07/29/2010 4:48PM

Tasty Temptation to try dirt in Ruffian


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Unrivaled Belle will be the odds-on favorite to defeat the five other fillies and mares who were entered Thursday for Sunday’s Grade 1 Ruffian. But after watching trainer Mark Casse send out Exclusive Love to finish second at 57-1 in Wednesday’s Grade 2 Lake George, it might be wise to take a little closer look at his red-hot Tasty Temptation in the 1 1/8-mile Ruffian.

The Ruffian will mark the graded stakes debut as well as the first start on conventional dirt for Tasty Temptation, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, who will bring a four-race winning streak into the race.

“I think the biggest question mark coming in here is the surface, not her class,” Casse said. “She has to prove she can run on dirt, but her breeding suggests she will, and I worked her over our training track at Woodbine, which is a regular dirt course, a couple of weeks ago and she went five-eighths in 58 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11, so I’m not really concerned about her liking the dirt. Win, lose, or draw, I think this is the spot we should be in with her, and we’re going to give it a try.”

Unrivaled Belle followed graded stakes wins in the Rampart and La Troienne by finishing second as the 3-5 favorite behind Life at Ten in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont. She is strictly the one to beat in the Ruffian.

The field in post-position order consists of Malibu Prayer (John Velazquez), Unrivaled Belle (Kent Desormeaux), Starship Angel (Garrett Gomez), Classofsixtythree (Javier Castellano), Tasty Temptation (Julien Leparoux), and Zaphyra (Edgar Prado).

Casse, who also will send out So Elite on Sunday in the $75,000 Curlin, was quite pleased with Exclusive Love’s performance behind fellow Woodbine shipper Perfect Shirl in the Lake George.

“I was very proud of her and I think the result of the race is proof how far Woodbine racing has come over the last five years,” Casse said. “It’s just a shame we had to ship all the way down from Canada to get beat by Roger” Attfield.

The Ruffian highlights Sunday’s 10-race program that also includes the Grade 2 Fourstardave and the Curlin.

A field of 10, plus two main-track-only horses, were entered for the $150,000 Fourstardave. Four of the 10 horses in the body of the race, Whatsthescript, Cherokee Artist, Nownownow, and Violon Sacred, were cross-entered the same afternoon in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3, $150,000 Oceanport. The Fourstardave carries Grade 2 status. The remainder of the field includes Get Stormy, Zifzaf, Wesley, Radical Sabbatical, Public Speaker, and Pinckney Hill.

Brother Nick and Convocation were entered for main track only by trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Mine That Bird sharp in Whitney drill

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows the task that awaits 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in his next start is tall, so he’s doing everything in his power to have him up to it.

Toward that end, Lukas gave Mine That Bird another stiff, stamina-building workout Thursday morning at Saratoga. With regular rider Calvin Borel up, Mine That Bird went six furlongs in 1:12.40 over the Oklahoma training track. The move came nine days after Mine That Bird went a mile in 1:40.14.

Mine That Bird is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap on Aug. 7 against the likes of Quality Road and Blame.

“We’re going into the deep end of the pool, there are no soft spots for one this time of the year up here,” Lukas said. “The only thing we have to be concerned about is that we’re fit. Whatever ability he shows turning 4 here, it’s going to be up to him. At least we got to give him a chance to be fit and be sharp and go into the race in the best possible position. With that in mind, we’ve given him some works that should put him in that spot, if I know what I’m doing.”

In Thursday’s work, Mine That Bird broke off at the six-furlong marker and went his first eighth in 12.46 seconds. At the five-furlong pole, he joined in, as planned, with stablemate Duca and the two went the next three furlongs in 35.66. Turning into the stretch, Borel threw a cross at Mine That Bird and, as he pulled away from his workmate, he went the final quarter in 24.28. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.11.

“He wanted a pretty good stiff work and he should just be about ready to run now,” Borel said. “It was one of his best works this morning. The [gelding’s] getting better; I think he’s on the right track.”

Mine That Bird has made only one start this year, that being an eighth-place finish in the Firecracker Handicap on turf on July 4. He only ran in that race after an allowance race on dirt failed to fill.

In addition to Quality Road and Blame, others expected to accept invitations to the Whitney are Convocation and Haynesfield. Hold Me Back and Musket Man are listed as possible by the racing office. Redding Colliery is doubtful, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Boys At Tosconova works quick

Boys At Tosconova, a sensational 12-length maiden winner last month, worked five furlongs in 1:00.30 with jockey Ramon Dominguez aboard here Thursday morning. The drill was a big departure from his previous move six days earlier, in which he covered the same distance in a pedestrian 1:05.

“Rick [Dutrow] didn’t want anything too fast the first time, since he’s still a month out from his next race,” Dominguez said. “This morning, he went great. He’s very easy going, does whatever you ask, and I just let him go at his own pace and he did it all on his own.”

Boys At Tosconova is being pointed to the Grade 1 Hopeful on Sept. 6.

Mott wins on birthday – again

Trainer Bill Mott celebrated his 57th birthday Thursday by sending out the even-money Devil by Design ($4.30) to a popular 2 1/2-length victory over Southern Accents in the $70,000 Lucy Scribner overnight stakes. Worstcasescenario finished a hard-luck third after stumbling badly at the start.

Mott has now won at least one race on his birthday 12 times in the last 19 years. The victory was the first of the meet for jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Basketball game raises $2,500

In a sometimes ugly, but mostly entertaining game, the jockeys defeated a group of New York horsemen, 45-41, in a charity basketball event Wednesday night at the newly-opened Saratoga Recreation Center.

The event raised $2,500 to be split evenly between the New York division of the Race Track Chaplaincy and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Eibar Coa and Josh Desormeaux, the son of jockey Kent Desormeaux, were the most consistent members of the jockey’s team, which included two college basketball players.

Paul Veitch, a Saratoga police officer and the son of journalist Mike Veitch, hit a couple of key three-point shots for the New York horsemen, which included trainers Bill Badgett, Todd Pletcher, Rick Schosberg, Carlos Martin, WinStar Farm general manager Elliott Walden, NYRA chairman Steve Duncker, and NYRA racing secretary P.J. Campo.

“It was above expectations,” said Nick Caras, who heads up the New York Chaplaincy program. “We were not able to get as much attention to it as we would have liked.”

Caras said next year he hopes to have New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson involved in the event. Caras said Johnson has ties to the Racetrack Chaplaincy program in Kentucky as well as the Thoroughbred industry. Caras said he also will look for more sponsorships next year.

– additional reporting by David Grening