07/30/2013 12:56PM

Saratoga: Bahamian Squall takes long van ride for Vanderbilt Handicap

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Bahamian Squall, winning the Smile Sprint at Calder earlier this month, is coming north for Sunday's Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer David Fawkes hitched up the horse trailer at his new summer headquarters on the backstretch at Gulfstream Park shortly before 9 a.m. on Tuesday and a few minutes later was on the road, his graded-stakes-winning sprinter Bahamian Squall in tow, with the next stop Saratoga Springs and a date Sunday in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.

Bahamian Squall will be the second highweight under 119 pounds in a compact but competitive field lining up for the six-furlong Vanderbilt. Bahamian Squall, a homebred son of Gone West owned by Donald Dizney, is coming off the best performance and most important victory of his career, a 1 3/4-length triumph over reigning sprint champion Trinniberg in Calder’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

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Fawkes is using the same formula with Bahamian Squall that worked so well for Big Drama during his championship season in 2010. Big Drama won the Smile that summer before taking the same van ride to Saratoga to finish second in both the Vanderbilt and Grade 1 Forego. He then sewed up the Eclipse Award two months later with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Fawkes said he thought the Smile was the best effort of Bahamian Squall’s career, and the colt showed he’s still sharp with a recent work in company with graded-stakes-winning stablemate Apriority.

“I worked him in company last weekend with his older brother Apriority,” Fawkes said. “The previous time they’d worked together, before the Smile, Apriority controlled the work. This time it was Bahamian Squall who was in control.”

Bahamian Squall worked four furlongs in 47.05 seconds at Gulfstream on Saturday, the second fastest of 80 works at the distance on the morning’s tab. Apriority is also nominated to the Vanderbilt but will not run.

“Obviously this is going to be a step up for him Sunday,” Fawkes said. “It’s the first time he’s tried Grade 1 company, but he’s doing well and deserves the opportunity to try it.”

Delaunay is expected to the starting topweight under 120 pounds in the Vanderbilt. Other prospective starters include Justin Phillip (118), who finished fourth, two lengths behind Bahamian Squall, in the Smile, and Gentlemen’s Bet (116), who upset Delaunay last month in the Iowa Sprint Championship.

Racing secretary P.J. Campo assigned high weight of 122 pounds to Trinniberg, but his connections decided not to join Bahamian Squall on the long trip from Florida.

“Our goal is to win the Breeders’ Cup again at Santa Anita,” said Bisnath Parboo, who replaced his son Shivananda Parbhoo as trainer of record for Trinniberg prior to his second-place finish in the Smile. “So with that in mind we are planning on shipping him to California on Sept. 15 and give him one prep over the track, in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, prior to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Close Hatches will skip Alabama

Trainer Bill Mott reported Monday that Close Hatches, runaway winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 22, will pass the Alabama here later this month.

“She won’t run in the Alabama,” said Mott. “We gave her a little break. She developed a little fever after the Mother Goose, and we had to back off of her. She’s back in training now but probably won’t show up again until the Cotillion.”

Mott likes Ron the Greek’s Whitney chances

Mott is looking for a big performance on Saturday from his multiple Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek in the Whitney. Ron the Greek finished second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Fort Larned, after being forced to rally very wide into the stretch in the 2012 Whitney.

“He’s doing very well but it seems to be coming up one of the better handicap races of the year,” Mott said in reference to the Grade 1 Whitney. “It was a tough race last year and it’s shaping up the same way again. It’s a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup and everybody wants to take a shot at that. Ron was in this race last summer and it was probably his best race of the entire year, so we’re hoping for a repeat performance on Saturday.”

Mott did continue another Saratoga tradition on Monday when he sent out a winner on his birthday for the seventh consecutive year and 15th time in the last 20 years when it has fallen on a racing day at the Spa.

Mott, who sent out five starters on Monday’s card, finally got the job done with his last entrant of the day, Revenue, who rallied to a victory under jockey Junior Alvarado in a $20,000 conditioned claiming dash for fillies and mares.    

Mott, who turned 60 on Monday, said “it seems to be the talk around the track every year on my birthday and I just hope I’m here to talk about it again next year.”

Actually, barring a change in the racing schedule, Mott and his legion of birthday backers will have to wait two years to do it again. Mott’s birthday falls on a Tuesday – a dark day – in 2014.

Lighthouse Bay targets Test

Trainer George Weaver, who is off to a hot start at the meeting, reported that his Prioress winner Lighthouse Bay came out of the race in good order and would likely return in the Grade 1 Test Stakes on Aug. 24, the premier event for 3-year-old filly sprinters at the meet.
Lighthouse Bay slipped up the rail under deft handling by Joe Rocco Jr. to upset the Grade 1 Prioress at odds of 21-1 on Saturday to give Weaver his first Grade 1 win in the United States. He had previously won the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen with Saratoga County in 2005.

“She ran hard and came out of the race a little tired, but she was back on her toes by Monday and so far so good,” said Weaver. “We’re going to run in the Test if she’s doing well. I think we’ve got to try that. It’s a prestigious race, we’re right here, and she obviously ran well over the track.

“I might be a little reluctant about whether she likes seven-eighths as much as three-quarters, but she likes to stalk, and hopefully there will be enough speed in there for her to do that and it will work out okay.”

Weaver said he wasn’t surprised Lighthouse Bay won the Prioress despite her lofty odds, which were inflated by the fact Kauai Katie was the 2-5 favorite in the race.

“She’s always been good,” said Weaver. “Her race in the Miss Preakness was a really good one. She wound up down near the inside paths through the stretch and they were like quicksand that day. And at Parx, she checked hard and made a maneuver to the outside, spotting the others a little bit after the start, and she still won it easy. It’s never a guarantee in this game, but it’s not a complete surprise she was able to do that on Saturday.”

Turf sprint stakes featured on Friday card

The Birdstone overnight stakes was supposed to be the main event on Friday. But when that race failed to fill, feature race honors for the nine-race card now go to the $100,000 Sportech Caress Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong dash for fillies and mares on the turf.

The Sportech Caress drew a field of eight, plus two also-eligibles. The main body includes defending champ Rosa Salvaje for trainer Lisa Lewis; Madame Giry, who won a pair of allowance races over this course last summer; the multiple-stakes-placed Sounds of the City; and stakes winner Silverette, who will be making her turf debut.

Holiday Soiree and Well Kept, both of whom were entered for main track only, worked on the dirt after the break on Tuesday. Holiday Soiree, who was recently purchased by Glencrest Farm and turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher, went a half-mile in 48.43 seconds before galloping out a very strong five-eighths in 1:00.86.

Well Kept, an easy allowance winner in her last start, went an easier five furlongs in 1:03.02.