08/11/2011 3:12PM

Saratoga: Boisterous ready for Grade 1 breakthrough in Sword Dancer

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Barbara D. Livingston
Boisterous has done well both stalking and running off the pace.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After running a respectable third in his first attempt in Grade 1 company in last month’s Man o’ War at Belmont Park, Boisterous may be ready to break through with his first Grade 1 victory when he takes on seven evenly matched opponents in Saturday’s $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga.

Since it is run the same day as the richer and more prestigious Arlington Million in Chicago, the Sword Dancer, run at 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf course, tends to attract a field of less-accomplished runners and lacks the presence of European-based horses. This year’s Sword Dancer does include multiple Grade 1 turf stakes winners Teaks North and Winchester as well as 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, but Man o’ War 1-2 finishers Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti went to Arlington.

“He ran a credible race against a three-time Eclipse Award winner and a very solid horse in Cape Blanco,” said Shug McGaughey, trainer of Boisterous. “The Sword Dancer is a really solid race, but maybe without that type of horse in it.”

Boisterous is 4 for 8 on turf, 4 for 6 since McGaughey replaced Victor Santiago with John Velazquez.

“The first time he ran on the grass he got in some trouble,” McGaughey said. “The next time it was just a disaster. I switched to Johnny – not that the other kid did anything wrong – but I think Johnny made a big difference.”

Boisterous has run well from a stalking position as well as from off the pace. McGaughey said the apparent lack of speed doesn’t concern him Saturday.

“He’s not a horse that’s got to be way out the back, so that doesn’t really bother me,” McGaughey said. “He might be galloping along on the lead. Wherever the rider feels comfortable, that’s fine with me.’’

Winchester, who won the Manhattan and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic last year at Belmont Park, makes his second start of the year in the Sword Dancer. A splint bone injury delayed Winchester’s seasonal debut until last month’s Stars and Stripes Stakes at Arlington, a race rained off the turf and run on Polytrack. Winchester finished second.

Winchester’s trainer, Christophe Clement, is concerned about running back in three weeks as well as the smaller configuration of Saratoga.

“The turf course is a concern here because it’s a tighter track and he’s a horse that comes from off the pace, and obviously it’s a shorter stretch,” Clement said.

Clement also entered Grassy but would not run that horse if the turf course is too firm. Dry weather was expected Thursday through Saturday. Grassy finished seventh in last year’s Sword Dancer.

Teaks North enters the Sword Dancer off victories in the Monmouth Stakes and United Nations. This will be his first trip at 1 1-2 miles, but his trainer, Justin Sallusto, doesn’t see distance as a concern.

“I think the further he goes the better he’ll be,” Sallusto said. “He’s a very long-winded horse – he seems to relish the added distance.”

Distance is why Drosselmeyer is returning to the turf for the first time since the second start of his career as a 2-year-old. Trainer Bill Mott and WinStar Farm selected this race more because of the distance than surface. Drosselmeyer worked a solid five furlongs on turf in 59 seconds on Monday.

“He always puts in a good effort. It doesn’t seem to matter what surface he’s on,” Mott said. “At least if the turf is firm he should be able to handle it.”

Mott said Al Khali would run only if the turf course is firm, which has not been the case in his last three starts.

Rahy’s Attorney and Bim Bam complete the field.

The Sword Dancer will be shown on Versus in a one-hour telecast beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.