09/02/2011 2:52PM

Saratoga: Should Perregaux rely on speed or closing kick in Saranac?


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Neil Howard is in a little bit of a quandary when it comes to Perregaux and Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.

In a race seemingly void of pace, Perregaux has demonstrated the ability to win on the lead. But Howard believes his better races are when he can close, something Perregaux did in finishing second in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes here on Aug. 12.

“I do think he could take advantage of the fact that there is not a lot of speed but I’d like to see him use his closing kick,’’ Howard said. “I still think his better race is when he can close a little bit.’’

Perregaux is one of many contenders in a wide-open 12-horse field set to contest 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course. Perregaux, listed at 10-1 on the morning line, has the rail and Julien Leparoux.

Perregaux is winless in three starts this year. Coming off a five-month layoff, he ran a big race on the lead to be second in a second-level allowance race. He came back in 22 days in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, where he finished third to Banned in a four-horse field. Howard said he feels that Perregaux regressed in his second start off a layoff.

In the Hall of Fame, Perregaux rallied to be second to Big Blue Kitten, who was winning for the fifth consecutive time. Howard believes “that last race got him where he needs to be.’’

Tom Albertrani and Todd Pletcher send out uncoupled entries in the Saranac and all four horses have to be considered in the mix.

Albertrani will saddle Brilliant Speed and King Congie. Brilliant Speed is best known for winning the Grade 1 Blue Grass on Polytrack and running third in the Belmont Stakes over a wet dirt surface. Albertrani said he decided to go back to the turf – a surface on which the horse has won– after Brilliant Speed finished fifth in the Jim Dandy.

“He came back with a lot of energy, like he didn’t run his race,’’ Albertrani said. “My thoughts were that he didn’t handle the track that day and like last year when he didn’t run well up here I made the decision to try the turf with him.’’

King Congie won the Tropical Park Derby and finished first in the Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream, but was disqualified from the latter when he interfered with Brilliant Speed. After running seventh in the Preakness, King Congie returned to turf in the Virginia Derby, where he finished sixth of 12.

“He had an abscess pop out of his neck that could have been bothering him going into the race, it burst out a few days after he ran,’’ Albertrani said. “I think he’s coming into this race very well.’’

Queen’splatekitten won the Marine Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack before finishing fifth in the Queen’s Plate. He was scratched out of the Aug. 7 Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine because Pletcher didn’t like how he was doing.

“He didn’t seem to be in top form at that time so we decided to wait,’’ Pletcher said.

Clement Rock is a new acquisition for Pletcher and is 3 for 3 on turf.

Seal Cove, trained by Shug McGaughey is also 3 for 3 on turf, including a win in an overnight stakes here when he overcame a slow pace, yielding ground, and a driving rainstorm to win.

“This is a pretty solid kind of race, but I feel good about his chances going in,’’ McGaughey said.

Canaveral, Chinglish, Moonhanger, Sky Blazer, Live in Joy, and Pass the Dice complete the field.