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Rain clouds seem to follow Prussian
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Prussian returns to the scene of his dominant debut win nearly a year ago in an attempt to turn around what has thus far been a frustrating 3-year-old season when he runs in the $80,000 Majestic Light, the supporting feature on Friday's Saratoga card.
Last Aug. 17, Prussian won his debut by 6 3/4 lengths over a firm Saratoga turf course. He followed that with a victory in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. In the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park, Prussian led until midstretch when he weakened and finished 10th, beaten only 5 1/4 lengths. That race proved to trainer Bill Mott that Prussian doesn't like soft turf.
This year, it seems like whenever Mott went to run Prussian he ran into weather issues. The Transylvania at Keeneland was taken off the turf and Prussian ran fourth over Keeneland's Polytrack. He scratched out of races at Churchill Downs and Belmont due to soft turf.
Prussian finally made it back to the races in the Lamplighter at Monmouth Park on May 25 where he finished second to El Sultry Sun. Less than two weeks later, Prussian ran back in the Hill Prince, finishing second to Gio Ponti, who came back to win the Virginia Derby.
"I guess that was a nice horse that beat him last time," Mott said in his usual understated manner. "He ran good down at Monmouth, too; that was not a bad race at all."
Prussian has been known to be a bit aggressive early in his races, which could be his undoing in a race filled with speed.
"He wants to jump right into the race," Mott said. "I think he's learning, I think he's getting better, but he still has those tendencies."
Prussian will break from post 7 under Kent Desormeaux.
Luck Money, a son of Indian Ridge, makes his North American debut and first start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Campaigned in Europe at 2 and 3, Luck Money won 2 of 5 starts, but perhaps more noteworthy is that he finished within three-quarters of a length of Henrythenavigator in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes last year. Henrythenavigator has won four Group 1 races this year, including Wednesday's Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Pletcher said he has had Luck Money about five weeks.
"He's had a couple of breezes for us over the turf course," said Pletcher, whose horse will get Lasix for the first time while breaking from post 8.
Big Al and Halo Najib, who break from posts 1 and 2, respectively, would appear to benefit the most from an anticipated early speed duel.
Red Giant returns in Fourstardave
Red Giant, first or second in all seven turf starts he made last year, will return to the races in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Fourstardave Handicap, Pletcher confirmed Wednesday.
Red Giant's biggest victory came in last year's Grade 2 Virginia Derby, a race he won by a nose over Strike a Deal. Red Giant also won the Restoration Stakes by a nose at Monmouth Park. After his Virginia Derby score, Red Giant finished second to Shamdinan in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park. In his last start of the year, Red Giant finished second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont.
Pletcher said Red Giant had an ankle flare up on him after that race and he was sidelined until the spring. Pletcher said he was hoping to get Red Giant started in an allowance race, but he couldn't get one to fill.
"I'm painted into a corner because he needs to run," Pletcher said. "He is doing great. I would rather not run in a super tough race first off a long layoff, but those are the options that I have."
Among those pointing to the Fourstardave are Thorn Song, Danak, Inca King, War Monger, Elusive Fort, and Prince Rahy.
Bsharpsonata now with Pletcher
Bsharpsonata, the multiple Grade 2-winning 3-year-old filly, has been transferred from trainer Tim Salzman to Pletcher by owner John Sykes.
Bsharpsonata won the Forward Gal and Davona Dale - both Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream Park - before finishing second, beaten a neck by Little Belle, in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. In her two most recent starts, Bsharpsonata caught off tracks in both the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, where she finished fifth and eighth.
Following the Black-Eyed Susan, Bsharpsonata was given seven weeks off before being shipped to Pletcher's Saratoga stable about a week ago. Matt Lyons, who is the general manager for Cloverleaf Farms and Woodford Thoroughbreds, both owned in partnership by Sykes, said the goal for Bsharpsonata in the fall is to win a Grade 1.
"She hasn't done that yet," Lyons said. "We don't have a particular path picked out. We know she can run on turf, we know she can run on dirt, we know she can run on Polytrack. We'll see how she comes back and see what Todd thinks of her and hopefully get a couple of races into her."
Lyons said there was no specific reason for changing trainers.
"Tim did a great job with her; he still trains six or seven horses for us," Lyons said. "We wanted to try something different, and obviously Todd's a great trainer and he has some horses for us."
Lieutenant Ron back to work
Lieutenant Ron, a promising 3-year-old trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, returned to the work tab Wednesday, drilling three furlongs in 35.66 seconds over Saratoga's main track. It was his first breeze since he was diagnosed with a foot injury in early May that forced him to miss the Peter Pan Stakes.
"Looked great, not blowing, same Lieutenant Ron," McLaughlin said. "He did everything easy. Hopefully, we'll work him weekly now."
McLaughlin said it was too early to speculate when Lieutenant Ron would be ready to run. Lieutenant Ron debuted last November, winning a six-furlong race by 8 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct. An injury kept him from running until April 6, when he won a seven-furlong allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths, also at Aqueduct.
One possible spot for Lieutenant Ron would be the Grade 1 King's Bishop, which is restricted to 3-year-olds and run at seven furlongs on Aug. 23.
"Let us work another time or two and see how he does," McLaughlin said.
Wanderin Boy another Zito veteran
Commentator isn't the only Grade 1-caliber 7-year-old in trainer Nick Zito's barn, which is also home to Wanderin Boy, who became a millionaire with an impressive allowance win here Monday.
A son of Seeking the Gold owned by Arthur Hancock III's Stone Farm, Wanderin Boy increased his lifetime earnings to $1,013,759 with Monday's victory, his first since capturing the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill Downs in May 2007. The winner of the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap in 2006, Wanderin Boy has also chased home several of the top horses of his era in Grade 1 races when finishing second behind Invasor in the 2006 Pimlico Special, second to Bernardini in the 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and second to Lawyer Ron in the 2007 Whitney.
"It's a tribute to the horse, to Mr. Hancock, and to our help," said Zito. "He's a beautiful horse, an incredible horse who has won some prestigious races, although his real claim to fame, sadly, are some of the tough beats he took in Grade 1 races earlier in his career."
Prior to his Monday victory, Wanderin Boy had made just one start this season, finishing third in defense of his Alysheba title on May 2.
"He got colic before the Pimlico Special and we had to send him to New Bolton, where they did a great job," Zito said. "Mr. Hancock said to take my time getting him back, and thankfully racing secretary P.J. Campo put up a nice race for us to come back in Monday."
Bustin Stones improving
Bustin Stones, scratched from Saturday's Alfred G. Vanderbilt due to a bruised foot, is showing improvement but has not yet returned to the track, trainer Bruce Levine said.
"He was pretty good this morning," Levine said Wednesday. "We'll give him another day or two then re-evaluate it."
Levine said that Bustin Stones continues to stand in a tub of Epsom salts and warm water followed by cold water.
"It's still on the warm side, but it's not burning up," Levine said, referring to the heat in the foot. "We're headed in the right direction, we've just got to wait for it to be 100 percent."
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch