John's Call, Jean-Luc Samyn up, wins the Gr. I Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

John's Call, Jean-Luc Samyn up, wins the Gr. I Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

Barbara D. Livingston

John's Call Concedes Five Years to Man O' War Rivals

Trillium Stable's 9-year-old gelding John's Call will take on seven 4-year-olds, including the filly Ela Athena, in Saturday's $500,000 Man O' War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. Jean Luc-Samyn, who rode John's Call to a 9 1/4-length victory in the Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) last month at Saratoga, will guide the Thomas Voss trainee from post position four.

Unigate Foodservice Lancashire Oaks (Eng-III) winner Ela Athena will be making her first North American start in the Man O' War. A week prior to her Lancashire Oaks win in July, she finished fourth in the Hunston Financial Planning Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-II), after having finished 19 lengths behind Blueprint –- who finished fifth in Monday's Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) -- when 10th in the Sagitta Jockey Club Stakes (Eng-II) in May. A 4-year-old daughter of Ezzoud, Ela Athena has three wins from nine career starts.

Man O' War starter Aly's Alley breezed three furlongs in :36.81 over Belmont's inner turf course Thursday morning. Aly's Alley led the field into the stretch of the Sword Dancer, but he was no match for the winner in the final stages.

On Wednesday, Fantastic Light and Drama Critic both worked on the main track. Drama Critic breezed four furlongs in :49.25; Fantastic Light went five furlongs in 1:00.89, handily. Fantastic Light and Bobby Frankel trainee Timboroa will race on Lasix for the first time Saturday.

The field for the 1 3/8-mile Man O' War, to be contested on the inner turf course, will consist of:

1 -- Fantastic Light, Jerry Bailey
2 -- Gritty Sandie, Edgar Prado
3 -- Drama Critic, John Velazquez
4 -- John's Call, Jean-Luc Samyn
5 -- Just Listen, Shane Sellers
6 -- Aly's Alley, Robbie Davis
7 -- Timboroa, Pat Day
8 -- Ela Athena, Mike Smith
All starters to carry 126 pounds, except Ela Athena, who will go to post under 123 pounds.

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