St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend will return to the site of his track record-setting effort when he headlines a field of 11 in the fifth running of the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure Stakes Aug. 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
Ring Weekend set the Mellon turf record for 1 1/16 miles in last year's Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2T), completing the course in 1:38.29. The 6-year-old Tapit gelding will return to stakes company for trainer Graham Motion after a runner-up finish in a June 15 allowance at Delaware Park.
"He's certainly seemed to tail off a little bit last year and into this year. It wasn't all necessarily his fault," Motion said. "Things didn't really go his way. One of those races came off the grass. So, he just didn't have an ideal trip out West."
After finishing out of the money in four graded stakes starts to start his 2017 campaign, including a 10th-place effort in the May 20 Longines Dixie Stakes (G2T) at Pimlico Race Course on a course Motion said Ring Weekend "didn't handle well" because it was "chewed up" by bad weather and too much racing, the trainer opted for the freshening at Delaware.
"(It) actually turned out to be a pretty decent race," Motion said. "The horse that beat him (Ghost Hunter) came back and won a stake at Arlington (the grade 3 Arlington Handicap), but I thought (Ring Weekend) ran very well that day and kind of showed his old self, so this race seems like a pretty good fit."
Ring Weekend's impressive ledger at the Spa includes a victory in the 2014 Saranac Stakes (G3T) and a second-place effort in that year's Sir Cat. He drew post 8 for the Lure, with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Trainer Chad Brown has three entries in the race. Juddmonte Farms' Projected, coming off back-to-back seconds in the Dixie and in the Poker Stakes (G3T) at Belmont Park, breaks from the rail with Javier Castellano aboard. Takeover Target will load next to Projected in post 2 and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Brown's final entry, Camelot Kitten, will make his 2017 debut with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Rounding out the field is French shipper Aubenas, making his first start in the United States for trainer Al Stall; Phipps Stable's Fire Away, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey; Our Way for trainer Jimmy Bond; Christophe Clement-trained Blacktype; Vorticity for trainer Cal Lynch; Macagone for Bill Mott; and Zennor in his stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
McLaughlin has also entered multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen to run on the main track only, with jockey Junior Alvarado getting the call if weather forces the race to dirt. Also entered MTO is supplemental entry Red Rifle for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Also on the Saturday card, Stuart S. Janney III's homebred On Leave comes in fresh off a victory in the July 1 Perfect Sting at Belmont to take on a talented field of 12 older fillies and mares in the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose Stakes.
The 4-year-old daughter of War Front began her season on May 20 at Pimlico, where she finished second in the Gallorette Stakes (G3T).
With a 3-for-3 record at the De La Rose's mile distance, including a win in the Riskaverse at the Spa last year before going on to capture the Sands Point Stakes (G2T) at Belmont, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey is encouraged with how On Leave is coming into the race.
"Both her races this year have been good," said McGaughey. "She didn't have the cleanest of trips in the Gallorette coming off the layoff, but the Perfect Sting was encouraging and it's gotten her back going heading into Saturday."
Regular rider Jose Ortiz will be aboard from post 7.
Sheep Pond Partners and Michael Ryan have Sassy Little Lila dropping down in class from a runner-up finish in the June 10 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1T) at Belmont. The 4-year-old filly by Artie Schiller has three wins and four second-place finishes from eight starts, and just got caught at the wire to lose by three-quarters of a length in the Just a Game. Trainer Brad Cox believes she is primed for another big effort.
"We gave her some time off after the Just a Game and coming into this race she's been doing well," Cox remarked. "She's had a couple of breezes over the (Oklahoma) turf course and is looking good. Anywhere between a mile to a mile an eighth, I think, she's most effective—but she's also versatile, even though she's been on the front in the majority of her races."
With Luis Saez in the irons, Sassy Little Lila will depart post 2.