Today’s stakes for older New York-breds, the $100,000 Evan Shipman, has a slight foreign flavor to it, thanks to Lunar Victory.
After being bred in-state by William Parsons Jr. and David Howe, Lunar Victory took off. He didn’t quite make it to the moon, though, landing in England for his first eight starts.
The 5-year-old son of Speightstown has looked right at home since returning to New York racing in December, going 3-1-0 in four starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Juddmonte Farms, winning his last three.
“The horse is doing pretty darn well. He’ll give it his all, that’s for sure,” said Kristen Lindsay, assistant trainer to Mott. “The only thing is, he is coming off a layoff. He’s got six works or so, and hopefully, that’s enough, but when you’re running against fit horses it’s always a bit of a [challenge]. But he certainly fits right in.”
Lindsay, though, pointed out
Lunar Victory was coming off a long layoff when he came to Aqueduct last December. His previous start was at Newmarket in May 2011.
He has been working out at Saratoga, working a bullet 47.84 Friday, fastest of 37 at four furlongs on the Oklahoma. He is the third choice on the morning line at 7-2.
“Dealing with him around the barn, he’s class all the way around,” Lindsay said. “He’s a nice horse. He’s got a lot of try in him. I’ve been the one that’s worked him a lot here. He’s a lovely horse to have.”
Lunar Victory came into his first North American race and finished second over a mile and 70 yards to Artie Luvsto Party. He came up to challenge the winner for the second half of the race before Artie Luvsto Party drew away late.
Following that defeat, Lunar Victory won three times, all at Aqueduct. The first of those was a six-length win in a $57,000 allowance over a mile of ground on the inner track. He then beat Ruffino by 61⁄4 lengths over a mile and 70 yards in a February allowance optional claimer. In his last start, he beat Cosmic King by two lengths in a $77,000 Aqueduct allowance over a mile and 70 yards.
Today, he’ll be going a furlong more than he has since coming across the pond, running 11⁄8 miles over the main track. He ran longer routes in England, but was 1-2-2 in his eight starts overseas.
Since coming back to New York, though, he has been ridden by Junior Alvarado, who seems to have quickly gained an understanding of the horse and how he runs. Lindsay said he’s an easy horse to deal with, and isn’t too picky about where he’s steered.
“He’s such an old pro. He reminds me of the horses we used to have back in the day that would just go out there and do their job,” she said. “Big, good-looking and knows what he’s doing. Goes out there, does his thing and doesn’t ask questions. It’s nice to have one that’s like that. We’ve got a few others that are more difficult to deal with. They want to be on the lead, they want to be here or there. This guy, he just does his job.”
The 2-1 favorite in the race is Fiddlers Afleet, winner of the Chasin’ Wimmin’ at Belmont in his last race on July 6. He will be stretching out from that six-furlong score for the Evan Shipman. In three career starts at Saratoga, Fiddlers Afleet is 1-1-1, winning his last race here on Aug. 26, 2009 in the Albany. He’s 7-6-3 from 25 career starts and 2-1-1 this year in six starts.
Johannesburg Smile is the second choice at 5-2, having won the Lemon Drop Kid at Belmont in his last on June 17. He is 3-2-1 in his last six starts, the last five of those coming in stakes races (2-2-1).
The John Kimmel-trained Sailmate was fourth here in the Albany last year. It is the only race in his last five starts the 4-year-old hasn’t won.
The race also features Mineswept, 2-4-0 from eight starts this year and 1-1-1 in six Saratoga starts. Pure Attitude and Good Karma make their stakes debuts.