08/04/2010 1:00PM

Lignon's Hero looks strong for John's Call


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Eduardo Caramori is aiming a little high on Saturday at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap, in which he will send out the longest shot in the race, the unheralded South American import Jardim. But 24 hours before that race, Caramori will saddle another of his boys from Brazil, Lignon’s Hero, whose powerful North American debut at Churchill Downs six weeks ago makes him a formidable factor in Friday’s feature, the $70,000 John’s Call for older long-distance turf runners.

The John’s Call, at 1 5/8 miles on turf, drew a surprisingly strong field, including the comebacking Dry Martini, and a host of former stakes winners such as Gangbuster, Perfect Shower, and last year’s John’s Call winner, Solitaire. Twelve are entered, plus four also-eligibles.

Lignon’s Hero, a group stakes winner in his native land, ran poorly in two starts this winter in Dubai. But in his first start for Caramori on June 20, he romped over a deep second-level allowance field, winning by three lengths going 1 3/8 miles on turf.

“He’s a light-bodied horse, but he keeps his condition, and he trained well before that race and after that race,” Caramori said Wednesday morning. “He was a nice horse in Brazil. He got to Dubai late and didn’t do well with the warm weather. He didn’t have many options with the synthetic surface. They just didn’t have time to properly prepare him for Dubai. But he came to me in good condition.”

Caramori said he would not mind if rain softens the course a bit. “He runs well on soft turf,” he said.

If Caramori needs a partner for a rain dance, he should ask Barclay Tagg, who is running Dry Martini for the first time since Feb. 6, when he finished a distant second to Quality Road in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. Dry Martini has raced three times on turf in his 31-race career, but not since Tagg took over as his trainer at the beginning of 2009.

“It’s not the ideal spot for him. It’s too far. Not the way to try turf,” Tagg said. “But he breezed on the turf quite nicely the other day. And if the race gets rained off the turf, it would be at a mile and three-sixteenths, which would be just fine. I don’t think a mile and five-eighths would be too far with a race under his belt. But a race I wanted to run him in didn’t go, so my only other choices are the Whitney and the Woodward.”