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Eternal Star on mission to Forego
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After Eternal Star set a track record for seven furlongs winning the Don Levine Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park on June 28, trainer Michael Trombetta immediately started thinking about the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 30.
As a means of getting to the Forego, Trombetta entered Eternal Star in Saturday's $100,000 James Marvin, one of four overnight stakes on Saturday's 11-race card at Saratoga.
Eternal Star, a 4-year-old son of 2001 Alfred G. Vanderbilt winner Five Star Day, has won 4 of his last 5 starts and 7 of 13 overall. In the Levine, he took advantage of a scorching pace and outdueled Xchanger to win by a nose. His final time of 1:20.53 established a track record.
"Take nothing away from him, he beat a nice horse in Xchanger and had to work hard to do it," Trombetta said. "If he runs one-two and gets a good effort over the track we can consider the Forego."
Though Trombetta doesn't view the six furlongs of the James Marvin as Eternal Star's best distance, he thinks he could be successful if the pace is fast enough.
The James Marvin drew an intriguing group of sprinters including Bold Start, who has won his last two starts in Kentucky, both at 6 1/2 furlongs. He could play out as the main speed under Mike Luzzi.
Noonmark, trained by Steve Asmussen, has finished no worse than third in six starts dating back to last November. He won the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector in the slop at Gulfstream and was beaten a head by Indian Chant in the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill in May.
Most Distinguished, trained by Nick Zito, won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes here last summer and is coming off a third-level allowance win at Churchill in July. Zito also sends out Tsali, a third-level allowance winner at Belmont on July 2.
Magna Graduate drops
After competing in 25 consecutive graded stakes races dating back to March 2005, Magna Graduate seeks a confidence boost when he tops a seven-horse field entered in the $110,000 Duke of Magenta Stakes at 1o3/16 miles.
Trained by Todd Pletcher since July 2005, Magna Graduate makes his first start for Steve Asmussen in this spot. Magna Graduate has lost nine straight races since his back-to-back Grade 3 wins in the Razorback at Oaklawn and Excelsior at Aqueduct in the spring of 2007.
Magna Graduate will be stretching out to 1 3/16 miles for the first time since 2006 when he won the Queens County Handicap over Aqueduct's inner track.His main competition may be the Pletcher-trained Fairbanks, who also takes a drop in class after running in mostly graded stakes since February 2007.
Fairbanks won the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap in March 2007 with Richard Migliore aboard, and Migliore is up again on Saturday. Fairbanks has run well at Saratoga, winning an allowance race in 2006 by nine lengths and running fourth to Lawyer Ron in last year's Whitney Handicap, which set a track record.
Others entered for the Duke of Magenta are Star Plus, a Group 1 winner in Argentina, plus Deputy Indy, Saratoga Lulaby, Angliana, and Sam P.
Top billing to Stud Muffin in Solomon Northup
Trainer David Duggan looks to keep his fabulous summer going when he sends out Stud Muffin as the horse to beat in Saturday's $100,000 Solomon Northup for New York-bred males at 1 1/8 miles. Duggan has won with three of his first seven starters at this meet.
Since Duggan claimed Stud Muffin for $35,000 in March, the 4-year-old colt has won both his dirt starts and finished fifth in the Kingston on turf. Stud Muffin was entered for the Evan Shipman at Belmont on closing day, but that race was canceled due to problems associated with a transformer fire at the track the day before.
Stud Muffin would benefit from a contested pace, which he is uncertain to get. Either one of Gary Contessa's horses, Stunt Man or Tergesti, could go, as could Building New Era.
Tommasi and Dr. D.F.C. are other contenders in this field.
Real Estate points to Forego
While trainer Bruce Levine waits for his Grade 1-winning sprinter Bustin Stones to recover from a bruised foot, he hopes to make a Grade 1 winner out of Real Estate in the Forego.
Real Estate, a half-brother to Grade 1 winners Madcap Escapade and Dubai Escapade, has won 3 of 5 starts in his career. He was a debut winner at age 2 in 2006, but suffered an injury that forced him to miss his entire 3-year-old season. He returned in Florida for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, and ran two subpar races before returning to New York and Levine.
Real Estate won a first-level allowance race at Belmont and a nonwinners-of-three allowance here on July 25.
"I want take a shot, he could be a stallion prospect with that family," Levine said.
Meanwhile, Levine said Bustin Stones has still not returned to the track since being scratched out of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 26 with a bruised foot. Levine said the bruise "is deeper than I thought," and he's being conservative with the horse.
Due to rain, final four Thursday go turf to dirt
Two heavy downpours that brought about a half-inch of rain early in the card prompted track officials to move the final four turf races of the day to the dirt. That included the $150,000 Statue of Liberty, a division of the New York Stallion series in which I Lost My Choo looked like an overwhelming favorite.
Trainer Phil Serpe scratched I Lost My Choo and is contemplating running her back in either the Yaddo Handicap - rescheduled for Sunday after failing to fill with enough entries for Saturday - or the Grade 2 Lake Placid next Friday.
Serpe was upset that Thursday's races were moved off the turf.
"I couldn't understand how the turf could be firm for the fourth then, yeah, we did get a downpour, but I thought they could have waited a little longer," Serpe said.
The decision to move those races to the dirt was made eight minutes prior to the start of the fifth, which is the first leg of the pick six. While some bettors may have been able to change their tickets, most probably were not. Those who couldn't change their tickets were put on to the post-time favorite in the four turf-to-dirt races.
Moon Catcher works on turf
Moon Catcher, last year's Delaware Oaks winner who has struggled in the distaff division on dirt this year, could be in for a change of surface when she runs next. On Wednesday, Moon Catcher worked five furlongs in 59.99 seconds over the Oklahoma turf course.
"Wanted to try something different," trainer Christophe Clement said. "She had a nice, easy work, she went very well, she moved very well, she seemed very happy. I'm not sure she has to run on the turf, but it was fun to try something else. Next start could be turf or Polytrack in California."
Moon Catcher has won 7 of 15 starts - all on dirt - but was well-beaten in both the Go for Wand and Ogden Phipps handicaps in her two most recent starts.