Swagger Stick Has Motion's Faith in Stars and Stripes

(from Arlington Park report)
Swagger Stick, nominated to the Arlington Million (gr. IT) next month by trainer Graham Motion, gets the opportunity to prove himself on the Chicago-area track's turf course in Sunday's $200,000 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 12 furlongs.

Motion will have the eyes of international racing fans focused on him at Monmouth Park Saturday when he saddles John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) champion Better Talk Now, owned by Bushwood Stable, in the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) on the Jersey Shore.

But he also has nominated Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr.'s 4-year-old gelding Swagger Stick to the Million on Aug. 13.

"I don't like to get too far ahead of myself," said Motion when asked about long range plans for the centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season. "I like to take each race as it comes up, but I've pretty much decided that a mile and a half is Swagger Stick's best distance. Obviously, at least for Better Talk Now, the Million remains on the radar screen."

Swagger Stick is 10-1 in the morning line in a field of eight entered Friday and needs a top effort with Ramon Dominguez in the saddle. The 9-5 early choice is the 9-year-old gelding Rochester, who is trained by Jonathan Sheppard. Rochester is coming off a second-place finish in the Louisville Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.

Two others, the 117-pound high weight Epicentre, trained by Bobby Frankel, and the Christophe Clement-conditioned Revved Up, are both listed at 5-2.

Swagger Stick is coming off a fifth-place finish in an allowance race at Belmont Park May 27.

"I tend to throw out that last race," said Motion. "Maybe cutting him back to a mile and a quarter was what caused his poor showing, but this horse ran a couple of big races in Florida this winter, and I think he could return to that form at Arlington.

"The fact that I could get Ramon (jockey Dominguez) to ride him in Chicago was a big part of our decision to send him for the Stars and Stripes," said Motion.

Swagger Stick is by the top grass sire Cozzene, winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in 1985, and is out of an Affirmed mare, underlining turf breeding on the bottom side of his pedigree. He finished a close fifth in Gulfstream's Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT) Jan. 30 despite having to steady early under European-based jockey Kieren Fallon.

When he came back to run in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT), again at a mile and three-eighths, he finished seventh, but was only beaten a length for the win.

"That was an incredible finish," said Motion of Gulfstream's top turf graded grass test. "In fact, both those Gulfstream races were very good efforts. I didn't start him in the Pan American Handicap down there (at a mile and a half), because I didn't think it was fair to ask him to do that so soon after running him in a grade I race."

Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Swagger Stick (KY), Ramon A. Dominguez, 115, 10/1
2. Cloudy's Knight (KY), Christopher A. Emigh, 115, 6/1
3. Gwaihir (IRE), Jesse M. Campbell, 113, 20/1
4. Rochester (PA), Shaun Bridgmohan, 116, 9/5
5. Epicentre (KY), Calvin H. Borel, 117, 5/2
6. Revved Up (FL), Brice Blanc, 114, 5/2
7. Gottabeachboy (IN), Greta Kuntzweiler, 112, 30/1
8. Art Variety (BRZ), James Graham, 113, 12/1