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Godolphin talent poses a challenge
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Rick Mettee should have felt better than he did Sunday morning, reviewing the proceedings of the previous day.
"It doesn't feel like we won two graded stakes [Saturday]," said Mettee, the Godolphin assistant trainer.
Though Godolphin did win the .
"The King's Bishop is such a hard race to win. It's a race I've always respected," Mettee said Sunday. "Yesterday's field was such a good race."
In his first start since February, Vineyard Haven ran a game race to finish first in the King's Bishop at seven furlongs. He veered in on Capt. Candyman Can twice in the stretch, necessitating a disqualification. Vineyard Haven's jockey, Alan Garcia, was given a seven-day suspension by the stewards, though he appealed the suspension and will be permitted to ride.
Vineyard Haven emerged as yet another talented 3-year-old that Godolphin must find spots to run this fall. Girolamo, who returned an allowance winner earlier in the meet; Regal Ransom, who is working his way back from injury; and Midshipman, who is nearing his 3-year-old debut; are also in the barn. The Jerome at Belmont on Oct. 11 is a spot for one or more, though all figure to have to run before then.
Godolphin also has a glut of fillies and mares. Music Note, a finalist for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award last year, returned to form with her dominant victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina. Music Note finished third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic last year, but may be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint this November.
While Cocoa Beach finished fourth in the Ballston Spa, Mettee was highly encouraged by the effort. He said the plan now is to put her back on the dirt in the Beldame - a race she won last year - as a stepping-stone to the Ladies' Classic.
"I'm glad we ran her. I'm glad she had that race," Mettee said. "We'll obviously be able to assess her Breeders' Cup plans off the Beldame - is she as good a filly last year worthy of taking her back to the Breeders' Cup? I think the Beldame will tell us that - Rachel Alexandra not withstanding."
The purse of the Beldame could go from $600,000 to $1 million if both Rachel Alexandra and the undefeated Zenyatta were to run.
Seventh Street, who won the Go for Wand earlier in the meet for Godolphin, remains on target for the Grade 1 Ruffian on Sept. 12. Sara Louise, who won the Victory Ride, will most likely make her next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom at 6 1/2 furlongs on Sept. 26.
Godolphin has won 7 races from 13 starters, five of those wins coming in stakes, including three Grade 1's.
Salve Germania to stay with Pletcher
European import Salve Germania, who overcame some prerace antics to win Saturday's Grade 2 Ballston Spa Handicap by a head, will remain in this country and be stabled with trainer Todd Pletcher.
Trainer Manfred Hellwig shipped Salve Germania to Pletcher's barn last Tuesday. Maren Hellwig, the wife of Manfred, said one reason she was shipped to North America was to find shorter races than she was running in as well as firm ground. The Ballston Spa was run on soft.
Pletcher said he wasn't sure what would be next for Salve Germania, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for her victory.
"She really accelerated the last part," Pletcher said. "They told me a mile and a sixteenth, mile and an eighth was her best distance coming in."
My Pal Charlie tunes up for Forego
My Pal Charlie, who won the Grade 2 Super Derby at 1 1/8 miles last year, seems to be better in one-turn races this year. That's why trainer Al Stall is looking forward to running him in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Forego Handicap at seven furlongs.
My Pal Charlie ran a good second in the Churchill Downs Handicap at seven furlongs and was a hard-luck fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park after stumbling badly at the break. Most recently, he finished third in the Cornhusker Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race around two turns.
"He was in a good stalking position at the head of the lane, but didn't go on," Stall said of the Cornhusker. "This year, he seems better at one turn."
My Pal Charlie spent most of the summer training at Keeneland before arriving here late last week. On Monday, he worked four furlongs in 49.95 seconds over the main track.
Peace Chant ready for return on dirt
Also working for the Forego on Monday was Ready's Echo, who went a half-mile in 49.62 under Calvin Borel, who will ride him in the race, and Peace Chant, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02.10 with Julien Leparoux, who will have the mount in the Forego.
Peace Chant will make his first start since winning the Phoenix Gold Cup Handicap at Turf Paradise on Feb. 14. The start was the first on conventional dirt for Peace Chant, a son of War Chant, since he won a second-level allowance race and earned a career-best 107 Beyer in April 2007.
"He's 100 percent a better horse on dirt," said trainer Doug O'Neill by phone from California. "He just doesn't have the body type for synthetics. He's too muscular, too big in the hip and the girth. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder after the race at Turf Paradise, so we gave him some time and now we're just looking for something, somewhere on regular dirt to bring him back. Obviously, this is an ambitious spot, but he's training in a manner that suggests he's going to be close to his best coming off the layoff and once we found out we could get Julien, it sealed the deal."
Others pointing to the Forego are Driven by Success, Gold Trippi, Kodiak Kowboy, Law Enforcement, Multidude, Pyro, and True Quality.
Violette plotting juvenile courses
Trainer Rick Violette sent out his three 2-year-old stakes prospects to work Monday. Now he has some decisions to make before entries are taken this weekend for the Grade 1 Spinaway and Hopeful.
Violette couldn't have been happier with Bulls and Bears (a half-mile in 48.12) and Not Macho Any More (five furlongs in 59.86), both of whom are nominated to Monday's Hopeful, as well as his New York-bred filly Opus A. (four furlongs in 48.16), who is among the 22 juvenile fillies eligible for Sunday's Spinaway.
Bulls and Bears, a troubled fifth in the Grade 2 Sanford, and Not Macho Any More, easy winner of his debut, are both owned by the Klaravich Stables. Violette said he would confer with Seth Klarman of Klaravich before making a final decision with the colts.
"We could run the two of them in the Hopeful, or one in the Hopeful and one in either the Sapling this weekend at Monmouth or the Futurity the following week at Belmont."
Violette had been in the fence regarding the unbeaten Opus A.'s next start until watching her work Monday.
"She worked so strong, we'll definitely try her in the Spinaway," said Violette.
Another Hopeful candidate, Flatter Than Me, turned in the bullet work at a half-mile over the main track Monday, covering the distance in 46.48 seconds. Flatter Than Me, runner-up in the Grade 3 Bashford Manner, finished a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special earlier in the meet.
Take the Points to miss Pennsylvania Derby
Take the Points, winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes in his last start, was being pointed to a start in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby next Monday at Philadelphia Park. But the horse was diagnosed with a temperature on Saturday and will be forced to miss the race.
Pletcher said he would likely point the colt to the Grade 1 Jamaica at Belmont on Oct. 11. Pletcher will still be represented in the Pennsylvania Derby with Join in the Dance and Denver.
Rain dampens Travers Day business
Mother Nature put a damper on Travers Day business, but it could have been a lot worse.
Attendance was 34,221, down almost 16 percent from the 40,723 who watched Colonel John nose out Mambo in Seattle last year. Ontrack handle was $7,312,681, down nearly 18 percent from the $8,882,852 that was wagered on last year's 13-race card.
All-sources handle was $30,449,574, down 18 percent from the $37,134,241 wagered last year.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch