Following a big effort in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) last month, Shadwell's Shakis returns to the Belmont Park inner lawn as one of the favorites in Sunday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT).
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin didn't know exactly what to expect when his major client shipped Shakis to the United States earlier this year. The 7-year-old was coming off three consecutive losses in Dubai, including two starts where the son of Machiavellian was beaten by double-digit margins.
After a high-priced allowance win at Belmont May 25 in his first American start, Shakis gave a strong account of himself in the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day June 9, coming up a head short in a third-place finish behind multiple grade I winners Better Talk Now and English Channel.
“I feel like he’s doing better today than he’s done for us yet," McLaughlin said. "He’s improving all the time.”
Shakis should have an easier task ahead of him when he starts in the 50th running of the Bowling Green at 11 furlongs. Alan Garcia, who has ridden Shakis in both his U.S. starts, will be back aboard.
“We’ve got two questions to answer Sunday afternoon,” said McLaughlin. “The mile-and-three-eighths is a little bit of a question mark and Sunriver is another question mark.”
Sunriver, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, has apparently found a new home on the turf. Last year’s Peter Pan (gr. II) winner and third-place Belmont (gr. I) finisher, put in two sub-par efforts on the dirt this year in a third-level allowance at Aqueduct and the William Donald Schaefer (gr. III) at Pimlico.
“We were a little perplexed as to why he wasn’t doing what he did last year,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I don’t really have an explanation for it. When he lost the allowance race at Aqueduct, I thought maybe he needed a race to get into form, but then we took him to Pimlico and he didn’t fire at all.”
In an attempt to shake things up, Pletcher worked the full brother to 2005 champion mare Ashado on the turf on June 3 and he liked what he saw. Four days later, Sunriver looked like the colt of old when he dusted a classy group in a third-level allowance by 4 1/2 lengths.
“He really turned around when we put him on the turf,” Pletcher said. “In his first work, you could see he really liked it. We’ve been pointing him to the Bowling Green since his allowance win.”
Ramon Dominguez was on Sunriver for the colt’s first turf win, but Garrett Gomez has picked up the mount for the Bowling Green.
The ultra consistent Fishy Advice, owned by Charles Marquis and John Behrendt, will probably get overlooked a bit with the presence of Shakis and Sunriver in the Bowling Green. The son of Woodman has a recent record that is nothing to ignore, however, winning five of his last seven starts. The two losses were runner-up photo finishes.
The distance of the Bowling Green and a jump in class are the two major obstacles for Fishy Advice.
Fishy Advice enters the Bowling Green off a half-length win in the Battlefield at Monmouth, his first start of 2007.
$150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Inner Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Trippi's Storm (FL), Javier Castellano, 114 8/1
2. Dreadnaught (KY), Cornelio H. Velasquez, 116, 12/1
3. Sunriver (KY), Garrett K. Gomez, 116, 9/5
4. Barastraight (GB), Fernando Jara, 114, 20/1
5. Shakis (IRE), Alan Garcia, 117, 2/1
6. Fishy Advice (KY), Eibar Coa, 117, 5/1
7. Silver Whistle (KY), Kent J. Desormeaux, 115, 12/1
8. Interpatation (KY), Channing Hill, 114, 15/1