Ascend takes the grade 1 Manhattan Stakes June 10 at Belmont

Ascend takes the grade 1 Manhattan Stakes June 10 at Belmont

Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

Ascend, Bigger Picture to Clash in Bowling Green

Two upstart turf horses enter off grade 1 victories as longshots.

In his graded stakes debut, Ascend reached racing's heights. Now the 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride  will try for consistency at the graded level when he faces six other older horses in the $250,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2T) July 29 at Saratoga Race Course.

After he closed out last season with an allowance victory at Keeneland and opened this year with a stakes win at Laurel Park, trainer Graham Motion made an aggressive move to enter Ascend in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (G1T). Stone Farm and Madaket Stables' Ascend proved up to the challenge and drew clear late to win the top-level 1 1/4-mile test June 10 on the inner turf at Belmont Park.

ANGST: Ascend Shocks Manhattan Rivals in Graded Stakes Debut

Ascend has handled himself well in the mornings and will have a chance to extend his win streak to four races when he tries his second graded stakes in the Bowling Green, a 1 3/8-mile test on the inner turf at Saratoga.

"He's done well since the Manhattan and he's a very nice horse to be around," Motion said. "He's very kind and (easy) to gallop. I hope I've given him enough time to recover from that race."

Ascend has raced at Saratoga four times. He finished second in a 2015 maiden race in his second start there, then won an allowance race last year. Both of those starts were on the Mellon Turf Course. He also started on the inner turf last year, when he rallied from 10th to finish fourth, just a length behind winner Macagone, in a second allowance start last year.

Motion said jockey Jose Ortiz, who piloted Ascend in the Manhattan, will have the return call from the outside post as Ascend stretches out another furlong Saturday.

"I don't think he's a horse that needs to have that (experience) of running 1 3/8 miles. That's also something I want to see—how he handles it, because that will help us make decisions for the rest of the year with him," Motion said. "Plus, the fact that we're already there and Jose is able to ride him—there's a lot of upside."

Ascend is not the only horse in the field entering off his initial grade 1 victory. Three Diamonds Farm's Bigger Picture rallied from ninth to win the United Nations Stakes (G1T) July 1 on the turf at Monmouth Park.

NOVAK: Bigger Picture Dives to Record United Nations Score

Trained by Mike Maker, Bigger Picture has won three graded stakes in his career. He opened this season with a victory in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3T) at Sam Houston Race Park. Last year the son of Badge of Silver won the Red Smith Handicap (G3T) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Sadler's Joy is set to rematch Ascend, looking to build on a third-place Manhattan finish, in which he rallied from seventh for trainer Tom Albertrani. The 4-year-old son of Kitten's Joy  has earned placings in his last seven starts (4-1-2).

"He's been very consistent and we were a little unlucky his last couple of races, but he runs hard every time he goes out there and it's what we like to see," Albertrani said. "Hopefully he gets a better trip going a little longer than the Manhattan. That should definitely suit him as well, so we're looking forward to stretching him out a little more."

Entries: Bowling Green S. (G2T)

Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, July 29, 2017, Race 9

  • Grade II
  • 1 3/8m
  • Inner turf
  • $250,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 5:40 PM (local)
11Bigger Picture (KY)Joe Bravo124Michael J. Maker7/2
22Frank Conversation (KY)Mario Gutierrez124Doug F. O'Neill6/1
33Closing Bell (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose Lezcano116William I. Mott8/1
44Sadler's Joy (KY)Javier Castellano122Thomas Albertrani3/1
55Hunter O'Riley (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux116James J. Toner10/1
66Hello Don Julio (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez116Michael Dilger12/1
77Ascend (KY)Jose L. Ortiz122H. Graham Motion8/5