Island Bound will stalk speed in Honorable Miss

The Grade II Honorable Miss is loaded with speed, which means it could get crowded on the front head

The Grade II Honorable Miss is loaded with speed, which means it could get crowded on the front heading into Saratoga Race Course’s grandstand turn.

Island Bound, for one, will let them go, especially since she has drawn the rail; the trick will be to reel in all the speed horses from behind.

The daughter of 2004 sprint champion Speights­town is one of the few true closers in the six-furlong Honorable Miss, and although that will be a tough task against this field, it worked at Churchill Downs in June, when Island Bound won a graded stakes six months after she was running in claiming races.

Prior to that, she had two poor outings at Saratoga, finishing a combined 331⁄4 lengths out of it in two allowance races.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said Island Bound is vastly improved this year, as evidenced by her win in the Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downson June 2.

“She’s a different horse this year,” Wilkes said. “She didn’t run real good here last year, but she’s totally different this year. Just better form, she’s racing better, to a higher level.”

In her most recent start, Island Bound broke from the No. 2 post, but inherited the rail when Catch a Thief stumbled out of the gate and spotted the field three lengths.

Island Bound eventually got bottled up heading into the turn after being steadied briefly by Julien Leparoux when Catinatree cut in front of her to get to the rail.

By the time they got into the stretch, she was still in the back and finished 83⁄4 lengths behind Derwin’s Star in fifth.

“She got in on the fence,” Wilkes said. “There was a bad situation where they went 23 [:23.26] for the first quarter. She was sort of in there, and then they sprinted and sort of left her. It just wasn’t a true race for her.”

Island Bound is 6-1 in the morning line against several proven front-runners.

The ultra-consistent C C’s Pal, the 5-2 favorite who has been in the money nine straight races, won the Grade II Vagrancy on the front end, although she usually stalks.

At 7-2 is It’s Me Mom, winner of eight of her last 11, although she has not run in a graded stakes during that stretch.


The card also includes the $100,000 John’s Call at a mile and five-eighths on the Mellon turf course.

Tahoe Lake is the 9-5 favorite despite not having won in seven starts since October.

Trained by Ken McPeek, he was third behind Point of Entry and Center Divider in the Grade I Man ‘o War last time out.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has Harrods Creek, who has been knocking on the door for a graded-stakes win since November.

Another horse who hasn’t been far out of it since last year is 5-2 second choice Hailstone, owned by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate Marc Keller.

Keller purchased the Woodbine-based Hailstone privately from Woodford Racing and Westrock Stables and sent him to his regular trainer, Bobby Ribaudo.

“He’s a funny horse to train, to say the least,” Ribaudo said. “He’s one of those horses that are unwilling to train, and that was his m.o. before we bought him last year.

“We’ve gotten him to do what we need to do, but he’s not a very willing participant in the training regimen. It’s amazing, the last couple weeks, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but he’s training pretty good, and we’ve had some nice works into him. He’s the kind of horse that, if you get a half [mile] in 50, you’re happy. That said, we’ll see if it makes a difference in the afternoon.”

Hailstone is coming off a fifth, 17 lengths behind Redeemed, in the mile-and-a-half Brooklyn Handicap, the first start on conventional dirt for Hailstone in 15 lifetime starts.

He won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

“He was running, but it didn’t do anything to say we need to go back on the dirt,” Ribaudo said. “We like him at the long distances because he must have a great wind capacity, because he never gets tired. And that bottom side of his family probably gives him that stamina.

“The horses to beat are McPeek and Mott. On a given day, I think we can beat either one of them. We beat Billy’s horse in Florida, unfortunately, he had another one, Newsdad, that beat us. If he runs that kind of race, he’ll be right there.”

Ribaudo was referring to the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream Park on March 24.

In a four-horse field, Hailstone beat Harrods Creek, but was second to Newsdad under Del­aware-based Joe Rocco.

That may not be a familiar name to Saratoga fans, but Ribaudo said they like Rocco so much that they’re bringing him up to Saratoga just to ride the John’s Call.

“I got to know him this winter in Florida,” Ribaudo said. “He’s a good rider, a good kid. He had his bug here for a little while and moved to Delaware, mostly. He rides for the best outfits around, [Graham] Motion, [Michael] Matz, all those guys use him consistently, Steve Hobby’s got him on that nice filly [Tiz Miz Sue] that got beat by Royal Delta the other day. Really, a class kid. When he comes to the paddock, he knows the race front to back. He really uses his head.”

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