Dornoch and Gargan enjoying first Grade 1-score in Belmont Stakes | Belmont Stakes
Jun 9, 2024
Adam Coglianese Photo

Dornoch and Gargan enjoying first Grade 1-score in Belmont Stakes

by NYRA Press Office

  • Dornoch and Gargan enjoying first Grade 1-score in Belmont Stakes
  • Kentucky Derby-winner Mystik Dan to point to G1 DraftKings Travers; Thorpedo Anna to G1 CCA Oaks
  • Plans for Pletcher’s BSRF contingent are up in the air
  • Didia could return for the G1 Diana at Saratoga
  • Cogburn garners 111 BSF for record-setting victory in G1 Jaipur
  • Book’em Danno could target G1 H. Allen Jerkens after arresting victory in G1 Woody Stephens
  • Mott baffled by Resilience’s G1 Belmont; thrilled with horse-for-course Baby Yoda
  • G3 Poker winner Ice Chocolat pointing to G1 Fourstardave
  • Brown brigade in good order after Day 3 of BSRF
  • Measured Time wins G1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan for Team Appleby
  • G2 Intercontinental-winner Future Is Now points to G3 Caress; Arzak sees G2 Troy as long-term target

Trainer Danny Gargan won his first career Grade 1 as Dornoch, who also earned his first score at the level, gamely fought back along the rail to capture Saturday’s Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course.

Gargan said that racing’s newest Grade 1-winner exited the race in good order, showing a lot of energy on a rainy Sunday morning in Saratoga.

“It’s exciting. We are really happy with the way he came back,” said Gargan. “We will just go from here to the next race and try to figure that out over the next couple of weeks, where we want to go next.”

Gargan said that those options would include the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by Mohegan Sun on July 27 at Saratoga and the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell on July 20 at Monmouth Park, with the long-term goal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million DraftKings Travers on August 24 at the Spa.

“It’ll be the Jim Dandy or the Haskell if he runs before the Travers,” Gargan said. “We will play it by ear and see what we think, just try to enjoy ourselves and see how the next week goes.”

In the Belmont, the Good Magic bay pressed the pace set by Grade 1 Preakness-winner Seize the Grey, taking command entering the stretch under regular pilot Luis Saez as the then-unbeaten Mindframe rallied on the outside to put a head in front at the stretch call. Dornoch fought back along the rail to cross the line a half-length in front in a final time of 2:01.64 as Mindframe drifted out into the center of the course and then attempted to re-engage.

The effort was awarded a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure, much improved off his previous 75 when a troubled tenth from the inside post in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

“The Derby was a throw-out. When you get the one-hole and you get checked out of there the whole race, it is kind of a toss,” Gargan said. “He’s more seasoned, he’s tougher now, so maybe that helped us win the Belmont. We wish we could’ve gotten a clean trip in the Derby, maybe we would’ve won it, but we are really thrilled and happy and pleased with what he did yesterday.”

Out of the graded stakes-placed Big Brown mare Puca, Dornoch is a full-brother to Mage, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby. With such pedigree, expectations were high from the onset for owners West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables.

Gargan said he knew that he had a special horse that was talented enough to live up to the hype.

“I told everybody last year that he is the best horse I have ever trained. We have always been high on him and liked him,” said Gargan. “He is a cool horse. I love him and we are just blessed and lucky that we have him.”

While hoisting the August Belmont Trophy above his head Saturday marked the 52-year-old’s first American classic victory and career Grade 1, he spent time around many graded stakes winners while an assistant for Hall of Famer Nick Zito including Preakness-winner Louis Quatorze.

“I worked for him for a long time. We are still friends, we talk a lot,” said Gargan regarding the experience he gained. “I talked to him twice yesterday, he’s texted me already once today. I’ve got a horse in at Churchill, he’s going to go over and be in the paddock with him, help me out there today. Maybe Nick can get me into the winner’s circle in the Matt Winn at Churchill with Society Man.”

Gargan, who sends out graded-stakes placed Society Man in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Sunday at Churchill Downs, said the Belmont victory was a good one to bring back to his native-Louisville, Kentucky, where his friends and fellow trainers Brad Cox and Dale Romans also hail from.

“Dale texted me right away and I was just talking to Blake [Cox], Brad’s son. We grew up in that neighborhood right outside the track,” Gargan said. “It is a big thing just to be able to be in this kind of race, much less have the kind of horse to win, so it is special.”

Bred in Kentucky by Grandview Equine, Dornoch was a $325,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He banked $1.2 million for his Belmont Stakes triumph, bringing his earnings to $1,752,275 through a 8-4-2-0 record.


Kentucky Derby-winner Mystik Dan to point to G1 DraftKings Travers; Thorpedo Anna to G1 CCA Oaks

Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing, Daniel Hamby, III and Valley View Farm’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby-winner Mystik Dan will be pointed to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Draftkings Travers on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course after an eighth-place finish in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at the Spa.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, Mystik Dan was the only horse this year to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby on May 4 and finishing a valiant second to Seize the Grey in the Grade 1 Preakness May 18. He stalked two lengths off the early pace in the 10-furlong Belmont Stakes, but lost ground throughout under regular pilot Brian Hernandez, Jr. and finished well behind the victorious Dornoch.

McPeek said Mystik Dan exited the race in good order but will appreciate a good rest after running three times in five weeks.

“He’s doing fine. He scoped with a little bit of mucus, and on a scale of five it was probably a two,” McPeek said. “But he’s had a great spring, and obviously it was a small step backwards, but nothing we can’t fix. It’s all good, he just scoped a little bit dirty. We had scoped him after his last work and he was clean, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. He’s run hard and Brian didn’t seem to think he handled the track very well, but they all had to run over it.

“He deserves a break,” McPeek added. “It’s a little disappointing not to run better than that, but it’s not supposed to be easy, right?”

All was not lost on the weekend for McPeek as Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna posted another dominant victory when taking Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn by 5 1/2 lengths over Grade 1-winner Leslie’s Rose. The pace-pressing effort garnered a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure and brought her sophomore record to a perfect 3-for-3.

McPeek said the daughter of Fast Anna was brilliant despite losing her front right shoe in the race.

“She came out of it great. She lost a shoe going into the first turn, and for her to run as well as she did with a shoe missing is pretty impressive,” said McPeek. “The foot was a little tender coming out of the race, but we’ve soaked it and reset the shoe – no problem there.”

McPeek had considered trying the talented bay against males at some point this summer but said the plan for now is to keep her against fillies in the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at the Spa, with a long-term goal being the 10-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales on August 17.

“She’s going to run in the Coaching Club and the Alabama,” said McPeek. “We may nominate her to the Travers, but I think it’s more likely that Mystik Dan will come back in the Travers. She’ll stay in the filly division at this point, and Mystik Dan will more than likely look at the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby.”


Plans for Pletcher’s BSRF contingent are up in the air

On the morning after the running of the 156th Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher was undecided about the next effort to be asked of his trio of colts Mindframe, Antiquarian, and Protective, who finished second, fifth, and sixth, respectively, in the race.

“That’s a great question. It will take some time to sort that out,” he said.

Plans under consideration could include the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by Mohegan Sun on July 27 at Saratoga and the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell on July 20 at Monmouth Park, with the long-term goal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million DraftKings Travers on August 24 at the Spa.

What Pletcher was certain of is that his Belmont runners came out of the race in good shape.

Mindframe, owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, went into the race undefeated in a pair of lifetime starts which the colt won by a combined 21 1/4 lengths. The son of Constitution led briefly in the stretch then shied out at the eighth pole according to the Equibase chart caller before being passed by the winner, Dornoch.

“Mindframe came back well and looked well this morning. I’m happy with his performance. It was a lot to ask in his third lifetime start. He ran green in the lane but otherwise he ran super,” Pletcher said.

Centennial Farms' Antiquarian, winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont at the Big A in his previous start, weakened in the drive.

“I thought he ran well. Johnny [Velazquez] said he was in a good spot and just kind of finished evenly down the lane. He couldn’t quite find another burst of energy there,” said the trainer.

Repole Stable's Protective got bumped at the start and pinched back and after an eventful trip weakened in the final furlong.

“Protective ran okay. He kind of flattened out a little bit in the last part. It looked like there were some horses wandering around the track at the eighth pole. He didn’t embarrass himself. We’ll regroup and find a softer spot for him,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher remained pleased with St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable’s Crupi, winner of the Grade 2 Suburban at 10 furlongs on Saturday’s undercard in a rebound effort from a 10th place finish in the March 30 Group 1 Dubai World Cup.

“That was a big effort from him. He came from off the pace and got hung out pretty wide, but he kept coming and got there in time,” said Pletcher, who mentioned that the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga could be in his future and that the Grade 1 Whitney at 1 1/8 miles during the meet is another possibility. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a “WAYI” event, offering a guaranteed starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The future also looks bright for others in the stable, whether a stakes winner coming back after a disappointment or among those just starting their careers.

Munnys Gold, a Florida-bred 4-year-old daughter of Munnings owned by Robert and Lawana Low, made her first start in 10 months an impressive one as she posted a gate-to-wire score in an allowance race at Saratoga on Friday. In her sophomore season she took the Sophomore Fillies Breeders Stakes for state-breds at Tampa Bay Downs by 17 1/4 lengths, and then ran second in the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Keeneland, fourth in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, and third in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga.

“We gave her a little break after her last start and freshened her up and she seems to have come back really well so hopefully, we can have a good season with her,” Pletcher said. “She came out of her race in good order. We’ll look for a stake for her next start but I’m not sure which one yet.”

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Candied is another filly on the comeback trail.

She won her 2-year-old first effort at Saratoga last August and then stepped up all the way into the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, which she took in October at Keeneland. Next out she ran third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in November. In her first start as a 3-year-old, she was fourth in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 5. Then on Saturday at Monmouth Park she raced against older fillies and mares in the Lady’s Secret and dispatched the field by 4 1/2 lengths.

“She ran a big race. We usually don’t run against olders this time of year but we were looking for the right opportunity to get her going again and that worked out well. The idea was to get a nice run into her before the Coaching Club [American Oaks on July 20 at Saratoga]. We’ve accomplished that so far,” Pletcher said.

A pair of sophomores who ran over the weekend at Saratoga while making their first starts each at seven furlongs also earned praise. Audacious, a daughter of Into Mischief owned by Bass Stables, won her race by 1 ¾ lengths to earn a 74 Beyer Speed Figure and Illuminare, a City of Light colt running in the colors of Centennial Farms, passed his test with a 1 ¾ lengths win to garner a lofty 88 Beyer.

“That was a good debut for Audacious She’d been training well leading into it. I’m happy with it. The same thing for Illuminare. We liked the way he’d been training. Anytime you have debut winners going seven furlongs it’s good. It’s always a challenge and I thought both he and the filly did very well,” Pletcher said.


Didia could return for the G1 Diana at Saratoga

At almost midnight Resolute Racing tweeted, "Still on Cloud 9 from Didia's win. What a horse."

On Sunday morning trainer Ignacio Correas, IV was in complete agreement with John Stewart's Resolute Racing, who co-owns the 6-year-old Argentine-bred with Merriebelle Stables, and was on track to witness her impressive score in Friday's Grade 1, $750,000 New York at Saratoga Race Course.

“She’s the best one I have ever had on the turf,” said Correas, who also trained 2019 champion Older Mare and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Blue Prize (ARG).

Correas was a top-class trainer in his native Argentina before coming to the U. S. in 2009 and going out on his own in 2015. With the win in the New York Stakes, he garnered his fourth G1 win in the United States. Now he’s looking for more with Didia, who just won her first U.S. Grade 1 after being a multiple Group 1 winner in her native country.

Correas said, "We arrived home to Keeneland yesterday. I really haven't thought yet about her next race. There aren't that many places that she can go, so I guess it's going to be the Beverly D. [in August at Colonial Downs] or the Diana at Saratoga. I’ll talk to the owners and we’ll figure it out. I may make the decision in about 10 days. The Breeders’ Cup [Filly & Mare Turf] is the ultimate goal.”

Meanwhile, Didia who has a record of 11-2-1 in 17 starts and is a multiple graded stakes winner since she came to America and joined her trainer’s stable, was reported to have exited her race in fine shape following her 1 ½ lengths pace stalking victory in the 1 3/16 miles New York. The win brought a bit of redemption as last year Didia was the runner-up in the New York.

“She was like a monster,” said Correas after her race. “It's a great feeling. I targeted this race for months and months. It was really hard for me to lose this race last year. I never expected to lose it last year. I was disappointed.”

Stewart, who came into the sport last year and has invested heavily in domestic and international bloodstock, acquired his 50 percent share in the mare this past April. That was shortly after Didia, now the earner of $1,533,484, won the Grade 2 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 27.

“I've loved Didia since I saw her back in the fall. I tried to buy her before the Pegasus. We weren't successful but kept trying and trying. We were able to cut a deal with the owners. She represents everything that we're after, which is on the track fillies and mares that will go into our world class breeding stable. We get her at the end of her campaign and we're pretty excited about that,” said Stewart.

Incidentally, one of the mares in Resolute’s broodmare band is Puca, who is the dam of Saturday’s $2 million Belmont Stakes winner Dornoch as well as the colt’s full brother and 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage. Stewart bought Puca for $2.9 million at the 2023 Keeneland Breeding Stock Sale.


Cogburn garners 111 BSF for record-setting victory in G1 Jaipur

Clark Brewster, William Heiligbrodt and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s newly-minted Grade 1-winner Cogburn garnered a career-high 111 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Jaipur presented by Resolute Racing, where his final time of 59.80 seconds for 5 1/2 furlongs set a new course record for the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course, as well as a North American record.

For his victory, Cogburn received a berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November at Del Mar as part of the “Win and You’re In” series.

“We all expected him to run a monster race because he had been training so well and feeling so great,” said Brewster at Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s Saratoga barn Sunday. “He likes Saratoga, but who would have thought he’d set a [North American] record? He’s that good I guess.”

Cogburn entered from another impressive victory in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint on May 4 at Churchill Downs, where he earned a 102 Beyer for a similar front-running score. He only improved on that effort yesterday when leading at every point of call in a loaded 12-horse field before kicking clear to a three-length lead at the stretch call under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

“He came out great and Steve really thought he was poised for a big race because he won the Grade 2 at Churchill on Derby Day. We’re so proud of him,” said Brewster. “We won the Troy last year here with him, and we thought he liked the track with good [race] spacing. A Grade 1 win is amazing. These guys did a super job with him and he’s rewarding us for the care and love they’re showing him here.”

The win made the son of Not This Time a perfect 2-for-2 over the Spa’s turf, adding to a win in last year’s Grade 3 Troy by three-quarter lengths over eventual Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Nobals. This year, the 5 1/2-furlong Troy – slated for August 3 – has been elevated to Grade 2 status and could serve as a logical steppingstone to the Grade 2, $2 million Turf Sprint on September 7 at Kentucky Downs.

“Steve and I haven’t really talked about the plan, but now that he’s here, the spacing would be good for the Troy, and I think we’d look at the Troy and then the Kentucky Downs race,” said Brewster. “Then, the Breeders’ Cup.”

Bred in Kentucky by Bellary Bloodstock, Cogburn was a $150,000 purchase by Brewster at the 2021 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, and is out of the stakes-winning Saintly Look mare In a Jif, a half-sister stakes-placed Son of a Nut and Nuttin’ Faster.


Book’em Danno could target G1 H. Allen Jerkens after arresting victory in G1 Woody Stephens

Atlantic Six Racing’s Book’em Danno showed an affinity for the Saratoga main track thanks to his half-length victory over Prince of Monaco in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun on Saturday. After an impressive effort on the track, veteran trainer Derek Ryan said they are looking to follow the blueprint for success and target the seven-furlong Grade 1, half-million dollar H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on Travers Day, August 24, at the Spa.

The New Jersey-bred Bucchero gelding started his sophomore campaign with a 12 1/2-length romp in the seven-furlong Pasco in January at Tampa Bay Downs. That inspired Ryan to ship him overseas for a spot in the one-mile Group 3 Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, where he gamely competed before then unbeaten Japanese star Forever Young pulled ahead in the final jumps to win by a head in the $1.5-million contest.

Back stateside, Book’em Danno earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his off-the-pace performance that allowed him to demonstrate his great closing ability in front of a packed Belmont Stakes Day crowd at Saratoga. He shipped back to Ryan’s base in the Garden State after winning for the fifth time in seven career starts.

“He came out of it great and ate up everything last night and I just put him on the van home,” Ryan said Sunday morning. “Everything is good. For him, seven-to-a-mile, that’s his thing. He’s just a good horse. A good horse, you can run them different distances, and it doesn’t really matter.”

Book’em Danno started his career with three consecutive wins, following his debut win in August at Monmouth Park with a stakes win in the Smoke Glacken one month later on the same track. In his New York bow, he won the Listed Futurity in October at Aqueduct Racetrack and ran second, three-quarters of a length back to Where’s Chris, in the Listed Nashua in November at the Big A to cap his juvenile campaign.

“If you look closer, I still think he could have been 7-for-7, I know it’s easy to say now, but he ended up on the lead at Aqueduct [in the Nashua] with a small field [five horses], and that’s not his style,” Ryan said. “Consistency-wise, I think he’s probably the best 3-year-old in the country.”

Book’em Danno put himself in the company of top-flight 3-year-olds, with Dornoch’s win in the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets marking the third different winner of the Triple Crown races this year. Another strong Saratoga effort could make things interesting in the quest for divisional supremacy, depending how the second half of the campaign shakes up.

“The main plan now is the Allen Jerkens. We might do something silly in between, but who knows?” Ryan said, with a laugh.

For Ryan, who won his first race as a trainer in 1996, the victory in the 40th running of the Woody Stephens [and first ever contested at Saratoga] marked the first Grade 1 win of a career that has encompassed 5,456 entries and 730 victories overall.

“Yeah, it's great. I'm glad I did it," Ryan said. "I think I've been second in a bunch of them. This is sweet."


Mott baffled by Resilience’s G1 Belmont, thrilled with horse for course Baby Yoda

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott remained mystified Sunday morning after seeing Emily Bushnell and Ric Waldman’s Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino winner Resilience finish last-of-10 in Saturday’s Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Racing for the first time since running sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs, Resilience was urged from post 2 by jockey Junior Alvarado and raced close to a testing pace set by Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Grey before fading late as Dornoch sprung a half-length upset of lightly raced Mindframe.

“I learned nothing. The race was too bad to be true,” Mott said. “When they run that poorly, we need to look and see if there’s something wrong that we’ve been missing. We’ll keep researching and see if we can find anything wrong. Something’s out of whack.”

Saturday’s Day Three of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival started on a much happier note for Mott when Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Jerold Zaro’s Baby Yoda romped to a six-length victory in the Grade 2, $350,000 True North presented by F. W. Webb. It was the fourth win in six career starts at Saratoga for the 6-year-old gelding, earning his first graded-stakes success after going winless in 2023.

“A horse for a course,” Mott said. “He exceeded any expectations we had, the way he ran. We thought it was a tough spot and we hoped he’d run well, and he really ran great. He loves this course.”

Mohammed Khaleel Ahmed’s Bendoog wound up beaten a half-length when second as the favorite in the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban for Mott. The 5-year-old son of Gun Runner led nearly the length of the stretch before grudgingly giving way late to Crupi, holding the place by a neck over Masqueparade.

Mott was delighted with the Bendoog’s first foray into North American graded company after coming over from the Middle East where he was Group 1 and Group 2-placed.

“He ran a good race. I was pleased,” he said. “I would have liked to have given him a little push at the end there, but he ran well.”

LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s multi-millionaire Casa Creed finished fourth in the Grade 2, $350,000 Poker, beaten two lengths by 24-1 longshot Ice Chocolat. It was the first time worse than third in his Saratoga career for the 8-year-old gelding following four wins and two thirds from six prior starts. Two of those wins came in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap [2022, 2023].

“A little disappointing,” Mott said. “It was kind of a slow pace for that race and he was maybe back a little far. When it was time to go, everybody in front of him was running, too. He didn’t run horrible. It wasn’t disgraceful but certainly it wasn’t his best race by any means.”

Glassman Racing’s Arthur’s Ride will be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 1 at Saratoga following his eye-catching 12 3/4-length optional claiming allowance victory on Friday’s program. It was the third win from four starts this year for the 4-year-old Tapit colt and marked an impressive rebound after running ninth as the favorite in a similar event going one mile on May 3 at Churchill.

Arthur’s Ride crossed the wire in 2:00.99 for 1 1/4 miles, quicker than Crupi’s 2:02.71 in the Suburban and Dornoch’s 2:01.64 in the Belmont at the same distance on Saturday’s card.

“I was as impressed as everybody else that saw him run. He ran super. He ran faster than the Suburban and the Belmont,” Mott said. “They run the Jockey Gold Cup at Saratoga now at the end of the meet so we’ll probably point for that if all goes well. We may have to shoot for something before that.”

Like Resilience, Mott had no explanation for 2-Year-Old Filly Champion Just F Y I’s sixth-place finish behind Thorpedo Anna in Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn.

Undefeated in three starts at two, Just F Y I had run second in her two prior races this year, the Grade 1 Ashland and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, the latter also to Thorpedo Anna.

“She came back OK, but we’re going to do some research and see if we can find anything wrong,” Mott said. “She’s had some good races when she’s up close to the lead. Maybe she went a little too fast, but the winner was right on her hip. The winner was right there. She went on, and we didn’t.”


G3 Poker winner Ice Chocolat pointing to G1 Fourstardave

A return trip to Saratoga for one of Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse’s favorite races is on the horizon for Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and Peter Deutsch’s Ice Chocolat following the 6-year-old gelding’s determined victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Poker at Saratoga Race Course.

“He’s doing great,” Casse said Sunday. “He ran very well and he looks great this morning.”

Ice Chocolat was sharp away from the gate under jockey Jose Ortiz and established the early lead in the one-mile inner turf test for older horses, dueled with Talk of the Nation into deep stretch and stubbornly held sway against both that rival and Mysterious Night to win by one length in 1:33.97.

“Kudos to Jose. I don’t give instructions when riders ride my horses. I just said, ‘Good luck, be safe and play it how it goes,’” Casse said. “He said he broke running so he went with it, and that was the difference. I knew after a half in 48 [seconds] they were going to have a tough time beating him.”

It marked a change in tactics for Ice Chocolat, who had raced off the pace previously and was coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the one-mile Opening Verse on May 2 at Churchill Downs. A Group 3 winner in his native Brazil, Ice Chocolat earned his first graded success in the U.S. after placing six times previously. Sent off at odds of 24-1, he registered the biggest upset on Day Three of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

“I was very puzzled by his performance last time, so we just kind of threw it out,” Casse said. “It was great, because he’s been extremely unlucky in a couple spots. That’s the one good thing when you’re on the lead, you don’t have to worry about getting in trouble. That was a new weapon in his arsenal.”

Casse said Ice Chocolat will be pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap for 3-year-olds and up going one mile on the Saratoga turf August 10. Casse won the race for the first time in 2017 with World Approval, who would go on to be named Champion Turf Male, as well as standout mare and fellow multi-millionaire Got Stormy in 2019 and 2021. Her time of 1:32 in 2019 remains the one-mile inner turf course record.

“The Fourstardave is something that has been extremely dear to us,” Casse said. “So, that’ll be our goal with him.”

Brown brigade in good order after Day 3 of BSRF

After three days of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that saw his runners produce a 4-1-1 record from 26 starters, Chad Brown reported that all is copacetic with his stable stars.

“All came out well and I have not decided on definite races for any of them,” said the four-time Eclipse Award-winner for Outstanding Trainer.

Among his outstanding performances were a pair from Klaravich Stables’ arsenal of talented sophomores, Grade 1 Champagne runner-up General Partner and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks fourth Ways and Means.

The former returned for the first time since a sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to defeat older horses going one mile in the Saturday opener. The five-length victory in a smart time of 1:35.24 begat a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. The latter was a one-sided winner of a Thursday allowance out of the same Wilson Chute, finishing up the mile in 1:35.90 and earning a 104.

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Michael E. Kisber’s Chili Flag broke through at the top level in the Grade 1 Just a Game on Friday, landing her third consecutive graded stakes. It was a record-extending seventh victory in the race for Brown and opened doors to even more Grade 1 opportunities this summer, including the nine-furlong Diana on July 13. Much the same can be said for at least a half-dozen others among the famed ‘Murderers’ Row’ of Brown-trained turf fillies and mares, including Juddmonte’s Just a Game runner-up and defending Diana champ Whitebeam.

Klaravich color-bearer Randomized returned to winning ways and underlined her affinity for The Spa in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, her fifth career win and second at the top level. One would assume that—all things considered—last year’s Grade 1 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales winner will surely have the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on Travers Day, August 24, on her radar.

Speaking of the Travers, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets third-placed beaten favorite Sierra Leone likely and intuitively has that race circled, though nothing has been confirmed by connections. Upstate-born and -based Brown seeks his first Travers trophy.

Measured Time wins G1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan for Team Appleby

After a dominant winning performance by Godolphin homebred and dual Grade/Group 1 winner Measured Time in the $1 million Resorts World Casino Manhattan, Charlie Appleby and team have reported that all is well with the son of Frankel and the remainder of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival team.

Under William Buick, the half-brother to 2022 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner and Rebel’s Romance led home a 1-2 finish for the ‘Boys in Blue’ and trainer Charlie Appleby, as Nations Pride and Frankie Dettori rallied for the place spot.

“All good this morning,” confirmed Chris Connett, head assistant and traveling lad for Moulton Paddocks-based Appleby. The 10-time Breeders' Cup-winning Appleby left Upstate for his Newmarket, UK base along with Buick on Saturday evening.

Before departing, Appleby gave a quick update on the tentative plans for many of his Greentree-based U.S. satellite yard. Rebel’s Romance, a winner of five Group/Grade 1s in four different countries, will head to Saratoga in early August for the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer on August 24.

Measured Time will be considered for a run in the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 10 at Colonial Downs and a possible year-end goal of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, along with his star sibling. Nations Pride may head to Kentucky for his next run, with options at both Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs for his 10-furlong penchant.

Grade 1 winner Mysterious Night, a gaining and arguably unlucky second in the Grade 3, $350,000 Poker on Saturday, will be considered for the Grade 3, $175,000 Kelso on July 13, as well as the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, where he could join Breeders’ Cup Mile champ Master of The Seas, who has long been pointed to that ‘Win and You’re In’ affair.

Silver Knott has recovered well from his dominant display in the Grade 2 Man o’ War last month and will be kept at the slightly longer distances that have proven to his liking. He points to the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 28 over 11 furlongs.

Sophomore turf sprint filly Star of Mystery, a good third in the G1 Jaipur after acting up badly before the race, will point to the Grade 2, $300,000 Troy on August 3. She will be joined by 2022 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Mischief Magic, who rallied from last to finish a gaining fifth in the Jaipur.

Fellow 3-year-olds Legend of Time, winner of the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge, and Listed Jumeirah 1000 Guineas winner Cinderella Dream remain on schedule for the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational and Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 6 at The Big A.

Plans for Grade 3 Sycamore winner Bold Act, Grade 3 Arlington winner Ottoman Fleet, Grade 1 Turf Classic runner-up Naval Power and 2023 Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup winner Siskany are still fluid within the depths of Appleby’s talent pool.


G2 Intercontinental-winner Future Is Now points to G3 Caress; Arzak sees G2 Troy as long-term target

Trainer Michael Trombetta shipped in a pair of stakes horses to Saratoga Race Course for two of the most contentious races at the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and he was driving home a winner on Sunday after seeing Future Is Now take Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Intercontinental presented by MTV Solutions and Arzak run second in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Jaipur presented by Resolute Racing.

The Maryland-based Trombetta may have sensed a good omen on Opening Day of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival when Maryland-bred Studlydoright stepped up to win the Listed $150,000 Tremont at odds of 13-1 for trainer John “Jerry” Robb.

A day later, Trombetta saddled R. Larry Johnson’s Maryland-homebred Future Is Now to a pace-pressing head score, staving off the late bid of dual Grade 3-winner Roses for Debra to win the 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for older fillies and mares.

Future Is Now exited post 5-of-9 under Paco Lopez and chased the pace of Kaufymaker through splits of 21.76 seconds and 44.24 over the firm footing before making a two-wide move into the lane to take command with an eighth of a mile to run. Kaufymaker battled on gamely with Roses for Debra powering into the picture with an outside rush, but Future Is Now would not be denied the win in a final time of 1:01.35.

Trombetta said he appreciated the head’s up ride from Lopez to get the jump as Future Is Now garnered a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He was able to pull that off with a really good horse trying to run her down, so that was very exciting,” Trombetta said.

The speedy Future Is Now has often been the one to dictate terms, but has recently demonstrated the ability to sit off the pace and pounce as she did in her score in the five-furlong The Very One on May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.

“It's allowed her to do better that she will rate off a fast pace. She's evolving into this way of running and it's certainly helped her,” Trombetta said.

Trombetta said Future Is Now came out of the Intercontinental in good order and is likely to target the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress presented by Albany Med on July 25 here.

“I haven't spoke with the owner yet, but that's certainly one of our options, yes,” Trombetta said.

Future Is Now’s victory continued the Maryland-bred theme of the Festival which carried into Saturday with the Brittany Russell-trained Post Time completing the exacta in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan and the Johnson-bred, Todd Pletcher-trained Mindframe running a good second to Dornoch in the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

“Our local horses don't get this chance every day and it seems like everybody that came up did well,” Trombetta said.

Trombetta continued his own good form on Saturday with Sonata Stable’s Arzak, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Not This Time, who rallied from 10th-of-12 to finish second to Cogburn in the Grade 1 Jaipur.

Cogburn, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, made every pole a winning one, zipping through splits of 21.33 seconds and 43.07 over the firm Mellon turf on his way to a course and North American record of 59.80 for 5 1/2-furlongs.

“That Asmussen horse was certainly some kind of brilliant yesterday. Other than giving me a head start, we couldn't have done anything differently,” said Trombetta, with a laugh.

Trombetta said he was pleased with the trip engineered by jockey Jaime Torres, who piloted Arzak from post 2-of-12 and made a strong six-wide run to earn the place.

“We were fortunate we had a good trip and finished up with a good run,” Trombetta said.

Trombetta said Arzak is likely to consider the Grade 2, $300,000 Troy on August 3 here.

“The Troy would be on the possibility list. I just don't know if he would run back before that or not,” Trombetta said.

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