07/06/2010 11:00PM

Turf males tune up for Saratoga


ELMONT, N.Y. - A group of five older males, all with graded stakes experience, will clash in Thursday's eighth race, a high-end $57,000 optional claimer scheduled for the inner turf course at 1 1/16 miles.

Handicappers anticipating Saratoga will pay special attention to morning-line favorite Al Khali and second choice Summer Patriot, both of whom are stakes winners upstate.

Al Khali has run this short only once since coming to the United States from Peru, when he finished a close second to Courageous Cat for former trainer Todd Pletcher here last July.

Al Khali has run solely in graded stakes in six starts for current trainer Bill Mott, highlighted by a win in the Grade 3 Saranac last September. The 4-year-old by Medaglia d'Oro makes his third start of the year, after running sixth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and fourth most recently in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes.

Mott leads all trainers with 12 turf wins heading into the penultimate week of the Belmont meet.

Summer Patriot blossomed to win two long-distance turf races at Saratoga in 2008, including a score in the 1 5/8-mile John's Call by nearly eight lengths. Following a third-place finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Summer Patriot finished off the board in three turf stakes in Florida and was then sidelined for more than 15 months.

Summer Patriot returned four weeks ago to finish an encouraging fourth behind winning entrymate Radical Sabbatical. Another good effort on Thursday could propel the 6-year-old gelding back to the $75,000 John's Call, which is slated for Aug. 6.

Operation Red Dawn, who won the Grade 3 Knickerbocker on this course last fall, makes his third start of the season for trainer Christophe Clement on the heels of a sharp try to outfinish Summer Patriot on June 9.

The 8-year-old Operation Red Dawn is in for the $75,000 claiming price.

Lime Rickey, third in the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup last year, won his second-level allowance condition here May 15.