07/19/2012 5:15PM

Saratoga: Bridgetown tops Willard Straight Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Bridgetown is the likely favorite for Saturday's $100,000 Willard Straight at Saratoga.

Bridgetown returns to his favorite turf course Saturday, when he heads an eight-horse field set to contest 5 1/2 furlongs in the $100,000 Willard Straight, the first race on the 11-race card.

Bridgetown, a 5-year-old son of Speightstown, is 3 for 3 at Saratoga, winning one turf sprint a year here since 2009. Last August, he won the Troy Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths, but did not run for the remainder of the year.

In two starts this year, he has finished second twice; once to Great Attack in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on May 5 and, most recently, to Ben’s Cat in the Parx Dash Handicap on June 17.

“He ran very well at Philly, just second-best on the day,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We had no excuses. He accelerated and finished up, and that other horse on his day is very good. He set a track record, and we couldn’t hold him off.”

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Perfect Officer, third in the Parx Dash; Great Mills, an overnight stakes winner here last summer; and Fiddlers Patriot, winner of a turf sprint at Pimlico, loom the main threats to Bridgetown.

Zero Rate Policy back after spill

Anybody watching the 10th race from Monmouth Park on May 12 had to walk away in shock after watching 2-1 favorite Zero Rate Policy go down suddenly while on the lead entering the far turn of the Decathlon Stakes. Nobody was more in shock at the time than trainer Terri Pompay, who like most observers, thought the worst after watching the horrific-looking spill.

But in what can be described only as a minor miracle, Zero Rate Policy walked away from the incident with only some minor scrapes and bruises. So too did his rider, Paco Lopez.

On Saturday, Zero Rate Policy will run for the first time start since the accident while making his turf debut in the $100,000 Willard Straight Stakes.

“To this day, neither Paco nor I know exactly why he went down so suddenly like he did,” Pompay said. “When I watched it happen, my first thought was that he’d broken his leg. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and somehow he managed to get right up and ran off back to the barn. He had lots of cuts and gashes on both knees that had to be stitched and drained, but overall everybody got very lucky that day.”

Pompay said Zero Rate Policy did nothing for a month while his wounds healed. He’s had three works at Monmouth since returning to training, including a pair of bullets earlier this month. Zero Rate Policy was entered in Friday’s Grade 3 James Marvin Stakes, but will scratch to await the Willard Straight.

“On his best day, it would have been difficult for him to win that race on Friday. There are some very fast horses in the field,” Pompay said. “We’ve always wanted to try him on the turf anyway, and while I’m not crazy about drawing the one hole, it’s five and one-half furlongs, he’s got speed, and it looks like a much easier spot than the one the day before.”

Pompay is planning on returning to Saratoga next weekend with Currency Swap for the Grade 2 Amsterdam. Currency Swap registered his most important victory here last summer in the Grade 1 Hopeful. Currency Swap is coming off a second-place finish behind Trinniberg in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens.

“I’m really excited about this race,” Pompay said. “There will be no Trinniberg in the field so I think we look pretty good in there. I worked him [Wednesday] at Monmouth over a deep, slow track, and he posted a bullet, in hand.”

Currency Swap will use the Amsterdan as a prep for the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug. 25.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch