08/06/2009 12:00AM

Always First in for long run


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Always First has won 5 of the 15 starts he has made for trainer Tom Voss, including all three that he has made in non-graded stakes company. Friday, Always First again meets non-graded company when he faces a full field of turf marathoners in the $94,000 John's Call Stakes at Saratoga.

The John's Call, named for the Voss-trained gelding who in 2000 won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at age 9, is run at 1 5/8 miles over the Mellon Turf Course. Eleven were entered for the turf, with two more entered in the event the race is rained off the turf.

Always First, an 8-year-old gelding, has won 8 of 27 starts overall, the last 15 of those races coming for Voss. Competing mostly in graded stakes, Always First won two runnings of the listed Cape Henlopen at Delaware Park, the Grade 3 Sycamore at Keeneland in 2008, and the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes at Arlington in 2007. He enters this race off a 1 1/4-length score in an allowance race at Delaware June 28.

"He chased a real slow pace but came home real fast," Voss said. "I was happy to see it."

Voss should also be happy to see a lot of horses who figure to be forwardly placed in the field. That includes Mission Approved, part of a Gary Contessa-trained uncoupled entry along with Lord Kipling.

Mission Approved won the Grade 3 Saranac here in 2007 in front-running fashion as well as the Grade 3 Singspiel at Woodbine in 2008. Contessa said he will instruct jockey Ramon Dominguez to use Mission Approved's speed from post 11.

"No question Mission Approved goes to the lead no matter what," Contessa said. "They can die with Mission Approved on the lead or leave him alone and give him a shot."

Lord Kipling comes into the John's Call off a starter handicap victory at Philadelphia Park going 1 1/2 miles on July 20. He sat just off a realistic pace before drawing clear to win by nearly three lengths.

"The race Lord Kipling ran at Philadelphia, he took over at will," Contessa said. "He ran great and deserves a shot."

Southwest and Tifone, the second- and third-place finishers behind Always First in an allowance race, are back in this spot. Solitaire, who won a first-level allowance race going 1 1/4 miles at Woodbine, is in with a chance for trainer James Bond.