09/05/2012 3:30PM

Presque Isle Mile: Absence of favorite greatly aids Bergerac's chances

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bergerac chances in the Presque Isle Downs Mile improved when Hunters Bay's connection opted not to ship in from Canada.

The big-timers are coming to Presque Isle Downs, courtesy of horse vans and charter flights from New York. Jockeys Ramon Dominguez, Javier Castellano, and Rajiv Maragh are among those in for the best weekend of the meet at the Erie, Pa., track, with the Friday feature being the $250,000 Presque Isle Downs Mile.

Dominguez will have the mount on Bergerac for trainer Chad Brown in the Mile, which is run over the Tapeta synthetic. The chances of Bergerac – and all of his opponents, for that matter – improved substantially Wednesday morning when Reade Baker revealed he would not be sending the morning-line favorite, Hunters Bay, from Canada, opting instead to wait for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on turf on Sept. 16.

“That does help,” said Brown, who is coming off a monster meet at Saratoga, where he had 29 wins from 95 starters and stable earnings of nearly $2 million.

Bergerac has been no worse than fourth in three races, all of them graded stakes, since Brown claimed him for $80,000 on behalf of Paul Pompa in February.

“Since we claimed the horse, his synthetic races have suggested to me that he might just be a specialist,” said Brown. “After his last race in Canada,” a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Bold Venture on July 18, “we’ve really zeroed in on this particular race.”

In addition, Team Valor announced Wednesday that Brujo de Ollares also will scratch in favor of the Bowling Green on Saturday at Belmont. Julien Leparoux, who was named on Brujo de Ollares, will not be on the Friday flight and is off all of his mounts on the card.

After those scratches, 12 3-year-olds and upward remain in the Mile, including a pair of also-eligibles, Bluedacious and Photo Shoot, with presumably both making the field.

One other Canadian horse, Eternal Rule (Jesse Campbell), remains in the field, and he looks like a bonafide contender when making his first start around two turns. The 4-year-old Eternal Rule has lost just once in six career starts, all of them on synthetics.

Castellano has the mount for the powerhouse Todd Pletcher stable by taking the call on Alma d’Oro, while Maragh will ride Jimmy Simms for Steve Asmussen.

The Presque Isle Mile goes as the sixth of eight Friday races, with first post set for 5:25 p.m. Eastern and the feature at 7:30. The program also includes the $75,000 Mark McDermott Stakes (race 4) for 2-year-old Pennsylvania-breds. Jump for Kitten, with Dominguez riding for trainer Wesley Ward, looks like the logical favorite in a field of seven.

Groupie Doll heads dozen in Masters

The Mile comes the night before the annual meet showcase, the Grade 2, $400,000 Presque Isle Masters. Entries were drawn Wednesday for the Saturday race, with Groupie Doll getting post 7 in a field of 12 fillies and mares.

Groupie Doll, with Maragh to ride, will be favored in the 6 1/2-furlong race when making her first start since setting a seven-furlong track record at her home track, Churchill Downs, on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard. Dominguez rides Holiday for Kitten and Leparoux will be on Kitty in a Tizzy.

From the rail, this is the Masters field: Sweet Cassiopeia, Atlantic Hurricane, Interrogate, Holy Heavens, Bouquet Booth, Holiday for Kitten, Groupie Doll, Sally Sally, Kitty in a Tizzy, It’s Me Mom, Ariana D, and Salty Strike.