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A sounder, calmer Minister's Bid
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A handicap division in search of reinforcements may have found one in Minister's Bid, who beat a stakes-caliber field in a classified allowance race Friday at Saratoga.
The win was the third straight for Minister's Bid and fifth from seven career starts for the 4-year-old son of Deputy Minister, who cost $750,000 as a 2-year-old. He is now likely headed to stakes action as his connections contemplate a possible run at the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.
Last summer, Minister's Bid was fodder for Bernardini, who beat him by nine lengths in the Jim Dandy and 21 lengths in the Travers. But Minister's Bid was plagued by quarter cracks last year. Prior to the Travers, assistant trainer Donna Ward said a fast work had Minister's Bid "too wound up" for the race. Further, Ward said Minister's Bid was bothered by a bee that was above his stall in the race-day security barn.
Ward said Minister's Bid got so mad that day that he had her husband, trainer John Ward, pinned up against the wall in the stall. The Wards think that Minister's Bid basically left his race in the security barn.
But on Friday, Minister's Bid was well-behaved in the security barn, the paddock, and the gate. He tracked the pacesetting Nkosi Reigns before taking over in upper stretch, and then repelled a challenge from Hesanoldsalt. Minister's Bid ran 1 1/8 miles in the mud in 1:50.49 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.
"He did everything workmanlike," Donna Ward said. "He handled the detention barn, but it was a lot easier without the bumblebees. I like him to use what energy he's got for racing."
On Saturday morning, Ward, armed with a flashlight, went into Minister Bid's stall and did a thorough examination of the colt's feet to make sure the quarter crack patches that he ran with on both his front and hind hooves were okay. They were, and there was no sign of a recurrence of the quarter cracks.
"I just don't want to fight quarter cracks forever," Ward said. "I could've left the patches off, but I chose to be protective."
Now, the Wards and owner John Oxley need to be proactive in finding a stakes for Minister's Bid. There are five graded events run on the weekend of Sept. 29-30, and he figures to be in one of them.
The $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 30 at Belmont may make the most sense from two standpoints. First, it is part of the Breeders' Cup's new "Win and You're In" format, which rewards the winner of the Gold Cup with an automatic berth in the Classic. Also, Minister's Bid ran one of the best races of his career at Belmont, winning an allowance race in which Flashy Bull finished third.
Other options include the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway, the Hawthorne Gold Cup, and the Goodwood Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, which are all on Sept. 29.
Shakespeare to Woodbine, then Cup
Shakespeare, who made a smashing return to the races winning an allowance race earlier this month, will be pointed to the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
Initially, McLaughlin had mentioned he might wheel Shakespeare back in the Bernard Baruch here on Travers Day, Aug. 25. But Shakespeare earned such superior speed figures in his comeback that McLaughlin feared a regression, or bounce.
"Off 21 months, you hate to run back in three weeks," McLaughlin said.
By running in the Woodbine Mile, McLaughlin said that the major focus for the fall would be the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile rather than the Breeders' Cup Turf, a race in which Shakespeare competed in 2005.
Citing Shakespeare's final quarter in his allowance win, McLaughlin said, "To finish in 22 flat and running that well, we know he can do it."
McLaughlin said the timing from Sept. 16 to Oct. 27 "works out well."
Spin Master heats up
The stakes-winning 3-year-old Spin Master shipped in from Kentucky on Thursday and announced his presence at Saratoga on Saturday with a blazing five-furlong workout in 58.69 seconds over the main track. It was the quickest of 32 works at the distance as Spin Master preps for the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug 25.
"That's as good as he ever worked," trainer Dale Romans said. "He did it well within himself as fast as he went."
Spin Master, a son of Distorted Humor, has won 3 of 5 starts, including the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. Most recently, Spin Master finished second in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park to Idiot Proof, who set a track record of 1:07.47 for six furlongs.
Naughty New Yorker romps
Naughty New Yorker, under Edgar Prado, took over from pacesetting Building New Era outside the eighth pole and drew off for a seventh-length victory over that rival in the $82,500 Saratoga Sunrise Stakes on Saturday. It was two lengths back to Lord Langfuhr in third.
Accountforthegold, the 4-5 morning-line favorite, was scratched as his connections continue to battle a quarter crack issue. Trainer Gary Contessa said that there was "an underlying infection" beneath the quarter crack patch and that Accountforthegold needed at least one more day before he could run.
In the Saratoga Sunrise, Tommasi stumbled badly at the break, unseating jockey John Velazquez. Velazquez, who quickly got up, has been unseated five times in the first 16 days of the meet, yet is uninjured. Still, halfway through Saturday's card, Velazquez was in a four-way tie atop the jockey standings with 15 wins.
Naughty New Yorker, a 5-year-old son of Quiet American owned by Fox Ridge Farm and trained by Pat Kelly, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.34 and returned $6.70.
Taking it slow with Grasshopper
Grasshopper won an allowance race here on July 30 in a manner to suggest he could be a stakes horse fairly quickly. Trainer Neil Howard said he and owner Will Farish at this point are looking more at a race like the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 3 rather than the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 25, even though the Travers field is expected to be small.
"I think he's probably in need of one more allowance race, but if we don't get that, the most likely situation is to look at the Pennsylvania Derby or the Indiana Derby, races like that," Howard said Friday morning.
Regarding the Travers, Howard said, "We'll watch what happens with Street Sense, just like people who have horses comparable to Grasshopper."
- additional reporting by Jay Privman