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Colonial Colony: Another surprise?
ELMONT, N.Y. - After pulling off a stunning upset in last month's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, Colonial Colony arrived in New York on Tuesday where he will try to upset another group of handicap horses in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.
Colonial Colony arrived on the same flight as Devil Time, an Ohio-bred based in Kentucky who is likely to be the longest shot in a probable field of eight for the Suburban.
Colonial Colony was sent off at 62-1 in the Stephen Foster, but found the sloppy track to his liking and was able to outfinish heavy favorite Southern Image to win by a nose.
"We knew he was going to run big, but it was still a surprise to beat those horses,'' Cory Patton, assistant to trainer Walter Bindner, said Wednesday morning on the Belmont backstretch. "I was like the boss [Bindner]: I wanted to make sure it was the right horse turning for home. It was a beautiful day. I hope it rains again Saturday.''
If it does rain and the track is sloppy, it is likely that Peace Rules and Dynever - the top two choices - would scratch from the Suburban. The ever-changing forecast, however, calls for a pleasant Saturday with temperatures in the mid-80's.
Though Colonial Colony enjoyed an 11-pound concession from Southern Image in the Stephen Foster, he will carry the same weight as Dynever (116 pounds) and only four pounds fewer than Peace Rules in the Suburban.
Peterson believes the 10 furlongs of the Suburban should help Colonial Colony.
"We'd even like it to be a mile and a half,'' Patton said. "He should like the sweeping turns here.''
Rafael Bejarano, who leads all jockeys in races won this year, will come in to ride Colonial Colony.
Devil Time is a 7-year-old gelded son of two-time Suburban winner Devil His Due. Although his last six wins have come against Ohio-breds, two of those victories came at 1 1/4 miles.
"We feel the horse is doing very, very well; he's going to love a mile and a quarter,'' trainer David Carroll said. "On the sheets, he's sitting on his best race. What that means remains to be seen, but he's been running very well, very consistent.''
Bill Troilo, who has had the most success on Devil Time, will be back in the saddle.
Funny Cide works ... just in case
Call it a Boy Scout work. As in, be prepared.
That's what the connections of Funny Cide said Wednesday after Funny Cide drilled four furlongs in 46.75 seconds over a fast Belmont main track. Funny Cide is nominated to Saturday's Suburban Handicap, but likely would run only if both Peace Rules and Dynever scratched.
Funny Cide is also under consideration for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, run on July 10. That race is not coming up terribly strong with the defection of Southern Image.
Robin Smullen, the assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, was aboard Funny Cide for his workout. She said there is only a "10 percent chance'' Funny Cide would run in the Suburban. She sounded more interested in the Hollywood Gold Cup, but quickly added, "There's a better chance we won't run in either race than we will.''
Funny Cide is coming off a head loss to Offlee Wild in the Massachusetts Handicap on June 19. Smullen said the quick time of Wednesday's work was more indicative of the fast surface than anything she did aboard Funny Cide.
"The track was lightning fast,'' Smullen said. "That was as easy as we could get him to go on that fast a track.''
'Max' fires Tom Fool bullet
Bruce Levine has been looking forward to running Unforgettable Max in Sunday's Tom Fool Handicap for two months. Judging by his recent works, Unforgettable Max is eager for it also.
Unforgettable Max drilled five furlongs in 59.01 seconds Wednesday morning over Belmont's main track, 10 days after he worked the same distance in 59.02 seconds. Both breezes were bullet moves.
"He's a really good work horse, you really got to control him,'' Levine said. "The last eighth of a mile he was really just galloping.''
Though Levine has twice run Unforgettable Max around two turns, Levine believes seven furlongs could turn out to be the colt's best distance. Earlier this year, Unforgettable Max finished second in the seven-furlong General George Handicap. In his last start, Unforgettable Max was disqualified from first and placed last in the Frisk Me Now Stakes at Monmouth Park.
"Every time he runs over a mile he's got hang to him,'' Levine said. "The race at Monmouth, they went very, very fast splits. I've been pointing to this race for two months. I didn't even half train him for that last race. Maybe I can even make a sprinter out of him.''
Ghostzapper, the probable Tom Fool favorite, worked four furlongs in 49.02 seconds Wednesday.
Forest Music in peak form
Forest Music hasn't run against Grade 1 fillies since last October in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park. Forest Music, who entered the Juvenile Fillies off an easy maiden win that had earned her a 105 Beyer Speed Figure 17 days earlier, finished last.
Saturday, Forest Music takes another stab at a Grade 1 in the $250,000 Prioress, and there is every indication she should give a better account of herself than she did in the Juvenile Fillies.
Forest Music is undefeated in two starts this year, the Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico on May 14 and the ungraded Crank It Up Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 6.
Following the Breeders' Cup, Forest Music ran twice more in stakes in 2003, finishing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Valley Stream and third in the ungraded Mom's Command.
Mark Shuman, who trains Forest Music for Michael Gill, said things progressed a little too quickly for the filly last year.
"It was too much too fast," Shuman said. "Obviously, she is still the filly we thought she was after she won her first race. Right now she is as good as she can be."
Shuman said he caught a break when the five-furlong Crank It Up was rained off the turf and run on the main track.
"Mr. Gill wanted to run her somewhere between the Miss Preakness and Prioress," Shuman said. "I got lucky when the [Monmouth] race came off the turf and we were able to get a race into her."
Last Saturday at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, Forest Music worked a half-mile in 46.40 seconds, the fastest of 14 works at the distance.
Wednesday at Belmont, Rodeo Licious had her final work for the six-furlong Prioress. Rodeo Licious worked three furlongs in 35.66, the fastest of 12 works at the distance over the main track. Why You, also working for the Prioress, topped the list of 32 half-mile works in 46.51.
Trainer Bobby Frankel was planning on running either Aspen Gal or Reforest in the Prioress, but decided on Wednesday to run both fillies, who are owned by Edmund Gann, when he found out he could get John Velazquez to ride Reforest. Aaron Gryder will ride Aspen Gal.
Very Vegas arrived at Belmont from California on Tuesday to run in the Prioress for trainer Marcelo Polanco and owner Jeffrey Nielsen.
The other expected starters are Bending Strings, Feline Story, Friendly Michelle, and She's a Mugs.
Millennium Dragon will await Poker
After watching the Weather Channel, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had a change of heart about sending Millennium Dragon to Churchill Downs for Saturday's $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup. Millennium Dragon was scheduled to leave on a plane bound for Kentucky on Wednesday, but will stay home to run instead in the $100,000 Poker Handicap at Belmont on July 10.
McLaughlin said it looked like Kentucky could be in for some wet weather this weekend. "He likes to hear his feet rattle and doesn't like it soft," McLaughlin said. "He's also not Breeders' Cup eligible, so he would only be running for $175,000 at Churchill."
McLaughlin said he will need to find a rider for Millennium Dragon in the Poker because the horse's regular partner, Richard Migliore, will be out of town that day to ride Artie Schiller in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.
- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson