08/31/2012 1:32PM

Saratoga: Lucky Chappy looking for breakthrough in Saranac

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Tom Keyser
Lucky Chappy has yet to win a race at 3.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Lucky Chappy is surely one of the best 3-year-olds not to have won a race this year. He will attempt to remedy that dubious honor Sunday at Saratoga when he takes on nine rivals in the $150,000 Saranac.

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Lucky Chappy has not only been blanked in four starts at 3, he has yet to win in six tries since being purchased privately by Team Valor and shipped to this country after winning a pair of races early at 2 in Italy. But despite his failure to win a race for his new connections, Lucky Chappy has yet to turn in a poor effort in the United States. Lucky Chappy finished third making his North American debut in the Grade 3 Bourbon and fourth after a very unlucky trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf to close out his 2-year old campaign. He has finished second in all three U.S. appearances at 3, including a heartbreaking nose setback at the hands of Daddy Nose Best in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby and a second behind Silver Max in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby.

“It’s frustrating that he hasn’t won a race for us yet, but when a horse shows up like he does every time, it’s hard to be too frustrated,” said trainer Graham Motion. “He’s a very genuine, honest horse who always runs a good race. We’ve been kind of limited with what we could do with him since his last start. The Secretariat was about our only other option, but he ran such a big race in Virginia, I was a little apprehensive because I thought it might be coming back too quick.”

As with every start he makes, pace is the key for the stretch-running Lucky Chappy with distance also of some concern for Motion. The Grade 3 Saranac will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on Sunday instead of at 1 3/16 miles as it was last year.

“I wish this was a mile and three sixteenths like last summer, but with the right pace scenario he can handle a mile and one-eighth,” said Motion.

The pace in the Saranac figures to be provided, at least in part, by Spring to the Sky, who stretches out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time off a third-place finish behind Summer Front in the Duluth and an extremely fast and impressive turf work at the Oklahoma training track here on Aug. 24.

“He’s been training well. we wanted to get in the flat mile race on Thursday” – the Equalize – “but couldn’t get in it,” said Bruce Brown, who trains Spring to the Sky for owner Anthony McCarthy. “But the horse couldn’t be doing better. He’s really training well and at a mile and one-eighth, he’s definitely going to be on the lead. It’s just a matter of getting the distance, but he’s been galloping out good in his breezes. I think he’s more of a free-running horse and better when he’s on the lead.”

Spring to the Sky will likely be pressed on the front end by Excaper, who finally returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly a year earlier when easily handling older horses in an entry level allowance race going a mile at Woodbine on July 29. Excaper, runner-up in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf for trainer Ian Black, raced with blinkers again in his last start after going without the shades in his two previous outings.

Quick Wit outgamed Csaba to win the Grade 2 Hall of Fame, which was taken off the turf and moved to a sloppy main track on Aug. 10, but also ran well on grass when he finished a troubled fifth one month earlier in the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington Park.