08/05/2013 2:43PM

Saratoga: West Hills Giant looks tough in N.Y. Stallion Stakes

Michael Amoruso
West Hills Giant is coming off a third-place finish in the New York Derby over a sloppy track at Finger Lakes.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Two things come immediately to mind when cracking open the past performances for Wednesday’s $100,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes at Saratoga.

First, West Hills Giant looks like the one to beat returning to the grass off a third-place finish in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, and second, what is a Louisiana-bred like Old Pal of Mine doing in the restricted race?

West Hills Giant finished a distant third behind division leader Amberjack over a sloppy track in the New York Derby. Three weeks earlier, this versatile son of Frost Giant overcame a slow start and rallied to a convincing 2 1/2-length victory going seven furlongs over the Belmont turf course in the Spectacular Bid. He’ll stretch out to a mile Wednesday.

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“I think he is versatile enough that he can handle turf or dirt well,” said trainer John Terranova, adding that jockey Edgar Prado told him that West Hills Giant “didn’t handle the sloppy track at all” at Finger Lakes. He said Prado told him that “at the quarter pole he had plenty of horse left and when he called on him he just couldn’t quicken up in that stuff – he was just kind of swimming in it.”

West Hills Giant, who won his maiden over the local course in his second career start here last summer, will come back on just 18 days rest for the New York Stallion Series.

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“It’s back a little quick, but he’s doing really, really well and it’s an obvious spot,” Terranova said. “The race before at seven-eighths was terrific, and everything really seems to be good for him right now.”

Prado will again have the mount aboard West Hills Giant, who will carry high weight of 121 pounds along with Belief System under the allowance conditions of the race.

Old Pal of Mine has made all five previous starts at Louisiana Downs, the last against Louisiana-breds on June 22 when he finished third under allowance conditions on the grass. Trainer Morris Nicks shipped Old Pal of Mine to his son Ralph Nicks to try New York-sired company for the first time Wednesday.

“He was bred in New York to a New York-based stallion but was dropped in Louisiana,” the younger Nicks said when asked to explain how a Louisiana-bred was eligible for the race. “I’ve only had him about 10 days, but numbers-wise it looks like he fits with this field. We’ll just have to see if he’s handled the transition from Louisiana to New York.”

Old Pal of Mine is a homebred owned by Carl Gessler Jr., who also was part of a partnership that campaigned his sire, 2005 Queen’s Plate winner and multiple Grade 1-placed Wild Desert.

Belief System wheels right back after being claimed for $35,000 by trainer George Weaver earlier in the meet. Belief System won a New York Stallion Stakes event going six furlongs over the main track this spring at Belmont, but was pulled up behind West Hills Giant in the Spectacular Bid division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes in his only previous start on grass.

Captain Gaughen, runner-up in the Spectacular Bid, recent maiden winner Sun Storm, Deferred Asset, Orino, and Madam I’m Adam complete the field.

Only five 3-year-old New York-breds will vie for a $100,000 purse in the 6 1/2-furlong Claramount, the co-feature on Wednesday’s 10-race card. Marriedtothemusic, who posted a 99 Beyer Speed Figure winning an open optional claiming/starter allowance race here July 21, will likely be favored over Bond Vigilante, who won a first-level statebred optional claimer going a mile at Belmont on June 21.

Completing the field are Chapman, who has not started since finishing second behind Belief System when making his stakes debut May 5; Longfor the City, currently riding a modest two-race winning streak; and Cajun Best.