Saratoga's Opening Day Stable Notes

(from Saratoga stable notes)
At his first Saratoga meet as racing secretary, 30-year-old P.J. Campo has made one significant change in the condition book by adding turf sprints.

"They run them everywhere else, and there they have good size fields and very competitive races," Campo said. "So, now we are going to give it a shot."

The sprint races will be run at 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon Turf Course. The first race of this kind will be run Aug. 7 for older fillies and mares running for a $35,000 claiming price.

"It's a different type of race, and it's good for everyone," Campo said. "It's good for betting and the fans. It's something different to throw at them."

Campo previously worked as assistant to racing secretary Mike Lakow.

"I don't know why they didn't run it in the past; maybe it was tradition, but I think that most trainers like the changes too," said Campo, whose father, retired trainer John Campo, trained 1981 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Pleasant Colony.

Campo said he does not believe the extra racing will have an adverse effect on the condition of the turf course.

"We are hoping to draw some shippers for races like these," said Campo.

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With a stable of 20 horses at Saratoga, trainer Barclay Tagg is looking to have a successful Saratoga meet. But he knows the true measure of success will be in the performances of Funny Cide.

Funny Cide, who is coming off some lackluster starts, is possibly aiming towards a race in late August at the Saratoga meet.

"He could run at the end of the meet if we find something for him," said Tagg of his New York-bred gelding who won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). "He would probably just run in an allowance race so everyone could see him race at Saratoga."

Tagg has given Funny Cide some time off after his last few races and has just recently started him back up again. A concern for Tagg is the hot summer heat. Funny Cide is known not to run as well in the hot weather, and it may complicate his training and racing routine.

As for Funny Cide's last few races Tagg is not worried. "He had some minor problems there, and I think we got them all straightened out," Tagg said. "And they were hot days, and he just does not run well in the hot weather. He never has."

But Tagg has other business as well.

"I think we are going to have a big meet," Tagg said. "We have some young stock that hasn't started yet that looks good. We have Gone West colt we really like and nice filly that we just worked on the turf, so we like a couple of them. We are excited about the prospects to say the least."

* * *

Artie Schiller, one of the nation's top turf horses, continued preparations for Monday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) at nine furlongs on the turf. Tuesday morning, Artie Schiller breezed five furlongs in 1:01 beneath jockey Richard Migliore.

Although Migliore rode Artie Schiller to four graded stakes victories in 2004 – including a win here in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (gr. IIT) – jockey Edgar Prado has ridden Artie Schiller in his three starts this season. Artie Schiller is 1-for-3 with Prado. He last ran third to Good Reward and Relaxed Gesture in the Manhattan (gr. IT) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"It was great," Migliore said of the workout. "When you wake up and get on horses like him, it just makes your day. He's a Cadillac. I'm excited to get back on a horse like him. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be real good."

And as for being back in good old Saratoga Springs?

"You feel like a kid again," said Migliore, 41. "This is the best time of year."

* * *

One of the new faces on the Saratoga backstretch this season is Rick Mettee, who became the North American racing operations manager for Godolphin Racing in February. The 47-year-old grew up near Timonium, Md., and comes to Saratoga with eight horses after a respectable debut at Belmont Park's spring/summer meet, winning three races in eight starts.

"We had a couple of good winners at Belmont," Mettee said. "Right now, we have eight horses stabled here, and there will be two more shipping in from Europe later in the meet."

One of Mettee's winners, Keep the Faith, who had won four of eight races in Australia before making his United States debut in the allowance race on closing day at Belmont, established a North American turf course record for six furlongs of 1:06.83. Godolphin and Mettee are considering the $250,000 Forego Handicap (gr. I) for older sprinters at seven furlongs on Sept. 3.

"That wasn't an easy race for him to win," Mettee said about the allowance race where he defeated stakes-placed Gulch's Approval. "We have been talking about trying him on the dirt. He's bred by Sunday Silence; therefore, I believe he should handle the dirt. It's going to be interesting to see how he handles the dirt and classic, if we go in that direction."

According to Mettee, Godolphin is planning to send Grand Emporium – the winner of the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) – for the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) for older horses on the turf at 1 1/16 miles as part of the Travers Day undercard on Aug. 27.

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Trainer Patrick Biancone sent two of his marquee horses on the Saratoga main track Wednesday morning. Sense of Style is being pointed for the $250,000 Test Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs Aug. 6. Angara is on cue for the Saturday's $500,000 Diana Handicap (gr. IT) for older fillies and mares on the turf at nine furlongs. Sense of Style breezed five furlongs in 1:02 1/5, while Angara put in a four-furlong breeze over the hard Saratoga turf course in :47.

"I'm really pleased with the way both horses worked this morning," Biancone said. "Hopefully, they will be able to carry that into the race."

Sense of Style won her first three races – her debut and the Spinaway (gr. II) at Saratoga and the Matron (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Since recovering from a broken ankle and the removal of bone chips, Sense of Style was second in the Revere Stakes at Monmouth Park and third in her most-recent start -- the Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont. Angara is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Manhattan (gr. IT) and a second-place finish in the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT), both at Belmont.

Although last year's Man o' War winner Magistretti has been nominated for Monday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT), Biancone suggested the 5-year-old, who has not raced since finishing fourth in the 2004 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), may not return until early September.

Also back to training is Virgina Kraft Payson's Scipion, who suffered a broken right-hind leg. Scipion made an impression in winning his debut with a last-to-first rally in the final furlong here at Saratoga last year. Earlier this year, Scipion was considered a Kentucky Derby candidate after winning the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) at Louisiana Downs.

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Today's second race honored former jockey and long-time Saratoga resident, Tommy Luther. Helen Luther, the 97-year-old widow of the former jockey - they were married for 72 years -- presented the trophy to the connections of the winning horse, Stronach Stable's Aristocrat, trained by Bobby Frankel and ridden by Javier Castellano.

Luther, who later trained Thoroughbreds, was instrumental in founding the Jockeys' Guild. He was banned from racing in the late 1930s for trying to start a jockey's union.

Luther was a source in author Laura Hillenbrand's best seller "Seabiscuit."

Years after his retirement from racing, Luther was honored by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, then president of the Guild. Bailey presented Luther with a special Founders Pin in recognition of "the injustices and personal sacrifices Tommy and Helen endured in their attempt to unite local jockeys to better riding conditions."

* * *

The Saratoga jockey colony will be the strongest in years this season. Newcomers include Rafael Bejarano, Eibar Coa, Ramon Dominguez, and Gary Stevens. Spa regulars include defending Saratoga champ John Velazquez, Edgar Prado, leading rider at Belmont Park's Spring/Summer meet, Hall of Famers Jerry Bailey (Saratoga's all time leading rider) and Pat Day, Javier Castellano, Jose Santos, Richard Migliore, Robby Albarado, and Cornelio Velasquez,

Dominguez rode part time here last year, amassing a solid 13-for-50 mark, tying him for eighth in the standings. Bejarano took just seven mounts in 2004, winning once.

Coa and Stevens did not ride here at all last year, but Coa is coming off an excellent Belmont meet in which he won 58 races and was second in the standings.

Stevens, a Hall of Famer, has never ridden full-time at the Spa and is looking forward to spending the meet.

"I'm very excited to be here," Stevens said. "I've actually been up here for 10 days, taking some time off. I rode in Chicago last weekend to get ready for Saratoga. Having ridden in Kentucky, my business and most of my main people are here."

* * *

Trainer John Ward Jr. has been in New York for almost a week now, arriving in town Thursday. He saddled the previously undefeated For All We Know in last Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont to a distant fourth-place finish.

"I knew she would get a little tired running on her left lead because she never got a chance to train over that track," Ward said. "I think she'll be a lot better for the Alabama (gr. I)." The $750,000 fixture for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles is Aug. 20.

Ward said he is optimistic about a number of 2-year-olds, including Dr. Pleasure, the first foal from Beautiful Pleasure, the six-time grade I winner that he trained.

"He is a colt by Thunder Gulch and he'll probably run here later in the meet," Ward said. "I also have a half-brother to Maria's Mon by Unbridled's Song."

The sibling to Maria's Mon is named Intensifier. "We're in phase three of our program," Ward said, referring to homebreds from owner John Oxley. "We have offspring of Monarchos, Darling My Darling, Snow Dance and Sky Mesa , whose babies look excellent."

* * *

Most horsemen look forward to Saratoga as a place to showcase their best equines. Trainer Del Carroll anticipated the beginning of the meet as a much-needed change of scenery. Things did not go well for Carroll at the Belmont spring meet, and he is hoping the Spa will be his tonic.

Carroll's barn was mired in a meet-long slump at Belmont. He registered his first and only win of the meet last Saturday with Waytotheleft.

The slump was just the tip of the iceberg for Carroll, who did not have things go his way this spring and early summer. Carroll is now sporting a bandage around his right pinky as a result of a fracture suffered during training hours at Belmont.

"I was wheeling the feed cart, and she kicked me from behind," Carroll said, saying that the culprit was an unraced A.P. Jet filly. "My finger got caught in between the handle and her foot. They had to put three pins in there, and I wasn't happy about that at first, but then I thought about all the jockeys that get big rods put in their legs and arms and said, 'I can handle this.'"

Within just three days of his injury, Carroll's Garden City home was invaded while Carroll and his wife, Robin, were sleeping. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but cash, cell phones, and Carroll's truck were stolen. Thanks to the Lo-Jack anti-theft system, Carroll's truck was recovered.

"It's pretty scary to think about," said Carroll, who didn't hear anything because of air conditioners drowning out noise. "It could have been a lot worse."

As far as the horses in his stable are concerned, Carroll has made a couple changes for the Saratoga meet.

"We weeded out some of the ones that couldn't hack it in New York," Carroll said. "Six of them got one-way tickets to Philadelphia Park and one went to Suffolk. We brought in some horses that we had been freshening up and some 2-year-olds."

Carroll, 52, left a small string of four horses at Belmont. He finished out the Belmont meet 1-for-41.

* * *

Lady Tak, winner of last year's Ballerina (gr. IT), breezed a half-mile in :49 4/5 over the Oklahoma training track Wednesday morning. The 5-year-old mare has run only once this year, finishing third in a Churchill Downs allowance June 5.

"She's coming along nicely," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "We gave her a little break after the Churchill race. She's always done well at Saratoga, so we're trying to have her ready for the Ballerina."

This year's $250,000 Ballerina (gr. I) at seven furlongs will be run Aug. 28.

Blasi said that he would not use the $150,000 Honorable Miss (gr. II) at six furlongs Aug. 5 as a prep for Lady Tak. Instead, he said Forest Music and Souris will be pointed for the Honorable Miss.

Forest Music, recently transferred to the Asmussen stable from Mark Shuman and owner by Michael Gill. Stonestreet Stables now own the speedy 4-year-old filly.