Saratoga Notebook: Pletcher's Travers Strategy; Samyn Sidelined; Lukas' New Wheels; Congrats for Shug?

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack
Todd Pletcher may have been the only potential Travers trainer disappointed with the news that Empire Maker might not run.

As the trainer of front-running Strong Hope, who beat Empire Maker in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), Pletcher knows that the presence of Peace Rules means unwanted company on the lead.

Should Funny Cide also opt in if Empire Maker declares, he would also be a presence up front.

"I would say it's certainly setting up to be a faster half-mile than it would have been without Peace Rules," Pletcher said. "He's an awfully nice horse. Whether he's as good as Empire Maker, I don't know, but his natural running style is very similar to Strong Hope and that changes the complexion of the race a lot for us. The faster the fractions, the tougher it is to go a mile and a quarter, so it's probably going to set up more favorably for someone to come from just off of it. The question is, who's going to be able to do that."

Strong Hope, has won five straight races at increasing distances, including the Jim Dandy and the Dwyer (gr. II).

"The thing that I think should impress everybody is the horse loves to win," Pletcher said. "He's done very little wrong his whole career. The only thing he's done that surprised me is not win first time out. Since then, he's gotten better and better. Those kinds of horses are dangerous.

Lukas' New Wheels
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had people pointing and laughing out loud on the Oklahoma backstretch Thursday morning as he rolled by on his new yellow Vespa motorscooter.

Lukas purchased the vehicle for $7,900 Wednesday night at an auction to benefit Anna House, the backstretch workers' childcare center at Belmont Park.

"You can buy it on the street for $2,500, I think," Lukas said, grinning. "I got carried away. I just bought it to help them out."

Lukas, color-coordinated in a yellow dress shirt, said he wasn't sure if liked riding the scooter, but he was clearly having fun giving it a test drive. He said he might use it run around the sales at Keeneland or maybe at Churchill Downs.

Lukas said he didn't think the scooter was running very well.

"I don't know if I know how to run it, though," he said. "I think I'm in low gear and I don't know how to get it into high. It's automatic.

"There's no manual. They just dropped it off with the key and I wrote them a check."

Samyn Sidelined
What was initially thought to be bumps and bruises from a fall in Wednesday's seventh race turned out to be a more serious injury for jockey Jean-Luc Samyn.

The 46-year-old rider is scheduled to have surgery on Friday for a cracked femur, the result of landing directly on his knee when his mount, Vinthea, appeared to take a bad step turning for home.

Samyn was put on a waiting ambulance by stretcher and taken to the track's first-aid station where his agent, Robin Carroll, said shortly after the incident that he only appeared to have bruised his knee and suffered a cut on his nose. The fracture was discovered during an exam at Saratoga Hospital.

"Maybe she clippped the heel of the inside horse, but she stumbled and it was hard for Jean-Luc to stay on," Carroll said. "He felt he had a lot of horse under him, and he was just trying to get through and find the winner's circle. Thank goodness it's not any worse."

Samyn left at 11:30 a.m. Thursday for Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery, to be closer to his home. It is the same hospital where jockeys like Rich Migliore, Julie Krone and Joe Bravo have been successfully treated.

Samyn was replaced on his six Thursday mounts. His absence means Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens must find a new rider for Shine Again, who is trying to become the first three-time winner of Sunday's Ballerina (gr. I).

Congrats in Store for Shug?
Trainer Shug McGaughey turned more than a few heads when he entered Congrats in Saturday's Travers (gr. I), not 48 hours after saying he wasn't going in the race.

Thursday morning, amid growing rumors that a sick Empire Maker might be scratched from the race, McGaughey was firm about his colt's appearance. "He's gonna run," he said. "Basically, we put $5,000 up to see if the rumors are true or not. Obviously, there is some truth to it. I figured when he entered Peace Rules, he was in pretty desperate shape. We know there's a glitch in the armor. My horse is doing great. I don't own the horse, but I'm going to say that I will run, anyway. If all that hadn't come up, we wouldn't have been in the entries. He would have been in an allowance race next weekend."

As for the disappearing hype regarding a possible Empire Maker-Funny Cide rematch, McGaughey said the initial buildup was premature.

"The publicity that this was going to be the greatest Travers that ever was and those two horses still had races to run, I thought it was ridiculous," he said. "As we all know, chances are that scenario isn't going to happen, that both of them are going to win and both of them are going to get to the Travers in good order. How many times does that happen? Everybody's running around saying it's gonna' be the greatest Travers. Now, you might look up and there won't be either one of them in it."

Carroll Has High Hopes for Tap the Admiral
Firecracker handicap winner Tap the Admiral is entered in the Fourstardave (gr. II) and trainer Del Carroll II is hoping that he'll channel his energy in the right direction.

With a wide move, Tap the Admiral was attempting to get into contention on the final turn of the Bernard Baruch (gr. II) when he banged into Rouvres, ridden by Corey Nakatani. Rouvres went on to finish second to Trademark, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Tap the Admiral ended up fourth, about 6 1/2 lengths behind Trademark.

"They bump each other a few times and that's what my colt wants to do anyway," Carroll said. "He is a colt. He wants to lay on horses. It certainly didn't cost him the win, McLaughlin's horse just ran away and won, but it lost him his forward thought, his forward momentum, his concentration. I don't think the physical bumping cost him anything, but he's a little studdish and little coltish and he wants to bump with horses. Here he got a perfect opportunity to do it. It just took away maybe a little bit of his forward focus. He lost that aggressive forward movement he had at the quarter pole."

Lissau Update
Had the weather cooperated with getting her 2-year-olds started earlier in the meet, trainer Linda Rice might well have pointed Lissau to the Hopeful (gr. I) on Aug. 30.

Instead, she brings the Honour and Glory colt back in Friday's fifth race, just 10 days after his impressive maiden victory, running five furlongs in :57 2/5 and beating a solid field of seven by 8 3/4 lengths.

Ridden again by Jose Santos, Lissau will face five others in the $47,000 allowance, his first try at six furlongs.

"I was pretty impressed with him having beat what appeared on paper to be a pretty strong field going five furlongs," Rice said. "I didn't care to take a horse from two five-furlong races to seven-eighths or a mile. I'd like to get an allowance in him and maybe we could make the Futurity" (gr. I) Sept. 14 at Belmont Park.

Rice said she feels that Lissau, owned by William Warren, has a bright future.

"I do. I'm even more enthusiastic because of Jose's enthusiasm," she said. "Jose said he needed assistance from the outrider to pull him up after the race. He was convinced the horse would get a distance and that sprinting wasn't going to be his only option."