SARATOGA SPRINGS — The four of them were separated by a total of 5 3/4 lengths on Belmont Stakes Day.
There will be a smaller gap this time on Whitney Day — at least at the start — and it’ll be measured in widths instead.
The top four finishers in the Grade I Woody Stephens will have a reunion at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, and they’ll be in adjoining stalls in the starting gate for the Grade I Allen Jerkens.
No Parole won the Woody Stephens and will break from the No. 6 post in the nine-horse field, with Echo Town in the 4 hole, Mischevious Alex in 5 and Shoplifted in 7.
Trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by Luis Saez, No Parole is 9-5 on the morning line after winning the Woody Stephens by 3 3/4 lengths.
Besides the Allen Jerkens, which traditionally is run on Travers Day later in the meet, the Whitney Day undercard stakes include the Grade I Personal Ensign, Grade II Bowling Green and $200,000 Caress.
No Parole is undefeated except for an eighth to Nadal in the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 14, finishing up the track by 49 lengths in his only race around two turns in six career starts. He’ll get one turn again in the seven-furlong Allen Jerkens.
“I think what you’re seeing is just a typical development of a talented horse, if you take away the experiment of going two turns,” Amoss told the New York Racing Association.
Echo Town, who was second in the Woody Stephens, hasn’t done much wrong in his career, hitting the board in all six starts, but is still looking for his first stakes win.
He’s a stablemate of Shoplifted, as well as another Allen Jerkens runner, long shot Sonneman, out of Steve Asmussen’s barn.
Mischevious Alex had won three straight stakes, including the Grade III Swale at Gulfstream Park and Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct on March 7, before finishing fourth in the Woody Stephens.
Two other interesting horses in the 11-horse Allen Jerkens field are the Bob Baffert-trained Eight Rings, who is a Grade I winner, and the Bill Parcells-owned Three Technique, who broke his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths at Saratoga last year and was fourth to Nadal in the Rebel.
As a 2-year-old, Eight Rings won the Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His 2020 season consists of a fifth in the Bachelor at Oaklawn Park, in which Echo Town was second, on April 25.
“He’s doing good. I probably shouldn’t have brought him back in that last one,” Baffert said. “That might have been a trainer error there. But he’s doing good and we’re taking a shot.”
The Mark Casse-trained Tap It to Win drops back in distance from a mile and an eighth in his last start, a fifth to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes, on the same card that No Parole won the Woody Stephens.
“We’re excited to get him back out there in the Jerkens,” Casse said. “His one race at Saratoga was extremely good in a sprint. We’re hoping that going back there, he shows what he did last year.”
Cross Border’s busy July continues, with a shot at the Grade II Bowling Green, 10 days after he won the Lubash at Saratoga.
He also took a swing at the Grade I Manhattan on July 4 at Belmont Park, finishing fifth to Instilled Regard, but just a length back.
“It [the Lubash] seemed like it was more of a workout,” trainer Mike Maker said. “With a shorter field, we figured we would give it a shot.”
Cross Border is the 5-2 second choice behind veteran Sadler’s Joy, who has run at Saratoga eight times in 30 career starts, breaking his maiden at the Spa way back in 2016 and winning the Grade I Sword Dancer in 2017.
He has run into Zulu Alpha, the top turf male in North America, twice this season and was just three-quarters of a length behind Instilled Regard in third in the Manhattan.
“The horse always seems to run his race,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “He’s been narrowly beaten in several races, but he shows up. Just hopefully we get him back into the winner’s circle one of these times.
“He’s just such a tricky horse to ride, with his style. He always loses a lot of ground on the turns and I think that’s the reason he’s lost some of these turf races. He just seems to go to the wire after losing a lot of ground and he’s always right there. That’s just the way it is.”
Funny Guy upped his record to 2-for-2 in 2020 by taking command at the top of the stretch to win the seven-furlong John Morrissey for New York-breds on Thursday.
He tried open company in his last start of 2019, finishing sixth in the Grade III Oklahoma Derby in September, then took an 8 1/2-month break before winning the Commentator at Belmont Park on June 12.
And trainer John Terranova said they were even considering sending Funny Guy to the Whitney on Saturday.
“We had him ready early in the season, but then we got shut down, so we were just sitting, waiting, waiting, waiting for something,” trainer John Terranova said. “We knew he was going to run well [in the Commentator] and figured we’d jump forward into Saratoga and see what we’ve got.
“I guess we’ll see if we come back with something up here. I know the Forego is always a strong race.
“I know this colt can win in open company. He’s got a race with his name on it somewhere.”