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Voodoo Song back to his favorite track, Saratoga

Voodoo Song back to his favorite track, Saratoga

Horse went 4-for-4 at the Spa in 2017, then won the Grade I Fourstardave last year
Voodoo Song back to his favorite track, Saratoga
Voodoo Song, who is 5-for-6 at Saratoga over the last two seasons, is entered in the Forbidden Apple on Friday
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Today's Saratoga Race Course time machine takes us back to 1952.

Native Dancer came to Saratoga as a 2-year-old and not only raced four times during the 24-day meet, but won four times, punctuated by the Hopeful Stakes.

Such a schedule may not have been unusual back then, and Native Dancer winning at a high percentage certainly turned out to be his standard -- the "Grey Ghost" was 21-for-22 in his career. There's a bronze statue of him where Union Avenue meets Circular Street.

Pull that 4-for-4 stunt at Saratoga in 2017, though, and you've got a different story.

And that's exactly what Voodoo Song did, in a claiming race, two allowances and the Grade III Saranac.

Then in 2018, he substituted quantity for quality, racing just twice at Saratoga, but winning a race at the highest level, the Grade I Fourstardave by a neck over Delta Prince.

As long as the Saratoga turf courses don't take so much rain that trainer Linda Rice would decide to scratch, Voodoo Song won't have to wait long for his 2019 debut, as he's entered in Friday's Grade III Forbidden Apple on the inner turf course.

Rice is used to running her horses back at the relatively short Saratoga meet, but four times was way outside the box. By the end of the 2017 meet, Voodoo Song had become a fan favorite.

"That was an amazing feat. You could try that 10 times and not make it happen again, so that was pretty exciting. And then, of course, last year he wins a Grade I here, so ... what're we going to do this year?" she said, laughing.

Voodoo Song, owned by Barry Schwartz, is actually coming off a loss at his favorite track, finishing fifth to Qurbaan in the Bernard Baruch last September after the Fourstardave, so he's 5-for-6 lifetime at Saratoga.

He is lightly raced since then, fading to 12th in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last October, and hasn't been to the track outside of workouts since.

Rice is worried about both the turf and her horse coming up soft, as Voodoo Song has put on some weight during the nine months away from competition.

"Well, he hasn't run in quite awhile," she said. "And with a little age, he's gotten a little heavier on us this winter, so we've been struggling a little bit getting the weight back off him. He worked well enough last Sunday at Belmont that we're going to give him a go."

Voodoo Song went five furlongs in 1:00.80 on the Belmont Park turf course, giving Rice an indication that, even if he is still carrying some extra baggage, he's fit enough to take a swing at the Forbidden Apple.

He won this race last year, when it was held at Belmont four weeks before the Fourstardave.

"He's proven that he really likes this track configuration," Rice said. "The only issue I'm having is it took me about three starts last year to get him going at his best. So we'll see how that goes.

"I'm a little worried about the turf being a little soft. And also, last year year when I started him back, I think we were third in an allowance race at Aqueduct. It took him a couple starts to get him going. This year, we'll see what happens. Like I said, he's carrying more weight than usual. I've been trying to squeeze on him to get it off him, but he just keeps it. So he might need a race or two to get going."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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