07/22/2013 3:13PM

Saratoga: Micromanage coming into his own ahead of Haskell Invitational

Barbara D. Livingston
Micromanage (left) breezes a half-mile in 47.57 seconds Monday with Grade 1-winning stablemate Verrazano.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Micromanage was among the more impressive of the nearly two dozen 2-year-olds trainer Todd Pletcher unleashed here last summer.

However, in two subsequent stakes tries, he was unable to duplicate the performance he gave in winning his debut by five lengths Sept. 1. Thus, Micromanage spent about two months on the farm during the winter, eating grass and enjoying sunshine.

By the time he rejoined Pletcher’s south Florida stable in February, the road to the Kentucky Derby had passed him by. If Micromanage was going to do something important as a 3-year-old, it would be in the second half of the year.

After winning two of his first three starts to begin his 3-year-old season, Micromanage will get the chance for an important victory in Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

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On Monday, Micromanage had his final work for the Haskell, going four furlongs in 47.57 seconds in company with stablemate and possible Haskell favorite Verrazano. Working on the outside, Micromanage got his head on the wire slightly in front of Verrazano as he got his final quarter in 23.98 seconds over Saratoga’s main track.

“I think the horse is steadily improving,” Pletcher said. “Seems like he’s training as well as ever.”

The Haskell is one of three races restricted to 3-year-olds to be run in a 48-hour period. On Friday at Saratoga, non-stakes-winning sophomores will run in the $100,000 Curlin Stakes. On Saturday, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, also trained by Pletcher, heads a possible field of nine for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Entries for the Jim Dandy will be taken Wednesday, while the Haskell will be drawn Thursday.

As of Monday, the only confirmed starters for the Haskell were Preakness winner Oxbow, Verrazano, Micromanage, and Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul.

In addition to Palace Malice, others expected for the Jim Dandy include Code West, Freedom Child, Looking Cool, Moreno, Mylute, Perfect Title, Vyjack, and Will Take Charge.

Transparent, a 10 1/4-length allowance winner April 4, heads an eight-horse field entered Monday for the Curlin.

Micromanage, a son of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Mike Repole, had a rough fall after his maiden win. He was fifth in the Champagne and then last in the Remsen, won by his stablemate Overanalyze.

Micromanage was going to get another shot in the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct in January, but when he got outworked by Revolutionary, the decision was made to send him to Jimmy Crupi’s farm in Ocala, Fla.

“We did every single test – we did a nuclear scan – nothing,” Repole said. “We said maybe he just needs to grow up a little bit, probably more mental than physical. He’s a horse that’s bred to run a mile and a half.”

Repole and Pletcher thought about running Micromanage in the Belmont, but his work two weeks out against Palace Malice was not up to expectations, so they skipped the race. Of course, Palace Malice won the Belmont.

Instead, Micromanage ran in the Easy Goer Stakes, where he finished second to Power Broker, who was a Grade 1-winning 2-year-old and is now being pointed to the West Virginia Derby by trainer Bob Baffert.

Micromanage came back in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth on July 7 and overcame a wide trip to win by 4 1/2 lengths.

So, is Micromanage now ready for prime time?

“We’re going to find out,” Pletcher said. “Now’s the time to step into the big league. I think the horse is training outstanding.”

On Sunday, Palace Malice completed his preparation for the Jim Dandy by working four furlongs in 49.69 by himself, an easier move than his sharp five-furlong work one week earlier.

“I thought he worked very well,” Pletcher said. “We were looking for a little easier work than he’s been getting and thought it was executed well.”

Also Sunday, Dwyer winner Moreno worked five furlongs in 1:02 over the main track. Trainer Eric Guillot said he would enter Moreno in the Jim Dandy and assess the field before deciding whether to run or wait a week and point to the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer.

“We’ll see how deep the race is and what the pace situation looks like, although I don’t think he has to have the lead,” Guillot said. “Right now, I’m leaning on keeping him here. He doesn’t ship as well as he runs out of his own stall, and we’re here at Saratoga for a reason, not the season. My partner wants to run in the big ones, and I think it’s time to put this horse to the acid test.”

Code West, who won the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his last start, worked four furlongs in 46 seconds Sunday at Del Mar, the fastest of 59 at the distance. Code West was expected to ship to Saratoga on Tuesday. He will be ridden in the Jim Dandy by Joel Rosario.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman and Mike Welsch