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Sweet Vendetta to be put to test
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Sweet Vendetta was able to avoid the heavyweights of the 3-year-old filly division when she ran and won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico in May.
In Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama, when Sweet Vendetta is scheduled to make her first start since the Black-Eyed Susan, she should find out exactly where she stands among the elite in the division, as her rivals will include dual Grade 1 winner Music Note and Grade 1 winners Proud Spell and Little Belle. Mushka, a Grade 2 winner, is also expected in what figures to be a five-horse field.
"Now we're going to find out where she ranks with the best of the best," trainer Gary Contessa said Thursday morning. "From a training standpoint, I'm bringing her to the race proper - she's ready to run. From an ability standpoint, it remains to be seen, but a mile and a quarter ought to be right up her alley."
Sweet Vendetta, a daughter of Stephen Got Even, struggled to win a New York-bred maiden race early in her career. But after Contessa put blinkers on the filly in February, Sweet Vendetta has recorded 3 wins from 4 starts.
"Blinkers have made all the difference in the world," Contessa said. "When I take her out there and gallop her without blinkers, you'd think she was like a 2-year-old. I don't like to gallop her in blinkers - I like her to see things and I'm used to her - but I galloped her out there without blinkers, and she must have switched leads about 20 times."
While Sweet Vendetta is a talented runner, she is also a bleeder. She was put on a 30-day list by the New York Racing Association veterinarian after she bled winning the Andover Way Stakes by four lengths in March.
Contessa does what he can to control Sweet Vendetta's bleeding issues. When WinStar Farm bought Sweet Vendetta following the Black-Eyed Susan, it sent her to a hyperbaric chamber in Kentucky in an effort to help with her respiratory ailment.
"She's a bleeder, and we have to manage her as such, and she's got very delicate lungs," Contessa said.
Ramon Dominguez, who rode Sweet Vendetta to a maiden victory in February, will be reunited with her for the Alabama. The field, with jockeys, is expected to be Music Note (Javier Castellano), Little Belle (Rajiv Maragh), Proud Spell (Gabriel Saez), and Mushka (John Velazquez).
Proud Spell, the Kentucky Oaks winner, arrived in Saratoga early Wednesday afternoon after vanning up from Fair Hill.
Ward juveniles in noontime breeze
Dissatisfied with Saratoga's main track during training hours Wednesday morning, trainer Wesley Ward asked for and received permission to breeze two of his Grade 1 stakes-bound juveniles at noon over the main track.
Notonthesamepage, a colt pointing to the Hopeful on Sept. 1, and Mine All Mine, a filly pointing to the Spinaway on Aug. 31, worked six furlongs in company as a live version of the national anthem was being performed. Notonthesamepage, with Angel Cordero Jr. up, started three lengths behind Mine All Mine and finished three in front, credited with a six-furlong time of 1:10.24. Mine All Mine, with Edgar Prado up, went the same distance in 1:11.55.
Ward said he rode the main track on his pony during training hours and didn't want to breeze his horses on a track that still had plenty of moisture in it. There were several puddles along the rail in the stretch, including two above the eighth pole and one by the sixteenth pole.
"I knew the track would be drying out and would be fantastic to work on prior to the first," Ward said. "If I can get an easy maintenance breeze next week sometime - God willing we have a good track in the next seven, eight, or nine days - I'm golden."
Ward removed the blinkers from Notonthesamepage's equipment for Wednesday's workout and said he saw "a different horse."
"He relaxed - he didn't show the speed that he showed where he wants to take a hold of the rider and take off," Ward said. "If I didn't take the blinkers off, no way would he have been able to sit behind that filly like he did. He would have rushed up and wouldn't have any finish. The other day he couldn't get 5 1/2 furlongs; today it looked like he could go a mile and five-eighths."
Notonthesamepage had to scratch out of the Sanford here on July 24 because of a temperature. Two days later, however, he shipped to Monmouth for the three-horse Tyro Stakes, where he finished second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.
Mine All Mine is coming off a 9 3/4-length victory in a maiden race here on July 24.
Munnings, an impressive debut winner for trainer Todd Pletcher, worked five furlongs in 1:02.46 Wednesday morning in preparation for the Hopeful.
Champs Elysees may try Pacific Classic
Trainer Bobby Frankel believes Saratoga's turf course is too soft, and thus he will not run Champs Elysses in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational. One potential spot for the colt's next race is the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24, a race in which Frankel is already running Mast Track and Out of Control.
Frankel noted that Champs Elysses "ran great" in his only start over a synthetic surface, that being a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.
On Wednesday, Champs Elysees worked six furlongs in 1:14.85 in company with Proudinsky, who went the same distance in 1:13.45. Proudinsky is being pointed to the Bernard Baruch here on Aug. 23, Frankel said.
"He didn't like this track the way it was this morning, but I had to work him today," Frankel said of Champs Elysees.
Frankel said he could work Champs Elysees next Wednesday morning and put him on a plane to California that afternoon. Frankel's other option for the horse is the Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup at Woodbine on Sept. 7.
Loose Leaf up in time
Loose Leaf ran the best race of his career here last year winning the Lemon Drop Kid Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths. He may have run the second-best race of his career here on Wednesday, beating a stakes-caliber field in a third-level allowance race.
Loose Leaf ($22) was able to nip the Grade 3 winner Temporary Saint by a nose in the final jump under Robby Albarado. Loose Leaf, a son of Notebook trained by Ken McPeek, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.79.
The graded stakes winner Ravel, making his first start since Jan. 12, finished fourth.
Premium Wine rallies to win
Premium Wine ($3.80), taking a class drop after running in four consecutive graded stakes, made a three-wide move on the turn, then rallied down the center of the track in the stretch to win a third-level allowance race by two lengths over the late-running Starforaday.
Premium Win covered seven furlongs in 1:24.42.
Ramon Dominguez rode the winner for trainer Tony Dutrow, who is now 7 for 17 at the meet with 3 seconds and 5 thirds. Dominguez had three winners on the card, giving him 15 for the meet.