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Bribon may be heading back to turf
ELMONT, N.Y. - As he prepares to run his Grade 1-winning turf horse in Saturday's Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park, trainer Robert Ribaudo is beginning to form a plan for his Grade 1 dirt horse, and it may include a surface switch.
Ribaudo, who will saddle Grand Couturier in Saturday's Man o' War, said Bribon, the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap winner, could return to the grass in a race during the Saratoga meet. With no major dirt mile race for Bribon until the fall's Cigar Mile, Ribaudo may try him in a turf race at Saratoga to see if the $1 million Woodbine Mile in September is an option.
Bribon made the first 10 starts of his career on turf, seven of them in Europe. His first three starts in the United States were on turf, but he did not run well. He has made his last 17 starts on dirt.
Ribaudo said that if Bribon doesn't perform as well on turf as he has on dirt, then he could wheel him back in the Grade 1 Forego, a seven-furlong dirt race at Saratoga on Sept. 5.
"Coming back from a mile on the turf to seven-eighths on the dirt is certainly not a bad play," Ribaudo said.
On Thursday, Bribon worked three furlongs in 37.11 seconds over the Belmont Park training track, his first move since he won the Met Mile on May 25.
"This is just to keep him from getting out of condition while he's off," Ribaudo said. "He'll do this like once every eight or nine days until we find out exactly what we're doing. By the time we get to Saratoga, he'll never be more than a work or two away from running, so whatever we decide to do he'll be ready to go. He was very aggressive this morning, actually nice to see."
As far as Grand Couturier in the Man o' War is concerned, Ribaudo is expecting this race to be more of a progression to the Aug. 15 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, a race Grand Couturier has won the last two years. Ribaudo said a hard turf course at Gulfstream and the rainy spring in New York forced Grand Couturier to miss the Manhattan last month.
"The original game plan was this was going to be our third start and then we'd really feel confident going in that we're competitive," he said. "Now it's his second start, so in my heart I still feel we're going to need one to be at his best, and it certainly doesn't look like the kind of race you can win unless you're at your best."
Oh baby! Alexander on a roll
Quick, name the leading 2-year-old trainer in New York this year.
Don't feel bad, not many would have guessed it's Frank Alexander. But the 71-year-old trainer has already won three juvenile races this year from a group of six 2-year-olds.
Alexander won his third juvenile race Wednesday, when the New York-bred filly Silver Shoes won her second start by three-quarters of a length. Earlier this year, Alexander won with first-time starters Bricklayer, a colt, and Keep It a Secret, a filly.
Silver Shoes and Bricklayer are both owned by Dogwood Stable, and each cost $100,000 at auction. Bricklayer, a son of El Corredor, went to Canada for the $152,000 Victoria Stakes last month but finished fifth, beaten 7 1/2 lengths over the synthetic surface at Woodbine.
"He didn't handle it at all," Alexander said.
Bricklayer came back to work a bullet four furlongs in 47.46 seconds on Sunday and will most likely return to the dirt in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sanford at Saratoga on July 30.
"He worked very good the other day," Alexander said. "He was supposed to go nice and easy and he just did that on his own; the boy never asked to run. He might be a real good horse."
Alexander purchased Keep It a Secret for himself for $50,000 at a 2-year-old in training sale and is aiming her for the Grade 3, $100,000 Schuylerville on opening day (July 29) at Saratoga. She is a half-sister to Hightap, who this year has won the Dogwood Stakes and Iowa Oaks, both Grade 3 events.
Alexander, whose stable is at 18 head, has a Trippi colt named Trippo for Dogwood Stable that may run next weekend. On Thursday, Trippo worked five furlongs in 1:01.04.
General Maximus impresses in debut
Speaking of 2-year-olds, the New York-bred General Maximus looked most impressive winning his debut by four lengths Thursday. The word was obviously out on this colt as he was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of eight. He ran five furlongs in 57.42 seconds and returned $4.50.
Under Rudy Rodriguez, General Maximus dueled with Jung Man Scott through a rapid quarter-mile in 21.72 seconds, then continued on to run a half-mile in 44.99 before drawing off.
General Maximus is owned by Michael Imperio and his fiancee Elizabeth Loftus. The horse was bred by Michael's parents, Jill and Dominick, and is trained by Michael's cousin, Joe Imperio.
"I was impressed, Rudy never hit him," Michael Imperio said.
General Maximus is a son of Freud out of the mare Modern Toughness. The mare was a birthday gift to Michael from his parents. Unfortunately, Modern Toughness was struck by lightning and killed last year while in foal to Utopia. She has a Prime Timber yearling colt.
Rice seeks another sweep in stakes
Eleven months ago, Linda Rice pulled off the unique feat of running 1-2-3-4 in an overnight stakes at Saratoga. Saturday, she'll attempt a similar feat when she sends out three of the eight runners in the $65,000 Lottsa Talc Stakes at Belmont.
Rice will send out the triumvirate of Meriwether Jessica, Mohegan Sky, and Canadian Ballet in the seven-furlong turf race for New York-bred sprinters.
Meriwether Jessica and Canadian Ballet are coming back off hard-luck defeats in their seasonal debuts. Mohegan Sky wheels back eight days after getting beat two lengths when fourth in the Caress Stakes.
"Meriwhether ran great two months ago," Rice said. "She's trained very, very well. She likes Belmont and she should like the seven-eighths.
"Canadian Ballet has come back really strong as a 4-year-old and should be a good filly that gets even better with age and maturity. We'll see how she likes the seven-eighths."
Rice said Mohegan Sky was nursing a bruised foot in between her May 25 start and the Caress, but is doing better now. Rice fears that mare may prefer six furlongs to seven.
Weathered, who won the Grade 3 Next Move in March, is entered in what would be her turf debut. She has not been out since finishing third in the Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town.
Monba retired from racing
Monba, the 2008 Blue Grass Stakes winner, has been retired due to an injury to his left hind leg, his connections announced Thursday.
Stud plans for the 4-year-old son of Maria's Mon have not been finalized. Monba won 3 of 10 starts and banked $669,034 for a group headed by Jack and Laurie Wolf's Starlight Partners. Monba won on dirt and synthetic and was beaten 2 1/4 lengths when he finished fifth in the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico, his last start, on Preakness Day.
Dominguez gets 3-day suspension
Ramon Dominguez, the leading rider at this meet, was given a three-day suspension for careless riding in Wednesday's sixth race. Dominguez will take the days Wednesday through Friday. The suspension was reduced from seven days for Dominguez waiving his right of appeal.
Dominguez was aboard Booker D, who bore in and interfered with other horses in the stretch while finishing sixth of eight.