09/11/2009 11:00PM

Grand Couturier looking to rebound

Email
Adam Coglianese
Grand Couturier is going in Sunday's Grade 2 Bowling Green as a confidence booster.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Though Grand Couturier has failed to finish in the money in three starts this year, trainer Robert Ribaudo has not lost faith in his multiple Grade 1-winning 6-year-old. In hopes of boosting Grand Couturier's confidence, Ribaudo plans to run him in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont.

Racing officials here decided to postpone the Bowling Green from Friday to Sunday due to the potential of an inch or more of rain forecasted to fall in the tri-state area Friday. The Bowling Green is scheduled for 1 3/8 miles.

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Robert Ribaudo says Grand Couturier is as fast as ever.

Grand Couturier has finished fifth in all three of his starts this year but has not been farther back than four lengths. Ribaudo said that based on the speed figures he uses, Grand Couturier's 3 3/4-length loss in last month's Sword Dancer earned just as good a number as the figure he earned for winning the race last year.

"He's running the same numbers, if not a little better than last year," Ribaudo said.

Ribaudo said Grand Couturier came out of the Sword Dancer in such good shape that he didn't feel it wise to wait for the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational here Oct. 3. Grand Couturier won last year's Joe Hirsch by 10 1/4 lengths.

"He seems to be doing really good," Ribaudo said. "If you don't run here, you have to wait for the Turf Classic. This is a little less competition. If he responds in a positive way here, then we can come back in the Turf Classic."

Other expected to enter the Bowling Green include Americain, Colony, Expansion, Gentleman Chester, Ready Set, Thabazimbi, Up to No Good, and Winchester.

Bribon works toward Woodbine Mile

Ribaudo's other Grade 1 winner, Bribon, worked four furlongs in 49.36 seconds on the dirt Thursday morning in preparation for a start in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on turf Sept. 20. Bribon, the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap winner, worked in company with Brecciate, who was given a time of 49.34.

Ribaudo said he would have preferred to have waited until Sunday to work Bribon over the turf, but with wet weather forecast, he didn't want to take a chance that turf workouts would be canceled.

Ribaudo said he worked Bribon in company "just to keep his head perked up a little bit." Ribaudo said he worked Bribon and Brecciate together last week at Saratoga, but fog prevented the clockers from getting a time.

"I might do a little something with him again next week," Ribaudo said. "He doesn't need a lot."

Bribon is expected to ship to Woodbine on Thursday.

Dry Martini targets a Gold Cup

Suburban winner Dry Martini was credited with a five-furlong drill in 1:00.02 on Thursday morning over the Belmont main track in preparation for a start in either the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup here or the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup. Both races are Oct. 3.

"We know he likes it here," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "We'd like to stay here, but Hawthorne may be a little bit easier. We'll just see. You don't want to ship halfway across the country if you don't have to, but we want to get the easiest race we can and still have it be a big race."

Among those pointing to the Jockey Club Gold Cup are Summer Bird, Quality Road, and Macho Again.

After winning the Suburban, Dry Martini finished fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

"All I can say is he doesn't like that track," Smullen said.

Meanwhile, Smullen said the 2-year-old Gun Rock, who won a seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga on Sept. 5, could make his next start in the Grade 1 Champagne here Oct. 10.

"He's very big," Smullen said. "We don't want to do a whole lot to press things as a baby. Usually if you press things as a 2-year-old, you have no 3-year-old. We'd like to give him one more race before the end of the year, if it happens to be the Champagne, that's okay, too."

Midshipman works sharply

Midshipman, last year's 2-year-old champion, appears to be getting closer to his 3-year-old debut after he worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.25 on Thursday morning over Belmont's main track. He got his last quarter in 23.33 seconds under exercise rider Simon Harris.

Midshipman has worked nine times since late July, including his last four moves at five furlongs.

Rick Mettee, the assistant trainer for Godolphin Stable, said the Jerome on Oct. 11, is a target.

"It's not going to be an easy race for a horse that's never been on the dirt," Mettee said. "He seems to handle the dirt well. He's right where we want him and has time for a few more pieces of work."

Purse incentives successful at Spa

The purse incentive program that the New York Racing Association instituted for Saratoga helped raise purses by $627,490, or 18.4 percent, for the meet compared with 2008. Seventy-six of the 365 races run at Saratoga qualified for an increased purse, bringing the total purse structure for the meet to $4,032,490 from $3,405,000.

Purse incentives were tied to field size. Dirt races with more than eight betting interests leaving the paddock were eligible to receive a 10 percent to 15 percent increase. Purses for off-the-turf races were boosted 20 percent if there were eight betting interests or more leaving the paddock. Of the 29 races taken off the turf, 13 were eligible for a 20 percent increase.