08/21/2013 2:15PM

Saratoga: The Lumber Guy takes first step towards Breeders' Cup in Chowder's First

Barbara D. Livingston
The Lumber Guy, shown working out this summer at Saratoga, is shooting for a return to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race in which he finished second last fall.

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SARATOGA, N.Y. – The $100,000 Chowder’s First Stakes for New York-bred sprinters would normally garner little attention on a card that is highlighted by a race like the Grade 1 Ballerina. But the 6 1/2-furlong Chowder’s First will be more than a brief footnote on Friday’s program at Saratoga due to the presence of The Lumber Guy, who has been reunited with trainer Mike Hushion in hopes of resurrecting the form last fall that made him a Grade 1 winner as well as the runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The Lumber Guy, a son of Grand Slam owned by Barry Schwartz, remained in California for the winter with trainer Neil Drysdale after falling less than a length shy of winning last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. But following two disappointing races on the West Coast, in the Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 2 San Carlos, The Lumber Guy returned to Hushion before ultimately being sent to Schwartz’s farm in upstate New York this past spring to get some much needed time off.

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The Lumber Guy, who became a Grade 1 winner when he rallied to a 1 1/4-length decision over Caixa Eletronica in the Vosburgh, resumed training with Hushion early this summer and has worked forwardly for his return in the Chowder’s First.

“He’s probably the best horse I’ve ever trained, so obviously it’s great to have him back in the barn again,” Hushion said. “They put a lot of weight on him at the farm and I think he’s a bigger, stronger version of the horse he was when with me as a 3-year-old last season.”

Hushion has planned a series of three races for The Lumber Guy, culminating with the BC Sprint.

“Right now our plan is to go from this race back to the Vosburgh and hopefully on to California for the Sprint,” Hushion said. “Even though we’re using this race as a prep for the Vosburgh, I think he’s done more than enough to win. I wouldn’t lead him over there if I didn’t believe that.”

The Lumber Guy also will be reunited in the Chowder’s First with jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard for his two big efforts last year in the Vosburgh and Breeders’ Cup.

The Lumber Guy’s presence limited the field for the Chowder’s First to just seven, a group led by Night Maneuver and N F’s Destiny, who finished a neck apart as the 1-2 finishers in a rapidly run second-level $62,500 optional claiming dash for New York-breds early this summer at Belmont Park.

Night Maneuver was claimed out of the race for $62,500 by trainer Gary Contessa. Night Maneuver returned quick dividends four weeks later at the same class level when he registered an easy 5 3/4-length triumph, earning a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the process on opening weekend here.

N F’s Destiny again figures to set the pace on Friday, although his ability to stay the distance is somewhat of a question as he has yet to win beyond six furlongs.

Trainer David Jacobson has entered both Socialsaul and the 7-year-old Spa City Fever, who will be coupled in the wagering and complete a lineup that includes recent first-level optional $14,000 claiming winner Even Got Quiet and Palace.