No more guessing game.
Commanding Curve was entered in both the $100,000 Curlin on today’s card and the $600,000 Grade II Jim Dandy on Saturday. With the field for the Jim Dandy coming up only seven strong, albeit a strong seven, trainer Dallas Stewart and ownership group West Point Thoroughbreds decided to scratch him out of the Curlin.
The Kentucky Derby runner-up will join Belmont winner Tonalist and Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong for the traditional Travers prep race over 1 1⁄8 miles on the main track. Commanding Curve was ninth in the Belmont.
“I wanted to be in the [Curlin] if the Jim Dandy was a much larger field, or we didn’t draw the way we want to or weather,” Stewart told the New York Racing Association. “But I feel like this all fits together. Tonalist is a great horse. He won the Belmont, but he hasn’t won here. He hasn’t beaten us here. We had a bad race in the Belmont. I feel like my horse likes this track.”
Shaun Bridgmohan will return for the ride. He guided Commanding Curve through both Triple Crown races.
“[Bridgmohan] worked him, and he’s very positive about him, and everything I can see in the stall — eating well, all that stuff — is good for me,” Stewart said. “If we get beat, we get beat. We want to give him a chance to swing forward to the Travers.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano came into the stretch aboard Pure Sensation behind a trio of leaders and inside Glacken Too, but he found room to make a bold move to the outside in the 5 1⁄2-furlong Quick Call on Thursday, and Pure Sensation still found enough kick to catch the leaders and win by a nose.
The photo finish showed Pure Sensation getting to the line first by the slimmest of margins as he hit the wire outside Choctaw Chuck and Favorite Tale. The trio hit the wire almost as one, and winning trainer Christophe Clement sat quietly as he could to await the results of the photo finish.
“I’m sitting next to the owner, in this case, so I don’t say too much, because you have to be careful, but I was a little bit worried,” Clement said. “I think the jockey made a great ride, it’s just the race was a little bit against us and he was boxed in, as you saw. But I guess when they are good enough, you can just get out of trouble, which is wonderful.”
Good Bye Greg was the pacesetter through fractions of 22.02 and 44.29, eventually yielding to Favorite Tale and Choctaw Chuck about the same time Lezcano swung Pure Sensation outside. It looked like Choctaw Chuck, the longest shot on the board at 17-1, was going to pull out the win by a few inches until Pure Sensation found a little bit extra for the final sixteenth.
“He was very brave, because he went on again, and I loved the way he finished,” Clement said.
Pure Sensation paid $9.30, $5.80 and $3.90 in the win. Choctaw Chuck finished a head in front of Favorite Tale and returned $14.80 and $6.20, while Favorite Tale paid $4.20 to show.
The third race on Saturday’s card features some expensive juveniles going six furlongs on the dirt, including Mechanicville’s Chad Brown’s $1 million Malibu Moon colt, Aldrin, who is a three-quarter brother of Tapit.
“Tyson and Holyfield, round one,” Brown said.
It is unclear whether he meant Aldrin will be the biter or bitee. Other potential heavyweights in the maiden special weight race will be Eric Guillot’s Da Jenius, a $350,000 Malibu Moon colt. An also-eligible entry, Todd Pletcher has Competitive Edge, a $750,000 Super Saver colt.
Another four entries were sold for more than $100,000 at auction.
Brown feels good about his horse’s chances in the tough field.
“The horse is really nice,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens. The longer, the better, but he’s quick enough to run three-quarters if you need him to.”
A WATCHFUL EYE
The New York State Gaming Commission and NYRA announced enhanced security protocols for horses running in the $1.5 million Grade I Whitney on Aug. 2 and the $1.25 million Grade I Travers on Aug. 23.
All horses that hope to participate in either race will be subject to out-of-competition testing and must be on the grounds by noon the Wednesday before the race. Trainers must provide complete veterinary records for three days leading up to the races, and horses will be monitored around the clock from their arrival until the race, with security personnel tracking all treatments performed by vets.
Blood samples from each horse will be sent to the N.Y.S. Equine Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College.
On the day of the races, no treatment beyond Lasix (for specifically designated horses) will be permitted. The horses must be in the Assembly Barn between 45 minutes and one hour before post time for TC02 sampling, then will be escorted to the paddock.
HERE AND THERE
Dance With Fate, sixth in the Kentucky Derby, was hurt during training at Del Mar on Thursday morning and did not survive his injuries.
The Grade I Blue Grass winner got loose and injured his stifle.
Trained by Peter Eurton, Dance With Fate was entered in Saturday’s Grade II San Diego at Del Mar.