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Saratoga Notebook: Shaman Ghost’s work otherworldly problematic

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Saratoga Notebook: Shaman Ghost’s work otherworldly problematic

Saratoga Notebook: Shaman Ghost’s work otherworldly problematic
Junior Alvarado is aboard Lover’s Key after winning the New York Stallion Series stakes race Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Gazette Photographer

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The game plan for Shaman Ghost did a little bit of a disappearing act on Thursday morning.

Scheduled for a five-furlong breeze on the main track in preparation for the Woodward on closing weekend, the 2016 Woodward winner had his routine disrupted by a loose horse, then had to go wide around a set of horses that were also working.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens wants to see things go more smoothly next week in what would be Shaman Ghost’s fourth published breeze since he finished second to Keen Ice in the Suburban.

“It wasn’t quite what we were looking for,” Jerkens told the New York Racing Association. “We’ll have to come back with him next week and hope he does something better.”

Shaman Ghost was warming up when the horse got loose, forcing his exercise rider to pull him up. After they warmed up again, Shaman Ghost worked five furlongs in 1:01.32.

“He had to start over again, and he ended up getting tied in with the others,” Jerkens said. “He didn’t want to go with them, then he did, then he didn’t, so he ended up going wide.”

Shaman Ghost won last year’s Woodward by a head over Mubtaahij, with Frosted another head back.

The 5-year-old is having a strong 2017 season, with a second to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and wins in the Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special before the Suburban loss.

The less Lover’s Key can see, the better.

Trainer Reid Nagle has tinkered with different comb­inations of blinkers and finally settled on an extended cup on her right eye, which severely restricts her vision, and a full blinker on her left.

The equipment adjustment has paid off, as she won the New York Stallion Series Statue of Liberty Division on Thursday with Junior Alvar­ado in the saddle.

Lover’s Key has won five of six races since Nagle added blinkers, but in her first two races with them on, she won despite veering toward the outside rail. So he made another adjustment, and she hasn’t done much wrong since.

“They’ve turned her entirely around,” Nagle said.

“She has extension blinkers, which I was worried about the first time I rode her, but, I mean, nothing really bothers her,” Alvarado said. “She doesn’t drift out at all. A very nice and lovely filly.”

Alvarado got Lover’s Key to the front, and there she stayed.

She got away with reasonable fractions early and had enough to hold off Lady Joan by 2 1/4 lengths.

“I was surprised that it was that moderate and there wasn’t more competition for the front end,” Nagle said.

Travers prospect McCraken had what trainer Ian Wilkes called a maintenance work on the Oklahoma training track, four furlongs in 49.03 that was the fastest of 31 works at that distance.

The Haskell runner-up by a nose to another colt pointing toward the Travers, Girvin, McCraken was fourth in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.

“He’s starting to mature more,” Wilkes said. “He’s gotten into a nice rhythm now.”

Girvin is scheduled to breeze on the Oklahoma on Saturday after a gallop over the main track on Thursday.

“He continues to get physically tighter, and I expect the same effort as he’s given in his last two starts,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “If that’s good enough to win [the Travers], we’ll find out, but I know he’ll give a good performance.”

Mother Goose winner Unchained Melody is scheduled to breeze this morning in anticipation of next Saturday’s Alabama.

Unraced at 2, Unchained Melody is 3-for-4 this season.

“She’s been training good, and if we can knock out a big one like that, it will make up for a lot,” trainer Brian Lynch said.

Two others pointing toward the Alabama are Queen’s Plate winner Holy Helena and Salty, third to Abel Tasman in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks. That was Salty’s third straight loss to Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Abel Tasman, who is not scheduled to run in the Alabama.

Trainer Bob Baffert told the Daily Racing Form that Abel Tasman will run against older fillies and mares in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 26 or in the Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 23.

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