SATURDAY STAKES: SARATOGA & DEL MAR
Tizway, Flat Out among the favored in wide-open Whitney
TIZWAY (Tiznow) and FLAT OUT (Flatter) turned in arguably the best individual performances among older males this year when respectively taking the Metropolitan H. (G1) and Suburban H. (G2) earlier this summer. Both are among 11 veteran runners in Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Invitational H. (G1) at Saratoga hoping to lay claim to a divisional leadership that's stood vacant for much of this topsy-turvy season.
Most of the Whitney field are each seeking a second big win of the season. Lumped in that crowd are Tizway, who ran third in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) and Charles Town Classic (G3) before blasting his way to a 2 3/4-length Metropolitan win in 1:32 4/5 for a flat mile. Flat Out, too, had to settle for small awards in the Lone Star Park H. (G3) and Stephen Foster H. (G1) before freaking by 6 1/2 lengths in the Suburban on July 2.
GIANT OAK (Giant's Causeway) is the 119-pound highweight in the Whitney despite dropping three straight since his Donn H. (G1) score in February. One rival who's generally had his number in the interim is MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled's Song), who beat Giant Oak into third in the New Orleans H. (G2) and finished second to Giant Oak's fifth last time in the Stephen Foster. Also exiting that Churchill Downs feature are APART (Flatter), who ran third in the Foster a month after taking the William Donald Schaefer S. (G3) at Pimlico, and DUKE OF MISCHIEF (Graeme Hall), the Charles Town Classic hero who retreated to fourth in the Foster after making a brief bid for the lead a furlong out.
The other five in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney figure to be longer odds but have things to recommend them. Carter H. (G1) winner MORNING LINE stretches back out after trainer Nick Zito flirted with keeping the colt at races at a mile or less the rest of the season. Morning Line does have positive experience at nine furlongs, capturing the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) last fall and running second to Giant Oak in the Donn. The New York-bred FRIEND OR FOE (Friends Lake) made a successful return to the races on June 5 when taking the Easy Goer S. by a head over RAIL TRIP (Jump Start). The latter, a past winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), showed competitiveness on dirt for the first time in that 1 1/16-mile overnight feature.
RODMAN (Malibu Moon) finished second in the Metropolitan and third in the Suburban, but brings a two-for-two Saratoga record into the Whitney. The gray HEADACHE (Tapit) might wind up being the longest shot in the Whitney field, but proved to be no slouch with a solid 2 1/2-length victory in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3) in late June.
Turbulent Descent seeks to add the Test to earlier wins in the Santa Anita Oaks and Beaumont (Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
The $250,000 Test S. (G1) attracted a field of nine three-year-old fillies to go seven furlongs. Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Beaumont S. (G2) vixen TURBULENT DESCENT (Congrats) is the likely favorite and attempts to rebound off an odds-on defeat in the Acorn S. (G1) to It's Tricky (Mineshaft), who subsequently landed the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1).
Turbulent Descent will face HER SMILE (Include) and POMEROYS PISTOL (Pomeroy), the top two finishers in the July 4 Prioress S. (G1) at Belmont. Also exiting that six-furlong dash is ROMAN TREASURE (Roman Ruler), an overnight stakes winner in her previous start who wilted to fifth after setting a fast pace.
Trainer Bob Baffert sends his two-time winner AMERICAN LADY (Stormy Atlantic) from Southern California to the Test for her stakes debut, and it goes without saying the Hall of Famer's graded stakes entrants are typically well meant. Dogwood S. (G3) heroine SALTY STRIKE (Smart Strike) shortens up after running fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose S. (G1), while COAX LIBERTY (Successful Appeal) and AVA K. (Dixie Union) have each placed in graded company before. Overnight stakes winner SAVVY SUPREME (Distorted Humor) will be a longshot by the usual standards of a Saratoga stakes participant trained by Todd Pletcher.
Saturday's program also includes the $75,000 De La Rose S., a one-mile inner turf test for fillies and mares. Grade 2 veterans MISS KELLER (Ire) (Montjeu [Ire]) and DYNASLEW (Dynaformer) on recent form might take a back seat to former Breeders' Cup winner TAPITSFLY (Tapit); Italian classic winner EVADING TEMPETE (GB) (Dubai Destination), third in the My Charmer H. (G3) in her U.S. debut last December; and the royally-bred Group 1-placed DELUXE (Storm Cat), who as a daughter of the blue hen Hasili (Ire) (Kahyasi) counts as kin the standouts Dansili (GB), Banks Hill (GB), Heat Haze (GB), Intercontinental (GB), Cacique (Ire) and Champs Elysees (GB).
Zazu to test elders in Clement Hirsch
After being considered a definite for the August 20 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, Grade 1 winner ZAZU (Tapit) will remain in Southern California in order to square off against elder rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch S. (G1) at Del Mar. The three-year-old filly provides a boost to the seven-member field that includes stablemate SWITCH (Quiet American) and ST TRINIANS (GB) (Piccolo).
Winner of the Las Virgenes (G1) and a neck second in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) earlier this season, Zazu experienced a troubled trip when recording a rallying third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) two starts back. She rebounded from that setback in style, defeating Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty (Medaglia d'Oro) by 1 1/2 lengths in the June 25 Hollywood Oaks (G2) at 8 1/2 furlongs, and would've been a top contender in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama. The gray lass will remain at the 1 1/16-mile distance on Saturday.
While the decision caught many observers off guard, the rationale is easy to understand. Zazu is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, who campaigned Horse of the Year Zenyatta to an unprecedented three straight victories in the Clement Hirsch, and Zenyatta never raced in New York. Zazu won't have to risk shipping, but staying at home will deny trainer John Sadler the opportunity to win two major prizes.
Switch, who is owned C R K Stable, is the likely Clement Hirsch favorite for Sadler. The four-year-old filly recorded a couple of nice victories in the La Brea (G1) and Santa Monica (G1) over the winter and hasn't been disgraced while dropping her last two outings, finishing second by less than length to Havre de Grace (Saint Liam) in the Apple Blossom (G1) prior to a close runner-up to champion Blind Luck (Pollard's Vision) in the June 18 Vanity H. (G1). And Switch posted an impressive 3 1/4-length tally in the Torrey Pines S. when trying Del Mar's Polytrack last year.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Switch has captured two-of-three starts at 1 1/16 miles, the lone setback being a half-length second to Zenyatta in the 2010 Lady's Secret (Benoit Photos)
Joel Rosario, who had been the regular rider for both Switch and Zazu, will remain on Switch in the Clement Hirsch. Garrett Gomez picks up the mount on Zazu.
St Trinians, who gave Zenyatta a scare when finishing a half-length second in the 2010 Vanity, returned from a lengthy layoff this year with a couple of decent efforts on the dirt at Santa Anita, but the Mike Mitchell-trained mare prefers synthetic ovals and showed more when moving back to Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, crossing the wire first in the May 21 Milady H. (G2) before being disqualified and placed fourth. She loomed a serious threat in midstretch of the nine-furlong Vanity last time before winding up two lengths short, and the classy six-year-old may relish the cutback in trip Saturday (4-2-0-1 at 1 1/16 miles).
St. Trinians will receive a rider switch to Chantal Sutherland.
Grade 3 winner FREEDOM STAR (Street Cry [Ire]) hails from the dangerous Bob Baffert stable and will be the one to catch beneath Alonso Quinonez. The five-year-old mare rolled to a 3 1/2-length decision when making her 2011 debut in the June 24 Iowa Distaff H. last out and broke her maiden over Del Mar's Polytrack two years ago. ULTRA BLEND (Richly Blended) exits an encouraging performance in the seven-furlong A Gleam H. (G2) on July 16, finishing a nose second on the head bob, and the versatile mare owns a 3-2-0-1 mark at the Clement Hirsch distance. Tyler Baze will take the reins for trainer Art Sherman.
WASHINGTON BRIDGE (Yankee Gentleman), who is winless in six starts since capturing the Bayakoa H. (G2) last December, and recent allowance/optional claiming scorer ELLAFITZ (Tiznow) round out the line-up.