07/26/2013 2:55PM

Saratoga: Top two from Stephens go at it again in Amsterdam


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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Declan’s Warrior and Forty Tales rallied as a team into and through the stretch of the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes when crossing paths for the first time last month at Belmont Park. But while Declan’s Warrior was forced to check briefly and alter course inside the sixteenth pole, Forty Tales had a clear run to the wire, making the most of his opportunity to win the Grade 2 dash under jockey Joel Rosario.

Declan’s Warrior, who had a three-race winning streak snapped with his second-place finish in the Woody Stephens, will have a chance to avenge that setback when he matches strides once again with Forty Tales and five other 3-year-old sprinters in Sunday’s $200,000 Amsterdam at Saratoga. The Grade 2 Amsterdam will be decided at 6 1/2 furlongs and serves as a key prep for the seven-furlong, Grade 1 King’s Bishop on July 24.

Declan’s Warrior, who rallied from near the rear of the pack to win the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct during the spring, has never finished worse than second in six career starts. The homebred son of Majestic Warrior is owned by Lucky Shamrock Stable and trained by Nick Zito.

“Taking nothing away from Forty Tales, it looked like they were coming together down the lane in the Woody Stephens and then that other horse altered course in front of us forcing Jose [Lezcano] to alter course on Declan,” Zito said. “So we’ll never really know what might have happened if he had a clear path to the wire. But on the other hand, this horse always runs a great race, and I’m very happy with the way he’s been training and is coming into this race.”

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Forty Tales added the Woody Stephens to another game, come-from-behind win six weeks earlier going a mile in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. He, too, is a model of consistency, having finished worse than second just once in five starts.

The stretch-running Declan’s Warrior and Forty Tales will be looking for some pace to set up their late runs, especially turning back in distance in the Amsterdam. They should get it due to the presence of the undefeated New Jersey-bred Rainbow Heir, who has never been headed at any point in each of his four victories, including a five-length, wire-to-wire triumph earlier this month in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore at Monmouth Park.

“Although he has all that speed, we’ve always tried to school and train him behind horses in the morning, and he does relax real well,” trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said. “It’s just that so far nobody’s been able to keep up with him in the afternoon. But one thing I’ve learned in all these years is that you can’t win a lot by going to the front all the time.”

Perkins said even though Rainbow Heir has yet to go beyond six furlongs, he feels the 6 1/2 furlongs of the Amsterdam is within his reach.

“It looks like he’s got a few more yards in him and by drawing outside on Sunday it does give us some options if we want to take him back off the pace a little,” Perkins said.

Mico Margarita also figures to enjoy a nice stalking trip breaking from post 7 while looking to extend his modest two-race winning streak. Mico Margarita shipped to Calder just three weeks earlier to register a convincing victory in the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes and has been much improved since trainer Steve Asmussen added a set of blinkers to his equipment during the spring.

Impressive maiden winner Mentor Cane, who earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure at Belmont on July 6, Salutos Amigos, and Florida invader Cat Five Hurricane complete the field.