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Bushfire back after 10-week break
ELMONT, N.Y. - The last time Bushfire raced at Belmont Park, her trainer, Eddie Kenneally, expressed concern about running her back too quickly following a hard-fought victory in a Grade 1 race.
That certainly won't be an issue for Kenneally when he brings Bushfire back from a 10-week layoff in the $250,000 Gazelle Stakes, one of three Grade 1 races scheduled for Saturday at Belmont Park.
Bushfire ascended to the top of the 3-year-old division when she added the July 1 Mother Goose to victories in the Acorn and Ashland stakes. Kenneally felt the Mother Goose, which came three weeks after the Acorn, was Bushfire's best race to date because of the way she relaxed in the race.
The Mother Goose also happened to Bushfire's seventh race of the year, and Kenneally felt that in order to make a run at the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 4, he needed to give his filly a break.
So following the Mother Goose, Bushfire was kept in light training for a month before getting back to work on Aug. 5. She has stepped up her training the last two weeks, working three times since Aug. 23, including a half-mile move in 48 seconds on Monday at Churchill Downs. Bushfire shipped here on Tuesday.
"The layoff was by design," Kenneally said Wednesday from Kentucky. "She had run pretty hard all spring, and with the Breeders' Cup at Churchill we wanted to have her fresh for the fall. She had already established the lead in the 3-year-old division; I didn't feel the need to run her during the summer."
Kenneally believes Bushfire has responded favorably to the break, putting on weight and maturing mentally.
"It was the perfect time to give her a break," Kenneally said. "The weather was hot, so it worked out in that respect. We didn't have to ship her, we didn't have to breeze her, we didn't have to run her. It enabled her to gain weight. They all need a little break."
Kenneally said he chose the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle for Bushfire's return because of her previous Grade 1 successes at Belmont in the Mother Goose and Acorn.
"I'd rather start back here over a surface she likes and a distance we know she likes," Kenneally said. "I want to keep her racing at the highest level. She is the leader in the division. We want to strengthen her case and hopefully get more Grade 1 success."
A small field is likely for Gazelle, including Alabama winner Pine Island, Canadian invader Kimchi, Grade 1 winner Wild Fit, and Unbridled Belle. Trainer Allen Jerkens might run either Miss Shop or Teammate, with the other possible for Sunday's Grade 1 Ruffian.
Man o' War to test Go Deputy
Despite coming off back-to-back graded stakes wins, Go Deputy figures to offer plenty of value in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Man o' War Stakes.
Though he won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational in his last start, Go Deputy will face tougher foes in Cacique, the Manhattan winner, and Showing Up, the Secretariat winner. Relaxed Gesture, who certainly didn't run his race in the Sword Dancer, is also back in the Man o' War.
Before his breakthrough win in the Bowling Green Handicap here on July 15, Go Deputy had failed to win a stakes race. Slow paces cost him dearly when second in both the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in February and the Elkhorn at Keeneland in April.
While Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Go Deputy, admits his horse has caught two "good spots," he also believes Go Deputy has matured into a top-flight racehorse.
"He's become a lot more professional in his races; also he's become more professional in the paddock," Pletcher said. "Prerace, he was fairly difficult down at Gulfstream this year. The first couple of times we ran him he'd get excited in the paddock, get excited in the post parade. It seems like physically and mentally he's come into his own this summer."
Go Deputy has had four riders in his last four starts. John Velazquez, who has not ridden him since April 1, will be back aboard on Saturday.
Pletcher is also expected to run the speedy Ramazutti in the Man o' War.
Maxxi Arte steps up in Garden City
Bred in Ireland but raced exclusively in Southern California, Maxxi Arte will give New York racing a try when she runs in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup Stakes.
Maxxi Arte, trained by Jim Cassidy, brings a three-race winning streak into the Garden City, including a five-length victory in the Viejas Casino Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 20.
Cassidy said Maxxi Arte, a daughter of Danehill Dancer, was a growthy filly at 2 who also lacked maturity. In June, the stewards put her up from second to first in a maiden race, and in July she won a first-level allowance race at Hollywood Park. In her last start, she dueled for the early lead before pulling away to win by five lengths.
"She's starting to get it together," Cassidy said Wednesday from Southern California. "She's figured it all out. That last race she even impressed me. It was such a huge effort, she just blew the doors off them, and it was just the way she did it."
Though former New York-based rider Norberto Arroyo Jr. won twice on Maxxi Arte, Cassidy is using former Southern California-based rider Kent Desormeaux on her in this spot.
A large field is expected for the Garden City, including Carriage Trail, Chaibia, Delmarva, In Return, Jade Queen, La Mottie, Magnificent Song, and Take the Ribbon. Quite a Bride is possible.
Funny Cide may try Brooklyn
Three different veterinarians went over Funny Cide following his eighth-place finish in last weekend's Woodward Stakes and could find nothing wrong with the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
On Wednesday, Funny Cide returned to the track, and jogged one mile at Belmont Park. Trainer Barclay Tagg said he has scrapped plans to run Funny Cide in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 30 and will either wheel him back in the Brooklyn Handicap here on Sept. 16 or the $100,000 Kelso Handicap on Sept. 30 at Delaware Park.
Tagg said that exercise rider Simon Harris told him Funny Cide "moves much better on this track" than he does at Saratoga. Tagg said he plans to breeze Funny Cide next week and "if he breezes nicely we might go ahead and go in the Brooklyn. It's all up in the air right now."
Big Apple Daddy done for the year
Big Apple Daddy, a talented New York-bred sprinter who won an open stakes at Philadelphia Park in May, has been turned out for the remainder of the year but is expected to return next spring, trainer Bruce Levine said.
Big Apple Daddy finished second as the 3-5 favorite in the John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 10. Levine said Big Apple Daddy came out of that race with a problem that would have required him to miss several weeks of training. Levine said he didn't feel that he could have gotten Big Apple Daddy ready for the Hudson Handicap at Belmont on Oct. 21 and he does not want to run him on the inner track again, though he went 2 for 2 over that surface last winter.
"I would have liked to have gotten two or three more races in him, but I'll bring him back in the spring," Levine said. "It's nothing severe, just little stupid things. He needed three to four weeks off, then I was going to have to re-train him. I didn't want to squeeze it."
Big Apple Daddy finished in the money in all six of his starts this year, including wins in the Hollie Hughes at Aqueduct and the Don LeVine Memorial at Philly Park. He finished third in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct and Grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont