by Karen M. Johnson
If there is the feeling of déjà vu when you peruse the Oct. 6 entries at Belmont Park and come across a Barclay Tagg-trained runner who has solid dirt and turf form and who is running in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT), that’s because the same situation occurred last year.
Tagg saddled Showing Up, who began his career on the dirt, to win last year’s Jamaica, a turf race for 3-year-olds. For this edition of the Jamaica, Tagg will tighten the girth on this year’s Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner, Nobiz Like Shobiz.
Had it not been for the fact Nobiz Like Shobiz ran down on the dirt—when the area around the ankles becomes irritated because of contact with the racing surface—he might still be competing on that surface. In addition to winning the Wood Memorial, other dirt races won by Nobiz Like Shobiz were the Remsen (gr. II) and Holy Bull (gr. III). After finishing second to Any Given Saturday in the July 4 Dwyer (gr. II) at Belmont, Tagg switched the son of Albert the Great to the turf.
Nobiz Like Shobiz, bred and owned by Elizabeth Valando, took immediately to the grass and won the Hall of Fame (gr. IIT) at Saratoga and the Sept. 1 Kent Breeders’ Cup (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park. Both those races were run at the Jamaica distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Robin Smullen, Tagg’s assistant, said “the deciding factor” to run Nobiz Like Shobiz on the turf was when he ran down on the dirt. In comparison with his other turf starts, the competition is far more steep for Nobiz Like Shobiz in the $300,000 Jamaica.
“This is not an easy spot,” said Smullen, who noted the plan after the Jamaica is to point to the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT). Last year, Showing Up won the Hollywood Derby after his Jamaica score.
Nobiz Like Shobiz is the 121-pound co-highweight with Shamdinan and Red Giant. Javier Castellano rides Nobiz Like Shobiz from post two.
Red Giant was caught in the stretch by Shamdinan in the Aug. 11 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park. Shamdinan was a half-length winner over Red Giant, who had won his previous three starts, including the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT).
Todd Pletcher, Red Giant’s trainer, said the three weeks between the Virginia Derby and Secretariat might have revealed itself at the finish of the Secretariat.
“It was fairly quickly back after the Virginia race,” Pletcher said. “He ran very well in the Secretariat, but it would have been nice to have had more time between races and that might have hurt his chances. (The Jamaica) appears to be a very competitive race with a quality field; I think it will come down to who gets the best trip.”
Pletcher said he isn’t focused on the Breeders’ Cup for Red Giant, but rather the Hollywood Derby.
Shamdinan, on the other hand, already has a berth secured to the $3-million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27 by virtue of his win in the Secretariat, a “Win and You’re in”-designated race.
Since winning the Secretariat, Shamdinan ran in the Man o’War (gr. IT) at Belmont against older horses and finished fifth. Following the Man o’War, owner Triple B Farms turned the colt over to trainer Angel Penna Jr. He previously had been trained by Doug O’Neill in California.
The Bill Mott-trained War Monger has no stakes credentials, but the colt appears to have a stakes future following two very handy turf scores. Adagio, a group winner in Europe, makes his American debut. Ambassador, Pays to Dream, Blazing Dynamo, and Senor Enrico complete the field.