Golden Pal heavy favorite in Quick Call in return to Spa

Golden Pal, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., wins the Skidmore at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 21, 2020.
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Golden Pal, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., wins the Skidmore at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 21, 2020.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Quick Call follows a slow call back to the races for Golden Pal.

Surgery for an ankle chip has postponed the start of his 2021 campaign for months, but trainer Wesley Ward is expecting nothing but blazing performances from his turf sprinter heading into the $120,000 Quick Call at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon Turf at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday.

Saratoga is where Golden Pal initially lived up to what were already high expectations for the son of Uncle Mo.

As a 2-year-old last summer, Golden Pal dominated the Skidmore by 3 1/2 lengths over then-stablemate Fauci, 1:00.88.

In the Quick Call, Golden Pal will be running the same course and distance at which his dam, Lady Shipman, set a track record (1:00.46) in winning the 2015 Smart N Fancy. That record was subsequently broken by Leinster (1:00.23) in winning the 2019 Troy.

Golden Pal has been breezing regularly at Churchill Downs before working at Belmont Park on July 8.

He hasn’t raced since Nov. 6, 2020, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint by three-quarters of a length over Cowan.

“He’s doing really well,” Ward told the New York Racing Association. “We’re excited about him. I think he’ll be the best horse I ever had, but we’ll see if it comes out that way. He does things in the mornings that are just so impressive. He’s just an immensely talented horse, and we’re looking forward to getting his season started here at Saratoga on Opening Day. Hopefully, that leads into the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the year.”

Another horse in the Quick Call who ran in the BC is Second of July, who has raced this season, but just once, a seventh in an allowance at Belmont on June 12.

He was 12th in the Breeders’ Cup.

“In the Breeders’ Cup, he got hit with a clod of turf, so much so that when I got back to the barn his right eye was fully closed,” trainer Phil Gleaves said. “That told the tale of that race and then I gave him the winter off,” said Gleaves. “I ran him back at Belmont and our plan was to sit second or third that day and he got hit by the horse outside him leaving the gate and that put him back to last. The jock tried to put him in the race and the horse ran off, so to speak, going from last to second into a 44-and-change pace.”

Golden Pal is 1-2 on the morning line.

The other stakes on the card is the Grade III Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies, and Ward has the favorite in there, too.

Happy Soul has won two straight, most recently the Astoria at Belmont, by a combined 23 1/4 lengths.

“She got beat on the squares there in her first start,” Ward said. “We were ready when she came back, so we were expecting a big effort. Then, the Astoria came up where she would have been the overwhelming favorite going in, so it was hard to pass up, even without a breeze under her belt.”

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