Updated on 09/15/2011 12:40PM

Hard to dislike Hap in Baruch


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - His excellence at nine furlongs, his love for the Saratoga turf course, and his high-powered connections make Hap a hard-to-beat odds-on choice in Friday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

Hap is 3 for 4 at Saratoga, including victories in the Grade 2 Baruch and the Grade 2 Fourstardave last summer. Moreover, he is 6 for 6 at the Baruch distance of nine furlongs. That includes victories in the Dixie at Pimlico and the New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham, his only two starts this year.

"I think every horse has their favorite distance and their favorite surface," trainer Bill Mott said. "I don't know which one you want to believe is the most important; maybe surface, then distance and, of course, level of competition is very important."

Hap, a son of Theatrical, won the Dixie off a seven-month layoff. It was his first race after finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile. The New Hampshire Sweepstakes was akin to a $120,000 paid workout as Hap hardly broke a sweat winning by seven lengths.

Mott, who has won or shared seven of the last nine Saratoga titles, has been pleased with Hap's training in the interim.

Mott is in a similar situation with Hap as he is with another of his turf stars, King Cugat. While they both excel at middle distances, they have yet to be as effective at a mile or 1 1/2 miles, the distance of the two Breeders' Cup races. Hap's only three losses in his last 10 starts all have come at a mile. "At a mile, it seems like we have to rush him too much," Mott said. But at 1 1/8 miles, Mott said "it allows him to settle just enough and he can use his run."

Mott said he is using the Baruch as a possible prep for the Arlington Million, which is run at 1 1/4 miles. He is also considering King Cugat, winner of the Bowling Green Handicap last month at Belmont, for that same race.

As the 121-pound highweight, Hap will have to spot his six rivals six to eight pounds in the Bernard Baruch. The possible upsetter could be Dr. Kashnikow, who has won four straight races on turf dating back to last Sept. 4 when he won his maiden here. A John Kimmel-trained son of El Gran Senor, Dr. Kashnikow gets in with 113 pounds as he makes his stakes debut. Royal Strand, who was also entered in a Thursday allowance race, and Postponed, a graded winner on dirt who has a win and a third in two turf tries, could also pose threats.

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