Gun Runner tops field of five in Woodward

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward will mark a year and six days since Gun Runner ran third behind Arrogate’s devastating 13 ½-length winning performance in the 2016 Travers.

Since then, the 4-year-old son of Candy Ride has been no worse than second through a seven-race campaign that is currently capped by his 5 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Whitney. The earner of $5,288,500 through 16 career starts is in search of his 10th victory today for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

“We’ve talked about him quite a bit, how he spoils us with his consistency,” Asmussen said. “I think that he’s consistently or incrementally gotten better every race, and I think that’s ideal because it hasn’t been a huge jump forward, it’s just been a little bit at a time. He was an extremely talented 2-year-old, a very good 3-year-old and hopefully he’ll be a great older horse.”

Getting better with age, Gun Runner’s performance in the Whitney, accompanied by a rival’s loose shoe in his tail that hooked on for a trip from the half-mile all the way to the winners’ circle, was his best thus far, said Asmussen. The Woodward will be the final prep before Gun Runner enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4, a year after his second-place finish in the Mile behind Tamarkuz.

“I was very impressed because of the circumstances of Saratoga,” he said. “You rarely ever see the race of a horses’ life at Saratoga. When you look back at some great forms, and some great races, it’s usually not their best number or fastest race. Visually it was an impressive race, watching it he went through the wire with good energy, and I’m very pleased with that. Staying here and then making one move to California gives us the best chance.”

Gun Runner will break from post 2, and will be ridden by Florent Geroux, who has been aboard for all but three starts.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send two runners into the 1 1/8-mile Woodward fray in the hope of dethroning Gun Runner. The pair is led by Qatar Racing and Starlight Racing’s Neolithic, who returned from his third-place finish behind Arrogate and Gun Runner respectively in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup with a victory by a neck against open claimers on August 5 at Saratoga. The son of Harlan’s Holiday showed no ill effects from his trip to Dubai and has displayed strong efforts when facing graded stakes company. Bookending a nine-length victory against allowance company at Gulfstream Park is a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Discovery and third place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

Stablemate Rally Cry, carrying Paul Pompa Jr.’s colors, returns off his 8 ¾-length victory in the Alydar on August 6. The romp came after he tired to sixth in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont. The Uncle Mo colt has been a tough foe when entered in small fields, but the pace and post will determine how both Pletcher’s runners will fare.

“Both are doing well, both ran well here,” Pletcher said. “I have a lot of respect for Gun Runner and his ability but we’re happy with the way our horses are doing and we’ll give it our best shot. It’s light in numbers, strong in quality. Both Rally Cry and Neolithic, at a mile and an eighth, have tactical speed so I think some of it will depend on post position, but Gun Runner is a pretty tactical horse as well, so we’ll see how it works out.”

Neolithic draws the rail and Jose Ortiz in the saddle, and Rally Cry will break from post 3, aided by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.

Loooch Racing Stable’s gelding War Story returns after his ground-saving, trip before launching a five-wide rally into the stretch for fourth in the Whitney after the late closing 5 year-old son of Northern Afleet was thought to be aided by a pace-setter in Cautious Giant during pre-race strategy sessions.

War Story will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. and will break from post 4.

The Uriah St. Lewis owned-and-trained Discreet Lover will round out the field of five, making his 30th start of his career.

The 4-year-old colt by Repent offered little in the Whitney with a fifth-place finish, beating two to the wire. The often-travelled colt has run at nine tracks will make his third start at Saratoga, and is in search of his first graded stakes victory.

Discreet Lover will break from post 5 and will be ridden by Manuel Franco.

Spinaway

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Pure Silver will attempt to stay undefeated, facing a talented field of juvenile fillies in the 126th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway today at Saratoga Race Course. 

The winner will earn an automatic entry to the Grade 1, $2 million 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 4 at Del Mar. 

Pure Silver has won her first three starts, including an impressive 9 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Adirondack in her graded stakes debut August 12 at the Spa. After winning across three distances, starting at 5 ½ furlongs in her debut, the Todd Pletcher trainee will stretch out once more to the Spinaway length of seven furlongs on the main track.

“She’s training really well and seems very happy with herself, so we’re looking forward to going again with her,” Pletcher said. “She’s a filly who has good early speed and the way she finished the other [race], we feel like seven should be within her range. She should come back with another good performance.”

Pure Silver has thrived as a front-runner, leading gate-to-wire in every start, starting with her first win on June 22 at Belmont Park and continuing in the Lynbrook on July 16. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has been aboard for all of Pure Silver’s victories, will have the return call from post 4.

The Spinaway will mark a quick turnaround for the daughter of Mission Impazzible, coming less than three weeks after the Adirondack. Pletcher said the fact the Spinaway is the next available graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the main track helped make the decision to enter.

“It just seems like the right thing to do,” Pletcher said. “It’s a Grade 1 opportunity for her and she had such a great win over the track; the fact that she seemed to bounce out of it [means] we’re going to take a shot and hope it’s enough time to come back with a good effort. She’s given us all those indications, but until you do it, you never know.”

Separationofpowers will make her stakes debut after winning on July 30 at the Spa, clearing the field by 11 3/4 lengths. Purchased for $190,000 in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, Separationofpowers will try and go 2-for-2 for trainer Chad Brown, who entered Monday tied with Pletcher for a meet-leading 33 wins. 

The Candy Ride filly has been training consistently at Saratoga, putting in a final five-furlong breeze in 1:01.17 on Sunday. Owned by Klaravich Stables, Separationofpowers garnered an 86 Beyer Speed Figurefor her win at six furlongs. 

Jose Ortiz, the meet’s leading rider going into closing week, will be in the irons from the inside post.

Lady Ivanaka, owned by Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables, earned an 81 Beyer in winning her debut on August 9 at Saratoga. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said her effort on the track – resulting in an eight-length win – prompted the connections to take another shot before the meet ended. 

Lady Ivanka has breezed twice on the main track since her debut win at 5 ½ furlongs, including a four-furlong bullet breeze in 47.04 seconds on Monday; marking the best time out of 55.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will look to go 2-for-2 aboard the Tiz Wonderful filly. The duo will break from post 3.

“I’ll let Irad decide what to do,” Rodriguez said. “He knows the filly and he’s one of the best riders. He’s my main guy. We’ll just take it from there.”

My Meadowview Farm’s Maya Malibu will make her first start at Saratoga after winning her first start on August 5 at Delaware Park. Trained by Graham Motion, Maya Malibu, a daughter of Malibu Moon, rallied from fifth to win by six lengths. 

Maya Malibu will exit the outside post in tandem with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.

Obvious Two broke her maiden on the third attempt, winning by 3 ¼ lengths on August 14 at Thistledown. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables and trained by Anthony Quartarolo, Obvious Two will make her first stakes start and first appearance in New York, exiting post 2 with jockey C.J. McMahon.

Glens Falls

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Looking to rebound off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Diana on July 22, Larkin Armstrong’s Harmonize will stretch out in distance to face salty group of eight competitors in today’s Grade 3 Glens Falls at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.


Picking up her last victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks August of 2016, the 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly made her next six starts against an onslaught of multiple graded stakes winners including Lady Eli, Time and Motion, Roca Rojo, Dickinson and Hawksmoor. Looking for an easier spot and stretching out in distance for the Glens Falls, Hall of Famer Bill Mott said he hopes the changes will return Harmonize back to the  winner’s circle.


With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Harmonize will depart from post 8.


Beaten less than a length in the Grade 3 Waya to finish third on August 5 in which she lost by less than length is Summersault, for trainer Mark Hennig and owners William Parsons Jr. and David Howe.


The 5-year-old daughter of Rock Hard Ten would prefer some give to the ground according to Hennig but is coming into the race in great shape.


With Paco Lopez aboard, Summersault will leave from post 3.


Slugo Racing’s Grade 3 Waya winner Estrechada, will look to improve her record to 2-for-2 at Saratoga from post 6 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, while Lottie, who finished second by a half-length in the Waya for trainer Graham Motion and owner Jack Swain III, will try to turn the tables from post 2 with Joel Rosario aboard.


Rounding out the field is Grateful for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Gerald and Ronald Frankel set to make his first graded stakes start following back-to-back allowance wins; War Flag for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and owner Allen Stable; Sarandia for trainer Peter Schiergen and owner Getuet Faehrhof, coming off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington Park on August 12; and Sweet Sandy for trainer Danielle Hodsdon and Fig Tree Farm.

Saranac

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Centennial Farm’s talented allowance winner Rocketry will take on a competitive field of nine as he makes his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds on the Mellon turf course today at Saratoga Race Course.

Carded as Race 9, the 110th running of the Saranac will kick off the Woodward Day stakes action as the first of four graded stakes on Saturday’s 12-race card, anchored by the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets.

Beaten two lengths in his his debut in a 7 ½-furlong maiden special weight on the turf in February, the bay Hart Spun colt graduated from maiden company in his fourth try with a wide, fast-closing move at 1 3/8 miles on the grass to win by 2 ½ lengths on June 9 at Belmont Park.

He came back in an optional claiming event on July 2, crossing the wire in third after being hit by another horse in the stretch before being elevated to second via disqualification.

Last time out in a July 28 allowance at the Spa, the $450,000 yearling purchase rallied from near the back of the pack to register a 1 ½-length victory at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

At 6-1 on the morning line, Rocketry will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from the outside post.

Among Rocketry’s more seasoned rivals are Bricks and Mortar and Yoshida, the 1-2 finishers of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Bricks and Mortar is undefeated in four career starts, including a pair of recent stakes wins this summer having taken the Manila by a neck on July 4 at Belmont and the Hall of Fame by three-quarters of a length at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, respectively.

“He ran great last time,” said trainer Chad Brown. “He’s been outstanding. I’m looking forward to trying him at a mile and an eighth.”

Bricks and Mortar, by Giant’s Causeway, will break from post 4 with Joel Rosario aboard as the 8-5 favorite on the morning line.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Yoshida started his career on a three-race win streak, including a four-length score in the James W. Murphy at Pimlico Race Course on May 20, and rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the 1¼-mile Grade 1 Belmont Derby on July 8 to finish second with a three-wide trip in the Hall of Fame Stakes.

Installed as the 5-2 second-choice, the Heart’s Cry colt will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 2.

Also in the field is Barry K. Schwartz’ Voodoo Song, who bears the rare distinction of making his fourth start in a single Saratoga meet following a trio of victories this summer for trainer Linda Rice.

Voodoo Song, a chestnut colt by English Channel, was transferred from retired trainer Mike Hushion at the end of the Belmont spring/summer meet and won his first start for Rice by a front-running 5 ¼ lengths in a $40,000 claiming race against open company at 1 1/16 miles on the grass on July 22.

He ran back four days later, this time in an allowance for New York-breds going 1 3/8 miles on the turf, drawing off by as much as 16 lengths on the backstretch to hold on to win by three-quarters of a length.

In his third Spa appearance a month later, Voodoo Song led gate-to-wire to post a length victory on August 23.

Voodoo Song, 12-1, will have the services of Jose Lezcano from post 5.

Rounding out the field for the Grade 3 Saranac are a pair of Todd Pletcher trainees in Master Plan, second to Frostmourne in the Grade 3 Kent last time out, and Caviar Czar, making his stakes debut in his sixth start; Mr Havercamp, undefeated in two lifetime starts at Woodbine for trainer Catherine Day-Phillips; Mo Maverick, a 1 ½-length winner of the Lamplighter on July 29 at Monmouth Park for the George Weaver barn; and Makarios, most recently fifth in the Hall of Fame, for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.

By Paul Wager

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