Grade I Winners Invade Sword Dancer
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Red Rocks defeated champion Curlin in the Man o'War (gr. IT).
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Red Rocks and Dancing Forever, both fresh off grade I turf victories at Belmont, will square off in the star-studded Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) Aug. 16 at Saratoga, a field that also includes three other grade I winners, including Grand Couturier, who won the event a year ago.

Because of continuous heavy rains in the Saratoga area, and more rain in the forecast, if they are able to race on the turf, the surface is likely to be soft. It has already caused graded stakes winner Hostess to skip the $500,000 event, which is run at 1 1/2 miles. The Sword Dancer is scheduled for a 4:56 p.m. EDT and immediately precedes the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I).

J. Paul Reddam’s Red Rocks won for the second time in the states July 12 in the Man o’ War (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, in the process defeating reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, who was making his turf debut. The son of Galileo--Pharmacist, by Machiavellian won by two lengths under Javier Castellano for his second victory in three starts this season.

Irish-bred Red Rocks is anything but a newcomer to the turf, as the 5-year-old he has beaten some of the best in the world over the past two years, including a victory in the 2006 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs.

“He showed so much in the Man o’ War,” said Brian Meehan, who trained Red Rocks for the final time. After the race, he was handed over to the barn of Mark Hennig.

“He has proved himself throughout his career," Meehan continued. "In 2006, he beat Papal Bull (in the group II King Edward VII at Ascot). I know Papal Bull can be quirky, but he is still a wonderful race horse. Then, he came back and ran second to Rail Link, who went on to win the (2006) Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), shipped to America and beat Better Talk Now and English Channel in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup was run in atrocious conditions, and he still ran third. And now, he’s beaten Curlin on grass.”

With earnings of more than $2.8 million from 19 career starts, Red Rocks is on track to make his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup appearance this fall at Santa Anita. After the Sword Dancer, he is expected to make his final Breeders’ Cup prep in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 27 at Belmont.

Castellano gets the return call Aug. 16, as Red Rocks shares the 123-pound high weight with Dancing Forever.

Phipps Stable’s Dancing Forever is a neck short of winning three consecutive graded stakes. The 5-year-old Rahy horse lost by that margin Feb. 23 in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (gr. IT), but followed it up with victories in the April 25 Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIT) at Keeneland, and June 7 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT). In the latter, Dancing Forever used an inside trip under Rene Douglas to win by a nose over Out of Control. It was the first grade I victory of his career.

Trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, Dancing Forever raced in allowance company most of last year before making his stakes debut a winning one in the Our Dear Peggy at Calder. Douglas will be in the irons once again.

Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier is winless in four starts since taking the Sword Dancer by three lengths in 2007. He was sixth in the Man o’ War.

“Last year, we had an ideal set-up,” trainer Rob Ribaudo said of the Sword Dancer. “This will be a different scenario this year. Naturally, the course will be a lot softer because of the all the rain we’ve had, and the pace will probably be a lot softer.

“That being said, his first race back this year, he closed into a very slow pace going a mile and a quarter and only got beat a half-length. Everything is a 'go’ with him. He’s doing well, and we’ve been able to get some works into him on the turf, despite the rain.”

The other two grade I winners are Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion, who won the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth two starts ago, and Bushwood Stables’ Better Talk Now, a 9-year-old iron horse with more than $4 million in earnings. Better Talk Now won the Sword Dancer in 2004 for trainer Graham Motion.         

$500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT, Race 8, 4:56 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Equitable (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
2. Grand Couturier (GB), 120, Alan Garcia
3. Red Rocks (IRE), 123, Javier Castellano
4. Interpatation (KY), 116, Jose L. Espinoza
5. Presious Passion (FL), 123, Eddie Castro
6. Better Talk Now (KY), 120, Ramon A. Dominguez
7. Dancing Forever (KY), 123, Rene R. Douglas
8. Champs Elysees (GB), 118, Edgar S. Prado

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