SARATOGA SPRINGS — Owner Bob Baron of Voorheesville can't wait to watch his best horse race at Saratoga Race Course.
But he'll gladly wait a few weeks longer.
Promises Fulfilled, who swept the Grade II Amsterdam and Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga Race Course last year, had an outside shot to make the July 27 Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt.
Instead, they'll sit that one out to give Promises Fulfilled some more time to recharge from a pretty rigorous spring and early summer campaign, while also perhaps giving him a better opportunity to show his best stuff in the Aug. 24 Grade I Forego on Travers Day.
Promises Fulfilled's last timed workout was June 29 at Belmont Park, which set him up for a 4 1/2-length victory in the Grade II John A. Nerud on Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont July 6, his first win since October.
That guaranteed him a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint through the "Win and You're In" qualifying series, and even though trainer Dale Romans said the option still exists to pursue a path to the BC Dirt Mile, they'll stick with the shorter distances in the seven-furlong Forego.
"The intent is to go to the Forego, but we'll discuss every possibility," Baron said two days before opening day of the 2019 Saratoga meet, noting that Romans would be easing Promises Fulfilled back into a race-ready training regimen soon. "But he looks pretty keyed up and looks pretty fit, so we'll take him back to the track and see."
Promises Fulfilled, named on the wedding anniversary of Baron and his wife of over four dacades, Debbie, gave the Baron clan the thrill of a lifetime at Saratoga last year.
He had been coming to Saratoga since the 1960s, a few years before the former RPI quarterback graduated from college and began owning horses in the 1990s, riding the success of two Albany-based trucking companies.
A 15th-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby didn't dampen their spirits. On the contrary, Romans decided to cut back to sprints, and Promises Fulfilled followed up a third in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day, when Justify won the Triple Crown, by sweeping the two graded sprint stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.
"We were up and down and screaming like a bunch of idiots; you know what I mean," Baron said after the Amsterdam win.
The celebration was even more frenzied after Promises Fulfilled, a son of Romans' 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, won the Allen Jerkens on Travers Day.
This season, Promises Fullfilled has tackled some tough assignments, without a win to show for it.
He closed out 2018 with a fourth to Roy H in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, then was back in action on March 30, shipping overseas to run in the Dubai Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup Day, finishing fourth to X Y Jet.
Then, Promises Fulfilled ran into Mitole, considered by some to be the best horse in training, for two straight, finishing third in the Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day in May and fourth in the Met Mile on Belmont Day. It was back to seven furlongs in the John Nerud, and he romped as the 3-5 betting favorite.
"You know, you go to Dubai, and you come back, and I've heard that they get pretty knocked out sometimes," Baron said. "I think he's finally rounding out into shape that he should be."
Skipping the A.G. Vanderbilt not only gets Promises Fulfilled some more time to prep for the Forego, but he also avoids Mitole who is pointing toward the Vanderbilt.
Promises Fulfilled may run into him again at some point, and the Barons will relish the opportunity. The 4-year-old colt hasn't been gelded and could have a lucrative second career as a stallion ahead of him, but for now Baron and his family want to soak up as much enjoyment as they can from their talented sprinter.
"We're having a ball, with the family and the kids behind it," he said. "So we're looking forward to it, because we get to go to all the big races and see all the big venues and everybody in the family goes.
"I told Dale, I don't mind if you run him as a 5-year-old. He's fit, he's sound, he's doing well. . . . Why not enjoy it? And I think he's just getting into the shape he needs to be in to compete."
Away from the races for over nine months, Hofburg returned to the site of his 2018 Curlin victory and also returned to the winner's circle in the ninth race on Thursday's card.
He won by 2 1/4 lengths in his first start since a sixth to Leofric in the Oct. 27 Grade II Fayette at Keeneland.
Trained by Bill Mott, Hofburg was seventh to Justify in the Kentucky Derby and third to him in the Belmont last year.
My Italian Rabbi made it 2-for-2 in her young career by nosing out Fierce Lady in Thursday's feature, the $100,000 Stillwater for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs.
Ridden by Luis Saez, My Italian Rabbi outdueled My Fierce Lady and jockey Javier Castellano all the way from the turn, finally prevailing by a few inches at the wire.
She had an easier time of it in breaking her maiden first time out on May 30, when she won at Belmont Park by 2 1/2 lengths.
"She broke very sharp. She was right there," Saez told NYRA. "I just stayed with her when we came to the stretch. We were trying and she finally got it in the last jump. When she raced the first time, she proved she could run. Today, she really proved it, too. I think she can get more distance. She can relax and go anywhere. We have a nice one right here."
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart said the $200,000 Seeking the Ante on Aug. 23 is a possible next start for My Italian Rabbi.
"I didn't know whether to root or not to root," said Englehart. "Every time I rooted for her, it seemed like she would drop back a little bit. Then, she started coming on, and just at that last jump, it looked like she was able to get the head bob.
"We probably didn't get the best Fierce Lady today; she'll probably be back and will be able to turn the tide. Kudos to Fierce Lady in defeat. I thought she ran really well."
With Saturday's card canceled due to a forecast of excessive heat, the entirety of the card has been moved to Sunday, including the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and Caress stakes races.
First post for the 13-race card will be 12:20, starting with a rescheduled steeplechase allowance that was supposed to have been run on Wednesday, but was callled off because of heavy rain.
The CCA Oaks will run as the fourth race with a scheduled post of 2:07; the Caress will be the 11th (6:16); and, the regularly scheduled Grade III Shuvee will run as the last race on the card (7:20).
Trainer Shug McGaughey told NYRA that Dwyer winner Code of Honor might skip the July 27 Jim Dandy and just train up to the Travers.
Code of Honor raced in just one leg of the Triple Crown, finishing third and moving up to second in the Kentucky Derby due to Maximum Security's disqualification. He followed that up with a win in the Dwyer on the Stars and Stripes card at Belmont on July 6.
"I haven't decided [on the Jim Dandy], still on the fence," McGaughey said. "He's made great progress here in the last few days and I'm probably leaning more towards the Travers as opposed to running in both, just to give him more time in between races."