by Karen M. Johnson
Any Given Saturday will be a heavy favorite when he runs against a small field in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 22.
Five entered the 1 1/8-mile, one-turn dirt race for 3-year-olds and up. Any Given Saturday, a 3-year-old, is the 118-pound highweight and concedes four to six pounds to his rivals. Garrett Gomez rides Any Given Saturday from post 2.
The others entered in the Brooklyn are Sightseeing, Awesome Twist, Helsinki, and Tasteyville.
Todd Pletcher, Any Given Saturday’s trainer, is using the $150,000 Brooklyn as a steppingstone to the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Any Given Saturday, a son of Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indy mare, Weekend in Indy, looked fabulous in his last two starts. On July 4, the colt was a convincing winner over Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Dwyer (gr. II) at Belmont. Any Given Saturday returned to win his next start in equally spectacular fashion in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth. He defeated runner-up Hard Spun by 4 1/2 lengths. Curlin, the Preakness winner, finished third. Hard Spun returned to win the King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga in his next start.
With a plethora of Breeders’ Cup preps to chose from, Pletcher settled on the Brooklyn for Any Given Saturday for a couple of reasons.
“I liked the spacing between races with five weeks (to the Breeders’ Cup),” Pletcher said Sept. 20. “Also, the one-turn race to a two-turn race, which he did when he won the Dwyer and the Haskell.”
Pletcher said he is “encouraged” that Any Given Saturday, who is owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Padua Stables, has won a race at this year’s Breeders’ Cup host track.
“Obviously, the field (in the Classic) will be different,” said Pletcher, who won the Brooklyn with Limehouse in 2005. “There will be different horses; better horses and older horses.”
Awesome Twist, second in last year’s Brooklyn, is not considered 100% to start, according to trainer John Kimmel.
Kimmel said Awesome Twist came back “a little tight” following a gallop Sept. 19, so he had blood drawn from the 5-year-old to check his enzyme levels. Kimmel said he would make his decision after seeing the results, which were expected late Sept. 20.
“Now this puts a question mark on top of everything else,” he said.
Kimmel wasn’t exactly straining at the bit to run in the Brooklyn, even before Awesome Twist exhibited tightness in his body after galloping. The horse is coming off two poor races at Saratoga – a last-place finish in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) and a fifth in the Forego Handicap (gr. I). Kimmel was mystified by those performances in light of the 5-year-old’s solid runner-up finish in the Tom Fool Breeders’ Cup (gr. II) at Belmont during the summer. When he ran in the Tom Fool, it marked Awesome Twist’s first race since Dec. 9.
“He ran a big race and went backwards in two starts since,” Kimmel said.
Sightseeing was beaten nine lengths while finishing third to Any Given Saturday in the Dwyer. Since then, Sightseeing had the misfortune of running against Street Sense in both the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers (gr. I). In the Jim Dandy, Sightseeing finished with good energy to be third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths. In the Travers, he didn’t exhibit that same late kick and finished fourth, beaten 11 lengths by Street Sense.
A positive for Sightseeing is that he returns to his favorite track, where his two career wins have come: the Peter Pan (gr. II) in May and a maiden race last year.
Nick Zito, who won the Brooklyn last year with Wanderin Boy, sends out Helsinki, who was third in the Travers.
Tasteyville has been a solid allowance runner for Pat Kelly but doesn’t possess the stakes credentials of his Brooklyn rivals.
Traditionally run during the summer, the Brooklyn was moved to the fall schedule last year. The race marks its 119th running this year and has been won by countless luminaries, including Whirlaway, Stymie, Assault, Tom Fool, Kelso, Buckpasser and the mighty Forego, who won three consecutive runnings (1974-76).