08/25/2011 12:53PM

Saratoga: Victory Ride comes up tough

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Bob Baffert said he was looking for “a little soft spot” for A Z Warrior’s return from a 5 1/2-month layoff when he chose Saturday’s $100,000 Victory Ride at Saratoga to launch his Grade 1 winner’s comeback. Instead, A Z Warrior caught a field of 3-year-old fillies in the six furlong Victory Ride so talented it moved Baffert to comment, “I should have run her in the Test.”

The Grade 3 Victory Ride drew a lineup that along with A Z Warrior includes Roman Treasure, who finished third after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Test three weeks earlier, Grade 3 winner Hot Summer, the graded stakes-placed Valiant Passion, as well as stakes winners Jealous Girl and Maple Forest.

Oflee Wicked, a winner of her last two starts, Funny Sunny, runner-up in a recent overnight stakes on the turf, Precious Soul, a runaway allowance winner early this month, and the undefeated Moon Buzz complete the extremely competitive field.

A Z Warrior has not started since finishing third behind Test winner Turbulent Descent in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 5. A Z Warrior was 1 1/4 lengths better than R Heat Lightning when she traveled east for the first time to capture the Grade 1 Frizette last October at Belmont Park before concluding her 2-year-old campaign by finishing a distant 12th in the Breeders’Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“I took a chip out of her knee after the Oaks and tried to get her ready for the Test but ran out of time,” said Baffert. “She’s been working great, as well as she was prior to winning the Frizette, but this is a really tough race with a lot of speed in it, and six furlongs might be a little short for her. I also wish she was drawn more to the outside.”

A Z Warrior, who posted back to back six furlongs works in 1:11 and change at Del Mar before shipping east, will break from post 3 in the Victory Ride.

Jealous Girl will put a four-race win streak – highlighted by a five-length victory in Penn National’s Femme Fatale Stakes – on the line when she makes her graded stakes debut on Saturday. And like Baffert, Jealous Girl’s trainer, Anthony Dutrow, was surprised at how tough the Victory Ride came up.

“I really wasn’t thinking the race would end up with so much talent,” said Dutrow. “This is definitely a big step up for her. She’s been superior to all her foes so far, but she arguably has as much talent as anything in the race. But she’s got to also prove she has the quality to go along with that talent. She hasn’t been given that opportunity yet.”

Roman Treasure was beaten 6 1/4 lengths after showing the way into the stretch over a deep track in the Test and along with Jealous Girl, Maple Forest and Valiant Passion figures to assure a lively pace in the Victory Ride.

A rapid pace could enhance the chances of Hot Summer, who has not started since finishing third after setting the early fractions going a mile and one eighth in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan on May 20. Hot Summer proved she could rate when rallying from fourth to a 2 1/4-length win in the one mile, Grade 3 Comely early this spring.

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