07/24/2012 2:01PM

Saratoga notes: St. John's River prepping for Personal Ensign or Ballerina

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Barbara D. Livingston
St. John's River's connections will race her in a second-level allowance while aiming her toward the Personal Ensign or Ballerina.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – St. John’s River is taking a step back in hopes of being able to move forward later in the year.

After competing in six consecutive graded stakes – finishing in the top three in five of them – St. John’s River heads a nine-horse field entered in a $90,000 second-level allowance that goes as race 2 on Thursday’s 10-race program at Saratoga. The race is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the main track.

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“This is a good step for us to see where we’re at,” Andrew Leggio Jr., the trainer of St. John’s River, said Tuesday outside Barn 8, where he has three horses stabled.

At this time last year, St. John’s River was viewed as a significant player in the 3-year-old filly division. She was beaten a neck by Plum Pretty in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and came back to win the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks. St. John’s River was sent off the 4-1 third choice in the Grade 1 Alabama. She did little running, finished fifth, and did not race again the remainder of the year.

St. John’s River was found to have a throat issue and underwent corrective surgery. In two starts this year, St. John’s River finished second in the Grade 2 La Troienne and then third behind Royal Delta and Afleeting Lady in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap, both at Churchill.

“I didn’t think I could beat Royal Delta, but I thought I could beat the horse that ran second,” Leggio said. “She proved me wrong, too.”

Leggio said he is using this 1 1/8-mile race as a stepping-stone to either the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 26 or the Grade 1 Ballerina, a seven-furlong race on Aug. 24.

“I know all the horses that are going to be in the Personal Ensign,” Leggio said. “I don’t quite know who’s going to be in the Ballerina. I won it a few years ago with Happy Ticket, and I’d like to win it again.”

Speaking of Happy Ticket, one of the two other horses Leggio brought to Saratoga is Mr. Ticket, a son of Dynaformer who is the first foal out of Happy Ticket. Mr. Ticket is 1 for 8 and is coming off two recent allowances losses at Churchill.

“He had a little lung infection when I got here and I just about got it cleared up,” Leggio said. “After I get it cleared up, I’ll start looking for a spot for him.”

Leggio’s third horse is a 4-year-old maiden named Starter, who is 0 for 11. He is slated to start on Aug. 4.

Sheppard has two for Kiser Stakes

Thursday’s program begins with the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Stakes, the first of nine steeplechase events to be run at the meet.

Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard sends out the uncoupled entry of Sergeant Karakorum and El Season.

Sergeant Karakorum has won 2 of his last 3 starts, including a five-length win in the Georgia Cup in April.

Sheppard said that El Season, a maiden hurdle winner two back, “has some talent, but he’s a little bit unseasoned for such a spot as this.”

Sheppard mentioned En Fuego and Baltic Shore as two of the top contenders in this 2 1/16-mile race.

Brown points Book Review to Test

It is safe to qualify the first-level-allowance race run on June 24 at Belmont Park as a key race.

The first three finishers from that race all won during the first week of the Saratoga meeting. Questing, who won the June 24 race, took Saturday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Book Review and Baffle Me, second and third on June 24, won first-level allowance races on Friday and Monday, respectively.

Book Review was solid winning a seven-furlong allowance by 2 1/2 lengths while running the distance in 1:22.85 and earning her second consecutive 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

Her trainer, Chad Brown, will point Book Review to the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 25.

“We’ve always been high on her,” said Brown, who trains Book Review for Gary and Mary West. “After her debut at 2, she bucked shins pretty bad and it took a long time to get over them. Now, she’s back in good form, obviously, flattered from Questing winning the Coaching Club. I think it really shows our filly’s of that caliber. I like the spacing, so I’m zeroing in on the Test.