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War Trace ready to blossom
ELMONT, N.Y. - Now that he's on the right surface and has a little more experience, don't be surprised if War Trace has a coming-out party in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park.
War Trace is a son of Storm Cat out of Memories of Silver, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf. After two failed attempts on dirt, War Trace has won two of three starts on turf. His lone loss came in the Forerunner Handicap at Keeneland, where he finished seventh of eight starters.
Trainer Jimmy Toner felt compelled to try War Trace in the stakes after the colt's jaw-dropping maiden win on turf at Gulfstream on March 17. War Trace stumbled badly at the break of that race - nearly unseating jockey Edgar Prado - and rallied powerfully from last to win by three-quarters of a length under a hand ride.
"It was one of those things where you very seldom see a horse run like that,'' Toner said. "To stumble at the break, make a move like he did, and finish the way he did, it was incredible. Too good, in fact, because we got too excited about him and brought him right back in a stakes, which wasn't the right thing to do.''
After the Forerunner debacle, War Trace returned in an allowance race here on May 13 when he again rallied from last to win by a half-length. Now, Toner is ready to jump him back into stakes company against the likes of Artie Schiller and Timo.
"He still may be a race short going after the top ones right now,'' Toner said. "You either run against older horses in a condition race or you try to stay with 3-year-olds, which I'm trying to do, and get into some kind of program with him this year.''
Jerry Bailey replaces Edgar Prado on War Trace. Prado dropped an appeal of a seven-day suspension, which was to begin on Sunday.
Peeping Tom eyes Moseley repeat
Peeping Tom, the 7-year-old gelding who won the Grade 3 Donald LeVine Memorial at Philadelphia Park on May 29, will most likely make his next start in the $200,000 James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup Handicap at Suffolk Downs on June 19. Peeping Tom won that race last year.
Peeping Tom's victory in the Levine was his first graded stakes score since he took the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in 2001. It was his 14th career victory from 47 starts.
"He feels like he did after he won the Carter,'' trainer Pat Reynolds said. "I was surprised he got up [in the LeVine]. I thought he might have a shot to be second. He was too far out of it and not in position and he closed with a furious rush, as they say. He ran his 'A' race.''
Reynolds said he would run Peeping Tom in either the Moseley or the Tom Fool, a Grade 2 race here on July 5, and then put Peeping Tom away until the fall. Last year, Peeping Tom finished second in the Tom Fool after the Moseley.
Speaking of the Tom Fool, Ghostzapper worked five furlongs in 1:00.91 in preparation for that race. He has not run since winning last year's Grade 1 Vosburgh.
Swingforthefences headed to Iowa
Trainer Rick Violette wishes to give Swingforthefences a break, so he plans on sending him to Iowa - but not for a vacation. Violette is pointing the 3-year-old to the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on July 2.
"This poor guy runs so hard every time and needs to win a race," Violette said. "The Iowa Derby looks like a pretty nice spot and a chance to catch a break. If everything works out okay flight-wise to get him out there, we'll go."
Swingforthefences finished second in his last start in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 22. He was beaten 6 3/4 lengths by Purge, who was scheduled to run in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
"We were second-best," said Violette, who trains Swingforthefences for Seth Klarman. "Had Purge not run, it would have been a different story. Our horse ran very, very well."
In other stakes this year, Swingforthefences finished fourth in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and third in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.
Man From Wicklow back in training
Violette reported that Grade 1 winner Man From Wicklow is training for a return to the races, perhaps sometime before the end of Belmont's spring meet on July 25. Man From Wicklow hasn't run since finishing seventh in the Pan American at Gulfstream Park on March 20.
A 7-year-old, Man From Wicklow came out of his last race with a minor ankle problem. Violette gave the gelding a month off and did some therapeutic work on his ankle. Man From Wicklow worked a half-mile in 52.11 seconds on Thursday over a soft turf course at Aqueduct. It was his fifth work since resuming training.
"We're going to proceed deliberately with him and aren't necessarily pointing for anything," said Violette, who would like to find an allowance race for Man From Wicklow's first start back. "So far, the ankle is good. He ran two ordinary races at Gulfstream, especially in the [Pan American]. He was in position, but when it came time to do running, he had no response. Maybe the ankle took a little courage out of him. We're not desperate with him because he has done enough for us."
Man From Wicklow, who is owned by Violette, has earned $609,395. He won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap last year.
Phipps next for Passing Shot
Passing Shot, who finished a narrowly beaten second to Storm Flag Flying in the Grade 2 Shuvee on May 15, will run next in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 19.
Passing Shot worked at Belmont on Thursday for trainer Allen Jerkens and covered five furlongs in 1:03.27 over the training track.
"She was very game in her last race," Jerkens said. "That was the third-best race of her career. She's been doing good since. The one thing we have to watch with her is that middle-age spread."
Passing Shot, a 5-year-old, won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign last year at Saratoga.
Storm Flag Flying, the 2-year-old champion filly in 2002, is also expected to run in the Ogden Phipps, which is named for her late owner and breeder.
* Jose Lezcano, a five-pound apprentice who began riding at the end of the Gulfstream Park meet and most recently at Calder, will start riding at Belmont next week. Lezcano, a 19-year-old native of Panama, has his apprenticeship until September. Frank Sanabria will handle Lezcano's book. In this country, Lezcano has a record of 9-8-20 from 125 mounts and earnings of $131,370.
- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson