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Ashado looking sharp for Alabama
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - If Ashado is as impressive next Saturday afternoon as she was this past Saturday afternoon, she most likely will win the Grade 1, $750,000 Alabama Stakes.
Ashado, working between races at Saratoga on Saturday, drilled five furlongs in 58.60 seconds under exercise rider Michelle Nihei. Ashado, the leading 3-year-old filly in the country based on wins in the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks, worked in company with the 2-year-old colt Proud Accolade, who won his debut. Ashado started a half-length behind Proud Accolade, quickly drew on even terms, and was under stout restraint from Nihei as she finished a half-length in front of Proud Accolade, who was ridden by Angel Cordero Jr. Proud Accolade is nominated to next Saturday's Hopeful, but is unlikely to run.
"I didn't necessarily want to go that fast," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "I was going to work her three-quarters, but I knew in the afternoon she was going to go fast, so I cut it back. She didn't exert herself any to do it."
Ashado was one of three Alabama hopefuls to work between races on Saturday. With a weather forecast calling for as much as two inches of rain on Sunday, several trainers took advantage of better track conditions during the races on Saturday. Ashado, Yearly Report, and Fleet Indian all worked over a track labeled fast, but one that had moisture in it.
Yearly Report, who is 5 for 6, including a victory in the Delaware Oaks, worked six furlongs in 1:11.73 under exercise rider Simon Harris. Yearly Report was timed in fractional splits of 23.82 seconds and 46.75.
After the fourth race, Fleet Indian worked six furlongs in 1:11.62. Fleet Indian, an undefeated New York-bred, was timed in quarter-mile splits of 24.38 seconds and 47.74.
Trainer Allen Jerkens said that Society Selection, winner of the Test Stakes here on July 31, is under consideration for the Alabama. Others pointing to the race include A Lulu Ofa Menifee, Honor Point, Stellar Jayne, and Susan's Angel.
Scipion wows 'em in debut
Scipion, a half-brother to 2002 juvenile champion Vindication, came from out of the clouds to win his debut Saturday by three-quarters of a length.
Bettors who made Scipion the 4-5 favorite were cursing down the backside as Scipion, under Javier Castellano, was at least a dozen lengths out of it and seemingly having trouble handling the good going.
Scipion made up some ground around the turn, but when Castellano swung him seven wide turning for home, Scipion took hold of the bit and powered home strongly to run past Royal Sultan in the final yards. Scipion, a son of A.P. Indy owned and bred by Virginia Kraft Payson, covered seven furlongs in 1:24.72.
"He broke good, but he didn't want to go," Castellano said. "The horse is still green. When he got a little dirt in his face, he didn't like it too much. I tried to put him into the race, he don't want to go. I didn't want to fight with him. I started picking him up at the three-eighths pole. When he started running, he [felt like] Ghostzapper at the quarter pole; I knew I'd pass them all. I hit him left-handed, he switched leads, and he took off."
Payson tried to sell the horse at last summer's Fasig-Tipton yearling sales in Saratoga. The horse did not meet his $2 million reserve so Payson bought him back. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he tried to buy an interest in the horse on behalf of some of his owners, but Payson decided to keep the horse. Biancone at least got the horse to train.
Biancone said he would point Scipion to the Grade 3, $200,000 Cradle Stakes on Sept. 6 at River Downs. The Cradle is run at 1 1/16 miles around two turns.
Yaddo next for Big Tease
Since Big Tease began running on the turf in May, she has found a new lease on life. On Wednesday, Big Tease will seek her second win in a New York-bred stakes in the $100,000 Yaddo for fillies and mares on the grass.
Big Tease won a division of the Mount Vernon on the Belmont turf in June. Prior to the Mount Vernon, Big Tease won a $35,000 claimer by 4 3/4 lengths on the turf.
Big Tease is trained by Gary Contessa, who claimed her for $30,000 in February at Aqueduct. After the claim, Big Tease lost her next four starts, all on the dirt, and Contessa decided to try the daughter of Gold Token on the turf. She finished fifth in her grass debut on May 1 and has won two of her three starts since.
Big Tease enters the Yaddo off a third-place finish in an optional claimer on July 8 on the Belmont turf.
"She's a mid-pack filly, and she was up on the pace because there was no speed," Contessa said of Big Tease's race on July 8. "I plan on winning the Yaddo. She is dead-ready."
Brandala was assigned 122 pounds as the Yaddo highweight.
Others pointing to the Yaddo are Dynamic Lisa, who won a division of the Yaddo last year, Bellanique, Brandala, Lady Libby, Ma Femme, Nurse Culkin, On the Bus, Perfect Energy, Raffie's Dream, Sabellina, Some Irish Legend, and The Lamp Is Lit.
John's Call now a pony
Monday's feature is the $65,000 John's Call Stakes, scheduled for 1 5/8 miles on the turf. The race is named in honor of the multiple Grade 1-winning gelding John's Call, who in July began serving as trainer Tom Voss's stable pony. John's Call is now 13 years old.
In 2000, at age 9, John's Call won the Sword Dancer Invitational, becoming the oldest horse to win a Grade 1 flat race at Saratoga. Later that year, John's Call won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park.
In 2001, John's Call bled while finishing last in the Sword Dancer. After two more poor performances, owner Douglas Joyce and Voss decided to retire him. John's Call retired with a record of 16-11-3 from 40 starts and earnings of $1,571,267.
Voss said John's Call had been used as a hunting horse before becoming the stable pony in July, when Voss had horses at Colonial Downs in Virginia.
"He was a little racy the first couple of days, but now he's perfect; you can take him anywhere you want," Voss said. "He has a great laid-back disposition."
Voss said it's fun having the old boy around, especially at Saratoga.
"He was a very popular horse that one summer," Voss said of the 2000 meet. "People remember him.
"I think he likes the attention."
* My Snookie's Boy, runner-up to Lion Heart in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, will skip the Travers and instead run in the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 6, trainer Allen Iwinski said.
- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson