A field of nine 3-year-olds was entered for the King’s Bishop, which is the second of three grade I races on the 13-race Saratoga card and will be shown live on ESPN with coverage beginning live at 4:30 p.m. EDT. Post time for the King’s Bishop is slated for 5:10 p.m.
Harold Queen’s homebred Big Drama, expected to be among the pacesetters, drew post 9, which could change the game plan for trainer David Fawkes and jockey Eibar Coa. The son of Montbrook could sit off of the early speed now, unlike his run last out in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (gr. II) Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort when he opened up a big lead on the backstretch only to be caught in the final strides by Soul Warrior in a game neck defeat.
“He was pulling so much,” said Fawkes of Big Drama's West Virginia Derby front-running effort. "Coa said we were going to end up in a fight. It was really hot that day; maybe he didn’t like the heat. Seven-eighths of a mile is going to hit him right in the head.”
Big Drama, who was bred in Florida and is out of the Notebook mare Riveting Drama, has won six of 10 starts in his career, with four of them coming at sprint distances. Earlier this season at Gulfstream Park, the dark bay or brown colt crossed the wire first in the seven-furlong Swale (gr. II) only to be disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch. An earner of more than $1.2 million, his lone graded stakes victory came in the Boyd Gaming's Delta Jackpot (gr. III) at Delta Downs in December.
Todd Pletcher trainee Munnings is also eagerly cutting back to seven furlongs, the same distance he won both the Woody Stephens and Tom Fool (both gr. II) at Belmont Park this summer. The son of Speightstown stretched out to nine furlongs for the first time last out in the Aug. 2 Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park and set the pace for a six furlongs, but was easily overtaken by superstar filly Rachel Alexandra in a distant third-place finish.
Munnings, the 123-pound high weight, drew the inside post this time around and will likely be part of the early pace scenario under John Velazquez. Munnings, owned by Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, has produced a 3-2-2 record from eight starts.
"Obviously, you don’t have to do a whole lot,” Pletcher said. "It’s a matter of keeping him happy and sharpening him up. He ran well (in the Haskell); the filly was outstanding. He dug in and fought hard, and I was pleased with the effort.”
Munnings was defeated twice as a juvenile by Godolphin’s Vineyard Haven, who in 2008 was one of the most highly-touted 2-year-olds in the nation and now starts for the first time since February. Vineyard Haven won both the Hopeful (gr. I) and Champagne (gr. I) last season while being trained and co-owned by Bobby Frankel, then was sold privately to Godolphin for a reported $12 million.
Vineyard Haven was shipped to Dubai and moved into the barn of Saeed bin Suroor late last year, but never materialized as a Triple Crown contender after finishing fourth Feb. 12 in the Gulf News UAE Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-III) at Nad al Sheba. Though there was no reported injury, the Lido Palace colt was given time off for a second half campaign in the states.
"I’m happy with the way he’s coming into the race,” said Rick Mettee, North American racing manager for Godolphin and assistant to trainer bin Suroor. "In a perfect world, he would have run in the Amsterdam, and we would have had a race into him, but he wasn’t quite ready yet. He’s fit, and he’s going to run on a track that he likes."
Alan Garcia will have the mount on Vineyard Haven, who will be coupled with Darley’s Everyday Heroes. The Hirsch Jacobs (gr. III) winner in May at Pimlico, Everyday Heroes most recently ran fifth to Travers Stakes (gr. I) morning-line favorite Quality Road in the Aug. 3 Amsterdam (gr. II). Edgar Prado will ride for Kiaran McLaughlin.
Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can was also an early Triple Crown prospect after winning the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) in January at Gulfstream. A fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) prompted trainer Ian Wilkes to keep the Candy Ride gelding sprinting, and he responded with wins in the Bay Shore (gr. III) at Aqueduct and Matt Winn at Churchill Downs. Most recently, Capt. Candyman Can turned in a solid effort in the Amsterdam, finishing second by 2 1/4 lengths.
Capt. Candyman Can will break from post 2 under Javier Castellano.
Another horse entering the King’s Bishop in good form is Ted Julio’s Not For Silver. The son of Not For Love romped by 4 1/2 lengths in the July 11 Carry Back (gr. II) at Calder Race Course one race after finishing second behind Everyday Heroes in the Hirsch Jacobs. Jose Lezcano rides for Michael Trombetta.
$300,000 King's Bishop (gr. I, Race 11, 5:10 p.m.), 3YO, Seven Furlongs, (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Munnings (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher
2. Capt. Candyman Can (KY), J Castellano, 121, I R Wilkes
3. Not for Silver (MD), J Lezcano, 121, M J Trombetta
4. Vineyard Haven (FL), A Garcia, 121, S bin Suroor
5. Everyday Heroes (KY), E S Prado, 119, K P McLaughlin
6. Despite the Odds (KY), J Rose, 119, M J Trombetta
7. Prince Joshua (FL), R Maragh, 119, B R Rose
8. Flat Bold (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, K P McLaughlin
9. Big Drama (FL), E Coa, 119, D Fawkes