Cross Border seeks third 2020 Saratoga meet win in Sword Dancer
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trainer Mike Maker will saddle a trio of top contenders, led by New York-bred Cross Border, who will look to win his third race of the 2020 Saratoga Race Course summer meet in today’s Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer.
The Sword Dancer, a 12-furlong inner turf test for 4-year-olds and upward, offers an automatic berth in the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 7 at Keeneland Race Course.
Today’s blockbuster card offers four graded events including the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing at seven furlongs on the main track for older sprinters; the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam at six furlongs for sophomore sprinters; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac at one mile on the inner turf for 3-year-olds.
Three Diamonds Farm, currently third in the Spa summer meet owner standings with six wins, will be represented by Maker trainees Cross Border and Marzo.
Bred in the Empire State by Berkshire Stud and B. D. Gibbs, Cross Border is a perfect 5-for-5 at Saratoga. The 6-year-old English Channel ridgling notched the natural hat trick last summer at the Spa, winning an open allowance in July ahead of August scores in a restricted allowance tilt and a restricted optional-claiming event.
That run of form propelled Cross Border to the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont Park, where the dark bay earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure when fifth, defeated 2 ½-lengths to Arklow.
Cross Border earned graded-stakes placed status in January when second by a neck to Spooky Channel in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight at Gulfstream Park and two starts later was defeated just a length to Instilled Regard when fifth in the Grade 1 Manhattan on July 4 at Belmont.
His Saratoga domination continued anew on July 22 when 6 ¼-lengths the best in the 1 1/16-mile Lubash for state-breds, and despite being wheeled back on just ten-days rest, Cross Border crossed the wire second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green and was elevated to first following the disqualification of Sadler’s Joy for lugging in and bumping Cross Border, who was forced into the path of Channel Maker.
“I don’t know what it is about Saratoga, but he seems to flourish up here,” said Maker assistant Nolan Ramsey. “Not only does he show it in his past performances, but physically the horse does well up here. His coat looks great and he really enjoys his training. We nicknamed him “The Machine” because he just really gets into his training. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it is about Saratoga, but he likes it up here.”
Jose Ortiz retains the mount aboard Cross Border from post 6.
Marzo, bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, set the pace in the Bowling Green and stayed on for fifth, defeated 2 ¼-lengths. The 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding made the grade in the Grade 3 Sycamore in October at Keeneland traveling 12 furlongs. Winless in five starts following the Sycamore score, Marzo did earn blacktype when third in the Grade 3 John B. Connally at Sam Houston in January.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. will guide Marzo from post 3.
Maker will also saddle Grade 1 winner Aquaphobia, who has posted 8-of-9 career wins on firm turf.
The 7-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding, bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson, broke through at the highest level last out when stalking and pouncing to a one-length win in the 11-furlong Grade 1 United Nations on July 18 at Monmouth Park.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. picks up the mount from post 2.
Al Shahania Stud America’s Pedro Cara, a 4-year-old French-bred son of Pedro the Great, enjoyed a productive sophomore season that included wins in the Prix Frederic de Lagrange in July at Vichy and the Group 2 Qatar Derby in December at Doha. In between those winning efforts, Pedro Cara was a game second, defeated just a nose to Spanish Mission, in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont.
Pedro Cara made his seasonal debut in February at Doha when third in the Group 1 H.H. The Amir Trophy at Doha, a length and a half back of the Graham Motion-trained runner-up Standard Deviation.
The gelding was subsequently transferred to the care of Motion and will make his first start in eight months, having breezed weekly on the all-weather surface at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland for Motion since July 11, including a seven-furlong effort in 1:27.60 on August 24.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will have the call from post 7.
Woodslane Farm’s Sadler’s Joy will make his fourth appearance in the Sword Dancer for trainer Tom Albertrani. The 7-year-old Kitten’s Joy horse won this event in 2017, finished sixth in 2018 and last year rallied bravely to finish second by a neck to Annals of Time.
He will emerge from post 8 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s multiple Grade 1-winner Channel Maker will make his third appearance in the Sword Dancer following a runner-up effort in 2018 and a fourth last year.
Rounding out the field are Highland Sky (post 1, Junior Alvarado) and Corelli (post 5, Joel Rosario).
Basin shortens up in G2 Amsterdam
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jackpot Farm’s Basin is entered in a sprint for the first time since his juvenile campaign, making his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher in headlining a six-horse field in the six-furlong Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam today at Saratoga Race Course.
The 28th running of the Amsterdam for sophomores is one of four graded stakes on the 11-race card, highlighted by the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer for 4-year-olds and up on the inner turf in a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Keeneland.
Also featured will be the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds competing at one mile on the inner turf.
After registering four breezes over the Saratoga main track since July, the Liam’s Map colt will be making his first start at the historic course since winning the Grade 1 Hopeful last September to cap his juvenile campaign.
Under Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, Basin started the year on the Triple Crown trail, running third in the Grade 2 Rebel to start his 3-year-old campaign in March at Oaklawn Park. He again ran on a sloppy and sealed track next out, running fourth in the Oaklawn Stakes in April.
Keeping at the two-turn 1 1/8-mile distance, Basin won his second career Grade 1 in a division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2, crossing the wire second, six lengths back of Charlatan, who was later disqualified from purse money.
Long Weekend will return to the site of his lone previous graded stakes start, making his first appearance of the year against graded caliber for trainer Tom Amoss. The ultra-consistent Majesticperection colt is 4-1-0 in six career starts, with his only off-the-board effort coming in his second start last year when sixth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Jockey Luis Saez will pick up the mount for the first time and will break from post 3.
Liam’s Pride will look to bounce back after finishing last of 11 in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens on August 1, Whitney Day, at Saratoga. But the Liam’s Map colt notched a victory in the race prior, overcoming a sloppy and sealed track to win the six-furlong Gold Fever by a head on July 10 at Belmont Park.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Liam’s Pride was unraced as a juvenile but has already made nine starts this year with two wins, breaking his maiden at fourth asking in March at Oaklawn Park before his stakes win last month.
Owned by Tom Mansor, Richard Pushor, Robert Roy, Chadwick Calvert and Jerry Caroom, Liam’s Pride will return the services of jockey Dylan Davis for a third straight race, drawing the outermost post 6.
Yaupon will make his stakes debut in attempting to start his career 3-for-3 after a debut win by a nose in June at Churchill Downs. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Yaupon handled the Saratoga track well last month, besting allowance company by 3 ¾ lengths on July 18 to earn a field-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
Joel Rosario, aboard for his win last month, will ride again, breaking from post 2.
Rounding out the field is Premier Star, a last-out winner going six furlongs at Laurel Park on August 6, for trainer Michael Trombetta [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Wondrwherecraigis, who was placed third in the Gold Fever in his previous start, for trainer Brittany Russell, drawing post 5 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard.
Whitmore looks to build on resume in G1 Forego
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Veteran war horse Whitmore will face off against three other Grade 1 winners in today’s 41st running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing at Saratoga Race Course.
The seven-furlong event for older horses over the main track is named in honor of one of the greatest racehorses of all time, who won eight Eclipse Awards during a storied racing career. Owned by Martha F. Gerry’s Lazy F Ranch, Forego was named Horse of the Year for three straight years (1974-76) while displaying versatility having won stakes at distancing ranging from seven furlongs to 2 miles. Forego won some of New York’s most historic races on multiple occasions including the Woodward (1974-77); the Met Mile (1976-77); the Brooklyn (1974-76).
Boasting a record of 35-14-11-3 and lifetime earnings of over $3.1 million, Whitmore will attempt to join Groovy (1986-87) and Quick Call (1988-89) as the only horses to win multiple editions of the Forego.
A winner of the 2018 Forego over subsequent Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup winner City of Light, Whitmore boasts six graded stakes victories including three triumphs, in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park [2017-18 and 2020]. In addition to wins in the 2017 Grade 3 Maryland Sprint at Pimlico and Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland, the 7-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect has also scored four straight editions of Oaklawn’s Hot Springs, winning every year since 2017.
Owned by trainer Ron Moquett in partnership with Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, Whitmore arrives at the race off a runner-up finish to Volatile in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on July 25 at the Spa. Moquett originally intended on training up to the Phoenix at Keeneland en route to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where Whitmore has finished a respective second and third in the last two runnings.
At the age of 7, Whitmore will attempt to become the oldest horse to win the prestigious Spa sprint.
Jockey Luis Saez, who previously rode Whitmore to a runner-up effort in 2019 Count Fleet behind Mitole, will return from post 2.
Looking to become a Grade 1 winner at the Spa at ages 2, 3, and 4 is Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ Mind Control, who was third in the Vanderbilt last out.
Trained by Gregg Sacco, the 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty was an upset winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful in September 2018 and went on to take the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy the following year at the Spa.
Since the Vanderbilt, Mind Control has trained forwardly for Sacco at his Monmouth Park base, recording a trio of breezes over the New Jersey oval.
Mind Control was entered in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Phillip H. Iselin at Monmouth Park, but scratched in favor of the Forego.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, a two-time winner of the Forego, has been aboard Mind Control for four of his five graded stakes wins and will retain the mount from post 10.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle Grade 1 winner Complexity and lightly-raced Fortin Hill.
Owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, Complexity arrives off an allowance optional claiming victory going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
The 4-year-old son of Maclean’s Music will seek a triumphant return to Grade 1 form having won the Grade 1 Champagne in October 2018 at Belmont Park over eventual Runhappy Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Code of Honor.
Jockey Jose Ortiz has been aboard for all but one of Complexity’s seven lifetime starts and will be aboard from post 6.
OXO Equine’s Fortin Hill is the only Forego contender with no prior experience against stakes company but has won three of his four lifetime starts. The son of Mucho Macho Man was a recent allowance winner at Belmont Park going the Forego distance, where he bested stakes winner Amundson while registering a 101 Beyer.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. attempt a ninth stakes win of the meet when piloting Fortin Hill from post 11.
Mr Amore’s Firenze Fire, who was second in last year’s Forego, will seek his first Grade 1 triumph since taking the 2017 Champagne during his 2-year-old campaign.
Breaking from post 8, Firenze Fire will receive the riding services of Junior Alvarado, who piloted 2013 Forego winner Strapping Groom.
After scoring his first career Grade 1 victory with Vexatious in the Personal Ensign earlier this month, trainer Jack Sisterson will send out three contestants for the Forego on behalf of Calumet Farm.
Everfast, a runner-up in last year’s Grade 1 Preakness Stakes to War of Will, defeated winners for the first time last out in a seven-furlong tilt at the Spa, winning by 2 ½ lengths as the favorite.
The son of Take Charge Indy worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on August 22.
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will look to be the first jockey to win three straight editions of the Forego since Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey (2001-03) as he pilots Everfast from post 1.
Lexitonian was close to tasting a Grade 1 win last out with a late-closing second in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar. The winner of last year’s Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico displayed different tactics last out and made up ten lengths coming from well off the pace.
Lexitonian will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post 3.
Rounding out Sisterson’s trio is True Timber, who seeks his first stakes triumph after having acquired graded stakes black type seven times.
Vanzzy carries winning form into G3 Saranac
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Daniel M. Ryan’s Vanzzy has proven capable of winning over any surface thrown his way and will try to build off a recent turf stakes victory in today’s Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac, a one-mile test for sophomores over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Michael Pino, the bay son of Verrazano was a last-out winner of the Jersey Derby on July 26 at Monmouth Park, which he won by 3 ½ lengths over the firm turf.
Vanzzy began his career over the main track, graduating at second asking going one mile on October 14 at Parx, before winning the Display over the all-weather surface two months later at Woodbine. Two starts later, Vanzzy won another stakes over a synthetic surface when taking the Rushaway at Turfway Park in wire-to-wire fashion.
Jockey Joel Rosario, a winner of three of the last five editions of the Saranac, will pilot Vanzzy from post 1.
Trainer Graham Motion will send out the Jersey Derby runner-up Bye Bye Melvin and third-place finisher Irish Mias for another crack at Vanzzy.
Alex M. Campbell, Jr.’s Bye Bye Melvin, a dark bay son of Uncle Mo, was beaten 3 ½ lengths in the Jersey Derby, where he was a 37-1 longshot. Prior to two unplaced efforts against graded stakes company, Bye Bye Melvin was a fourth-out maiden winner by 8 ¼ lengths at Tampa Bay Downs en route to an optional claiming score against winners at Tampa.
Bye Bye Melvin is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Mean Mary, who was second in Sunday’s Grade 1 Diana at the Spa. Both horses are out of Grade 1 winner Karlovy Vary.
“Originally, I was going to go to Colonial Downs with this horse, but when the meet got cancelled this spot seemed logical,” Motion said. “This is a better distance for him.”
Motion will add blinkers to Bye Bye Melvin for today’s race.
“He worked really well with them last week, so we’re adding them,” Motion said.
Bye Bye Melvin worked five furlongs in one minute flat over the all weather surface at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland last Saturday.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who teamed up with Motion to take the 2014 Saranac with Ring Weekend, has the mount from post 2.
Isabelle de Tomaso’s Irish Mias was third as the beaten favorite in the Jersey Derby and seeks his first win since breaking his maiden in the Laurel Futurity on September 21.
The New Jersey homebred makes a return to graded stakes company after finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy on January 4 at Gulfstream Park and a close seventh in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland.
Irish Mias is out of the 2019 New Jersey broodmare of the year Irish Score, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning millionaire Irish War Cry, who also was conditioned by Motion.
“I thought he also ran respectively at Monmouth and it’s a shame I have to run the two against each other,” Motion said. “I’ve had most of the family now and they’re similar types. It’s been a little frustrating this year. We got a little messed up with scheduling because of COVlD, but he’s doing well.”
Irish Mias will break from post 7 under Manny Franco.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle L’Imperator for his North American debut under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Owned by Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Robert LaPenta, the French-bred son of Holy Roman Emperor arrives at the Saranac off three straight wins in his native country, the most recent of which was an easy three-length win going 1 ¼ miles at Toulouse.
L’Imperator has been training over the Oklahoma training turf since July and recently worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat over the grass.
L’Imperator will break from post 4.
Dare to Dream Stable’s Embolden brings a highly consistent record of 7-2-3-2 into the Saranac, where he will attempt his first graded stakes victory. Trained by Michael Stidham, the gray or roan son of The Factor was third to Four Wheel Drive in the Grade 3 Futurity on October 6 at Belmont Park, which was his lone effort in a graded stakes race. He made his seasonal bow in most recent effort when finishing second beaten a length to Largent in the restricted Edward P. Evans on July 29 at Colonial Downs.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will ride from post 9.
Completing the field are Three Technique [post 3, Junior Alvarado], Don Juan Kitten [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche], Big Dreaming [post 6, Jose Lezcano], Bodecream [post 10, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Turn of Events [post 11, Luis Saez]. Ima Pharoah has been entered for main track only.
The Saranac is slated as Race 3 on today’s 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:10 p.m.