08/03/2011 3:25PM

Saratoga: Wilkes using John's Call to get Bearpath back on track


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Given how well Bearpath ran in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational here last summer, no one would have been surprised had trainer Ian Wilkes pointed the 5-year-old Dynaformer gelding to that same race this year.

But Wilkes has set his sights somewhat lower, electing to run Bearpath in Friday’s $75,000 John’s Call Stakes, which drew a competitive, if not accomplished, field of 12. The John’s Call, run at 1 5/8 miles over the Mellon Turf course, will go as the seventh on a nine-race program that begins at 1 p.m.

In the last 19 months, Bearpath has run in 11 consecutive graded stakes, winning the Grade 3 Pan American at Gulfstream on March  27, 2010. Since then, Bearpath has three second-place finishes, including last year’s Sword Dancer and a nose loss in the Louisville at Churchill two starts back. He is coming out of a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont on July 9.

“I’m just trying to get him back on track,” Wilkes said. “He ran a good race at Tampa, a bad race at Keeneland, a good race at Churchill, a bad race at Belmont. I just want to get back in a rhythm with him.”

Judging by the way Bearpath has trained in Saratoga, Wilkes believes he may have found that rhythm.

“The horse is doing super right now, I should have thought about going back in the Sword Dancer,” Wilkes said. “His attitude, the way he’s trained over the ground, the way he’s worked, just everything in general.”

Trainer Barclay Tagg has longed to run Kindergarden Kid a marathon distance. The horse won a maiden race going 1 3/8 miles in March 2010 at Gulfstream, but hasn’t been that far since. Tagg noted that Kindergarden Kid has had a history of trouble with splints, shins, and feet.

“It’s a constant battle,” Tagg said. “When he’s right, he loves to do it and I just think he’ll love a mile and five-eighths.”

Cornelio Velasquez rides Kindergarden Kid from the rail.

Sanagas, a German-bred who won 4 of 5 starts in Germany, ran seventh, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, in the Arlington Handicap in his first North American start. Trainer Graham Motion said the horse was difficult for jockey Rajiv Maragh to ride in the stretch that day. Motion is equipping Sanagas with an extension blinker for this race. The horse put in a good work in that equipment on July 29, according to Motion.

“He was lugging in quite badly,” Motion said. “The only thing I can think of is when he ran in Europe he went right-handed; maybe [left-handed] was new to him. We put an extension blinker on one side of him and he handled it very well when he worked on the grass.”

Simmard, Dark Cove, and Center Divider are others with a chance in the bulky field.