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Schettino laying claim to leader table
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The usual names can be found atop the trainer standings at Saratoga. Todd Pletcher. Bobby Frankel. Steve Asmussen. Bill Mott. Dominick Schettino.
Yes, the same Dominick Schettino who had gone 3 for 48 the last three Saratoga meets has saddled four winners from 10 starters through the first 15 days of this meet. Fueled by the backing of owners Joseph Parisi and Robert Rosenthal, Schettino has been extremely active at the claim box since the spring and has been shrewd in his decisions.
Schettino claimed Deputy Strike for $35,000 on June 9 and won with him first off the claim for $45,000 here on Aug. 2. On July 4, Schettino claimed Account for Me for $30,000 and won a $25,000 claiming race with him on Aug. 9. Diligent Gambler, a horse Schettino claimed for $25,000 back in January, won a $35,000 claimer here on Aug. 9, his fourth win from seven starts since the claim. Trainer Leah Gyarmati claimed Diligent Gambler from Schettino.
Baymont, a 3-year-old filly Schettino claimed for $40,000 in February for Rosenthal, won her second straight $60,000 claiming race on Monday. She is a neck and nose away from being undefeated on turf.
"I told a few of my clients I thought I could have one of my best meets ever, but you never expect to win 40 percent of your races before the middle of the meet," Schettino, 38, said. "All my horses are healthy and doing good, but as good as I thought I could do here, I think I've exceeded my own expectations."
Two of Schettino's four winners at the meet have been for Parisi, a 74-year-old real estate executive who has owned Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds for more than three decades. In the 1970's, when he campaigned horses under the name Camijo Stable - taken from the names of his children Camille, Michael and Joseph - with trainer Preston King, Parisi won the Jim Dandy with Cheriepe.
Parisi hooked up with Schettino earlier this year. The two were long-time acquaintances through former trainer Jimmy Crupi, who breaks Schettino's horses. Parisi, who lives in Queens, had horses based in New Jersey with Faustino Ramos before moving most of them to Schettino.
Since May 30, Parisi has claimed 10 horses for a total cost of $410,000. Deputy Strike and Account for Me have won at Saratoga. Takeiteasyedye won first off the claim for $55,000 at Belmont before running eighth here last Sunday.
"I get just as much of a kick winning a $20,000 claiming race as I do a stakes race," said Parisi, who also owns a Standardbred farm.
Not all claims work out. One Tough Dude and Jimmy O, both of whom Parisi and Schettino claimed for $50,000, have each failed to win in four subsequent starts. One Tough Dude is entered in Sunday's sixth race, a $35,000 claiming event.
"It's a lot of work, but he spends a lot of time on it," Schettino said of Parisi. "He's really into it. We talk every day. You need to get lucky."
Schettino's stable has grown to 30 horses, 16 that are stabled here and 14 at Belmont Park. Schettino estimates that 18 of his horses are owned by Parisi and said, "We're not done claiming yet."
Wet track scratches 'Silver,' Alke
The sloppy condition of the main track prompted trainers Ronny Werner and Todd Pletcher to scratch their horses, Badge of Silver and Alke, respectively, out of Friday's seventh race.
"After doing a little research and talking to the few people that were on [the track] this morning, we just decided to bypass today," Werner said. "He's been injured a couple of times on an off track. He's doing so good we just want to keep that intact if we can."
Werner said there is another allowance race for which Badge of Silver is eligible here on Aug. 29. Werner said he could use that as a prep for the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont on Oct. 2. Werner said he could train Badge of Silver up to the Grade 1 Forego here on Sept. 4, but said that is unlikely.
Badge of Silver, winner of the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at 3, has not run since finishing fifth in the General George Handicap on Feb. 16.
Pletcher also said he scratched Alke because of the wet track. Alke, winner of the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap, hasn't run since finishing second in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 27. Pletcher was undecided when Alke would run again.
Pretty Wild ($6.60), under Javier Castellano, took advantage of the absence of both horses to win the 6 1/2-furlong allowance by 4 1/4 lengths over Mountain General. Pretty Wild covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.64 under Javier Castellano. Trainer Stanley Hough said he would consider the Forego for Pretty Wild.
Bounding Charm takes Waya
Friday's heavy rains forced the $65,700 Waya Stakes from the turf to the sloppy main track. Bounding Charm, the lone main-track-only entrant in the field, took advantage of the surface switch, turning back a mid-race challenge from Savedbythelight to win the Waya by 2 1/4 lengths. It was another 7 3/4 lengths back to Bluffie Slew.
Tawni Spring and Literacy completed the order of finish in a field scratched down to five from 13. The Waya, originally carded at 1 1/2 miles on turf, was run at 1 3/16 miles on dirt.
Jerry Bailey rode the winner for trainer Bill Mott and owner Trade Winds Farm. Bounding Charm, a 4-year-old daughter of Boundary, covered the distance in 1:58.51 and returned $3.70.
Sense of Style heads Spinaway
Sense of Style, a good-looking maiden winner here on Aug. 1, will return in next Friday's Grade 2, $250,000 Spinaway Stakes, trainer Patrick Biancone confirmed.
Initially, Biancone was concerned about running the filly back in 20 days. But, after watching Sense of Style breeze five furlongs in 1:01.02 on Wednesday, Biancone said she would start in the Spinaway.
"She worked good the other day," Biancone said. "It doesn't mean I think the timing is good. What are we going to do, rewrite the Bible? It'll only be her second start, but I think she's good enough."
The prospective Spinaway field includes Broadway Gold, Classic Elegance, Miss Matched, Play With Fire, Portsea, and Punch Appeal. Accretion, Angel Trumpet, Im a Dixie Girl, and Queens Plaza are possible.
Work With Me headed to Albany
Work With Me is heading back into stakes company after taking a dip in class in order to knock off a first-level allowance race against New York-breds on Monday.
His trainer, Michael Gorham, said Work With Me would come back in the $150,000 Albany Handicap on Aug. 25. That race, like Monday's allowance, is at 1 1/8 miles.
"He came out of the race really good," Gorham said. "It seemed like a good spot."
Work With Me crushed statebred maidens in his second start at Belmont Park on June 12, then was immediately sent into statebred stakes competition. He finished second to the ill-fated Multiplication in the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont on June 26, then last month was third after a wide trip in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes.
Gorham said he decided to go straight into a stakes race only 14 days after the maiden victory because of the temptation of a $250,000 bonus that is offered for sweeping the Mike Lee, New York Derby, and Albany, which are all for 3-year-olds.
"It was a lure. If you get lucky, you're looking at a $250,000 bonus," Gorham said. "He ran well in the first leg, so we went on to the next one."
Richard Migliore was aboard for Monday's victory and is now 2 for 2 with Work With Me.
"The race Monday was a good prep," Gorham said. "When he got to the front, Richie said he hesitated. He got after him and made him finish."
Afleet Alex on for Hopeful
Afleet Alex, who remained unbeaten with his victory in the Sanford Stakes, will return for the Aug. 21 Hopeful Stakes. But another accomplished 2-year-old colt, Lunarpal, was not even nominated to the race.
Afleet Alex returned to Delaware Park, where he is based with Tim Ritchey. "He worked last week, he'll work again Sunday, and as long as he works good, he'll come up there next Friday," Ritchey said from Delaware Park.
Lunarpal, a multiple stakes winner this spring, is getting a brief freshening, according to Steve Asmussen, his trainer.
"He just needs a little break," Asmussen said. "He's had five tough races. He's just walked since the Sanford."
* Azeri, winner of the Go for Wand in his last start, worked four furlongs in 49.74 seconds Thursday morning over the Oklahoma training track. She is pointing to the Personal Ensign.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman