Multiple grade I winner Ron the Greek registered his first published work since a runner-up finish in the Aug. 24 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), breezing four furlongs in :49.95 on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 31. The move was seventh-fastest of 24 clocked at the distance on the day.
The 5-year-old son of Full Mandate, who races for Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, and Jack Hammer, will next target the $1 million TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park Sept. 29 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Ron the Greek has been first or second in his past seven starts since November 2011 This year he was runner-up to Mucho Macho Man in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park, won the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, ran second to Alternation in the April 14 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park, and won the June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The latter win earned Ron the Greek an automatic berth into this year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Nov. 3.
Sent off the 5-2 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, he rallied from far back in the field, swinging seven-wide on the turn to find racing room and closing fast to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind Fort Larned . Overall, he has a 7-5-1 record from 20 starts with earnings of $1,262,597.
"Ron is doing off-the-charts fantastic," co-owner Adam Wachtel said. "Bill's assistant, Rudy (Rudolph Brisset), told me he came out of the Whitney better than he has come out of any of his races, and was commenting on how much stronger he seems to be getting."
After Ron the Greek's Stephen Foster victory, the ownership team charted a path to the Classic that included the Whitney start and the upcoming Jockey Club Gold Cup. But the year-end target might not be the last start for the big bay runner, who was bred in Florida by Hammer and is out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe'.
"Let's see how he runs his next two races, but I can tell you that if he performs well and stays healthy, I'm pretty certain we'll decide to run him next year," Wachtel said. "We try to come up with horses like Ron; sometimes you never find one like him that combines talent and looks, so why rush to retire him?
"I just hope we have the option to keep racing him. Hopefully he'll keep doing as well as he's been and he'll be very tough to beat. We wouldn't trade places with any horse in North America at this time."