08/05/2013 4:11PM

Saratoga: Asmussen winning with young and old runners

Michael Amoruso
Justin Phillip's score in Sunday's Vanderbilt Handicap was trainer Steve Asmussen's first Grade 1 win at Saratoga since Majesticperfection won the same race in 2010.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Evidently, Steve Asmussen didn’t empty out his chamber when he won 35 races at the Churchill Downs spring meet, including 11 with his 2-year-old crop.

Through the first three weeks (16 racing days) of the Saratoga meet, Asmussen continued to excel, winning six races from 23 starters. He’s won four races with his 2-year-olds – including the Grade 3 Schuylerville with Brazen Persuasion – and on Sunday, he captured the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt with the 5-year-old Justin Phillip. It was Asmussen’s first Grade 1 win in Saratoga since Majesticperfection took the 2010 Vanderbilt.

Asmussen was much happier for Justin Phillip than he was for himself, as the horse captured his first Grade 1 and topped the $1 million mark in earnings in his 29th career start.

“He was very deserving,” Asmussen said.

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Justin Phillip took advantage of a pace battle between Gentlemen’s Bet and Delaunay to get the two-length victory over a late-running Bahamian Squall. Justin Phillip ran six furlongs in 1:08.59 and earned a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure.

Justin Phillip now will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, a race in which he finished fifth last year at 30-1.

“His race in it last year was deceivingly good,” Asmussen said. “The racetrack was playing toward speed, and he got hammered away from there. He made up pretty good ground when nobody else was making up ground.”

Justin Phillip most likely will make his next start in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. He will skip the Grade 1 Forego here Aug. 24 in part because his owner, Ahmed Zayat, is expected to run Fast Bullet in that spot, according to Justin Zayat, Ahmed’s son and racing manager.

This week, Asmussen will turn his focus back to his 2-year-old set when he sends out Untapable in the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack Stakes for fillies and Candy Dandy in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special for males. Both races are Sunday.

Untapable, a daughter of Tapit and a half-sister to the Grade 1-winning turf horse Paddy O’Prado, won her debut at Churchill Downs by one length June 20.

“She’s got a lot of talent,” Asmussen said. “Pleased with her win; there’s a lot left in the tank. I feel we can have success when we get her stretched out – gorgeous mover, doing well.”

On Monday, Untapable worked four furlongs in 49.98 seconds over the Saratoga main track.

Candy Dandy, a son of Candy Ride, won his debut by five lengths over stablemate Dunkin Bend, who came back to win a maiden race here by 5 3/4 lengths Saturday.

“Sharp win,” Asmussen said of Candy Dandy’s debut. “Then, Dunkin Bend coming back and running so well this week makes you take notice.”

Dunkin Bend was one of three maiden 2-year-old winners sent out this meet by Asmussen. The others were Big Sugar Soda and the New York-bred Double Gold.