Henny Hughes returns to Saratoga Saturday as the horse to beat among the 11 entered in the seven-furlong King's Bishop (gr. I) for 3-year-olds. The $250,000 King's Bishop will be televised live on ESPN in a two-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. It is also the penultimate leg in a $1 million guaranteed Pick 4.
The King's Bishop, won by eventual sprint champion Lost in the Fog last summer, has been the long range goal for Henny Hughes ever since his connections - Zabeel Racing International - decided to bypass the Triple Crown trail. Skipping the road to the Kentucky Derby seems like the right call for Henny Hughes, given his speed-oriented pedigree - he is by Hennessy, the 1995 Hopeful champion - and his strong sprinting efforts in last year's Tremont, Saratoga Special (gr. II), and Hopeful (gr. II)."His owner has let us do what he need to do with the horse and that's great," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who took over Henny Hughes' training weeks before the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park last fall. "Believe me, this is a special horse, and it's quite a privilege to have a horse like him in the barn."We're here to win a grade I, and the horse deserves a grade I." After he capped a promising 2-year-old campaign with seconds in both the Champagne (gr. I) and Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Henny Hughes traveled to Dubai for the winter. Since returning to the United States, he has raced just once, producing a powerful 10-length score over three rivals in Monmouth Park's six-furlong Jersey Shore (gr. III) Breeders' Cup July 1. "He ran so well, but we actually thought he might need the race," McLaughlin said. "I've been happy with his training since the Jersey Shore. He's so easy to train because he's so good."Henny Hughes is going to be close to the King's Bishop pace, which should be pretty hot considering it's an 11-horse field of good sprinters. Songster is one of the better 3-year-old sprinters in the nation after winning the Hirsch Jacobs (gr. III) and Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (gr. II) earlier this year. By Songandaprayer, Songster is looking to make amends after running second to Court Folly as the 1-9 favorite in the July 31 Amsterdam (gr. II).
"Henny who?" joked Songster's trainer Tom Albertrani, when asked about meeting Henny Hughes in the King's Bishop. "Obviously, he's the horse to beat, but it's going to be a good race. He's got a lot of speed, and we've got a lot of speed. We'll see how the race sets up. Our horse can handle seven furlongs and, between the two, it should be pretty memorable."Mach Ride has been a huge surprise for Calder-based trainer Steve Standridge. A colt by Pentelicus, he began his career in a $45,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park. Since then, he has tasted defeat just once, a narrow second-place finish behind Too Much Bling in the Carry Back (gr. I)."To be honest, he did not show a lot early on this year, and that's why he was in for a tag," Standridge said. "There's no question that I did not expect him to develop into this horse he is today."Court Folly pulled off a big upset over Songster and two others in the aforementioned Amsterdam and goes for his second stakes win of the summer here. Trained by Ian Wilkes, who has won four races from only nine starters at the meet, Court Folly is a son of Royal Academy.$250,000 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:50 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Quietly Go (KY), 117, Eibar Coa
2. Henny Hughes (KY), 121, John Velazquez
3. Master of Disaster (FL), 119, Ramon Dominguez
4. Court Folly (KY), 121, Calvin Borel
5. Star Dabbler (FL), 117, Rafael Bejarano
6. Songster (FL), 121, Edgar Prado
7. Laptop Computer (FL), 117, Garrett Gomez
8. Lewis Michael (KY), 119, Rene Douglas
9. Garibaldi (KY), 119, Fernando Jara
10. Mach Ride (FL), 119, Javier Castellano
11. El Nino (KY), 117, Cornelio H. Velasquez