Afrashad, unbeaten but untested against stakes company, faces a stern test Saturday at Saratoga in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup (gr. II). Five battle-tested foes await in the $200,000 race, but jockey Richard Migliore is confident in Godolphin Racing's 4-year-old colt.
The Vanderbilt, which will be shown live on ABC during a program that starts at 4 p.m. EDT, is part of the NTRA Pick 4. The other three races are the Sword Dancer (gr. IT), also from Saratoga, and the Beverly D. and Arlington Million (both gr. IT) from Arlington Park.
"It's a big step up, but ability-wise, he belongs...it's just if he does things the right way. Raw-talent-wise, he's as fast as anybody," Migliore said between races Thursday.
Afrashad, a son of Smoke Glacken
, is unbeaten in three starts. Following a maiden win over the all-weather surface at Lingfield in England in July of 2004, the colt made an auspicious debut in the states this June on the Belmont Stakes undercard with a scintillating 4 ¾-length win over allowance company, getting six furlongs in 1:08.38.
"The encouraging part in that race was he walked out of the gate and once he got to the front, he didn't continue to run away," Migliore said. "He got reasonable. He'll run as fast as he has to. If they back off him enough to where he can get a little bit comfortable, he can take these kind of horses. Comfortable for him is going to have to be very fast--:44 and change."
Afrashad followed that with a four-length allowance score at Monmouth July 4, getting six furlongs in 1:09.01.
Afrashad is owned Godolphin Racing and is trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Out of the Whitesburg mare Flo White, Afrashad was bred in Texas by Fred Mehew. A $15,500 Keeneland September sale purchase, Afrashad sold as a 2-year-old in 2004 for $500,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale.
The jump to stakes company figures to be tough, considering the competition.
Mass Media, Bishop Court Hill, and Judiths Wild Rush figure to be heavy hitters.
Gary and Mary West's Mass Media, trained by Bobby Frankel,won the seven-furlong Forego Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga last season. In two starts this year, the son of Touch Gold
ran fourth in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) and third behind Silver Train and Sun King in the Met Mile (gr. I).
The winner of the Carter was Bishop Court Hill, Melnyk Racing Stables' son of Holy Bull
. The Todd Pletcher-trained horse is coming in off a trip to Prairie Meadows and a second-place effort in the Iowa Sprint Handicap.
Tenenbaum Racing Stables' Judiths Wild Rush is based in Canada with trainer Reade Baker. The son of Wild Rush was named champion sprinter in Canada last year and has three wins to his credit so far this season.
Joseph Allen's homebred War Front, trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, is riding a three-race streak of second-place finishes, including a neck loss last time to Silver Train in the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park July 16. By Danzig, War Front is out of the stakes-winning Rubiano mare Starry Dreamer and is a half-brother to 2006 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) winner Teammate (by A.P. Indy
).Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup (gr. II), $200,000, six furlongs, 3-year-olds and up, Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, Aug. 12, approx. post 4:16 EDT
PP – Horse – Jockey
1 – Judiths Wild Rush – Kent Desormeaux
2 – Mass Media – Javier Castellano
3 – Afrashad – Richard Migliore
4 – Thunder Touch – Fernando Jara
5 – War Front – Jose Santos
6 – Bishop Court Hill – Rafael Bejarano