Trainer Chad Brown, a native of Mechanicville, will be taking two big swings today when he tries to improve his batting average at Saratoga Race Course.
With just one winner in his first 11 starts at the meet, Brown has two runners in the Grade II Lake George, both of whom are knocking on the door of great success.
The French-bred Little Journey finished third behind A Little Bit Sassy in the Edgewood and then stepped up and finished third in the Grade I American Oaks on May 31 at Santa Anita.
That race was at 1 1⁄8 miles and Brown said Little Journey, 5-1 on the morning line, should be set up well for the Lake George.
“I like the timing of the race, putting her back into a Grade II also,” he told the New York Racing Association. “In a perfect world, I wish this race was a little farther, but I think she’s versatile enough to cut back and handle the distance.”
His other runner, Irish-bred Sweet Acclaim (4-1), returns to graded company after two close finishes in ungraded stakes at Belmont Park. In both races, she was beaten less than a length. In the second start of her career, in France with trainer Noel Quinlan, she finished third in a Group 3 race, and in her U.S. debut, she was second in the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland.
“This filly kind of got a wide journey last time and hung out a little bit,” Brown said of Sweet Acclaim. “Hopefully, we can save a little ground this time, and hopefully she can handle the stretch-out to a mile and a sixteenth. She’s never been this far. I love the way she’s training. She’s come in here with a nice series of workouts, so we’re optimistic she’s going to run well.”
Asked about running the two together for separate owners, Brown said, “There are only so many opportunities out there, and sometimes, you have conflicts on the schedule, but I don’t ever have any issues with my clients about it.”
A Little Bit Sassy, who was disqualified from a victory in her most recent start, looks for her first graded stakes win as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the race for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
A versatile runner who has proven capable stalking or coming from off the pace, A Little Bit Sassy scored a gritty head victory June 14 in the 1 1⁄8 -mile Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs, only to be disqualified to fourth.
“[Jockey Luis Saez] had the whip in his right hand and then he hit her left-handed and she came out [into another runner],” said trainer Michael Matz of the stretch drive and subsequent disqualification. “He should have just stayed with the right hand.”
A Little Bit Sassy, a daughter of More Than Ready, has been a steadily improving model of consistency since her off-the-board debut finish last August in a turf sprint at Saratoga. Since then, she has won twice —in her maiden breaker and in the Edgewood at the Lake George distance on May 2 at Churchill Downs — as well as finishing second twice, including in the $100,000 Chelsea Flower as a 2-year-old at Belmont Park.
“I’m pleased with the way she’s trained,” Matz said after A Little Bit Sassy finished a routine gallop Saturday morning. “Whether she’s good enough, we’ll have to see.”
A Little Bit Sassy drew the outside post in a field of seven and figures to get a stalking trip behind Daring Kathy, which drew the rail.
Trainer David Fawkes said Daring Kathy will run “right off the plane,” and he expects his 6-1 shot to be plenty hard to handle. She has won four of five career starts and is undefeated in three turf tries, two in stakes races.
“I like her a lot in there; she’s the lone speed,” Fawkes said. “I drew the one post. Johnny [Velazquez] is riding. He’s good, right?”
Fawkes admitted he had to be talked by owners Steve Laymon and John Eaton into trying Daring Kathy on the turf after two dirt runs — a debut victory at six furlongs and a seventh-place finish in a stakes race at Calder.
“For the kind of filly she is, she’s got a bigger foot for a Wildcat Heir and on the flatter side,” Fawkes said. “I’ll be honest, before she ran [on turf], it was the owners’ idea to run on the grass, and I dragged my feet because she would be more valuable on dirt.”
Daring Dancer, who defeated Sweet Acclaim when winning the Appalachian, runs for trainer Graham Motion and Sagamore Farm. Following that score at Keeneland, she shipped to Belmont and ran the worst race of her career, finishing fifth in the Wonder Again. She is 3-1 on the morning line.