07/29/2013 12:48PM

Saratoga: Quick Casablanca back on turf for John's Call Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Group 1 winner Quick Casablanca seeks his first win in the United States in the John's Call Stakes on Wednesday.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After a failed experiment on dirt, Quick Casablanca returns to turf when he runs in a competitive renewal of the $100,000 John’s Call Stakes on Wednesday at Saratoga.

At 1 5/8 miles, the John’s Call – named for the horse who won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer in 2000 at age 9 – is for marathon turf runners. Unlike last year, when the race drew a field of only six, this year’s John’s Call attracted 10, including last year’s winner, Harrods Creek.

Quick Casablanca, a Group 1 winner in Chile and Argentina last year, has started just twice in the United States. On May 15, in his first start in a year, Quick Casablanca finished third behind Teaks North and Hyper in an overnight stakes at Belmont.

Seeking to take advantage of the 1 1/2-mile distance, trainer Christophe Clement ran Quick Casablanca in the Brooklyn Handicap on dirt June 7, but the 5-year-old Chilean-bred finished last in the slop, beaten 31 lengths by Calidoscopio.

“It was a complete failure,” Clement said. “It was a wet track. He was beaten a long way. He obviously cannot handle a wet track. That’s OK, we’re back on the turf. He had a nice race going a mile and a quarter this year, he’s very fit, he’s sound, [and] his [past performances] in Chile tell you that he will stay.”

Joel Rosario, who entered Monday’s card as the leading rider at the meet, rides Quick Casablanca from the rail.

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There is no shortage of contenders in the John’s Call, led by Hyper, who has had two troubled trips when second in the Good Reward – finishing in front of Quick Casablanca – and second in the Colonial Turf Cup, where he got outfinished by longshot London Lane.

Side Road finished seventh in the Grade 1 Manhattan, a result trainer Kiaran McLaughlin attributes more to the competition than to the yielding ground. Before that, Side Road finished second to Dark Cove in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland. Dark Cove came back to win two Grade 3 stakes.

“We were kind of gambling” in the Manhattan, McLaughlin said. “He wants the distance, and we got to get lucky.”

Kathleen O’Connell ships in Dannhauser from Monmouth Park for the John’s Call. Dannhauser earned a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure when winning the Laurel Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles last October.

Dannhauser began the year with a two-length win in a 1 1/16-mile stakes restricted to Virginia-breds at Colonial Downs on July 6.

Dannhauser does his best running at long distances, O’Connell said.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” she said. “The field looks strong. I would have loved to have had another race under his belt, but it is what it is.”

Address Unknown, a British-bred making his U.S. debut, has twice won at distances of two miles or farther. He will be ridden by John Velazquez.

Star Channel, Alburj, Sandyinthesun, and Royal Bench complete the field. Royal Bench is trained by Tom Voss, who also trained John’s Call.