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Despite dirt win, Bribon back to turf
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though he won the prestigious Grade 1 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap on dirt in the spring, the 6-year-old gelding Bribon is only worth as much as he can make on the racetrack.
With that in mind, and with next month's $1 million Woodbine Mile at his preferred one-turn mile configuration, Bribon returns to the turf in a one-mile money allowance race Sunday at Saratoga. The two-turn race will be Bribon's first start since he won the Met Mile on May 25 and it will be his first start on turf since July 13, 2007, when he finished sixth of nine in a second-level allowance race at Belmont Park.
Bribon, a French-bred son of Mark of Esteem, has 2 wins from 10 starts on turf, but has gone 6 for 17 on the dirt since then, including victories in the Met Mile and Grade 3 Westchester. Trainer Bobby Ribaudo is hoping that Bribon can transfer that dirt form back to the turf. If not, then Bribon could run back on dirt in the Grade 1 Forego at seven furlongs here Sept. 5.
"It's an interesting experiment," Ribaudo said. "The reward if it does work is a trip to Canada. If it doesn't work, a good handicapping scenario is when you could drop back to seven-eighths on dirt at the end of the meet. It's not like we're passing anything - it's a great time to try."
On Wednesday, Ribaudo sent Bribon out for a half-mile work on the Oklahoma turf training course that went in 49.40 seconds.
"He went pretty good," Ribaudo said Friday. "The key with him is the next day and the next day. Today, he jogged under tack and he was good. He can get tight and jammed up, but he was pretty loose."
The allowance race came up pretty salty, with Tizdejavu coming into this after scratching out of last Sunday's Oceanport at Monmouth when that race was taken off the turf. Tam Lin, a Belmont Park specialist, tries Saratoga for the first time coming off an overnight stakes win downstate on July 16. Inca King, runner-up in the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill, is another contender, as is the returning Broadway Producer.
Past the Point eyes Forego
Past the Point reaffirmed his affinity for Saratoga and made a successful return to the races Thursday by winning a third-level allowance by 1 1/2 lengths. He will now be considered for the Forego, trainer Eoin Harty said.
"I have to check with the powers that be," said Harty, who trains Past the Point for Darley Stable. "But it certainly would have to be a consideration."
Past the Point was making his first start since Feb. 21 when he finished third in the San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita. The next morning, Past the Point had a case of hock cellulitis, where his hind leg swelled considerably.
The horse had to be treated with antibiotics and "it takes a little time for that swelling to come down," Harty said.
Last year at Saratoga, Past the Point won an allowance race and then gave Curlin all he wanted when second to that rival in the Woodward. He now has a record of 2-2-0 from 4 starts at Saratoga.
Summer Bird returns to track
Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird visited Saratoga's main track for the first time Friday morning, jogging one mile under exercise rider Liandro Atempa. It was his first day back to the track since he finished second to Rachel Alexandra in Sunday's $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth park
"I just wanted to get him out there and let him stretch his legs," trainer Tim Ice said. "He looked good, looked happy, he's bouncing."
Ice said he plans two works for Summer Bird leading up to the $1 million Travers on Aug. 29.
Summer Bird is stabled in the stakes barn two stalls away from Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. There is an empty stall between them.
"We're waiting for Rachel to come in," Ice joked. "[Mine That Bird] won the first leg and he's in the first stall, then there's Rachel's stall and we're in the third stall."
Rachel Alexandra is in fact stabled in Saratoga, about a mile away in Steve Asmussen's barn on the Oklahoma training track.
Ice came to Saratoga with three other horses, including a pair of unraced 2-year-olds.
Friesan Fire back in training
Friesan Fire, sidelined by injury since his 10th-place finish in the Preakness, has resumed training at the Vinery Farm in Ocala, Fla., and is expected to rejoin trainer Larry Jones's Delaware Park stable in a week to 10 days.
Jones, in Saratoga to run Kodiak Kowboy in Sunday's Grade 2 Vanderbilt, said Friday that Friesan Fire, who finished 18th as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, was put back into training last week. Jones said Friesan Fire emerged from the Preakness with a chip in an ankle and the beginnings of a condylar fracture. The chip was taken out of the ankle, and a screw was put into the fracture.
Jones said the hope is that Friesan Fire could return to the races in late fall, perhaps in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 28. That race would come three weeks after Jones's planned retirement from training, which coincides with the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 7.
"Three months from today," Jones said Friday about his impending retirement. "Not that we're counting. I'm not saying I won't run a horse or two after that if we have something for the Cigar Mile, but as far as the major training deal, it's over on the 7th."
Solitaire takes John's Call
After avoiding a fallen horse just to his outside approaching the quarter pole, Solitaire tipped three wide turning into the stretch, then rallied strongly under Julien Leparoux to win Friday's $89,700 John's Call Stakes by three-quarters of length over Southwest. It was 1 1/4 lengths to Silver Mountain in third.
It was the first stakes victory for the Canadian-bred Solitaire, who last year as a 3-year-old finished third in the Queen's Plate and second in the Breeders' Stakes.
The hairiest moments for Solitaire's connections came when Rogue Victory stumbled nearing the quarter pole and unseated jockey Edgar Prado. Solitaire was advancing along the rail, inside of the fallen horse.
Prado got up and walked off the course under his own power, though he took off his final two mounts of the day with some soreness in his neck and elbows.
Solitaire, a son of Victory Gallop owned by William Clifton and trained by James Bond, covered the 1 5/8 miles over firm turf in 2:40.56 and returned $13.