Grade I Cigar Mile winner To Honor and Serve worked four furlongs in 49.83 seconds on the Oklahoma training track on Monday in preparation for Saturday’s Grade I Woodward.
After reeling off four wins in five starts, including the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and
Cigar Mile Handicap, To Honor and Serve finished third to Shackleford in the Grade I Met Mile and fourth to Mucho Macho Man in the Grade II Suburban Handicap, both times as the beaten favorite.
“He worked easy over a fairly deep track,” trainer Bill Mott told the New York Racing Association. “That seemed to be an OK time. We’re disappointed in his race in the Suburban, but given my excuse of the heat and the weather, I think he’ll run better if we get a decent day.”
After six straight starts under Jose Lezcano, To Honor and Serve will be ridden by John Velazquez in the Woodward.
Also working for the Woodward was Adele Dilschneider and
Claiborne Farm’s Cease, who breezed a moderate half-mile on the main track in 49.04.
The work was overseen by trainer Al Stall, who had one eye on Hurricane Isaac, which was bearing down on his hometown of New Orleans.
“He went an easy half-mile by himself — 49-flat, last eighth in 114⁄5,” Stall said. “We didn’t need to do much with him. He had a hard work over the track last week in company.”
Cease, a 5-year-old gelded son of War Chant, has never competed in a Grade I race, but his credentials on dirt are strong. He has hit the board in six of his seven most recent dirt starts, with the only time out of the money being a fifth in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Marathon last November at Churchill Downs.
In April, he ran into the Wise Dan in the Grade III Ben Ali on the Polytrack at Keeneland, and then finished fifth in the Grade III Louisville Handicap on turf in May at Churchill Downs.
When Stall switched Cease back to dirt the first week of the Saratoga meet, he won by a length and a half at the Woodward distance of a mile and an eighth.
“If you draw a line through the turf and Polytrack, and the 13⁄4 miles in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, he’s been pretty solid,” Stall said. “He broke his maiden on Polytrack and our home course is Keeneland; Claiborne has a barn there. It made sense to try that, and Wise Dan freaked that day. Miguel Mena came back and said he strode better on dirt than Poly. We knew the allowance would be a huge purse up here], so we kept that in mind.”
That success led Stall to take a shot at the Woodward.
“We know we’re stepping up, but he acts like it’s his home track,” Stall said. “This is where his best numbers and races are.”
THREE STAKES TODAY
Top Tier Lass, a seven-length maiden winner on July 30 at Saratoga, heads a trio of Todd Pletcher trainees in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for juvenile fillies at 11⁄16 miles over the inner turf course today.
Carried four-wide around the turn while contesting the pace in that 51⁄2-furlong turf maiden race, Top Tier Lass easily cleared her competitors and romped home under a hand ride. The daughter of Street Boss was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the P.G. Johnson and will leave from the rail with Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Pletcher will also send out stakes winner Tara from the Cape, who took the Aug. 2 Thomas (Tuck) Greene Memorial Stakes on the turf at Delaware Park after breaking her maiden on June 9 over Woodbine’s all-weather surface. Ramon Dominguez will ride the 4-1 Leroidesanimaux filly.
Pletcher also has long shot Skyfall (12-1).
Mechanicville native Chad Brown will send out the intriguing Irish-bred Watsdachances, who makes her first start since a maiden victory on April 29 at Ireland’s Navan Racecourse.There are two other $100,000 overnight stakes on the card, the David, for New York-bred 2-year-olds at six furlongs, and the Win, for horses 3 and up at a mile on the inner turf course.
Weekend Hideaway is the 8-5 favorite in the David off a win in the mud at Saratoga on Aug. 10.
In an evenly matched race, Right One is the 3-1 favorite in the Win. The 6-year-old gelding won the Jaipur last year, was third by a neck to Turallure in the Grade I Woodbine Mile and second in the aipur this year.
NYRA will put two canoes into the infield lake at 10:30 a.m. today, one bearing the colors of Godolphin Racing and the other bearing the colors of Magic City Thoroughbreds.
Godolphin’s Alpha and Magic City’s Golden Ticket dead-heated in Saturday’s Travers.
The previous canoe was given to owner Mike Repole, whose Stay Thirsty won last year.
NYRA will mark the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee with a donation and on-track collection efforts on Friday to assist the ongoing recovery efforts of local communities impacted by the storms.
Gates will open at noon on Friday; first post for the final Friday of the meet is 2:30 p.m.
Track patrons will be invited to make monetary donations to benefit the Prattsville Relief Fund; Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Recovery; Schenectady County Rebuilding Families; and Middleburgh Village Relief Fund. Donations will be collected at the clubhouse, Union Avenue and Reserved Seats entrances and will be split evenly among the four community relief organizations.
Additionally, NYRA will make a $5,000 donation to assist with rebuilding efforts during a ceremony in the winner’s circle following the day’s third race, which will be named “Remembering Irene & Lee — The Recovery Continues.”
AROUND THE TRACK
Fortify, an impressive debut winner on Aug. 4 who is nominated to the Hopeful, sizzled four furlongs on the Saratoga main track in 46.11 on Monday, the quickest of 69 workouts at the distance.
“He’s funny because he worked real well before [his debut],” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “After he ran, we told the exercise rider to go easy, and he went in [51.17 on Aug. 20]. And then he went in 46 today in company, but he wasn’t in company for very long. It was, ‘Whoa! What happened?’ Anyway, hopefully, he’s good to go tomorrow and we’re ready to run. It was impressive to watch; a little scary because he was flying.” . . .
Stall was thrilled with the debut of the 2-year-old Pulpit filly Sign, who won by 113⁄4 lengths on Sunday jockey Rosie Napravnik.
Sign, 10-1, left the gate towards the rear, and after fighting her rider early, moved off the rail at the three-eighths pole and mowed down the leaders to easily pull away in the stretch, completing the six furlongs in 1:10.37.
“She showed us a good turn of foot,” said Stall, who likely will point Sign to the Grade II Pocahontas in October at Churchill Downs. “We said, ‘Let’s get her up here and get one race in her.’ I liked the way she turned for home and instead of getting a little wobbly, she leaned in and turned for home and whoosh!”