Freshened Speightstown Ready for Vanderbilt

(from Saratoga report)
Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Speightstown, who has managed to avoid the sort of injuries this year that have plagued him during his career, is the horse to beat in the $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs Saturday at Saratoga.

The 6-year-old Speightstown missed 21 months of racing earlier in his career due to injuries. When the Todd Pletcher trainee returned in 2003, all he could manage was two starts before going to the shelf.

Things have gone well for the son of Gone West recently. He is undefeated in three starts this year and deserves to be listed among the best sprinters in the country.

Pletcher was going to send Speightstown to California early last month for a run in the Triple Bend (gr. I). He decided it would be best to give Speightstown a little break and point for the Vanderbilt instead.

"He's a horse that runs well fresh," Pletcher said. "I felt like we were better suited to give him some more time. He's supposed to be on a program that will get him to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. We felt like that little bit of a break there would set us up better for that than shipping to California and back."

Speightstown has claimed victories in the Artax, Churchill Downs Handicap and True North Breeders' Cup Handicap this year. His True North effort, in which he won by a length and a half in 1:08, was his most impressive, according to Pletcher.

"Basically, he was the first one out of the gate and then was inside of Cat Genius," Pletcher recalled. "They were flying early, he actually eased back, went outside of Cat Genius and came on again. You don't see horses making multiple moves in sprint races very often. To me, that was an impressive performance."

Overbrook Farm's Clock Stopper lost a photo to Champali in the Smile Sprint at Calder last month. The 4-year-old gelding ran very well in a pair of Spa starts last summer, finishing a close second to Ghostzapper and then taking a second-level allowance by 6 ¼ lengths.

"We were unlucky to get beat," trainer Dallas Stewart said of the Smile Sprint finish. "We were just a nose away. We didn't have any trouble. Another jump and we might have won. We got beat by a solid horse in Champali. It's not like we got beat by a bum."

Clock Stopper likes to rally from off the pace so his trainer and jockey Robby Albarado will be hoping someone can go to the lead with Speightstown.

"Mike's Classic rips it," Stewart said. "He could keep Speightstown honest."

Richard Englander's My Cousin Matt was only a couple of necks behind Clock Stopper in the Smile. While the 5-year-old gelding looked good in his first race back this year, he has not won a stakes since taking the General George in February 2003.

Gators N Bears, owned and trained by Leo Nechamkin, beat My Cousin Matt by 6 ¾ lengths in his last start, the June 19 J.B. Moseley. Prior to that victory at Suffolk Downs, he won the Maryland Breeders' Cup on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

$200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II, 4:15 ET), 3 & up, 6 furlongs
1. Clock Stopper, Dallas Stewart, Robby Albarado, 115
2. Speightstown, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 120
3. Mike's Classic, H. Allen Jerkens, Ray Ganpath, 113
4. My Cousin Matt, Scott Lake, Ramon Dominguez, 114
5. Gators N Bears, Leo Nechamkin, C.C. Lopez, 118
6. Gold Dollar, Manny Azpurua, Cornelio Velasquez, 112