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Sword Dancer next for Red Rocks
ELMONT, N.Y. - While the racing world awaits word on what's next for Curlin, plans have been made for the horse that beat him in last Saturday's Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont Park.
Red Rocks, who shipped in from trainer Brian Meehan's stable in England to beat Curlin by two lengths, will remain in North America for the rest of the year with trainer Mark Hennig. Red Rocks is being pointed to the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga on Aug. 16.
"That seems like a logical spot, good spacing," Hennig said Wednesday.
Hennig trains several horses for owner J. Paul Reddam, the owner of Red Rocks, who won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. Lost in the hubbub of Curlin's turf debut in the Man o' War was the performance of Red Rocks, who relished Belmont's firm turf course and the lively pace battle between Mission Approved and Sudan.
"We did read more about Curlin losing than us winning, but that's to be expected," Hennig said. "I thought Javier [Castellano] rode a great race. Brian was especially happy with the way Javier was patient and didn't get caught up chasing those horses on the front end."
Red Rocks is now 2 for 3 in North America with a third in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth Park.
"I think people's first instincts is to say it's Lasix, but I think the ground here, and the pace scenarios you get here versus over there is totally different," Hennig said.
Hennig said Red Rocks would likely run in the Sword Dancer, then one more race - possibly the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic here on Sept. 27 - prior to the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Though Hennig will be listed as trainer, he said he would consult often with Meehan.
"Brian's obviously got a lot invested in the horse; I want his input, and he wants to give his input," Hennig said. "We got along great when he was over here."
Hennig will have busy opening week
Hennig hopes he'll already have achieved a stakes win or two before the Sword Dancer. He will have two solid chances during opening week at Saratoga as he'll run Collegiate in Wednesday's Grade 3 Schuylerville for juvenile fillies and Notional in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on July 26.
Collegiate won her debut by 2 1/4 lengths on June 19, running five furlongs in 57.53 seconds and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 91. The horse she beat, Softly Spoken, came back to win on Wednesday. Collegiate completed preparations for the Schuylerville on Wednesday morning by working five furlongs in 1:02.91 over Belmont's main track. She was to have shipped to Saratoga on Thursday.
"She's more of a threat to do too much; I didn't want to do too much," Hennig said. "If you don't have her in company or don't have her out of the gate, she's very sensible and does everything right. But if she's got one out there in front of her, she's going to go get it."
Others pointing to the Schuylerville include Chartreux, Garden District, Girlfrienontheside, Golden Artemis, Ocean Colors, Renda, Royal Card, and Simplify. Trainer Kelly Breen is expected to run one from the trio of Bold Union, the 9 3/4-length winner of the Astoria, and maiden winners Boom Town Sally and Lesseroftwoevils.
Notional will enter the Whitney off a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park on July 5. Notional is now 4 for 5 on dirt, with his lone loss being a second-place finish to Scat Daddy in the 2007 Florida Derby.
"It's another step up," Hennig said. "He seems to be training with more confidence and is happier all the way around, so hopefully he moved forward again. I'd love to have a little more time between races."
Others under consideration for the Whitney include A. P. Arrow, Commentator, Giant Gizmo, Rising Moon, Solar Flare, and possibly Timber Reserve.
Divine Park may wait for Woodward
Divine Park, the Metropolitan Handicap winner, is also nominated to the Whitney, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Wednesday that he is leaning toward waiting for the Woodward on Aug. 30.
McLaughlin said he would make a final decision after Divine Park works this weekend.
"We're probably going to go to the Woodward, but he if he works 47, 59, 1:12 he might go in the Whitney," McLaughlin said.
Divine Park has only worked once since beating Commentator in the Met. He was sent to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Clinic earlier this week for a bone scan that didn't reveal any abnormalities.
"He's okay," McLaughlin said. "We were being a little cautious. He was taking a little bit of [time to] warm up. He got a clean bill of health."
Acoma ships in for CCA Oaks
Acoma, winner of three consecutive races, including the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs, arrived from Kentucky on Tuesday for Saturday's Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Acoma will be one of just four horses expected for the Coaching Club, restricted to 3-year-old fillies and run at 1 1/4 miles. Others expected to run include Mother Goose winner Music Note, Kentucky Oaks runner-up Little Belle, and Mother Goose runner-up Never Retreat.
Acoma, trained by David Carroll, will be stretching out from one mile to 1 1/4 miles in the CCA Oaks.
"The further they go, the better it will be for her," Carroll said. "She's a little bit fresh at the moment, and that will be a little concern going 1 1/4 miles. But if I ran her in the Mother Goose and skipped the Coaching Club American Oaks and ran in the Alabama, she might be too fresh for that."
Acoma is stabled in trainer Shug McGaughey's barn. In the 1980s, Carroll worked as an assistant for McGaughey and was the exercise rider for Easy Goer, who upended Sunday Silence's Triple Crown bid in the 1989 Belmont.
Palanka City now with Tagg
Palanka City, who was forced to scratch from the Grade 1 Prioress on July 5 because she failed to report to the race-day security barn, has been turned over to trainer Barclay Tagg by owner William Stiritz. She had been trained by Terry Gestes.
Palanka City is pointing to the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 3. Toward that end, she breezed five furlongs in 59.48 seconds on Wednesday in company with Big Truck, who was timed in 58.60 for the same distance.
According to assistant trainer Robin Smullen, Big Truck began the work about five lengths behind Palanka City and finished within a length of her. Smullen said the idea was for Big Truck to break off only two lengths behind Palanka City, to prompt her.
"By herself, she doesn't put out a whole lot, which of course we didn't know," said Smullen. "We worked her a couple of times and they were very subpar works. We thought we needed to give her a little company. If she was good enough to go in 59, Big Truck needed to go in 59, so it would be a pretty good match, and it turned out she was."
Big Truck, unraced since finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, could make his next start in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on Aug. 2.
Tale of Ekati possible for Haskell
After failing to impress his connections in a recent turf work, Tale of Ekati will remain on the dirt. His next start could be in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Aug. 3 or the $1 million Travers on Aug. 23.
Tale of Ekati, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs on the turf in 1:01.55 Sunday, just his second breeze since finishing sixth in the Belmont Stakes.
"We were hoping that he would wow us with his turf work, which he didn't," said Smullen.
Smullen said she didn't feel Tale of Ekati would have enough training to make the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 27, and said the Haskell would be a possibility if Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown did not make the race.