Grand Couturier Is Back Again


Grand Couturier’s participation in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational has become an annual rite of summer.

Saturday, when the Sword Dancer is run for the 36th time, Grand Couturier will be making his fifth consecutive appearance in the race, run at 1 1/2 miles on turf. After finishing third in the race as a 3-year-old in 2006, his North American debut, Grand Couturier won the Sword Dancer in 2007 and 2008 and finished fifth as the favorite last year.

He is listed at 8-1 on the morning line for Saturday’s Sword Dancer, in which he drew the extreme outside post in the 10-horse field.

“It’s not like he’s running because we’re trying to do this, ‘Hey, that sounds great - five years in a row he’s in the same race,’ ’’ trainer Robert Ribaudo said. “He’s doing good. This is where he belongs. It’s amazing just to be in the condition he’s in now, especially the way the game is today with horses having limited careers.”

Since receiving Grand Couturier from owner Marc Keller in summer 2006, Ribaudo has managed Grand Couturier through a variety of issues with his feet, ankles, and hind end. Ribaudo said Grand Couturier always seems to come around at this time of year, making races such as the Sword Dancer, the Bowling Green, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont in the fall ideal spots for him.

“To compete at that level, there’s no room for error,” Ribaudo said. “You’ve got to be at your best. When you try to plan things weather-wise, races going, not going - when it’s all said and done, this time of the year is when he’s at his best.’’

Grand Couturier is at his best when he has pace to run at, which isn’t often the case in turf marathons. In his last start, the Grade 1 Man o’ War, won by Gio Ponti, Grand Couturier found himself closer than usual to the pace, in part because of the pedestrian pace and in part because of a new rider, Rajiv Maragh.

“It’s tough changing riders on these kind of horses,” Ribaudo said. “They just have a way about them. The natural thing to do in a paceless race is to lay closer, but with these European horses and even Gio Ponti, he took back to last and stayed in his game, and it worked out. My instructions were the same: Drop back, get to the fence, and make one run. . . . He went up in there and got bounced around quite a bit and had a rough day.’’

Alan Garcia, aboard for Grand Couturier’s last three wins, will be back aboard Saturday.

The Sword Dancer appears to be a wide-open race. Expansion, beaten three-quarters of a length when third in the Man o’ War, was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Bearpath, fourth in the Man o’ War, gets a rider switch to Calvin Borel from apprentice Freddie Lenclud.

Trainer Neil Drysdale has entered Marlang and Marsh Side. Drysdale said Marlang would run on firm or soft ground, but that Marlang would probably run only on soft ground.

Take the Points possible for Arlington Million

As expected, an ankle issue prevented trainer Todd Pletcher from entering Take the Points in the Sword Dancer.

Pletcher said he hoped to get Take the Points back to the track Thursday, and that if he can get a breeze into Take the Points by Monday, perhaps he could make the Arlington Million on Aug. 21.

“We’re making progress, have not ruled out the Arlington Million,’’ Pletcher said. “It’s day by day.

“The leg has improved,” he said. “He’s still sound on it.”

Pletcher was considering the Arlington Million for Take the Points, anyway, since it is run at the same conditions and over the same course as the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, which Take the Points won last year.

“You could argue the mile and a quarter at Arlington was his best race performance,” Pletcher said.

Albarado injures clavicle, finger in spill

Jockey Robby Albarado suffered a fractured clavicle and broken knuckle on his left hand as a result of a spill following Wednesday’s first race, according to New York Racing Association officials. He will miss the next three to four weeks and the remainder of the Saratoga meeting.

Albarado was aboard Hunt for Candie who finished sixth in the first race. While galloping out, the horse unseated Albarado, who was on the turf for several minutes before walking into a waiting ambulance under his own power.

Albarado was taken to Albany Medical Center, where the injuries were diagnosed and where he underwent further tests late Wednesday afternoon. It had not yet been determined if he was going to be admitted overnight. Albarado had ridden four winners from 53 mounts at this meet. He had recently picked up Trickmeister for the $1 million Travers Stakes for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

Brown holds strong hand in Lake Luzerne

Though he wasn’t planning to run either filly in Friday’s Lake Luzerne, trainer Bruce Brown will send out the uncoupled entry of Healthy Debate and Freud’s Notebook in the seven-furlong race for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Healthy Debate, who was entered in Thursday’s Statue of Liberty Stakes, will run in this spot instead. She has won four consecutive races and could be the main speed of the race. Though she has not raced beyond 5 1/2 furlongs, Brown said he believes Healthy Debate can manage the seven furlongs.

“She’s a big filly,” Brown said. “She looks like she can get it.”

Freud’s Notebook returns to the dirt after finishing last in a turf allowance. The last time she raced on dirt, she was third to Franny Freud in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes.

“She’s the only Freud ever that hasn’t won on the grass,” Brown said.

Torrone, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, beat New York-breds by 4 1/2 lengths in a maiden race at Belmont after faltering against open company at Monmouth in her debut.

Trickmeister outfinishes Rail Trip in work

Dutrow Jr. put his newly acquired 3-year-old, Trickmeister, in company with his newly acquired 4-year-old, Rail Trip, for a six-furlong workout Wednesday morning. In a bit of surprise, Trickmeister outfinished Rail Trip by two lengths, under Robby Albarado, covering the six furlongs in 1:12.40. Rail Trip, under exercise rider Michelle Nevin, went in 1:12.80.

Albarado was asking more of Trickmeister than Nevin was of Rail Trip. The two worked together until deep stretch, going in splits of 12.12 seconds, 23.69, 35.17, and 46.94.

“I was expecting him to breeze good,” Dutrow said of Trickmeister. “We’re on target with him.”

Trickmeister will be stretching out from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/4 miles in the Travers.

“If he wants to go that far, we have a very live horse,” Dutrow said. “If he doesn’t, we’ll be able to figure things out. I like the horse. He’s good.”

Dutrow said he has not decided on a spot for Rail Trip. He said the Woodward here Sept. 4 is possible. He also mentioned the Iselin at Monmouth on Aug 21, but only if I Want Revenge, who worked six furlongs in 1:11.24 on Wednesday, can’t make it.

Boys at Tosconova, preparing for the Grade 1 Hopeful, worked six furlongs in 1:15.90.

Lubash prevails in Cab Calloway

After dueling with Good to Be Me on the lead through six furlongs, Lubash, under Kent Desormeaux, pulled away en route to a 1 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Cab Calloway Division of the New York Stallion Stakes.

Seattle Mission, the 3-2 favorite, rallied to get second by four lengths over Zealous Boy.

Lubash, a son of Freud owned by Aliyu Ben J Stable and trained by Jim Ryerson, covered the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:42.14 and returned $6.40.

by David Grening


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