Don’t look now, but The Big Beast is stalking the King’s Bishop.
Trained by Tony Dutrow for Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, The Big Beast will keep just out of sight until it’s time to pounce on the pacesetter. That hasn’t been his M.O. in his last two races, both wins, but it is the plan for today in the seven-furlong Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course.
“He had the 1 hole both times, and his hand was forced,” Dutrow said.
“There’s a great deal of speed in the race. I don’t think The Big Beast will be in front, but he is well-placed with his post position to be in an ideal stalking position.”
The 5-2 second choice on the morning line, The Big Beast will break from post seven, just inside Coup de Grace, the 2-1 favorite at the far outside.
Leading jockey Javier Castellano will ride The Big Beast again, as he has in the colt’s last two races, which he has won by a combined 10 1⁄2 lengths. He won an allowance here on July 26 by 6 1⁄4 lengths.
“That confirmed it,” Dutrow said of the allowance. “We were hoping we would see something like that that would get us to the King’s Bishop. The horse was leading us to believe that this horse deserved a chance at a race like the King’s Bishop.”
It’s a big step up in class, but his work since the allowance win has done nothing to dissuade Dutrow. He returned to his training Aug. 9 with a five-furlong breeze in :58.92, the fastest of 36 that day. He turned in a half-mile breeze Aug. 17 in :48.60. His works leading up to the allowance win were similar — a :59.97 and a :48.74.
Already proven against graded company, Coup de Grace — no immediate relation to Havre de Grace, although both have Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer in their bloodlines — comes in off a win in the Grade II Amsterdam here on the same day as The Big Beast’s allowance win.
That day, he beat C. Zee, who is 10-1 in the King’s Bishop and will break from the rail, by three lengths under Rosie Napravnik, who returns for the King’s Bishop.
Coup de Grace is a closer who also captured the Grade III Bay Shore and is 5-0-0 from seven career starts. Dutrow thinks, though, his horse will be ready to repel that closing move.
“We’ll get the jump on that horse, but that horse is to be highly respected,” Dutrow said. “The race sets up very well for that horse’s closing kick, and he will be coming.”
Trainer Larry Jones told the New York Racing Association he believes the speed in the race — possibly with a pace set by 6-1 Fast Anna, who is 2-for-2 in her career while setting blistering fractions — should favor Coup de Grace’s style.
“His running style depends on the length of the race,” Jones said. “In sprint races, he comes out relaxed and settles off the pace, but in routes, he has shown more speed. There’s a lot of speed in the King’s Bishop, which should be comfortable for him. He’s used to coming from off the pace in sprints.”
Another horse that has caught the attention of Dutrow is 4-1 third choice Wildcat Red, who ran third in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth, a race that was a runaway victory for Travers favorite Bayern.
Wildcat Red won the seven-furlong Grade III Hutcheson on Feb. 1 and the 1 1⁄16-mile Grade II Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22. Proven in sprints and routes, Wildcat Red was nominated for both the Travers and the King’s Bishop, but trainer Jose Garoffalo said the sprint is the right choice.
“I think the King’s Bishop is the best spot to put him,” Garoffalo said. “The Travers is going to be tough, and I want to refresh him a little bit. The mile and a quarter is too long for him now. .”
The King’s Bishop also features Myositis Dan, Noble Cornerstone and Noble Moon.