Saratoga: Sunday’s cancellation puts some trainers in a bind

A handful of horses have some extra work on their hands after a day off Sunday.

A handful of horses have some extra work on their hands after a day off Sunday.

When the Sunday card at Sar­atoga Race Course was cancelled because of tropical storm Irene, the Grade I $300,000 Personal Ensign was moved from Sunday to this Saturday, prompting trainers to schedule another maintenance work for their horses early in the week.

Standing in the sun watching workouts on the Oklahoma Training Track the morning after Irene rolled through the Northeast, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey talked about the difference a day makes.

“It was a messy inconvenience, just because the rain, and the rain kind of blew in the shed there and made it a bit messy in there,”

McGaughey said. “But we didn’t lose any electricity here or at the house, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t have any leaks. Everything seems to be fine. Then you wake up and have a day like today. It’s strange.”

McGaughey will saddle Protesting in the Personal Ensign. The 4-year-old filly was the longest shot in the six-horse field at 8-1, but with a redraw scheduled for Wednesday, that could change. Aside from post positions, the race could be changed around a little with the addition of any horses whose connections think would be ready with the extra week of work.

McGaughey said he wasn’t sure what the weather was going to do Sunday, but he was hoping it would be minor enough to allow the race to be run as scheduled.

“I was hoping they’d hold on, because if it was just rain and a sloppy track, it wouldn’t bother me,” McGaughey said. “But they made the right decision. Yesterday would have been a horrible day to run. Well, you wouldn’t have been able to.”

The concensus was that it was the right move to cancel the card, as heavy rain and strong winds hit the track. Still, having worked a horse on a schedule up to a race, adding another week adds a number of possibilities, mostly bad.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has Acronym entered in the field, and said she is in line for a good race.

“We were happy, we had a good work in her,” Mott said. “We were sound and healthy, she acted real good. Things were going real smoothly going into Sunday’s race. So now we’ve just got to hope things go smoothly for one more week. You know, every day you train them, anything could happen.”

“It’s not ideal any time you’ve got one ready to go, you need to adjust your schedule, but we’re all in the same boat,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Super Espresso. “We’ll try to get an easy breeze into her

tomorrow and wait until Saturday.”

Advance warning

Pletcher and McGaughey will send their entries out today for an easy four-furlong breeze. The additional breezes are something the trainers have had a little while to plan, as Mott said the New York Racing Association gave the trainers some warning of a possible postponement a few days before the storm hit.

“They were planning for it, too, and they let us know two days in advance,” Mott said. “They said, ‘If we cancel, it’ll be Saturday.’ I think anybody who was watching the news knew they were going to cancel Sunday, which was the right thing to do.”

With a redraw, other horses who were nominated could enter. The two notables who were nominated, but opted to run elsewhere, are Blind Luck and Havre de Grace.

Blind Luck was expected to run in the Grade I Pacific Classic against the boys at Del Mar on Sunday, but did not. She is now expected to run in the Lady’s Secret at Hollywood Park during the Oak Tree meet on Oct. 1. Havre de Grace is entered in the Grade I $750,000 Woodward at Saratoga on Saturday, running against the boys. Neither is expected to change course and show up in the redraw of the Personal Ensign.

Other nominees that did not draw in last week are Arene Elvira, Check Point, Freedom Star, Payton d’Oro, Quiet Giant and Tesoro de Amor.

“They’re going to redraw it, and I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not really in favor of that, but that’s the way it is, and the way they do it,”

McGaughey said. “I think after a race is drawn that should be it. But it is going to be redrawn, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I doubt very seriously . . . if anything goes in there, the two you’d be worried about are Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. But I doubt very seriously either one of them is going to run.”

Pletcher also trains Quiet Giant, but will not enter her, as he plans to run her in the Grade II Molly Pitcher at Monmouth, which also was rescheduled for Saturday. He said regardless of who draws into the Personal Ensign this time around, all he can do is prepare his filly to run her best.

“You can make a case it should only be open to the horses who were originally entered, but it is what it is,” Pletcher said. “It would be disappointing if Havre de Grace or Blind Luck showed up now. But what are you going to do? We’re going to take a shot at it and see what happens.”

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