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Past the Point isn't ducking anyone
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In last year's Woodward, Past the Point took on the King of American racing when he finished a good second to Curlin. In this year's Woodward, to be run Saturday, Past the Point will take on the reigning Queen of American racing when he takes on Rachel Alexandra.
"I'm going through the Royal Family of horses," said Eoin Harty, who trains Past the Point for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable.
Past the Point was being considered for both the $750,000 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles and the Forego, run the same day, at seven furlongs. But With Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable having Pyro to run in the Forego, and with Past the Point having already been successful at nine furlongs, the decision was made to run in the Woodward.
"He ran well at the distance last year," Harty said.
At Saratoga, Past the Point runs well at any distance. He has 2 wins and 2 seconds here from 4 starts. That includes last year's Woodward where Past the Point set the pace and gave way grudgingly to lose to Curlin by only 1 1/4 lengths.
On Aug. 6, Past the Point won a third-level allowance race here by 1o1/2 lengths going seven furlongs. That race was his first start since a third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita, from which he emerged with hock cellulitis and a hind leg that swelled considerably.
Past the Point has worked twice here, including a half-mile move in 47.80 seconds on Aug. 25.
"He loves it up here," Harty said.
Others expected to run in the Woodward are Asiatic Boy, Bullsbay, Cool Coal Man, It's a Bird, Macho Again, and Rachel Alexandra. Rachel is expected to have her last breeze for the Woodward on Monday morning.
Justenuffhumor likely to shorten up
Though he proved himself adept at 1 1/8 miles winning Friday's Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, Justenuffhumor will likely shorten up in distance for the fall races and a run at the Breeders' Cup Mile.
"I would think the Mile because he has such a turn of foot," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "He flies home and you're going to have more of a pace in the mile. A mile and a half is a different race altogether, but you don't come across too many horses you feel like could win at seven furlongs or a mile and seven furlongs; this is one."
McLaughlin said Justenuffhumor could prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile in a race such as the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 10. It is also possible that McLaughlin could lose the horse if Sheikh Mohammed opts to transfer him to his Godolphin operation.
Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's head trainer who was in town for Saturday's card, said no decision has been in that regard.
Justenuffhumor overcame a difficult trip to run down Cowboy Cal and win the Bernard Baruch by a half-length. It was his sixth straight victory, all since being moved to the turf.
"Tom Durkin said he's back 12 lengths and wide, I said, 'Whoa,' " McLaughlin said. "Sometimes you're watching only your horse you don't realize that [Cowboy Cal] had a pretty good trip. He ran great, that was obviously his most impressive performance to date."
Justenuffhumor ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.38 and earned a career-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure.
Beautician expected to improve
Like every other trainer in the race, Ken McPeek would love to win next Sunday's Grade 1 Spinaway. But for McPeek, the Spinaway is simply a means to more important ends with Beautician, who earlier in the meet finished a troubled and distant second behind Hot Dixie Chick in the Grade 3 Schuylerville.
"She's a real good filly," said McPeek. "Right now our main goals with her are the Alcibiades and Breeders' Cup. Hopefully she'll turn out to be that good."
Beautician tuned up for the Spinaway with a sharp five-furlong drill in 1:00.45 here Friday, shading 12 seconds for her final furlong before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.15.
"A lot of our horses coming out of Kentucky struggled over the deeper track here earlier in the meet, so having a race over this surface should help," said McPeek. "Kent [Desormeaux] also knows her a little better now after having ridden her in the Schuylerville, so the combination of the two should move her up a couple of lengths off her last."
Beautician will have to improve if she's to catch up to Hot Dixie Chick, who drew off to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Schuylerville and figures to be the solid favorite in the Spinaway. Others expected to start are Encore Saritta, Sky Fever, and Snap Happy, with Opus A., Bickersons, and Sassy Image listed as possible by the racing office.
Theregoesjojo getting ready
McPeek is also excited about the imminent return of Theregoesjojo, who was on the Kentucky Derby trail this winter after beating Quality Road under allowance conditions in his 3-year-old debut and finishing second and third behind that nemesis in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby. Theregoesjojo has not started since finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 11.
"He pulled a stifle in behind in the Blue Grass and then lost even more time after flipping, hitting his head, and breaking a bone in his nose while on the farm," said McPeek.
McPeek nominated Theregoesjojo for the Grade 3 Saranac here Sunday, but plans to keep the son of Brahms in the Midwest for now.
"He's filled out, looks great, and has been working steadily at Churchill Downs," said McPeek. "While I think he'll definitely handle the grass, at the moment the plan is to bring him back in the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park."
The Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint will be run on Sept. 26.
Sovereign buys Negligee
When trainer John Terranova won the Ontario Debutante with the New York-bred Franny Freud, he was very impressed with the horse he beat. So he talked with his owners, Mike Gatsas's Sovereign Stable, who took Terranova's advice and purchased Negligee and put her in Terranova's barn.
Negligee, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Northern Afleet, could make her next start in the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont on Sept. 19
"The numbers came back very good on the race, we liked her a lot," Terranova said.
Meanwhile, Terranova said Franny Freud would likely run next in the $100,000 Lady Fingers Stakes at Finger Lakes on Sept. 7.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch