Cutting back to one mile for the first time in nearly two years, IEAH Stables’ and Resolute Group Stables’ Court Vision looks to turn a disappointing season around in the $250,000 Kelso Handicap (gr. IIT) Oct. 4 at Belmont Park.
Winless in five starts this year after garnering a pair of graded stakes victories in each of his first two seasons, Court Vision will have to give as much as seven pounds to his four rivals in the Kelso. The 4-year-old millionaire son of Gulch--Weekend Storm, by Storm Bird, will make his first start for Rick Dutrow Jr., after being trained previously by Bill Mott.
Though conceding weight is not an ideal circumstance for Court Vision, he should relish the Belmont turf course. The dark bay colt won the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont a year ago and turned in a decent fourth-place effort on the same ground two starts back in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) when being beaten 3 1/4 lengths by leading older turf horse Gio Ponti.
Court Vision, who won the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) last November to end his 3-year-old campaign, has tried five grade I contests in 2009. His best finishes came in the Feb. 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and May 2 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, both third-place efforts. Last out, he was sixth in the July 4 United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park.
The last time Court Vision went one mile was in the third start of his career. A 2-year-old then, he won the Iroquois (gr. III) Oct. 28, 2007 on the Churchill main track.
Court Vision has been working steadily at Aqueduct since he underwent surgery July 23 at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center to remove what IEAH president Mike Iavarone called “a high-channeled testicle” that had been bothering the horse for a long time.
“We hesitated to do something about it,” Iavarone said. “When you’re dealing with a horse like Court Vision, you hesitate because of his value as a stallion, but we took him to the Ruffian hospital and Dr. Patti Hogan said it’s got to come out. It’s killing him. So, he’s a ridgling now.”
Carrying 120 pounds, Court Vision, the 4-5 morning-line choice, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
"We’re expecting him to run huge," Iavarone said. "This is going to tell us whether to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Mile (both grade I). We’re looking for big things.”
Despite being off his top form, Court Vision has a huge class edge over his opponents. In fact, none of the other four rivals entered have produced a blacktype win.
Let’s Go Stable’s Ready's Echo, who is cross-entered in the Oct. 3 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) but will go in the Kelso, has the best credentials to knock off the favorite. The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready comes out of a solid effort in the Forego (gr. I) in September on Saratoga’s main track when finishing third by a length. Prior to that, he was runner-up in Woodbine’s Seagram Cup (Can-III) on Polytrack.
Ready’s Echo (5-2), whose last win came April 18 in an allowance sprint at Keeneland, made his most recent start on turf in the 2008 Jamaica when he was third, beaten nearly six lengths by Court Vision. Julien Leparoux will ride for Todd Pletcher.
Also with a chance is Yorktown, who enters off an optional claiming victory on Monmouth Park’s turf course Aug. 27. Trained by Graham Motion, the 4-year-old Red Ransom colt made the first eight starts of his career in his native France while producing a pair of allowance wins.
“We had a few issues with him; we had a problem keeping his feet straight, which seems to be a problem with some European horses,” Motion said. “The last race, he won deceivingly; he did it rather handily. It gave us the confidence to go on to this level.”
The other two entrants will have to take large steps forward to reach the winner’s circle. Yield Bogey won an optional claiming event on Keeneland’s yielding turf course in May but has lost four straight; and Le Grand Cru in winless in four lifetime starts on the grass.
$250,000 Kelso Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 4, 2:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Le Grand Cru (KY), J Lezcano, 113, H A Jerkens
2. Court Vision (KY), R A Dominguez, 120, R E Dutrow, Jr.
3. Yorktown (FR), J Rose, 113, H G Motion
4. Ready's Echo (KY), J R Leparoux, 114, T A Pletcher
5. Yield Bogey (KY), J Samyn, 114, P J Kelly