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Battle Won to get big test in Forego
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The 5-year-old gelding Battle Won is as durable and versatile as they come.
He has won stakes races on turf and dirt, traveled from Saratoga to Del Mar, and finished eighth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint last year. Saturday, he seeks an elusive Grade 1 victory in the $250,000 Forego at seven furlongs.
Battle Won has risen to the upper echelon of American sprinters this year, with a victory in near-record time in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap and a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar in his last start. If Battle Won runs well in the Forego, trainer Chuck Simon said he would run him back in the Oct. 1 Vosburgh at Belmont and then the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Battle Won's success over the last 15 months has been very special for Simon, who purchased the horse for $150,000 from owner Lazy Lane Farm on behalf of Jay Manoogian in May 2004. Battle Won has become the star of Simon's barn.
"He's one of those horses I always watched," said Simon, who kept an eye on Battle Won as he raced for trainer Frank Brothers on the Midwest circuit. "I saw him at Keeneland in the paddock before one race and said, 'What a great-looking horse.' "
When Manoogian asked Simon to buy him a horse last spring, Simon quickly thought of Battle Won, who he knew was for sale. Simon has since conditioned him to three stakes wins on turf and dirt.
"He never has an off day," Simon said. "He always tries hard. I don't remember him - other than in Hong Kong - getting beat more than two or three lengths since we got him."
Five different jockeys have ridden Battle Won in his last five starts. Ramon Dominguez, aboard for the Churchill Downs Handicap win on Derby Day, gets back on for the Forego. Simon hopes Dominguez can become Battle Won's regular rider as they head down the Breeders' Cup trail.
Two options for Jimmy Jammer
In addition to saddling Battle Won in the Forego Saturday, Simon plans to run Jimmy Jammer in the inaugural running of the $65,000 With Anticipation Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Simon said he would also enter Jimmy Jammer in the Continental Mile at Monmouth in case the With Anticipation is rained off the turf.
Jimmy Jammer, like Battle Won, has been quite the purchase. Simon bought him for $5,000 for owner James Barry at the Fasig-Tipton Keeneland October yearling sale. This year, he has a maiden win at Churchill and a fourth-place finish after a bobbled start in the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth. Simon said he expects Jimmy Jammer to successfully handle turf and longer distances.
Also expected in the With Anticipation are three maiden turf winners this meet - Baur Au Lac, Church Service, and Immersed in Gold - plus Perfect Cruise and Trading Pro.
Pomeroy only 50-50 for Forego
As he watched the rain fall outside his private barn across the street from the Oklahoma training track on Tuesday, trainer Patrick Biancone pondered the status of Pomeroy for Saturday's Forego.
The wet track caused by the rain prompted Biancone to cancel Pomeroy's scheduled workout Tuesday morning. Biancone is also concerned that the Forego may be too soon after Pomeroy's career-best effort winning the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Aug. 13. In that race, Pomeroy led gate to wire, ran six furlongs in 1:08.69, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 114.
"He ran hard,'' Biancone said Tuesday. "I can't work him today. If he can work [Wednesday], we will decide. The way he ran the other day, he's going to be a threat in the Breeders' Cup. We may have to choose a different program.''
Biancone said if Pomeroy skips the Forego, he would likely be pointed to the $500,000 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.
Angara could try Man o' War
Pomeroy may not be the only horse in Biancone's barn whose schedule is affected by the weather. Biancone said that if the turf should come up soft at Belmont on Sept. 10, Angara, the Beverly D. winner, could run against males in the Grade 1, $500,000 Man o' War at 1 3/8 miles.
Biancone is pointing Angara to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 29 and has been considering using the Grade 3 Athenia on Oct. 15 as a possible prep.
"The only thing I don't want to do anymore is run her on firm ground,'' Biancone said.
Biancone said that the ground was "like a road'' when Angara ran third in the Diana.
"I'm not saying she doesn't run well, she doesn't run the same,'' Biancone said. "She needs give in the ground.''
Bailey to ride Saint Liam in Woodward
Jerry Bailey will replace Edgar Prado aboard Saint Liam for the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward Stakes on Sept. 10.
The change comes in the aftermath of Saint Liam's neck loss to Commentator in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on July 31. Commentator led gate to wire in that race and Saint Liam's late rally fell just short. Prado had ridden Saint Liam in nine straight races, winning the Clark, Donn, and Stephen Foster handicaps.
"It was a decision that the owner made, that's how it went,'' said Mark Reid, the racing manager for Saint Liam's owner, William Warren.
The Woodward is expected to be Saint Liam's final prep before the Breeders' Cup Classic. Reid said Bailey has only committed to Saint Liam for the Woodward, but added, "If things go well, he will ride him in the Breeders' Cup.''
Saint Liam has been shipped back to Aqueduct, where on Sunday he worked six furlongs in 1:14.44.
Afleet Alex to parade on Saturday
Though he didn't make it to the races up here, dual classic winner Afleet Alex will make an afternoon appearance on Saturday.
Afleet Alex will be paraded down the stretch after the second race. He will visit the paddock prior to coming to the track.
Afleet Alex has not run since winning the Belmont Stakes on June 11. Six weeks later, he suffered a condylar fracture to his left foreleg and had a screw inserted to stabilize the injury. Afleet Alex has been walking upward of two hours a day, but his connections have yet to be given clearance to have him do anything more strenuous.
His connections are still hopeful that Afleet Alex could make it back to the races this fall, but running in any of the Breeders' Cup races would appear unlikely.
Ontrack handle up, attendance down
Receiving a nice bump on Travers Day, ontrack handle at this meet shows a modest gain of 1 percent to $102,388,950. That compared with $100,964,241 through five weeks in 2004. Neverthless, overall handle on the Saratoga meet through the first five weeks is down 4 percent from $450,490,397 to $432,081,385.
Attendance is down 3 percent from 835,219 to 813,410. The Travers Day crowd of 42,841 was down 12 percent from last year's 48,894. The ontrack handle Travers Day, however, was up 16 percent to $8,573,083 from $7,391,420. In 2004 the last race was canceled due to bad weather.
Total handle on Travers Day was $35,040,209, a 6 percent increase from last year's total of $33,073,020.
- additional reporting by David Grening