05/10/2013 4:12PM

Belmont Park: Saginaw giving eight pounds to rivals in Sunday optional claimer

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Adam Coglianese
Saginaw, who has two stakes wins in as many starts this year, will carry eight more pounds than his rivals in Sunday's optional claimer.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Saginaw, entered to run in Saturday’s $75,000 Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth Park, was expected to scratch from that race to run Sunday at Belmont in a $55,000 starter/optional-claiming race.

In theory, this may be an easier spot for the champion New York-bred older male, but it’s far from easy.

Given his accomplishments – he has won eight stakes in his last 12 starts – Saginaw is the highweight in the race and must carry 130 pounds. He will be spotting eight pounds to his seven rivals, including stablemate Big Business, who is 3 for 3 at Belmont and has finished first or second in 11 of his last 12 starts.

“I like that,” trainer David Jacobson said of Saginaw’s weight assignment. “I like that we’re going to do handicaps like we used to. You want good horses to prove themselves.”

With 10 wins, Saginaw tied for the most victories among horses based in North America in 2012. He is 2 for 2 this year, with wins in the Hollie Hughes Stakes at six furlongs and the Composed Word at one mile. Saginaw has not run since March 21, owing to a pair of overnight stakes that failed to fill.

“He’s doing good,” Jacobson said. “I just wish we were able to run him back a little sooner.”

Jacobson is looking to use Sunday’s race as a stepping-stone to a race June 1 as part of the New York Showcase program. There are races at 6 1/2 furlongs and 1 1/16 miles that could fit Saginaw.

Big Business is one of many threats to Saginaw in this spot. Big Business is coming of a 2 3/4-length win in a second-level allowance at Aqueduct on April 7 in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

“Saginaw is really going to have to bring his ‘A’ game,” Jacobson said.

Other contenders in the field include Private Tale, Strapping Groom, and Martini Madness.

◗ Mr. Commons, a multiple Grade 2 winner trained by John Shirreffs, worked seven furlongs in 1:32.11 on Friday over the training track. He ran a pedestrian half-mile in 54.61 seconds and came home in 37.50.

Though Mr. Commons had been running in one-mile races almost exclusively, Shirreffs has indicated he might try to stretch the horse out in distance.

◗ Miss Valentine, away from the races since Dec. 2, made a successful return Friday, rallying past Clear Pasaj inside the sixteenth pole to win the $90,000 No Reason Stakes by a half-length.

Miss Valentine, a 5-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex, is 8 for 19 for Waterville Lake Stable and trainer Christophe Clement.

Joel Rosario rode Miss Valentine, who ran a mile in 1:37.53 and returned $4.70 as the favorite.