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Saratoga: Busy morning for Whitney hopefuls on Oklahoma training track
By Mike Welsch
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Oklahoma training track was the focus of attention at Saratoga on Sunday morning, where four prospective starters for next Saturday’s Whitney got in important final preps for the Grade 1 fixture.
While the main track was too wet for any workout activity Sunday, the Oklahoma strip, although perhaps a bit heavier than normal from the moisture, was listed as fast and became a beehive of activity throughout the morning. Among the Whitney hopefuls to breeze were the Bill Mott-trained pair of Ron the Greek and Flat Out, along with Rule and Hymn Book.
Ron the Greek was the first of the Mott pair to work. Going in company with stablemate Clear Attempt, Ron the Greek broke off approximately three lengths behind his partner and finished on even terms after a half-mile in 49.11 seconds. The two joined up for much of the work with no less a rival than Stay Thirsty, who also is among the 14 nominees for the Whitney but is not expected to start.
Flat Out saved arguably the best work at Oklahoma for last as the final horse to breeze over the training track Sunday. The hero of last year’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup cruised five panels in 1:02.51, completing his final quarter in a strong 24.38 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.23.
“Everybody was trying to get to the good surface when Ron the Greek went, and it got a little crowded, but it worked out all right,” said Mott who was celebrating his 59th birthday Sunday. “Flat Out looked good, he’s doing well. Both are on target for the Whitney. It’s always a good race, there’s always a lot of good horses in there ready to run. We respect them all.”
Hymn Book, a slow-starting, late-running second behind Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Suburban, went an easy half-mile in 50.27 alongside stablemate Scampering.
“It was fine, fifty and change, everything is on go,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “His last race was good. He slipped coming out of the gate, dropped way the heck out of it, and made a big move, but it’s hard to give a horse like Mucho Macho Man that much ground.”
Rule was in the first set to breeze after the renovation break, going five furlongs in 1:02.45 while struggling a bit to keep up with his workmate approaching the wire. Rule is coming off a game, wire-to-wire victory over Flat Out in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup earlier this month.
“It was a typical Rule work, he’s not the most enthusiastic morning horse,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It was within the realm of what we were looking for, so assuming he comes out of it good, we plan on running in the Whitney.”
Stay Thirsty went a half-mile in 49.32 while getting squeezed back a bit when passed by the Mott workers near midstretch. The work was the first for the winner of the 2011 Travers since his fifth-place finish in the Suburban.
“It got kind of a little crowded after the break,” Pletcher said. “We were looking for just an easy half, and he kind of got in between those other two, but it worked out okay. We were just trying to keep him from doing too much. He missed one work, I’ll talk to [owner] Mike [Repole] later, but we’ll probably just go to the Woodward.”
Other workers of note at Oklahoma on Sunday included Dominus, five furlongs in 1:02.03 for Pletcher; reigning Juvenile Fillies champion My Miss Aurelia, six furlongs in 1:13.03; and Island Bound, a half-mile in 48.75 for Friday’s Grade 2 Honorable Miss.
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