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Saratoga Race Track Plans Big Weekend


July 24, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

Breeders’ Cup Challenge Targets Saratoga this Weekend with Whitney, Go For Wand, Diana, and Alfred G. Vanderbilit

Saturday’s card at Saratoga will feature four “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge races: The $750,000 Whitney, $500,000 Diana, $250,000 Go for Wand, and $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt. The winners of these events will gain automatic starting berths to the respective races in their division at the 25th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on October 24 and October 25.

The Whitney, Diana, Go for Wand, and Alfred G. Vanderbilt will be shown live on the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge presented by Sentient Flight Group” telecast Saturday on ABC at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

Commentator Seeks Second Whitney Win

Millionaire Commentator, the winner of the 2005 Whitney, heads a strong line-up for this year’s Grade I Whitney, a “Win and You’re In” designated race for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25.

The Whitney is also expected to feature the Mark Hennig-trained Notional, the winner of Monmouth Park’s Salvator Mile (a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event). Notional’s victory in the July 5 Salvator secured him a berth to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park on October 25. Giant Gizmo enters the Whitney on a roll, fresh off back-to-back stakes wins in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs and the Lone Star Park Handicap for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.

Adding depth to the 1-1/8-mile Whitney are graded winners A.P. Arrow and Timber Reserve, and the Suburban Handicap’s second-place and third-place finishers, Solar Flare and Rising Moon.

Commentator, a 7-year-old New York-bred gelding trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, was a game runner-up of the Metropolitan Mile Handicap at Belmont Park on May 26. Commentator set a swift space in the Met Mile while under pressure, and grudgingly gave way to the two-length winner, Divine Park, in deep stretch. Divine Park’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, said Sunday that he would likely skip the Whitney with his horse and point to the Woodward at Saratoga on August 30.

Commentator, a winner of $1,091,936 for owner Tracy Famer, has been ultra-consistent throughout his career and sports a record of 11-1-2 in 18 starts. In 2005, Commentator won the Whitney over a field that included that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year, Saint Liam. Commentator secured his first and only Grade I win to date in the Whitney with his neck win over Saint Liam.

Top Turf Fillies and Mares Clash in Diana

The $500,000 Diana Handicap is shaping up as a stellar race and will feature four Grade I winners: Bit Of Whimsy, Rutherienne, Vacare, and Wait A While.

The winner of the Grade I Diana, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, will earn a starting spot in the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita Park on October 24.

Wait a While targets the Diana following a layoff to heal a stress fracture she sustained to her left tibia after winning the Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at Santa Anita on January. 14. Wait a While was named the champion 3-year-old filly of 2006 after scoring multiple stakes wins on the turf, including the Grade I American Oaks and Grade I Yellow Ribbon. A 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon, Wait a While has shown an affinity for the Saratoga turf by winning the Grade III Lake Placid there in 2006 and the Grade II Ballston Spa Handicap last year for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Alan Cohen’s Arindel Farm.

Christophe Clement, one of top turf trainers in the country, holds a strong hand with Rutherienne and Vacare.

Rutherienne, a 4-year-old daughter of Pulpit, started the year on a winning note with a gutsy victory in the Grade II Jenny Wiley at Keeneland. Last year, she won the Grade I Del Mar Oaks, as well as Saratoga’s Grade III Lake George. Stablemate Vacare, a 5-year-old daughter of Lear Fan, finished eighth in her only start this year in the Grade I Just a Game Handicap at Belmont Park on June 7. In 2006, Vacare became a Grade I winner in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

Bit of Whimsy, who posted a win over 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Dreaming of Anna in last year’s running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, seeks her first win of 2008 after finishing off the board in both the Jenny Wiley and Just a Game. Barclay Tagg trains Bit of Whimsy, a 4-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor, for Joyce B. Young.

Bayou&Rsquo;s Lassie, Chestoria, Criminologist, Dynaforce, Forever Together, and Lady Digby are also pointing to the Diana.

Ginger Punch Seeks Knockout in Go For Wand

The $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup challenge race that will automatically qualify its winner a starting position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita Park on October 24, will feature last year’s champion older filly and mare Ginger Punch, the likely heavy favorite. Owned by Stronach Stables and trained by Frankel, Ginger Punch is the defending champion of the Grade I Go for Wand, a race she won last year by six lengths. Her 2007 Go for Wand win provided Ginger Punch with a starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she posted a dramatic neck win over Hystericalady

Ginger Punch enters the Grade I Go for Wand in top form following wins in the Grade II Louisville and Grade I Ogden Phipps handicaps this year.

Ginger Punch’s competition in the 1 1/8-mile Go for Wand will include Indescibable, Over Under, and Runaway Rosie.

Indescribable won the Arlington Matron Handicap in May for trainer Bill Mott and owner Donald Adam. Over Under is set to make her graded debut in the Go for Wand following a three-length score in a minor stakes at Prairie Meadows for trainer Dallas Stewart and owner-breeder WinStar Farm. Runaway Rose tuned up for the Go for Wand with an easy victory in the Proud Delta Stakes at Belmont Park on July 2 for her connections, trainer Gary Contessa and owner Steve Sigler’s Winning Move Stable.

Undefeated Bustin Stones Squares Off with 2006 Breeders&Rsquo; Cup Sprint Winner Thor&Rsquo;S Echo In Vanderbilt

Bustin Stones, a perfect 6-for-6 lifetime, received a freshening after winning the Grade I Carter at Aqueduct on April 5. While being pointed to the Metropolitan Mile Handicap, Bustin Stones developed a fever, according to trainer Bruce Levine who decided to give the 4-year-old son of City Zip the early summer off in anticipation of the Grade II Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.

The six-furlong Vanderbilt is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park on October 25.

New York-bred Bustin Stones, who races for his breeder Roddy Valente, also won the Grade II General George at Laurel Park in February. Additionally, he has three stakes wins in restricted races.

Bustin Stones makes his Saratoga debut in the $250,000 Vanderbilt and his expected to face Abraaj, Black Seventeen, Fabulous Strike, First Defence, Sammarco, and Thor&Rsquo;s Echo.

Thor’s Echo, the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 2006 following his dominating win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs at odds of 15-1, makes his second start after a year-plus layoff.

Trained by Doug O’Neill in California, Thor’s Echo, a 6-year-old gelded son of Swiss Yodeler, finished fourth in the True North Handicap at Belmont Park on on June 7. The True North was his first race since finishing sixth in the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Fabulous Strike is another Grade I winner in the Vanderbilt field. Last year, the 5-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike won the Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

Belmont Winner Da’ Tara Returns In Sunday’s Jim Dandy at Saratoga

Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara resumes his summer campaign in the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Sunday.

Da’ Tara registered a shocker with his 5 -length romp in the Grade I Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown. In winning the $1 million Belmont, Da’ Tara spoiled the chances of Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown, who was eased in the stretch.

Da’ Tara will be joined in the $500,000 Jim Dandy, a prep for the $1 million Travers at Saratoga on August 23, by stablemate Anak Nakal. Zito, the trainer of Da’ Tara, also saddled Anak Nakal to a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Macho Again, the Preakness runner-up, is also scheduled to run in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy. Pyro, who rebounded from a poor effort in the Kentucky Derby to win the Northern Dancer at Churchill Downs on June 14, is another top 3-year-old in the Jim Dandy mix. Pyro, second to War Pass in last year’s Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, began his 3-year-old campaign with a bang by winning the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby.

Iowa Derby winner Tiz Now Tiz Then also has his sights set on the Jim Dandy. My Pal Charlie, second in the Northern Dancer is also expected to run.