Bustin Stones is ready to run again, right now.
His trainer is ready to stretch him out to a mile, right now.
The schedule in New York, though, isn’t quite ready to cooperate, so they’ll have to wait until May 26, Memorial Day, for the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, when Bustin Stones will attempt to stay undefeated and win his second Grade I in a row for owner Roddy Valente of Loudonville.
Better known as the Met Mile, the race has been won by the likes of Corinthian, Silver Train and Ghostzapper in the last three years; all three used it as a steppingstone to victories in the Breeders’ Cup, including Ghostzapper’s 2004 Classic that led to Horse of the Year honors.
Valente aspires to the Breeders’ Cup for Bustin Stones, who became a Grade I winner in the Carter at Aqueduct two weeks ago. It was also the first Grade I for Valente and his long-time trainer, Bruce Levine.
“It’s funny, I don’t know if you ever come off of that cloud,” Valente said on Friday. “I talk to Bruce three or four times a day, and Bustin Stones always pops up in the conversation.”
Bustin Stones, a lightly raced
4-year-old New York-bred by City Zip who had knee surgery last year, will likely be the talk of the Met Mile in the days leading up to the race, since he hasn’t lost in six lifetime starts.
As an undefeated horse, the gritty colt had a target on his back in the Carter, and it will only get bigger with a Grade I on his resume.
“There’s just a mystique about a horse who’s undefeated,” Valente said.
It’s hard to maintain a steady diet of graded stakes at seven furlongs, and Levine and Valente want to run Bustin Stones longer, anyway, so the Met Mile is the logical next stop.
He galloped out well after fighting off a game Executive Fleet in the Carter, which suggests that seven furlongs isn’t his limit.
Valente said it didn’t take long for his homebred to recover from that grueling race, and he’s scheduled to make his first breeze next Tuesday, unless the rainy weather holds off and Levine can get him out on Sunday or Monday.
“He bounced out of the Carter perfectly,” Valente said. “Bruce has been dying to run this horse longer since his second start. Grade I’s in New York are very prestigious, but if you can get a mile, it’ll just add to his stud value.”
With no dirt stakes races going a mile at Saratoga, the seven-furlong Grade I Forego will also be on Bustin Stones’ calendar, as long as he stays healthy.
“We could run him back now, but the way the right races for him are gapped in the schedule, that’s why we’re waiting [for the Met Mile],” Valente said.
Ramon Dominguez has been named to ride Blue Grass winner Monba, owned in part by Schenectady native Don Lucarelli, in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
Edgar Prado, who was on Monba for the first time in the Blue Grass, has decided to ride Lane’s End winner Adriano. Dominguez, who rode Adriano in his first four starts, hasn’t been on Monba in a race yet.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said on Friday that he will likely ship Monba and Cowboy Cal, second in the Blue Grass, from Keeneland to Churchill Downs next Saturday or Sunday.
John Velazquez will stay on Cowboy Cal for the Derby, although he could get bumped out of the field by stablemate Atoned, who is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the Lexington Stakes today, the last gasp Derby prep at Keeneland. If Atoned wins, he’d push Cowboy Cal out of the top-20 in graded stakes earnings, which is used to give preference to Derby entrants.
Pletcher he said he hasn’t decided what Atoned will do next if he wins the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lexington.
Any horse who wins the race, with the $201,500 winner’s share, would vault into the top 20 stakes earnings.
Salute the Sarge, the 4-1 second choice who has been successful sprinting, already has plenty of purse money to qualify for the Derby, but his trainer, Eric Guillot, said he would lean toward the Preakness instead of the Derby, if he wins the Lexington.
“If he wins off impressively with a big late kick and shows that distance is not a problem, then we will have a legitimate horse for the Preakness,” Guillot said in a Keeneland press release. “But if he barely hangs on, or runs second or third, we will cut back to seven-eighths and look at the King’s Bishop [at Saratoga].”
Coming off a Grade II win in the Fantasy and a Grade III win in the Honeybee, both at Oaklawn Park, the filly Eight Belles is being considered for the Derby, owner Rick Porter told The Blood-Horse on Sunday.
The Derby buzz horse, impressive Florida Derby winner Big Brown, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.75 at Palm Meadows on Friday.
He’s scheduled to work at Palm Meadows again on Thursday before leaving for Churchill Downs on April 28.
Due to overwhelming interest in the documentary “The First Saturday in May,” which opened nationwide on Friday, the Saratoga Film Forum at 320 Broadway in Saratoga Springs has added screening times next week.
The revised schedule is 5:30 and 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday; and 7 p.m. next Sunday, April 27.
Tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis and will be available starting one hour before each show. No reservations are being taken.
The documentary chronicles the lives and work of six trainers in the months leading up to the 2006 Kentucky Derby.
Golden Dawn is the 8-5 favorite in the Grade II Bed ’o Roses for fillies and mares 3 and up going seven furlongs at Aqueduct today.
She has won three of her last four, including the Grade II Barbara Fritchie at Laurel on Feb. 16, giving jockey Channing Hill first career graded stakes win of his career.
Golden Dawn, a 4-year-old daughter of Hennessy, isn’t the only one in the six-horse field with some momentum coming into the race.
Lady Marlboro is 2-1-0 in last three starts, including a win in the Grade II Sabin at Gulfstream Park in January; Sutra, the 2006 winner of the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old, is 1-2-0 in three starts this year; and Rite Moment has won four of five this year, all at Aqueduct, but she has never gone seven furlongs, although she won the ungraded Limit at a mile and 70 yards, despite stumbling at the start.
On Sunday, Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Go Between will face Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Sir Whimsey and five others in the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland, and Shamdinan, second to English Channel in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf, is entered in the Grade III San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita.
Naughty New Yorker will face four others in the $75,000 King’s Point with a chance to reach $1,000,000 in career earnings.
here and there
Capital Region racing analysts Mark Cusano, who handicaps the Saratoga meet for the Gazette, Andrea DeLong and John Pricci will be featured in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s annual Countdown to the Triple Crown program next Saturday.
The popular program in the Museum’s Hall of Fame Gallery includes video highlights from important prep races and audience-driven discussions with the panel. Admission is free and each person attending will receive a complimentary issue of the Triple Crown past performances issue published by Daily Racing Form, and a complimentary copy of the Thoroughbred Times’ Triple Crown Preview issue. . . .
The Racing Hall of Fame will announce its 2008 inductees on Monday. The finalists are: Contemporary female horses — Inside Information, Open Mind, Silverbulletday, Sky Beauty; Contemporary male horses — Best Pal, Manila, Tiznow;
Jockeys: Edgar Prado, Randy Romero, Alex Solis; Trainers: Carl Nafzger, Robert Wheeler. . . .
Grade I winner Showing Up, a Grade I winner in the Hollywood Derby and Secretariat Stakes on the turf, has been retired. The Lexington winner was sixth in the 2007 Kentucky Derby for trainer Barclay Tagg and owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stable. . . .
New York Racing secretary P.J. Campo has been promoted to vice president and director of racing. He’ll oversee a staff of 75 and will be responsible for racing operations, writing the condition book and stall allocation. . . .
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge, a series of qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, has expanded to Europe and will include three one-mile turf races at Ascot Racecourse in England on Sept. 27.
That brings the number of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races from 24 in 2007 to 53 this year.