07/23/2012 3:32PM

Saratoga: Get Stormy and Winter Memories put on a show at Oklahoma turf course

Barbara D. Livingston
Get Stormy streaked five furlongs on turf in 57.67 seconds Monday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Last summer, trainer Tom Bush was inadvertently among those not informed when a decision was first made to make the Oklahoma turf course available at a special time for horses preparing for Grade 1 stakes. The unfortunate omission came just one week before the Bush-trained Get Stormy was scheduled to run in defense of his title in the Grade 1 Fourstardave.

As a result of the oversight, Bush had little choice but to breeze Get Stormy with the general population, and as luck would have it, at the same time a loose horse was wreaking havoc with the inner rail just beyond the finish line. Get Stormy had just turned into the stretch at the time of the incident and had to be pulled up abruptly to avoid the trouble ahead, suffering a minor injury that forced him to miss the Fourstardave.

On Monday, the turf course at Oklahoma again opened 15 minutes earlier than normal, at 9:45 a.m., with Bush and Get Stormy on the scene for what basically amounted to a private session that included only one other horse, the brilliant turf filly Winter Memories. And the two Grade 1 winners put on a pretty good show.

Get Stormy, who is coming off a second-place finish behind Data Link in the Grade 2 Monmouth, torched the course, streaking five furlongs in a blistering 57.67 seconds. He posted internal splits of 23.33 and 34.95 before galloping out six furlongs in an eye-catching 1:10.20.

“Think he likes it up here?” were the first words Bush uttered while watching Get Stormy pull up after his work.

Get Stormy, who won both the Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch here during the summer of 2010, recovered from his injury last August to finish second in the Baruch. He is already a Grade 1 winner this season, having won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in his 2012 debut.

“I’ve seen him do that before,” said Bush. “He’s an exceptional horse on turns, and if you’ve got sharp turns, he likes that. His record here is exceptional. He’s obviously going to have to come up with an ‘A’ performance, but he’s very good at a mile and he’s definitely in the right race.”

The Fourstardave will be run on Aug. 11.

Winter Memories preceded Get Stormy and was equally as impressive despite working slower, completing her five furlongs in 59.92 but after a leisurely 13 and change opening eighth mile. Winter Memories, who’ll be among the favorites in Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana Handicap, covered her final three-eighths in 34.88 while never asked by jockey Javier Castellano. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.01 before pulling up seven-eighths in 1:25.89.

“She worked a little faster than I wanted but she did everything the right way,” said trainer Jimmy Toner. “It’s hard to say when she goes quick because she does everything so easy she looks in a comfort zone when she’s doing it. What she just did out there this morning, other horses have to stress to do. She’s coming into this race as good as she can be. We’re ready to go.”

Winter Memories, who won the Grade 2 Lake George here last summer in spectacular fashion, is coming off a second-place finish behind Tapitsfly in Belmont’s Grade 1 Just a Game.

Endorsement looks to rebound

About an hour before Get Stormy posted his bullet work at Oklahoma, Endorsement did likewise on the main track, where he completed five-eighths in 58.86 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.29. Endorsement will be seeking to rebound from the poorest performance of his career, a distant seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Suburban, when he goes postward in the Grade 1 Whitney here on Aug. 4.

“I’ve never seen a horse acting so studish before a race as he was both in the paddock and even coming out of the starting gate for the Suburban,” said trainer Eoin Harty. “He was done after a quarter-mile. I wouldn’t consider running him back in the Whitney off a performance like that if I didn’t have an excuse for the race, but I do. I’d advise bettors to watch him in the paddock before the race, but if he’s acting okay I’d place a little bet on him in this race.”

Top three in CCA back in Alabama

It appears the top three finishers in Saturday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, Questing, Zo Impressive, and In Lingerie, will square off again later this summer in the Grade 1 Alabama, the trio’s connections indicated on Monday.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said if all goes well the Alabama will definitely be next for Questing, who dominated the CCA despite drifting badly through the final furlong under 19-year-old jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

“It was a great victory for the whole team,” said McLaughlin. “She came out of the race in great shape and we’ll look at the Alabama.”

McLaughlin said he was not overly concerned by the fact Questing drifted through the latter stages of the CCA.

“[Ortiz] said he felt like it was his fault because he kept hitting her left-handed,” said McLaughlin. “But he is a young kid, he was excited, and she won by four lengths so it’s no problem. We can adjust.”

Ruler On Ice finds tough allowance

Ruler On Ice, the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner, returns from a five-month layoff in a salty third-level allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on Wednesday’s card. The pot is $95,000.

Ruler On Ice has not run since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11, his only start this year. He is winless in six starts since upsetting the Belmont at odds of 24-1.

Kelly Breen, the trainer of Ruler On Ice, said running in a race like the Whitney off a long layoff wouldn’t be the right thing to do with Ruler On Ice. He said the horse is not 100 percent fit.

“Trying to get a little bit of a stepping-stone,” Breen said. “He is a character; he’s tough to work around at times. It’s not easy to get a horse to go two turns and be ready 100 percent first time back, anyway.”

Javier Castellano will ride Ruler On Ice from post 3 in the seven-horse field.

Cease and Schoolyard Dreams look like the major contenders. Cease won two nine-furlong races here last summer and returns to dirt after running on synthetic and turf in his last two starts. He won the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup Handicap at Sam Houston in his last start on dirt.

Schoolyard Dreams ran a respectable second to loose-on-the-lead Johannesburg Smile in a one-mile overnight stakes on June 17, his first start in eight months.

Three options for Summer Front

Trainer Christophe Clement’s goal for Summer Front is the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 6.

How he gets the 3-year-old War Front colt to that race has not yet been decided. Clement said he will consider three options – the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes here on Aug. 10; the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington on Aug. 18; or the Grade 3 Saranac here on Sept. 2.

Summer Front made it 5 for 5 on turf with a solid two-length victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Duluth Stakes. Clement had scratched Summer Front out of Saturday’s Virginia Derby due to soft turf conditions.

“He showed a new dimension yesterday,” Clement said Monday. “He really switched off from a slow pace and he exploded. It’s nice to see that because you can go a bit further when you do that.”

– additional reporting by David Grening