Firecracker winner Thorn Song is the morning-line favorite in the Bernard Baruch Handicap.

Firecracker winner Thorn Song is the morning-line favorite in the Bernard Baruch Handicap.

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer

Thorn Song Headlines Bernard Baruch

Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song has competed well against some of the nation’s best turf horses this season – Einstein and Kip Deville to name a pair. That good company is the main reason the 5-year-old son of Unbridled's Song was installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite and should be a tough customer Saturday in the $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT)  at Saratoga.

The Bernard Baruch, a nine-furlong grass event, is race 9 on the Travers day card and is the second leg of the $1-million guaranteed Pick Four. The race, with an approximate post time of 4:38 p.m. EDT, will be shown live on ESPN.

Thorn Song got off to a slow start in 2008, losing his first four starts while only hitting the board in the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT) April 11 at Keeneland. In that race the Dale Romans trainee finished third, but only a length behind NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) winner Kip Deville. Einstein finished second.

After losing convincingly to Einstein in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Kentucky Derby day, Thorn Song turned the tables on his rival two starts later in the July 4 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) at Churchill, defeating Einstein by a length. It was his second career graded stakes victory.

Most recently, Thorn Song was third, but just 1 1/4 lengths back of Red Giant in the Aug. 3 Fourstardave (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. Like the Firecracker, it came over a yielding turf course. The Kentucky-bred horse won twice last season on the Saratoga grass.

“He has held his form for a long time,” said Romans, who has also entered stakes-placed closer Yate’s Black Cat. “It doesn’t matter what kind of turf he runs on, who rides him or what the pace is. He can do whatever you want him to do, and he has done it while facing some top horses like Kip Deville and Einstein.

“He has always run well at Saratoga, and our plan is to get a good race from him on Saturday, and then go to the Shadwell Turf Mile (Oct. 4, Keeneland), and then on to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Oct. 25, Santa Anita).”      

Thorn Song, who is out of the Storm Bird mare Festal, will be piloted by Julien Leparoux, giving him a different rider in each of his last seven starts.

Challenges could come in the form of European-bred horses Proudinsky and Shakis, and Distorted Reality, who finished just a nose behind Thorn Song in the Fourstardave.

Bred in Germany and owned by Gary Tanaka, Proudinsky has raced just twice in 2008. He opened the season with a victory in the grade II Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap March 8 at Fair Grounds and most recently was a well-beaten 11th in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) June 7 at Belmont. The 5-year-old son of Silvano and two-time graded stakes winner is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Irish-bred Shakis won the Bernard Baruch last year and did it in turf course record time (1:45.33). The 8-year-old son of Machiavellian has not been back to the winner’s circle in four tries since then. Most recently, he was ninth in the Manhattan. Kiaran McLaughlin trains for Shadwell Stable.

Centaur Farms’ Distorted Reality has been graded stakes-placed three times in his 15-start career, but has not been able to break through in six tries. He has one black-type victory in 2008, that coming two starts ago in the restricted Academy Award Stakes June 19 at Belmont. John Velazquez will ride for Todd Pletcher.

$200,000 Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT, Race 10, 4:38 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds and Up, Nine Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Drum Major (Ky), 115, Cornelio Velasquez
2. Thorn Song (Ky), 118, Julien Leparoux
3. Operation Red Dawn (Ky), 114, Ramon Dominguez
4. Elusive Fort (SAf), 114, Eibar Coa
5. Distorted Reality (Fl), 115, John Velazquez
6. Shakis (Ire), 115, Alan Garcia
7. Proudinsky (Ger), 118, Edgar Prado
8. Sensational Humor (Ky), 113, Rajiv Maragh
9. Yate's Black Cat (Ky), 115, Robby Albarado
10. War Monger (Fl), 115, Kent Desormeaux