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Rags to Riches getting a physical exam
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches was supposed to have gotten on a van Tuesday morning at Belmont Park headed toward Saratoga. Now the van will be headed south instead of north.
Rags to Riches, who was pulled up during a workout at Belmont Park Sunday morning, was scheduled to van to the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to undergo a complete physical, trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday afternoon.
That decision was made after Dr. Steve Allday examined the filly at Belmont Park Monday morning but could not find anything wrong with her. On Sunday, exercise rider Lauren Robson pulled Rags to Riches up less than an eighth of a mile into a scheduled five-furlong workout because she felt something was not quite right with her.
Pletcher, who watched the work from the Belmont grandstand, drove over to the other side of the track to look at the filly. When he didn't find anything wrong, he gave Robson a leg up and she jogged the horse the wrong way for about a half-mile before leaving the track.
Back at the barn, Pletcher could not find anything wrong with Rags to Riches and felt she was sound after watching her jog up and down the shed row. Rags to Riches did not train on Monday.
"We looked her over [Sunday], she seemed fine; this morning she's fine," Pletcher said by phone Monday afternoon from his Belmont barn office. "We don't know what Lauren felt or whether she was being overly cautious with such a precious commodity. Just to cover all the bases we'll send her over there. We did all the routine things [Monday], including a full set of X-rays."
Rags to Riches, who became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years, was forced to miss last Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks after developing a fever the week before.
Pletcher said he hopes to have the results of the physical back on Thursday. He said if everything checks out well, Rags to Riches could still make the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes here on Aug. 18.
And what about Octave?
If Rags to Riches is unable to make the Alabama, it might make deciding where next to run Octave a bit easier for Pletcher. Octave won her second straight Grade 1 race by taking Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks by a half-length over Lear's Princess.
While owners Jack Wolf and Don Lucarelli would like to run Octave in the Alabama regardless of whether Rags to Riches is in the field, Pletcher said he would prefer to keep the two fillies separated.
"Like I told them, if there's a viable option for equivalent money, it makes sense to me not to run against Rags to Riches," Pletcher said Sunday. "But if the filly's doing really well and there's not really an option that makes sense, then I'll have to run the two of them together."
Considering Octave did run two hard races in three weeks, it is possible Pletcher could hold her out until the Grade 1, $250,000 Gazelle at Belmont on Sept. 15. There is also the $750,000 Cotillion at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 22.
Whitney field growing
As many as 12 horses could run in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap, with Wanderin Boy and Student Council the most recent horses to join the field.
Wanderin Boy, trained by Nick Zito, worked five furlongs in 58.64 seconds Saturday over Saratoga's main track. It was the fastest of 27 moves at the distance. Wanderin Boy, who finished sixth in last year's Whitney, won the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill on May 4 before finishing fifth in the Stephen Foster.
"He likes it up here," Zito said.
Speaking of the Stephen Foster, Zito said, "You hate to make excuses, it just wasn't the right day for Wanderin Boy. On his good days, he can run with anybody. He ran a good race to Invasor in the Pimlico Special and he ran a good race to Bernardini in the Jockey Club Gold Cup."
Zito will also send out Sun King, who was beaten a nose by Invasor in last year's Whitney. On Monday, Sun King drilled five furlongs in a bullet 59.84 seconds. Sun King is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap.
Dry Martini, the Cornhusker winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.64 over Saratoga's main track. Trainer Barclay Tagg is also considering the Iselin at Monmouth on Aug. 18.
Post positions will be drawn for the Whitney on Thursday. The probable field, with riders, is: Awesome Twist (Javier Castellano), Brass Hat (Willie Martinez), Diamond Stripes (Edgar Prado), Dry Martini (Cornelio Velasquez), Fairbanks (Richard Migliore), Flashy Bull (Alan Garcia), Lawyer Ron (John Velazquez), Magna Graduate (Garrett Gomez), Papi Chullo (Eibar Coa), Student Council (Robby Albarado), Sun King (Corey Nakatani), and Wanderin Boy (Rafael Bejarano).
Zito again live with first-timers
One of the major storylines of the 2006 Saratoga meet was the success Zito had with his 2-year-old crop. Zito won six juvenile races with first-time starters.
Before last year, Zito had not really been known for his prowess with first-time starters, though Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge had won their debuts here in 2003. He said he changed his modus operandi to keep up with the times.
"The owners of today like instant gratification," Zito said. "They like the fun of winning. Saratoga has become the premier meet, therefore if you win with a first-time starter that's a lot of points on your re'sume'."
Zito said he hopes for similar success this year. On Wednesday, he will send out Hi Chris, a 2-year-old son of Mr. Greeley, in the second race. The race appears to be loaded with talent, especially Immortal Eyes, who ran a good third to stablemate Fed Watcher in his debut on June 30.
"Hi Chris is pretty good, he's by a good sire," Zito said. "But it's a tough race right off the bat."
Zito said in recent years he has gotten more 2-year-olds with win-early pedigrees. Mr. Greeley's offspring are known to fire well first time out.
Nobiz Like Shobiz all business in drill
The Oklahoma turf course was yielding fast times all morning, and Nobiz Like Shobiz turned in the sharpest five-furlong drill, working in 58.80 seconds, the fastest of 14. Sergio Quinones, a former jockey in Chile, worked the Wood Memorial winner.
"Whether or not a turf course is fast, if a horse doesn't like the turf he's not going to work fast," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "He obviously worked fast. It showed that he doesn't dislike it. Sergio said he liked it."
If the decision is made to run on the turf, a potential first spot is the Hall of Fame Stakes here on Aug. 6.
Last week, Nobiz Like Shobiz worked five furlongs in 1:02.04 at Belmont on turf.
* Dream Rush, winner of the Grade 1 Prioress, worked five furlongs in 1:00.47 over Saratoga's main track Monday morning. She is being pointed to the Grade 1 Test here on Aug. 4.
* Soul Search and Brilliant, a pair of stakes-bound horses trained by Neil Howard, went six furlongs in company Monday morning over the main track. Soul Search, who was timed in 1:14.24, will run in Saturday's Grade 1 Go for Wand. Brilliant, who was timed in 1:14.04, is being pointed to the Fourstardave Handicap on Aug. 5.