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Tagg again discovers another dimension
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - For the second straight year, trainer Barclay Tagg has a top-class 3-year-old who performed well on dirt but may have his future on grass. His newest model is Nobiz Like Shobiz, who captured the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes on Monday at Saratoga in his turf debut. As with last year's model, Showing Up, Tagg said Nobiz Like Shobiz may point for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park as his main, late year objective.
Tagg on Tuesday morning was weighing his upcoming options with Nobiz Like Shobiz. He is considering the Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, but that would force Nobiz Like Shobiz to race against older horses, which Tagg is not eager to do quite yet. The Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, exclusively for 3-year-olds in late November, is tempting, but Tagg is not sure if the 1o1/4 miles is ideal for Nobiz Like Shobiz.
"And we've still got dirt races," Tagg said. "Sometimes they just need a run on turf to get their pizzazz back."
Nobiz Like Shobiz had plenty of pizzazz on Monday. He beat such accomplished 3-year-old grass runners as Marcavelly and Distorted Reality.
Tagg said one of the reasons he put Nobiz Like Shobiz on turf was because he was "running down" - burning his heels - on dirt.
Showing Up won last year's Hollywood Derby, but the experience there left Tagg angry. Showing Up was nearly scratched by a newly hired track veterinarian who was unfamiliar with Showing Up's quirks. Showing Up was the odds-on favorite, and track officials were concerned that scratching a horse prepared by a well-respected horseman would have wide-ranging repercussions in terms of potential recruitment from the East Coast in future years. Eventually, Showing Up was allowed to run, and he won easily.
"I had a great time out there, other than that," Tagg said. "If that guy was still there, no way I'd go."
Nobiz Like Shobiz already is a Grade 1 winner on dirt, having captured the Wood Memorial.
"If he could win a Grade 1 on both surfaces, that would enhance his stallion career," Tagg said. "We'll have to look at our options. On dirt, his best figures have been at a mile."
Showing Up went to the sidelines three months ago after returning to race from a winter freshening, but Tagg said he has returned to light training at his barn at Belmont Park.
"He had a small strain in a suspensory ligament," Tagg said. "He recently had an ultrasound, and it was perfect. I don't know if he'll run again this year or not. I've just had the tack on him for a week."
Funny Cide to be honored
Funny Cide, the popular New York-bred gelding who won the Kentucky Derby for Tagg in 2003, will be honored between races at Saratoga on Friday. He was recently retired, and if his deportment on the main track during training hours Tuesday is any indication, he is adapting quickly to being a stable pony. Funny Cide was fairly well poised while watching workouts near the finish line under Tagg's assistant, Robin Smullen.
Making a successful transition from a racehorse to a stable pony - like the champion sprinter Kona Gold for Bruce Headley in California - "depends on the horse," Tagg said.
"If a horse is flighty or skittish, they're going to have trouble," Tagg said. "I sat on him the other morning, and he watched five sets of horses go by and didn't flinch."
"He's so smart," Smullen said. "It's like he says, 'Whatever. Whatever you want me to do.' "
Cotton Blossom injured
Cotton Blossom, who won the Acorn Stakes in May, has an apparent excuse for her poor try on Saturday in the Test Stakes. According to Cot Campbell, whose Dogwood Stable owns the filly, Cotton Blossom came out of the Test lame in her right front ankle.
"Dr. Steve Allday feels this is a temporary setback - with the filly possibly being a shock-wave therapy candidate - and we are tentatively scheduling her next appearance at Belmont this fall," Campbell said.
"Her effort in the Test Stakes was entirely uncharacteristic," Campbell said. "We hope this setback is minor, and we are tentatively planning to race Cotton Blossom this fall and throughout 2008."
Chatain comes back with a win
When Chatain won the Hal's Hope Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 6, it looked as though he might be one of the stars of the older-horse division this year. But Chatain did not return to the winner's circle again until Monday, when he won a six-furlong allowance race to bring his record to 4 wins in 7 starts.
Angel Penna Jr., who trains Chatain, said the inaugural Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park is a potential long-term goal.
"If you're not thinking about the Breeders' Cup this time of year, you're lying," Penna said at his barn Tuesday morning. "It's like with a 3-year-old, you're thinking about the Kentucky Derby.
"Hopefully I can get him on a tight schedule now. It seems like something silly always comes up and he runs every three months. It's frustrating, because he's a very sound horse. It's just always something stupid. Like before the Met Mile, he ran down. He popped a quarter crack in Florida. Two days before he was going to run in the Withers last year, he had a temperature of 105 degrees. All these little things set you back."
Chatain had raced just twice since the Hal's Hope. He had not raced since April 26, when he finished eighth of 11 on Polytrack in the Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland.
"I liked his effort," Penna said of Monday's race. "I liked the way he did it. We're not talking about a graded stakes, but he did it the right way, and off a layoff."
Another horse with whom Penna had a recent setback, the turf miler Remarkable News, should be ready to run in about a month, Penna said. Remarkable News was scheduled to run last Sunday in the Fourstardave Handicap, but he had to be treated for a mild bout with colic.
"He's fine now," Penna said. "It just happened at the wrong time. We had to treat him for colic, and once you medicate on top of a race, you can't run. He was perfect the next day. You can't let it linger for two or three days."
Penna said the Red Bank Handicap at Monmouth on Sept. 1, or the Woodbine Mile at Woodbine on Sept.o16, are races now under consideration for Remarkable News.
Two New York stakes on Thursday
Thursday's card, which begins with the A.P. Smithwick for steeplechasers, also includes the $150,000 Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallion Series for 3-year-olds, and the $80,000 Lady D'Accord for New York-bred 3-year-old filly sprinters.
In the Statue of Liberty, at 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf course, Don't Mind Me will try to stretch out successfully after winning 2 of 3 turf sprints. His trainer, Dominic Galluscio, has won with 4 of his 10 starters at the meet.
In the Lady D'Accord, at seven furlongs, Street Sass goes for her third win in her last five starts for trainer George Weaver.
Songster retired; Afrashad near return
There is good news and bad news regarding two of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's sprinters.
Songster, a multiple stakes-winning son of Songandaprayer, has been retired because of a ligament injury suffered in a workout at Belmont Park on July 15. He retires with a record of 4-3-0 from 8 starts and earnings of $367,740. He won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler in his only start this year. As a 3-year-old, Songster won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup and the Grade 3 Hirsch Jacobs.
Meanwhile, Afrashad, winner of last year's Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, breezed five furlongs in 59.31 seconds over the main track on Sunday. It was his eighth workout since May.
Afrashad, a 5-year-old son of Smoke Glacken, had surgery to remove a chip from a knee following his Fall Highweight victory. Afrashad has won 5 of 7 starts.
"He worked very well, came out of it good," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Sheikh Mohammed's New York-based Godolphin runners. "The Forego comes back at seven-eighths. I doubt we'll come back in that. I'll just put him on hold for now. I don't want to run him seven or 6 1/2 off the layoff."
Mettee also said that Folk, who finished third to Octave in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21, is under consideration for the Alabama. On Sunday, she worked four furlongs in 48.80 seconds over Saratoga's main track.
- additional reporting by David Grening