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Pletcher pair in Sword Dancer
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher may be sending his top male turf marathoner, English Channel, to Chicago for the Arlington Million, but he will still have a strong hand to play in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga.
Pletcher will run Go Deputy and Ramazutti in the Sword Dancer, run at 1 1/2 miles over Saratoga's Mellon Turf Course. Go Deputy, a son of Deputy Minister, is coming off his first career stakes victory, having posted a close-to-the-pace score in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park. Ramazutti, a confirmed front-runner, is coming off a last-place finish in the United Nations Stakes after he couldn't make the lead.
Go Deputy is 2 for 2 on turf at Saratoga, having won a maiden race and a first-level allowance race here in consecutive starts in 2003. Though he won the Bowling Green by racing close to the place, which is not his preferred running style.
"That would be an optical illusion," Pletcher said of Go Deputy's front-running Bowling Green. "They just went so slow. The horse can be put in a tactical position if they go real slow - he can get close enough. I think his preferred running style is to settle and make one run."
Ramazutti has twice come up just short in graded events in which he set the pace. In April, he was defeated a neck by Silver Whistle in the Pan American Handicap. In May, he was beaten a neck by Silverfoot in the Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill Downs.
"His best races have been when he's on the lead," Pletcher said. "Our plan is to put him on the lead. I think he's at his best in a three-turn, mile-and-three-eighths race. But if he's able to sneak away a little bit, he's run some races that are good enough."
A large field is now shaping up for the Sword Dancer. Those expected to join the Pletcher duo are Crown Point, Grand Couturier, Relaxed Gesture, Silver Whistle, Silverfoot, and Wild Desert.
One horse who won't be coming for the Sword Dancer is Jambalaya. The winner of last year's Grade 3 Saranac Stakes, Jambalaya will remain in Canada to run in the $300,000 Nijinsky Stakes on Aug. 27.
Judiths Wild Rush set for Vanderbilt
Judiths Wild Rush, Canada's champion sprinter in 2005, has traveled south of the border to Saratoga, where he will run in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Judiths Wild Rush began the year in south Florida, where he finished third and then fourth in a pair of graded events at Gulfstream Park. Upon returning to Canada, he won 3 of 5 starts, including the Grade 3 Vigil Stakes. Most recently, in the Bold Venture, Judiths Wild Rush finished second as the 1-2 favorite. The race was run on Woodbine's inner track, and, according to the chart of the race, Judiths Wild Rush got caught five wide in a five-horse field.
"We were running on the Standardbred track and got caught outside a horse that didn't handle the sharp turn well," trainer Reade Baker said. "I'd say we were closer to seven wide. It was a pretty nasty trip."
Judiths Wild Rush has won 10 of 30 career starts and recorded back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures of 105 in races run 14 days apart in April.
"He's one of the few horses that runs his best races tight together," Baker said Wednesday. "He runs his worst races with time between starts."
Judiths Wild Rush should benefit from what figures to be a hot pace in the Vanderbilt. The six horses expected to run include Carter winner Bishop Court Hill and defending Forego winner Mass Media, along with War Front, Afrashad, and Thunder Touch.
Bushfire passing Alabama
Twenty 3-year-old fillies were nominated to the Grade 1 Alabama, to be run on Aug. 19. Division leader Bushfire was not among them.
Trainer Eddie Kenneally said Wednesday that Bushfire will be pointed to a fall campaign that most likely will begin with the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont on Sept. 9.
Kenneally said he purposely decided to give Bushfire the second half of the summer off after a season that included Grade 1 wins in the Ashland, Acorn, and Mother Goose.
"We just want a fresh filly for the fall, with our focus on the Breeders' Cup," Kenneally said. "She's doing really well. She breezed last Saturday at Churchill, her first breeze since the Mother Goose. We didn't want to dance every race."
A preliminary glance at the Alabama field includes Adieu, Lemons Forever, Pine Island, Unbridled Belle, and Wild Fit. Swap Fliparoo and Wait a While are possible.
Discreet Cat works toward Jerome
Interest in the unbeaten Discreet Cat has intensified with the success of Invasor, whom Discreet Cat beat by seven lengths in the United Arab Emirates Derby in March.
On Wednesday, Discreet Cat worked five furlongs in 1:03.07 as he continues to prepare for his return to the races, most likely early in the Belmont meet.
"He went a real easy five-eighths and got a little tired," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Racing's North American string. "We're still several works away. We're pointing for the Jerome on Oct. 1, and it'd be nice to get a prep in three weeks before that."
Latent Heat drops in class, distance
Latent Heat, a talented 3-year-old who at one point was being considered for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, will instead run in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance on Friday's card.
Latent Heat, a son of Maria's Mon, has recorded both of his career wins at seven furlongs. He finished third in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina, a race from which he emerged with an injury. Most recently, he was beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the Long Branch Stakes by Praying for Cash, who came back to run second in the Haskell.
"Six and a half is no problem for him," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "He's a very quick horse. I'm just going from race to race with him. I was considering the King's Bishop, and if this race didn't go I might have run him in there. Seven-eighths is probably his best distance. He's a quick horse when you need it."
Island Warrior, a winner of his last two starts, and Express News, who hasn't been out since running third in the Hutcheson, are also in this field.
Ward pair work; Travers possible
Minister's Bid and Dr. Pleasure, two of the top 3-year-olds trained by John Ward Jr., both worked five furlongs on the main track Wednesday morning, and both are under consideration for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 26, Ward said.
Minister's Bid, a distant second to Bernardini in the Jim Dandy, was timed in 1:01.45. Dr. Pleasure was clocked in 1:01.85. Ward also trains Strong Contender, who was third following a tough trip in the Haskell on Sunday at Monmouth.
"I'm going to train all three up to it, and then look at making a decision," Ward said Wednesday afternoon. "My feeling is we'll run at least one animal in there."
* One day before his 41st birthday, jockey Mike Smith won with both of his mounts on Wednesday's card. He won the fourth aboard Herbert T ($8.80) and the 10th with Path of Perfection ($21.80). Smith had been 0 for 22.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman