10/06/2010 3:44PM

Asmussen keeps two from Champagne


ELMONT, N.Y. – Uncle Mo, the most impressive debut winner of the Saratoga meet, will meet five fellow maiden winners in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

But the competition for the one-mile race came up significantly easier than originally expected with the notable absences of a pair of horses from the Steve Asmussen barn. Neither Justin Phillip nor Wine Police was entered in the Champagne as both horses were shipped from Saratoga to Churchill Downs on Monday.

Asmussen said he and owner Ahmed Zayat concluded that it probably was not in the best interest of Justin Phillip to run back just three weeks following a monstrous maiden win while attempting to stretch out from six furlongs to one mile. That decision may have been made easier when the Zayat-owned Jaycito won last Saturday’s Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at Hollywood Park, thus earning a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill on Nov. 6.

Asmussen said he has backed off Wine Police, the third-place finisher in the Hopeful, after that horse developed a temperature recently and needed to be treated with antibiotics.

“The race knocked him out,” Asmussen said, referring to the Hopeful. “He got a little temperature, it didn’t last long, but things didn’t work out great.”

Thus Uncle Mo will now face a field that includes Meridian Magic and I’m Steppin’ It Up, maiden winners at Delaware, Brother in Arms, a maiden winner at Monmouth, Settle for Medal, who finished last of four in the Hopeful following a maiden win at Saratoga and Mountain Town, who was claimed by Rick Dutrow out of a $75,000 maiden claimer at the Spa.

Uncle Mo, owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, figures to go off heavily favored in the Champagne, following his 14 1/4-length maiden win in which he ran six furlongs in 1:09.21 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Repole and Pletcher also entered Stay Thirsty, the Hopeful runner-up, but he is expected to run only if Uncle Mo doesn’t make the race for some reason.

Pletcher runs four in Frizette

As he did in the Grade 1 Spinaway, trainer Todd Pletcher entered four 2-year-old fillies in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Frizette.

The quartet is led by R Heat Lightning, who won the Spinaway, and includes Valiant Passion, who finished third in the Spinaway. Maple Forest, second in the Sorority, and Tap for Luck, a debut winner at Saratoga going five furlongs, round out the quartet.

“They’re all fillies that are sort of working their way there with the exception of R Heat Lightning who has already won a Grade 1,” Pletcher said. “I think the key to all of this would be at the end of the day is how far they want to run. This is a good stepping-stone to the next level.”

R Heat Lightning, who had the outside post in the Spinaway, drew the rail while Valiant Passion is on the outside in the field of nine. Maple Forest is in post 4 while Tap for Luck is drawn in post 7.

Others entered include Promise Me a Cat, Coax Liberty, A Z Warrior, After later, and Joyful Victory.

Krypton heads contentious Jamaica

Krypton, who won the Grade 3 Hill Prince here in June, heads a deep 11-horse field of 3-year-olds entered in Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Jamaica Breeders’ Cup Handicap scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course.

After winning the Hill Prince, Krypton ran a respectable third to Paddy O’Prado in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs and then was beaten a head when third behind Interactif and Grand Rapport in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga. Grand Rapport came back to win the Kent Stakes at Delaware Park.

Krypton, who drew post 9, is one of two horses entered by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Lethal Combination, who won the Grade 3 Saranac on Sept. 5 at Saratoga, will also run. Lethal Combination finished third to Krypton in the Hill Prince.

The Jamaica field includes Teaks North and Beau Choix, the one-two finishers in the Restoration Stakes at Monmouth Aug. 28, Choice Stakes winner Fantastico Roberto, and Prince Will I Am, a good-looking first-level allowance winner on turf at Saratoga.

Ice Box skips Jamaica, ends up at Monmouth

Nick Zito was pointing Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box to the Jamaica, but with the likelihood of soft turf at Belmont on Saturday, the Hall of Fame trainer called an audible and entered Ice Box in the $300,000 Monmouth Cup on dirt instead.

“I didn’t think we would get a true reading on soft turf,” Zito said. “The first time I breezed him on turf I was okay with it. The second time it was soft and I didn’t think he was crazy about it.”

Zito said that he and owner Robert LaPenta “thought next year would be a better time to try him on turf.”

Ice Box, who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby before running second to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby, has run three poor races since then. He finished ninth (placed eighth) in the Belmont Stakes, ran sixth in the Haskell and eighth in the Travers.

Zito has previously said that Ice Box may not have fully recovered from the Triple Crown series, a theory he will find out more about on Saturday.

“We’ll find out if he’s really tired,” said Zito, who noted that Ice Box worked a bullet half-mile on dirt Monday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.

Ice Box, who will be ridden by C.C. Lopez from post 3, will face a field that includes Musket Man, Duke of Mischief, Dry Martini, Chirac, and Etched.

Haynesfield leaves Monday for Churchill

Haynesfield, upset winner of Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, will ship Monday to Churchill Downs, where he will continue preparations for a start in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Assistant trainer Toby Sheets and owner Harvey Weinstein discussed the Classic on Tuesday and made arrangements to ship the horse early to get accustomed to Churchill. Haynesfield, a New York-bred son of Speightstown, has never raced outside of New York.

“Different spot, adjust to the surroundings, get into a nice routine, a little rhythm,” said Sheets, who will accompany the horse to Churchill.