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Americanus leaves claimers behind
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Two months ago, Americanus was running in claiming races. On Monday, the 3-year-old son of Yonaguska will be among the favorites in a Grade 2 stakes, the $150,000 Amsterdam, which serves as a prep for the Gradeo1 Kings Bishop Stakes on Aug. 25.
Trainer Gary Contessa claimed Americanus for $50,000 in the name of his principal owner, Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable, out of a 6 3/4-length victory at Belmont Park on May 19. Americanus has posted Beyer Speed Figures of 100 and 97 in two subsequent starts and will enter the six-furlong Amsterdam off an easy 5 3/4-length victory against entry-level optional claiming opposition.
"It's a big jump up, but the Beyer and Ragozin Sheet numbers say he might belong," Contessa said shortly after Americanus blew out a quarter-mile down the stretch over Saratoga's main track Friday morning. "The alternative to the Amsterdam would be to put him in a second-level allowance race against older horses, which is going to be extremely tough. At least he'll be running against straight 3-year-olds in the stakes, and I think he deserves a shot. This way we'll find out what we've got."
After perusing the past performances of the prospective starters for the Amsterdam, Contessa was even more convinced his colt had a big chance to win his stakes debut.
"It looks like we'll be the speed of the race," Contessa said. "He's certainly full of himself right now. He came back bouncing from his little work this morning."
A field of six to seven 3-year-olds is expected for the Amsterdam, led by Most Distinguished, who comes off a second-place finish behind Teuflesberg in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens. Other prospective starters include Forty Grams, Elite Squadron, Sir Five Star, and perhaps either Holy Canyon and Roman's Run.
Celtic Blue euthanized
Friday proved to be a productive yet solemn morning for Angel Penna Jr., who worked two of his stable stars, Chatain and Remarkable News, but also had to deal with his 2-year-old prospect Celtic Blue breaking down and being euthanized after breezing over the turf course at the Oklahoma Training Center.
Chatain worked five furlongs in 59.59 seconds over the main track shortly after the renovation break, completing his final eighth in 11.69 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.53. The work was the fourth and most serious trial for Chatain since he ran down badly in his final work before the Grade 1 Met Mile.
"He went very well this morning," said a somewhat subdued Penna following the incident at Oklahoma several minutes earlier. "I've got nothing picked out for him. I just want to get him right again before we start pointing for a specific race."
Penna also was pleased with Remarkable News, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 over the Oklahoma turf course.
"It was a maintenance work, and he's right on target for the Fourstardave," Penna said.
Celtic Blue was one of two horses who suffered injuries during a hectic training session Friday at Oklahoma. Two other horses got loose over a racetrack overflowing with workers within the first 15 minutes after the course opened at 9:30 a.m.
High Finance, Corinthian work
High Finance worked four furlongs in 48.84 seconds over the main track Friday. The Tom Fool winner is prepping for the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 1.
Corinthian, the Met Mile winner, breezed a half-mile in 50.61 seconds over the Saratoga training track Friday. He is pointing for the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 1.
Parcells enjoying retirement
There was someplace else Bill Parcells could have been when this meet opened Wednesday, but no place he'd have rather been than here. The meet's opening day corresponded with the first day of training camp in San Antonio for the Dallas Cowboys, the team Parcells coached for the last four years.
Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, walked away from the Cowboys - and $5.5 million - in January, with one year remaining in his contract. Parcells, a friend of trainer Shug McGaughey, now lives in Saratoga for most of the year and looked tan, fit, and trim Friday morning on the backside.
"You spend your life in it as long as I have, there's always going to be a little something there," said Parcells, 65, when asked if he missed coaching. "I did it for 42 years. I don't have any second thoughts, nor will I."
Parcells will work as an ESPN studio analyst on Monday Night Football this fall. On Friday night, he was to have been part of a large ESPN entourage that televised a fight card from downtown Saratoga.
During his time as coach of the New York Jets and New England Patriots, Parcells owned racehorses that competed on the New York Racing Association circuit and at Suffolk Downs. He doesn't currently own any horses, but did not rule out getting back in the business in the future.
"You never know what'll happen," Parcells said. "I'm certainly open-minded. I like it. It's something that gets me excited once you're in it."
Darley property under renovation
The 106-acre property behind the main track that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum purchased from Stonerside Stable in January is under renovation, and there are no horses stabled back there this year.
The one-mile main track has been dug up, making way for a one-mile Polytrack surface, which should be installed by early fall.
"We literally began the renovation of the track this week," said Jim Bell, president of Darley USA. "We hope to have it completed by the first week of October."
Bell said that the horses - mostly 2-year-olds - that are usually stabled on the the grounds this time of year are in training over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland. Bell said that the two barns - one with 30 stalls, one with 16 - also will be renovated, as will some of the other buildings on the grounds.
"The appearance and design will not change, we will modernize and update," Bell said. "They are very, very, very old barns, they do need attention. We're going to look at everything from A to Z."
Bell said John Ferguson, the racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed, will come over and look at designs for the property to take back for Sheikh Mohammed's approval.
"We should have a master plan in the not-too-distant future," Bell said.
* The stewards fined jockey Kent Desormeaux $500 for inappropriate use of the whip during the running of the third race Thursday. Desormeaux struck his mount, Stolen Star, in the mouth several times during the stretch run while the filly was attempting to bear out.
- additional reporting by David Grening