07/30/2013 12:09PM

Saratoga Snacks trying to deny Saginaw's repeat bid in Morrissey Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Saratoga Snacks, seen training at Saratoga on Monday, has been a part of the exacta in all eight of his career races, with six victories.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Gary Sciacca counts himself as one of Saginaw’s biggest fans. On Thursday, however, Sciacca will have to put his pom-poms away when he sends out Saratoga Snacks against Saginaw in the 6 1/2-furlong, $100,000 John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds at Saratoga.

“You gotta love that horse,” Sciacca said of Saginaw. “I have all the respect in the world for that horse. “He’s got a heart the size of the grandstand. He’s one of my favorite horses. Anybody in the game has got to be a fan of his.”

Saginaw, a 7-year-old gelding by Peruvian, has won 14 of 18 starts over the last 18 months, including 13 of 16 since being claimed by Drawing Away Stable and trainer David Jacobson for $30,000 on March 8, 2012. One of those wins was in last year’s Morrissey, a race that Jacobson said “might have been his best race since I’ve had him.”

Saginaw’s most recent loss came to Saratoga Snacks in the Alex M. Robb Stakes in December at Aqueduct. In an attempt to become the winningest horse in 2012, Saginaw was running back in 11 days and at a distance – 1 1/16 miles around two turns – that is not his optimum.

“He wasn’t 100 percent that day; it was borderline whether to run him, and we elected to run him,” Jacobson said. “He ran okay. It didn’t hurt him. He’s come back and won some more races since then.”

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On May 12, in a starter allowance at Belmont, Saginaw won despite carrying 130 pounds and being passed in upper stretch by Private Tale. He returned June 1 to win the Affirmed Success Handicap by a half-length. He has been freshened with this race in mind.

“He’s going into the race as good as any race he’s gone into,” said Jacobson, who has Junior Alvarado to ride from post 3. “We’re looking forward to back-to-back wins in the Morrissey.”

Following the Alex M. Robb Stakes, Sciacca gave Saratoga Snacks the winter off and brought him back June 30 in the Shy Groom, a seven-furlong overnight stakes for New York-breds that he won by 1 1/4 lengths over Mine Over Matter, who is back in this field.

“I think he needed that race,” Sciacca said. “I didn’t pound on him to get ready for that.”

Under Joel Rosario, Saratoga Snacks will start right inside of Saginaw. Both horses carry 124 pounds.

“I think we can win it,” Sciacca said. “He’s doing everything right.”

Sciacca trains Saratoga Snacks for former football coach Bill Parcells. However, Parcells will miss the race because he needs to be in Canton, Ohio, for events leading up to his Saturday induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mine Over Matter beat Saginaw in the Hudson Stakes last fall at Belmont, a race in which Saginaw got away poorly, rushed up, and gave way late.

B Shanny, who, like Mine Over Matter, is trained by Mike Hushion, is 2 for 2 at Saratoga. He finished third in the Shy Groom.

Night Maneuver wheels back 12 days after winning a second-level, open-company race by 5 3/4 lengths, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in his first start off the claim by trainer Gary Contessa.

The Morrissey will go as race 6 on an 11-race program that begins at 1 p.m.