08/10/2013 3:35PM

Saratoga: More-relaxed Right to Vote major player in Kid Russell Stakes

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Tom Keyser
Right to Vote won a second-level optional claimer in May going 6 1/2 furlongs, the same distance as Monday's $100,000 Kid Russell Stakes.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Ron Moquett did a little tinkering with Right to Vote after the multiple graded stakes-placed gelding was purchased privately and transferred to his barn earlier this year. Those changes have Right to Vote running well enough of late to prevail in a well-matched field of seven older speedsters who have not won a graded stakes this year in Monday’s $100,000 Kid Russell Stakes at Saratoga.

Moquett wasted little time putting Right to Vote on Lasix when sending him out for the first time in the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 3. He also took the blinkers off when Right to Vote returned three weeks later and shortened up to 6 1/2 furlongs to defeat second-level optional-claiming opposition at Churchill Downs.

Right to Vote, who finished third in the Grade 1 Champagne at 2 and second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan the following spring when with trainer Eoin Harty, became a stakes winner June 29 with a five-length, wire-to-wire victory in Churchill’s Kelly’s Landing. Among his victims that day was Laurie’s Rocket, who will be among his six rivals in the Kid Russell.

“I think the Lasix helped him, but the main thing that improved this horse was taking the blinkers off,” Moquett said. “I noticed every time I worked him, before I ran him the first time, he got very agitated by not being able to look around. Removing the blinkers has helped him relax a little bit.”

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Moquett said the pace scenario did not work out as he planned when Right to Vote finished third in his most recent start at Ellis Park.

“Ian [Wilkes] had a speed horse in there who I thought would run with Good Lord, and we’d be able to sit a good trip in third, but he stumbled leaving the gate and lost the rider,” Moquett said. “That left Good Lord, who is the track record-holder, alone on the lead, and he doesn’t need any additional help. This is a pretty good group on Monday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of them step up to the next level off this race.”

Moquett said he believed Strapping Groom and Hardened Wildcat were the ones to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong Kid Russell.

Strapping Groom was claimed for $35,000 by trainer David Jacobson at Belmont Park on May 24 and returned quick dividends when coming back five weeks later to win the Lion Cavern overnight stakes by 3 1/2 lengths. He has made one subsequent start, finishing fifth after forcing a fast pace in the Grade 3 James Marvin here this summer.

“I had followed this horse for a long time and finally decided to claim him this spring, and he ran big for us right off the bat,” Jacobson said. “I might have rushed him back a little too soon in the James Marvin, but you get up here to Saratoga and get a little excited with a horse like this, and that’s what happens. I freshened him a little after that race and expect him to run very well on Monday.”

Hardened Wildcat chased Strapping Groom from start to finish in the Lion Cavern, finishing second for the second time in as many starts. He also was the runner-up behind Sage Valley in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico.

Laurie’s Rocket was graded stakes-placed three times this year but proved no match for Right to Vote in the Kelly’s Landing.

Candyman E, who is back with trainer Michael Mareina for the first time in more than two years; Leave of Absence, haltered for $62,500 out of his last start; and the Grade 2-placed Troilus complete the field.

– additional reporting by David Grening