08/30/2012 2:58PM

Saratoga: Data Link should get type of turf he prefers in Bernard Baruch

Barbara D. Livingston
Data Link was scratched from the Fourstardave three weeks ago to await more favorable turf conditions in Saturday's Bernard Baruch.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Shug McGaughey scratched Data Link out of the Fourstardave Handicap three weeks ago because he knew the horse had a disdain for soft turf.

When it was suggested that scratching may have been prudent anyway given how well Wise Dan ran in winning the Fourstardave, McGaughey bristled.

“I think if it had been hard turf we’d been very competitive whether Wise Dan was in there or whoever was in there,” McGaughey said.

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Data Link should get firm ground Saturday when he heads a seven-horse field entered in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. The Bernard Baruch, run at 1 1/16 miles over the Mellon Turf course, goes as race 8 on the 12-race program.

Data Link has won 6 of 12 starts overall and is coming off a one-length victory in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 10. McGaughey believed he was set up for a big run in the Fourstardave, but he elected to pass due to course condition.

“He hasn’t run any good on soft turf. There wasn’t any sense on taking a chance on taking him over there and having run bad or get hurt or something like that when we had this two or three weeks later,” McGaughey said.

Data Link has continued to train forwardly, putting forth a five-furlong breeze over the turf in 59 seconds on Aug. 20.

“He’s trained excellent,” McGaughey said.

Data Link, who won the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile in April, appears to do his best running when he has some pace at which to run. There doesn’t appear to be much pace in this race.

“That doesn’t bother me. He can lay close,” McGaughey said. “Johnny [Velazquez] will know what to do.”

The speed of the race appears to be Dominus, winner of the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes as a 3-year-old. He has never run on the turf, but workouts at a farm in Ocala, Fla., and over the Oklahoma turf course on Monday has trainer Todd Pletcher excited to see what the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike can do.

“I am [excited] based on his last work,” Pletcher said. “It was very good. Pedigree suggests he’ll like it.”

Guys Reward had reeled off three consecutive wins, including the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs on July 1. He finished fourth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths by Wise Dan in the Fourstardave.

“I don’t think it was soft ground. He wasn’t quite himself that day,” trainer Dale Romans said. “But he’s trained well the last couple of weeks.”

Prince Will I Am, winner of the Grade 1 Jamaica in 2010, has not run since finishing last in the Grade 1 Manhattan 14 months ago. The horse had myriad physical issues, precipitating the layoff. Trainer Michelle Nihei was not initially targeting this spot, but said there really isn’t anything else for him and the horse is ready to run.

“I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have great expectations, but I’m also not going to say it’s the end of the world if it doesn’t work out,” Nihei said. “He has not run for a year. He hasn’t been at this distance since he was 3. There are a lot of things about it that aren’t ideal except for the timing, the fact it’s a grass race and he’s just really, really ready.”

Crimson China, Queen’splatekitten, and Sky Blazer complete the field.