In its second year with graded-stakes status, the James Marvin came up a little light on graded-stakes success among the nine horses entered, but it at least appears to be an evenly matched race in what has developed into a prep for the Grade I Forego.
Souper Speedy is the 5-2 morning-line favorite off a win in the Jaipur in which he crossed the line second by a head, but was awarded the victory because stablemate Big Screen bore out five paths and practically tackled Souper Speedy right before the finish.
With the DQ of Big Screen, Souper Speedy has won two straight, beating an allowance field by 10 1⁄4 lengths at Belmont Park on May 23.
“He’s had two good races in a row since he’s been away,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “The horse has come back very well, so this race looks like an ideal spot.”
Mechanicville native Chad Brown has one of the top contenders in Jaguar Paw, who also has won two straight, including the Three Coins Up and an allowance win at Belmont.
He hasn’t raced shorter than a mile since last summer at Woodbine.
“I think the cutback in distance is worth a try,” Brown said.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has been keeping Laurie’s Rocket busy, but he’s still seeking his first graded-stakes win after 27 races.
Other than a fourth in the Grade III Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park in April, he has hit the board 11 times in his last 12 starts, with three wins, including the listed Hot Springs in March.
“I don’t know those horses, so I don’t know how that race shapes up, but seven-eighths is a good distance for him,” Lukas said.
According to the Daily Racing Form, the Churchill Downs-based Right to Vote, cross-entered in Saturday’s Don Bernhardt at Ellis Park as the 5-2 favorite, will scratch from the James Marvin.
In any given year, only a few horses run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb was one of the three who did it this year, and Lukas trains the other two, who are both pointing toward the Aug. 24 Travers at Saratoga.
They’ll make their final preps in separate races, with Preakness winner Oxbow pointing toward the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28 and Will Take Charge, who finished no better than seventh in any of the Triple Crown races, set to run in the July 27 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
Will Take Charge beat Oxbow by a head in the Grade II Rebel, but since then, Oxbow has emerged as a leading contender for the 3-year-old championship, albeit in a division that may not sort itself out until the Breeders’ Cup.
With that in mind, he’ll go to the Haskell, among other reasons.
“I don’t think Will Take Charge ships very well; Oxbow ships better,” Lukas said. “The advantage of running in the Jim Dandy is you walk out of your own stall. You’re also talking about a million dollars versus $600,000 and a Grade I versus a Grade II. There are championship implications for Oxbow.”
The 77-year-old Hall of Famer, who still gets on the pony to watch his training sets in the morning, will be relying on the 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds in his barn for a successful meet.
“I’m only going to do this until I’m 95,” he joked.
Lukas has one of several turf horses — Optimizer — who likely will skip Saratoga in favor of the Aug. 17 Arlington Million. Optimizer is coming off a fifth to Boisterous in the Man o’ War.
“He shows up every time, but he struggled with that racetrack that day,” Lukas said.
Little Mike, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner trained by Dale Romans, is headed to the Arlington Million, and Romans said he’d like to see Finnegans Wake, owned in part by Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs through Donegal Racing, get an invitation.
ALPHA IN TOUGH
Godolphin Racing’s Alpha, the dead-heat winner with Golden Ticket of the Travers last year, has been firmly entrenched in Saratoga for months, but faces a difficult assignment if Godolphin and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin decide to run in the Whitney in two weeks.
The race is shaping up to be loaded, anyway, with the likes of Fort Larned, Flat Out, Ron the Greek and Mucho Macho Man looming, among others. It could get even more complicated if owner Morton Fink and trainer Charlie LoPresti choose to send reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan to the Whitney instead of the Fourstardave, which he won last year.
In the meantime, Alpha, a son of Bernardini, has finished out of the money in five starts since the Travers and is coming of a fourth of five runners in the Suburban, won by Flat Out.
In his first start since the Godolphin Mile in March, Alpha broke through the gate, was reloaded, then endured a rocky trip.
“He’s always been a problem at the gate,” McLaughlin said. “But he really didn’t have any problems, other than he got excited and broke through the front and they put him back in. But we’ve always had issues at the gate. That was a lot of his problems, so he picked off right where he left off.
“For a five-horse field, he had an eventful trip, he had horses bumping him around, but the winner is a very nice horse.”
Alpha had been working at Godolphin’s Greentree Training Center adjacent to the main track, and had two works on the Oklahoma training track.
“He likes it here, but it’s some tough horses running,” McLaughlin said. “We’re in tough wherever we go, so we’ll have to see and let him tell us.”
McLaughlin finds himself in a similar position with his Travers prospects.
Ingonito, fourth behind Palace Malice, Oxbow and Orb in the Belmont, may run in the $100,000 Curlin next Friday, although the Grade II Jim Dandy a day later remains an option.
“Again, very tough races, so we’re not looking forward to those spots, but we hope he runs,” McLaughlin said. “He could train up to the Travers. The Curlin is a better spot for any of us who haven’t won a Triple Crown race.
“If he’s doing great, then it’ll probably be the Curlin, but we also have Transparent, who’s been waiting, waiting, and he’s doing very well. The Curlin might be the better spot for either one of them.”
Transparent, another son of Bernardini, hasn’t run since April, but that was an allowance win at Aqueduct by 10 3⁄4 lengths.
‘DELTA’ AT DELAWARE
Royal Delta is on the identical schedule she used to win the Eclipse Award last year, which means she’s entered in the Grade I Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park on Saturday.
Since winning the Alabama in 2011, she has closed two straight seasons in the Beldame and Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.
The pattern leading up to those has been the Sabin at Gulfstream Park, the Dubai World Cup, the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs and the Delaware Handicap. She used the Personal Ensign as a bridge to the Beldame last year, but lost to long shot Love and Pride.
Royal Delta is coming off a second to front-runner Funny Proposition in the Fleur de Lis.
La Troienne winner Authenticity is cross-entered in the Delaware Handicap and the Shuvee at Saratoga, but likely will run in the Shuvee.
Old Friends (Frankel Division) at Cabin Creek will offer a very interesting auction item at its Kickoff Cocktail Party fundraiser on Saturday, a parade ring pennant bearing the name of Frankel, autographed by jockey Tom Queally and his late trainer, Sir Henry Cecil.
The pennant was used at the 2011 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, the eighth of the undefeated Frankel’s 14 career victories. The son of Galileo, owned by Juddmonte Farms, ran his last race last October.
Cecil, considered one of the greatest trainers in the history of the sport, died of cancer at the age of 72 on June 11.
The Old Friends at Cabin Creek division, and the eponymous horse, were named after the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, who trained many of Juddmonte’s star horses in North America.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik will host the Old Friends Cocktail Party, which will run from 7-11 p.m. at the Saratoga Golf & Polo Club in Wilton. The event will include hors d’oeuvres, buffet stations and dessert catered by chef John Ireland and live music performed by the jazz combo Fresh.
The pennant from the 2011 Goodwood is the first significant piece of Frankel memorabilia to come to the U.S. Also up for auction will be the silks worn by Jerry Bailey when Cigar won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic, among other items. The silks are framed and signed by Bailey, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owners Allen and Madeleine Paulson.
All funds raised by the live auction will help support the retired horses at Old Friends at Cabin Creek. Tickets for the fundraiser are $75 in advance and $85 at the door. To purchase tickets online, visit www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com or call 518-698-2377.