetly Mine to confirm his status as the leading 3-year-old sprinter on the East Coast. On Aug. 28 at Saratoga, the two rivals will meet again in the $250,000 NetJets King’s Bishop (gr. I), but this time many believe the results will be much different.
Since losing to D’ Funnybone by 3 1/4 lengths in the June 5 Woody Stephens (gr. II), Discreetly Mine has been razor sharp. The Todd Pletcher trainee, who cut back in distance after a 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), came from off the pace to take the Jersey Shore (gr. III) July 4 at Monmouth Park and then thrashed his rivals during an 8 3/4-length romp in the Aug. 2 Amsterdam (gr. II) at the Spa.
Those two efforts was enough to make the son of Mineshaft the 6-5 favorite in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop, which is one of three grade I races on a Saratoga program headlined by the $1 million Shadwell Travers (gr. I), even though he has lost to D' Funnybone twice. Last year, D' Funnybone won the Futurity (gr. II) with Discreetly Mine nearly five lengths back in second.
Pletcher, who won the event back in 2000 with More Than Ready, assigned John Velazquez the mount once again. A three-time graded stakes winner, Discreetly Mine has the advantage of being undefeated in two starts at Saratoga. In addition to the Amsterdam, he broke his maiden over the track by more than six lengths last summer.
A homebred racing for E. Paul Robsham Stables, Discreetly Mine will break from post 4 while carrying 123 pounds.
“We were trying to identify what his best distance is,” Pletcher said of the move to sprints. “He can win at a variety of distances. This race could set him up for the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint). We like what we’re seeing.”
D’ Funnybone, the 5-2 second choice, does not have any aversion to the Saratoga main course either, having scored by 10 1/2 lengths in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) last summer for the first of his five graded stakes wins. Paul Pompa Jr. bought the Florida-bred colt privately from breeder Harold Plumley prior to that race and has been handsomely rewarded.
Trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., D’ Funnybone has the advantage of being undefeated in four starts at seven furlongs, all in graded company. This season he has won the Hutcheson (gr. II), Swale (gr. II), and Woody Stephens. Last out in the July 10 Carry Back (gr. II), which was at six furlongs over the Calder dirt, the D'wildcat colt was upset as the 1-10 favorite after taking the lead into deep stretch.
That loss didn't discourage Dutrow.
“I’ve got to figure we’re as live as (Discreetly Mine) is,” Dutrow Jr. said. “I’m not afraid of running against him again. He’s probably a better horse than when D’ Funnybone beat him, but I would expect he would beat him again.”
D’ Funnybone will also carry 123 pounds, including jockey Edgar Prado.
Another colt fond of Saratoga is Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s speedster Bulldogger, who though lightly raced is two-for-two there. The son of Dixie Union broke his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths on the slop at the Spa in his only start as a 2-year-old. After a failed try in an optional claimer on the California synthetics to begin his sophomore season, Bulldogger returned to Saratoga this summer for Bob Baffert to roll by nearly five lengths in an Aug. 14 allowance race. Both of the wins were at six furlongs.
Bulldogger, who has been on the lead in all of his three starts, drew post 5 and will be ridden by Martin Garcia. Velazquez rode him to victory in both of his prior Saratoga starts.
“He came out of his race really well,” Baffert said of Bulldogger, 5-1 on the morning line. “He’s speed. He’s one-dimensional. He’s coming back quick, but he’s training well. I was hoping for a three-horse field.”
Another contender is Hurricane Ike, who enters off a four-month layoff after winning the one-mile The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Hurricane Ike ships in from California for trainer John Sadler.
$250,000 King's Bishop (gr. I, Race 11, 5:10 p.m.), 3YO, 7 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Latigo Shore (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, N P Zito
2. Hurricane Ike (FL), C H Borel, 119, J W Sadler
3. D' Funnybone (FL), E S Prado, 123, R E Dutrow Jr.
4. Discreetly Mine (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher
5. Bulldogger (KY), M Garcia, 117, B Baffert
6. Bank Merger (KY), A Garcia, 117, K P McLaughlin
7. In Jack's Memory (KY), M Mena, 117, E J Guillot
The Horse Racing Radio Network will provide live coverage of the King’s Bishop and other stakes on the card. HRRN’s "Equine Forum" will be aired live from Saratoga earlier in the day. HRRN president and host, Mike Penna, will be joined by analysts Jude Feld, Rolly Hoyt, Sean Clancy, and guests. The show airs 8-10 a.m. EDT on WLXO 96.1 FM in Lexington, as well as on the HRRN website.
Live Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. I) coverage from 4-6 p.m. ET will feature pre- and post-race analysis, interviews, and the live call of the Travers, Ballerina (gr. I), and Victory Ride (gr. III) from New York Racing Association announcer Tom Durkin.
HRRN’s afternoon race coverage can be heard on multiple HRRN affiliates across the country, and will be streamed worldwide on the HRRN website. A complete listing of affiliates is available on the HRRN site.