While leading Belmont Stakes (gr. I) contenders Funny Cide, Empire Maker and Dynever are getting most of the attention these days, it wasn't long ago that Sky Mesa, Vindication and Toccet were the darlings of the current 3-year-old class.Unfortunately, various types of injuries forced all three horses to the sidelines. There's reason to hope that the early favorites could be be back by late summer.Toccet, runner-up to Vindication in the two-year-old Eclipse Award voting, won six of eight races last year. He nailed his first of four graded stakes victories in Belmont's Champagne (gr. I) and followed that with victories in the Laurel Futurity (gr. III), Remsen (gr. II) and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). Toccet is the only horse in history to win four graded stakes at 1 1/16 miles or over during his 2-year-old season.Unfortunately, sore ankles and a bruised hoof got the best of Toccet earlier this winter. Owner Daniel Borislow and trainer John Scanlan opted to take the son of Awesome Again off the Triple Crown trail. "He's spent the last three months in Kentucky," Scanlan said on Thursday morning. "I spent three weeks with him there over the winter. He looks good. He's probably grown a hand and he's put on a good 150 pounds. The time off has done him a world of good. I'm actually flying out to see him tonight. I'll watch him gallop in the field tomorrow."Scanlan has not picked out a re-entry point for Toccet yet, but is hopeful he can have Toccet ready for the Travers in late August at Saratoga. "Everything would have to go 100 percent to make that race," Scanlan said. "He'll resume training with me sometime within the next few weeks. I'm going to take him to Colonial Downs. I really like their turf course and dirt track. I'll have about 15 horses there. He'll spend about six weeks there. Our main goal with him is the (Breeders' Cup) Classic."
John Oxley's Sky Mesa, a colt who won Saratoga's Hopeful (gr. I) last August, has not raced since taking Keeneland's Lane's End Futurity (gr. II) on Oct. 5. He wrenched an ankle while preparing for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and had similar misfortunes while stabled in Florida this winter. After bruising his hoof in early March, one of several setbacks he endured down south, Sky Mesa was removed from the Triple Crown trail by trainer John Ward.The good news is Sky Mesa is currently stabled at Belmont Park and according to Ward, "might be a couple of weeks away from a race." Sky Mesa was nominated to Belmont's $200,000 Riva Ridge (gr. II) at seven furlongs on June 7, although he is expected to bypass that heat.After going undefeated in four starts, Padua Stable's Vindication was deservedly named Juvenile Champion of 2002. He suffered a suspensory injury early on this year and has not raced since his near three-length win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Vindication has rejoined trainer Bob Baffert's operation out in California, but has yet to record a published workout. It remains to be seen whether Vindication will be ready to face the leaders of the 3-year-old division by the time that the Travers rolls around on Aug. 23.