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Tagg to keep Tale of Ekati at one turn
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Monday was getaway day for several big outfits on the Belmont Park backstretch, including trainer Barclay Tagg, who shipped all but three of his horses to south Florida for the winter. Among those leaving was Tale of Ekati, who was elevated to first by the Aqueduct stewards after falling a nose short to Harlem Rocker in Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
The stewards deemed that Harlem Rocker interfered with Tale of Ekati when he veered in after making the lead just above the eighth pole. Tale of Ekati re-rallied in the final furlong to fall just short. After a five-minute inquiry, the order of finish was reversed, giving Tale of Ekati his second Grade 1 win of the year.
Though Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Harlem Rocker, hinted at a possible appeal, he said Monday that owner Frank Stronach would not go ahead with one.
"We have decided not to appeal; that doesn't mean we agree with the decision," Pletcher said Monday from Southern California where he had run horses Sunday at Hollywood Park. "That can be a long, drawn-out process that you seldom win."
Pletcher contends that there was no contact between the two horses and that Edgar Prado, the jockey of Tale of Ekati, did not stop riding. Prado did have to alter course.
Tale of Ekati and Harlem Rocker - who each earned 106 Beyer Speed Figures - will both winter in south Florida, though it's uncertain if they'll meet at Gulfstream Park. Tagg said Tale of Ekati will remain in one-turn races, while Pletcher said he is earmarking the Gradeo1 Donn on Jan. 31 at 1 1/8 miles.
Tagg mentioned the Grade 3 Hal's Hope at Gulfstream on Jan. 3 as a possible next start for Tale of Ekati, with the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap - now a one-turn mile - a possible early-season objective. Tagg said owner Charles Fipke also wants to consider the $1 million Godolphin Mile at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai on March 28.
Tale of Ekati is now 4 for 5 in one-turn races, with two Grade 2 victories and a Grade 1. He also won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial around two turns.
"I had a lot of confidence in him," Tagg said Monday outside his barn as his helpers were loading equipment onto vans headed for Florida. "I wasn't going around bragging on him because I had just lost 40 races in a row. But I had a lot of confidence in him because he looked good, he was training good."
Part of the reason the result was so close at the finish is Harlem Rocker's tendency to wait on horses after he makes the lead, Pletcher said. Pletcher said one could consider putting blinkers on a colt like this, but he added that the horse is already running well enough without them.
Pletcher said the key to success with Harlem Rocker is to "time your run with him more than anything."
Bribon, beaten a length while third in the Cigar Mile, was to head to Gulfstream on Tuesday along with his multiple Grade 1-winning stablemate Grand Couturier. Trainer Robert Ribaudo said he has not picked out a spot for Bribon.
Zito loses another friend
It has been a tough couple of months for trainer Nick Zito. In September, Zito's good friend and owner John Hettinger died after a lengthy illness. On Saturday, Wanderin Boy, one of Zito's all-time favorite horses, had to be euthanized after suffering fractured sesamoids in his left foreleg during the running of the Cigar Mile.
"I lost two of my good friends, John Hettinger and Wanderin Boy," Zito said by phone Monday. "I'm hoping there's a horse heaven because if there is they'll both be there."
Zito said what made Wanderin Boy's fatal injury more disconcerting was the fact that the Cigar Mile was to be his last career start. Wanderin Boy won 9 of 25 starts and was second to four champions in Grade 1 races while earning $1.2 million.
"Everybody that was around this horse said he couldn't be doing any better - they were all raving about him," said Zito, who trained Wanderin Boy for owner/breeder Arthur Hancock. "It's going to take a long time getting over this."
Old Fashioned headed to Fair Grounds
Old Fashioned came out of his 7 1/4-length victory in good order, trainer Larry Jones reported Monday morning, and the undefeated 2-year-old was scheduled to leave for Fair Grounds from the Fair Hill training center on Tuesday morning.
Jones said he has no definite plan for when Old Fashioned would kick off his 3-year-old campaign, other than to say it wouldn't be in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 10. The Risen Star on Feb. 7 or the Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 16 are possible starting points.
"Basically we're going to let him tell us," Jones said Monday from Fair Grounds. "That's one advantage to getting on them myself every day. I'm not a huge advocate of giving horses the time off."
Jones said he kept Hard Spun and Eight Belles - the last two Kentucky Derby runners-up - in training following their 2-year-old seasons.
"We don't race them heavy, but we don't flat quit on them either," he said. "If you're not racing, then you're training them a lot harder. I can race them along sparingly, and it's easier on them in the long run."
Jones is hopeful that he has at least three 3-year-olds to try to get down the Derby trail. Friesan Fire, second in the Grade 2 Belmont Futurity, and It Happened Again, a maiden winner at Philadelphia Park, are ones that may be pointed to races early in their 3-year-old campaign.
Surgery for Springside
Demoiselle winner Springside underwent surgery Monday at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where she was scheduled to have several screws inserted into her right front pastern bone, trainer Josie Carroll said. Springside was pulled up with that injury shortly after winning the Grade 2 Demoiselle by 9 1/2 lengths.
Carroll said the surgery was performed by Dr. Dean Richardson, the same surgeon who worked on 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Carroll, who had not heard an update on the filly's condition as of early Monday afternoon, said it was too soon to project if Springside would ever race again.
"At this point, everything is kind of speculation," Carroll said. "We'll see how she comes out of the surgery, then we'll see what's going on. I don't want to project until it's all said and done."