Pillar Mountain makes stakes debut in Wednesday’s John’s Call

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Team Valor’s Pillar Mountain has shown progression in his last two efforts and will attempt to continue climbing up the ladder when he makes his first stakes appearance in Wednesday’s $100,000 John’s Call, a 1 5/8-mile turf marathon over the Mellon turf course at Saratoga Race Course.

The John’s Call pays homage to the ageless Tom Voss trainee, who enjoyed his best season at the ripe age of 9 capturing the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational in 2000. In accomplishing this feat, he became the oldest horse to score a Grade 1 victory at the Spa. Later that year, he went on to win another Grade 1 victory when taking the Turf Classic Invitational and subsequently ran third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. He retired with a total of $1,571,267 in career earnings.

Pillar Mountain, a 4-year-old Irish-bred Kodiac bay, enters the John’s Call off a pair of allowance victories over the grass. In June, he rallied from 19 lengths back to best next out winner He’s No Lemon going 1 3/8 miles over a firm Widener turf course at Belmont Park, before a 2 ½-length win over the inner turf course at the Spa, where he registered a career best 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He’s coming off a couple of good wins, and we think the mile and five-eighths suits him well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Jockey Joel Rosario, a four-time stakes winner this meet, will retain the mount from post 4.

Three-time graded-stakes placed Highland Sky will be attempting his second stakes win for trainer Barclay Tagg when he emerges from the rail.

Owned by Joyce B. Young in partnership with Gerald and Jerrie Stewart McManis, the 6-year-old Sky Mesa gelding was third in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup two starts back going two miles at 28-1 odds and is the most seasoned John’s Call aspirant with 24 starts under his belt. Additionally, he brags the highest amount of career earnings with a total of $669,494 in the bank.

Highland Sky, who won the 2016 Woodhaven at Aqueduct, was graded-stakes placed twice as a sophomore, finishing second in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge and the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational. He will be seeking his first victory since defeating allowance company last June at Belmont Park, where he recorded a career best 103 Beyer.

“He’s training well. He’s happy and healthy and I thought this was a good spot for him,” said Tagg. “He’s a pretty honest horse and gives it all he has. I always thought he could run any distance, but in New York you can get beat at any distance, too.”

Jockey Manny Franco has guided Highland Sky in his past 10 outings and will return to the saddle for Wednesday’s race.

Trinity Farm’s Red Knight captured the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial at Gulfstream Park in December. The chestnut Pure Prize gelding was a close second to Bigger Picture in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 20 over a yielding turf at Keeneland and will seek to make amends following two off-the-board finishes. Red Knight began his career against his New York-bred counterparts, where he broke his maiden and won against allowance company during his 2017 campaign for Hall of Famer Bill Mott.

Red Knight will be ridden by two-time Saratoga leading rider Jose Ortiz and breaks from post 5.

Redicean [post 3, Jorge Vargas, Jr.], Nakamura [post 6, Javier Castellano] and Proquestor [post 7, Benjamin Hernandez], complete the field for the John’s Call. Turco Bravo is entered for main track only.