07/16/2010 3:38PM

Natterpaul thrilled by near-upset


ELMONT, N.Y. − For a little over two minutes, owner-trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul was floating on a cloud. Mission Approved, whom he claimed in his previous start, was on the verge of an upset in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park.

A 53-1 outsider, Mission Approved went right to the front, and for most of the 1 3/8 miles, no one was gaining. Only a big late run from Gio Ponti, a multiple Eclipse Award winner, denied Mission Approved the improbable win by a neck.

Chatterpaul said it was a thrill to come that close in his first Grade 1 race.

“It was amazing,” Chatterpaul said. “There couldn’t be any better feeling to have a horse run that big.”

Especially a horse who joined your barn one month earlier through a $35,000 claim.

A 6-year-old New York-bred, Mission Approved was no stranger to graded stakes races. He scored Grade 3 wins in the 2007 Saranac at Saratoga and the 2008 Singspiel at Woodbine.

Chatterpaul was initially pointing Mission Approved to a return run in the Singspiel, where he ran second last year. But he said the timing was too tight.

“There wasn’t enough time to go up there,” Chatterpaul said. “The Man o’ War gave me six days more if I stayed here. I figured it would do me good to work a little more with the horse. It turned out to be the right decision.”

Chatterpaul had been tracking Mission Approved since trainer Gary Contessa brought him back in May with a winning effort at Delaware Park in a $40,000 claimer. When Mission Approved next turned up for $35,000 at Belmont on June 11, Chatterpaul pounced.

He now has a horse for some of the big turf events at Saratoga. Chatterpaul said he is considering the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at 1 1/2 miles on Aug. 14.

Power outage leads to cancellation

Belmont Park canceled its Friday card because of power problems in the area caused by the intense heat in the New York City region, but racing was expected to return Saturday.

The temperature Friday reached into the 90’s with high humidity.

Belmont struggled to power up the plant but could not overcome outages throughout the facility.

The track shut down, canceling simulcast wagering on site. The New York Racing Association Internet and telephone betting systems remained operational.

Godolphin prospects to Saratoga

Tahitian Warrior, Atomic Ran, and West Side Bernie, a trio of Godolphin Racing runners who recently returned to action, could also turn up in Saratoga.

The most promising of the three is Tahitian Warrior, a 3-year-old gelding purchased over the winter after impressively winning his debut at Gulfstream Park in January. After the win, Tahitian Warrior headed to Dubai, where he switched to the turf for the one-mile Meydan Classic, finishing 10th.

Back in a sprint at Belmont, he was second to the up-and-coming Trappe Shot in his return before dominating the competition in a first-level allowance, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It was a big race,” said Rick Mettee, who oversees the Godolphin’s New York division for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “We think the Amsterdam [Aug. 2] comes up a bit quick for him. There is the King’s Bishop [Aug. 28] at the end of the meet, but we really don’t have a gameplan. He will run some time at Saratoga. Right now, Saeed seems happy with the horse around one turn. He acts like a horse that’s still improving, and we want to do the right thing by him.”

West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain, both 4, returned at Monmouth Park in the same third-level allowance July 11 after running once over the winter without success in Dubai. Atomic Rain was second in the comeback, and West Side Bernie was compromised by a stumble at the break, finishing fifth.

It was a homecoming for both horses. They made their career debuts at Monmouth and were both based there until they were purchased by Godolphin from George and Lori Hall in separate deals last year.

Both will head to Saratoga, although Atomic Rain could resurface at Monmouth, where he is 3-2-0 in six starts.

Track hosts open house festivities

Saratoga hosts its annual open house Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a full program of attractions, games, and activities.

There will be music, circus shows, handicapping seminars, and a variety of food and beverages, all to benefit local charities. Admission and parking are free.

There will also be racing. The National Steeplechase Association will get a jump on the upcoming meet, presenting three hurdle races and one on the turf as non-wagering contests.

The open house will also offer patrons a glimpse into the inner workings of the track with free backstretch tours.