Saratoga Trainer ProfilesBy Dave Litfin For 40 days and 40 nights, vast sums of casual money will pour through the betting windows at Saratoga, a not inconsiderable percentage of which will be riding on birthdays, addresses, family names, numerology and good old&#45;fashioned intuition. It&rsquo;s a handicapper&rsquo;s sworn duty to try and direct these wayward &ldquo;Benjamins&rdquo; to a good home. Toward that end, it&rsquo;s helpful to stick to trainers with a proven track record at Saratoga &#45; although there is one notable exception to that trusty guideline to be found among the Top 25 to follow this summer.STEVE ASMUSSEN How high is up? That is a fair question regarding Steve Asmussen who won a record 555 races in 2004, surpassed it with 622 victories en route to an Eclipse Award in 2008, and broke it yet again last year with 650 wins and over $21.8 million in earnings, along with a second straight Eclipse as top trainer. Between Curlin, the first North American Thoroughbred to break the $10 million mark, and Rachel Alexandra, Asmussen has trained the Horse of the Year for the past three seasons. Through the first six months of the year, 286 wins put Asmussen slightly behind a 600&#45;win pace, but that total was still more than double his closest pursuer in the national standings. Of his 13 wins last year, all but one came on the main track. The biggest, of course, was Rachel Alexandra&rsquo;s rafter&#45;shaking score in the Woodward. Second&#45;out maidens are a consistent strength; several improved markedly to win at Saratoga last year. Typically, his horses record a published work nine days after they run, the time of which is usually irrelevant.CHAD BROWN Chad Brown served apprenticeships with Shug McGaughey and the late Bobby Frankel before going out on his own at the age of 28. A native of nearby Niskayuna, N.Y., Brown sent out six Spa winners at the 2008 meet, and five last year. At press time, Brown was 2 for 28 with first&#45;time starters in routes. Importantly, both of those winners were 2&#45;year&#45;old fillies who debuted in $75,000 maiden&#45;claiming races on turf at Saratoga: Maram ($17) came from off the pace to win in 2008, and went on to capture the inaugural Breeders&rsquo; Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; last year, Zodiac Girl ($16.00) also posted a late&#45;running score first out. During opening week last year, Kid Kate ($11.20) took an off&#45;the&#45;turf maiden sprint first time out under Jose Lezcano, who is a go&#45;to rider for Brown. At press time, Brown&rsquo;s 41% winners in turf sprints were due largely to the exploits of Silver Timber, a veteran gelding he claimed for $25,000 in April of 2009. The gray gelding won six of his first eight starts for Brown, including stakes at Belmont, Keeneland, Churchill Downs and Monmouth Park.CHRISTOPHE CLEMENT Born into a training family in Paris, Clement worked for top European trainer Luca Cumani before coming to New York 19 years ago. Since then, his horses have won well over 200 stakes and amassed over $66 million in earnings. Needless to say, European imports who are making their first starts in North America (7 for 21, $3.43 R.O.I. during the past 18 months at this writing) demand close scrutiny. Though he developed Gio Ponti into a dual Eclipse Award winner in 2009, and saddled the one&#45;two finishers in this year&rsquo;s Grade 1 Manhattan when longshot Winchester outkicked Gio Ponti, Clement has historically done his most memorable work with long&#45;distance turf fillies and mares. The long list of important Clement&#45;trained distaffers includes Beverly D winners Royal Highness and Mauralakana, and Saratoga stakes winners Danish, Voodoo Dancer, Rumpipumpy, Rutherienne, Seducer&rsquo;s Song, Spotlight and Naissance Royale. After an off year (3 for 37) at Saratoga in 2008, the 44&#45;year&#45;old Clement went 6 for 48 last year, highlighted by Grassy&rsquo;s allowance victory in a memorable six&#45;way photo on Alabama Day. Nordic Truce, a 3&#45;year&#45;old who won his first three starts, including the Transylvania Stakes, prior to a difficult pace setup in the Hill Prince, is a potential contender for the Grade 2 Hall Of Fame Stakes (Aug. 13).GARY CONTESSA The 52&#45;year&#45;old Long Island native has been the leading trainer in New York each of the last four years, sending out 151 winners in 2006; a record 159 (breaking mentor Frank &ldquo;Pancho&rdquo; Martin&rsquo;s longstanding mark of 156) in 2007; 150 in 2008; and 112 last year. In a sign of the times, however, Contessa&rsquo;s stable is down from 120 horses pre&#45;recession, to slightly less than half that number. Contessa finished in a four&#45;way tie for second at the 2007 Saratoga meet with a hefty average mutuel of $21.70. His nine winners the following summer returned an average of $18.00, tops among all trainers with at least eight wins. Last year, he was the top price&#45;getting trainer once again, with 11 winners that paid an average of $17.60. Thus, value is the key to playing Contessa&rsquo;s horses. Both favorites lost last year, making him 4 for 43 with the post&#45;time choice the past four years. Grass horses can pay handsomely. Mission Approved ($70.00) wired the 2007 running of the Saranac; and Quick Comeback ($85.50) won a restricted turf claimer in 2008. From large statistical samples at press time, Contessa&rsquo;s strengths include horses coming back within seven days (20% wins, $2.63 R.O.I.); and horses running on wet tracks (19%, R.O.I. $1.96, including Valuable Lady at $35.40 in an off&#45;the&#45;turf maiden sprint at the Spa last year).ANTHONY DUTROW Along with brothers Rick and Chip, he is a son of legendary horseman Richard Dutrow, a Hall of Famer who was a fixture in Maryland for decades and developed the immortal gelding King&rsquo;s Swan. Bettors at Saratoga seldom underestimate his horses, and with good reason. He sent out eight winners from 26 starters in 2008, at an average $5.90 mutuel that was lowest among the top dozen trainers. Last year, 10 winners (from just 31 starters) averaged a payoff of $8.00, second&#45;lowest on the leaderboard. Overall, 2009 ranked as one of Dutrow&rsquo;s finest, with 153 winners and over $5.6 million in earnings including Grade 1 wins by Cat Moves (Prioress) and Seattle Smooth (Ogden Phipps). A Little Warm, a promising 3&#45;year&#45;old, recently won a second&#45;level allowance at Delaware Park with a Beyer Figure of 106, and may have run himself right into the Jim Dandy on July 31. Rightly So, a game front&#45;end winner of the Bed O&rsquo;Roses on July 5, may train right up to the Ballerina (Aug. 28) Since the start of 2009, Dutrow has won at 30% or better in 13 Trainer Form categories. Although his turf runners were just 2 for 20 at Saratoga the past two years, that appears to be a statistical anomaly based on 33% grass wins and a $2.03 R.O.I. overall on turf.RICK DUTROW JR. After finishing among the top three in New York for nine consecutive years, including three training titles, the irrepressible and ever&#45;quotable Dutrow wound up fifth in 2009, but with a 63&#45;for&#45;213 record that worked out to a 29.5% win percentage, tops on the circuit among conditioners with more than 15 wins, and just ahead of brother Tony&rsquo;s 59&#45;for&#45;222 (26.5%). After a four&#45;year stretch at the Spa with at least a dozen winners each season, he was 5 for 25 last year, but that included a huge performance by D&rsquo;Funnybone to win the Saratoga Special in his first start following a private purchase. Recently, Dutrow purchased the 2&#45;year&#45;old colt Boys At Tosconova after a runner&#45;up finish in the Kentucky Juvenile first time out, and sent him out for a 12&#45;length maiden win at Belmont Park with a Beyer Figure of 103, easily the highest figure in the division at this writing. Besides D&rsquo;Funnybone, who was expected for Calder&rsquo;s Summit of Speed July 10, Dutrow has a number of other talented 3&#45;year&#45;olds, including Yawanna Twist, a close fourth in the Preakness; Amen Hallelujah, second in the Acorn; and Acting Happy, winner of the Black Eyed Susan. Top older runners include the multiple graded stakes winner Arson Squad; and I Want Revenge, who returned from a long absence to run third in the Suburban Handicap July 3.MIKE HUSHION A long&#45;time fixture in New York who broke in as an assistant for Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, Mike Hushion had another solid year in 2009, winning at better than a 22&#45;percent clip. That included a stellar 9&#45;for&#45;28 record at Saratoga, with a gaudy R.O.I. of $3.50 on all of his starters, only two of which were favored. Through the first half of this year, the 61&#45;year&#45;old New York native was batting over .300 with just over 100 starters, despite having a number of talented runners sidelined: Tidal Dance, winner of the Affectionately and Ladies Stakes in her only two starts this year; Rereadthefootnotes, idle since wiring the Hollie Hughes; and Ironman Jon, a New York&#45;bred who won his first two starts before a third in the Westchester on opening day at Belmont. Sean Avery, who won a maiden sprint at Saratoga after a layoff of more than a year, has been idle since being beaten less than three lengths in the Fall Highweight last Thanksgiving Day; he returned to the work tab in June, and bears watching. Blinkers on is an equipment change that is often a last&#45;ditch resort for many trainers, but not so with Hushion, 6 for 13 with that move the past 18 months.DAVID JACOBSON A son of Howard &ldquo;Buddy&rdquo; Jacobson, a five&#45;time leading trainer in New York back in the 1960s, he returned to training in 2007 after being out of the game for a quarter&#45;century, during which time he sold real estate with his brother, Doug, who now manages Jacobson Racing Stable. Jacobson&rsquo;s first winner following that long hiatus was Again and Again ($35.40), who lit up the toteboard on opening day at Saratoga in 2007. He went 0 for 30 the rest of the way, however, and has gone only 1 for 13 and 1 for 19 the past two years. A three&#45;year record of 3 for 63 notwithstanding, Jacobson&#45;trained horses may find greener pastures at Saratoga sooner rather than later, given an anticipated greater emphasis of claiming races. Indeed, he had 10 winners at Belmont&rsquo;s spring&#45;summer meet through the Fourth of July weekend; and despite a lack of success upstate last year, the 55&#45;year&#45;old trainer still finished 11th in New York overall with 43 wins. &ldquo;Drop and pop&rdquo; has been a productive angle for Jacobson with new acquisitions, whether privately or via the claim box. His turf horses win at a low percentage, but turf&#45;to&#45;dirt has been a strong angle (25% wins) in 2009&#45;10.JOHN KIMMEL A somewhat streaky trainer, Kimmel was ice&#45;cold through the first five weeks at Saratoga in 2008, before sending out seven consecutive winners, a streak finally broken when Break Water Edison ran fourth in the Hopeful. A theoretical $2 win parlay on the Magnificent Seven, three of which paid $17 or better, would&rsquo;ve been worth $222,630. Momentum can be a fickle thing at Saratoga, though, and the 56&#45;year&#45;old Kimmel, who won a Spa training title back in 1997, suffered through a 2&#45;for&#45;33 meet last year. Kimmel, the leading trainer in New York in 1999, was in the midst of a good Belmont meet (8 for 29) at press time. The licensed veterinarian has a budding star in Friend Or Foe, a New York&#45;bred 3&#45;year&#45;old who is a perfect 3 for 3 after winning the recent Mike Lee impressively. He is being pointed to the Jim Dandy, which will be his initial attempt going two turns. Uncle T Seven, a three&#45;time New York Stallion winner last year, including one on turf at Saratoga, has been training forwardly since running a fast&#45;closing second in the Kingston at Belmont; he looks like West Point (Aug. 19) material Timber Reserve, a $770k earner, has trained well since a third&#45;place finish in the William D. Schaeffer in May, and appeared close to a start at press time. BRUCE LEVINE Among the top three New York trainers in wins three times in the last six years, Bruce Levine is a native New Yorker who played the horses as a teenager and broke in under Johnny Campo, who ran one of the most powerful stables on the circuit in the mid&#45;1970s. He saddled his first winner in 1979, and in 2008 captured his first Grade 1 race when Bustin Stones, a New York&#45;bred sprinter, won the Carter Handicap. It will be interesting to see how Levine divides his stock between Saratoga and Monmouth Park, where he won back&#45;to&#45;back training titles in 2008&#45;09. He was a phenomenal 46 for 137 at the seaside oval last year, but suffered through a nightmarish Saratoga, winning with just one of 48 starters. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just the way it falls,&rdquo; said Levine, whose toughest beat of the meet came when Go Go Shoot led to deep stretch of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt before being run down by the venerable Fabulous Strike. &ldquo;I had eight seconds, so it&rsquo;s not like they were running bad. I really don&rsquo;t let it get to me &ndash; I look to the overall.&rdquo; Overall, Levine is profitable ($2.05 R.O.I.) from a 125+ runner sample of new acquisitions since the start of 2009, and deadly (27% wins, $2.72 R.O.I.) with second&#45;out maidens. Buddy&rsquo;s Saint helped boost Levine&rsquo;s R.O.I. with 2&#45;year&#45;olds to $3.84 by winning the Nashua and Remsen last fall. Sidelined by an ankle chip after the Fountain of Youth in his only start this year, he recently returned to training in Ocala, Fla.SHUG McGAUGHEY The developer of nine Eclipse champions, including the 13&#45;for&#45;13 Personal Ensign, Shug McGaughey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. A native of Lexington, Ky., McGaughey saddled his first winner at Rockingham Park in 1976, and signed on as trainer for the Ogden Phipps Stable soon after winning the Washington D.C. International with Vanlandingham in the fall of 1985. For his other main owner, Stuart Janney, he won the 1998 Travers with Coronado&rsquo;s Quest, a quirky but supremely gifted colt who won his career debut at the Spa as a 2&#45;year&#45;old. Lately, however, first&#45;time starters (2 for 35) haven&rsquo;t been a strong point for McGaughey, an old&#45;school horseman who teaches his young horses, most with long&#45;distance pedigrees, to rate and finish. Once his horses get in form, they tend to stay in form, evidenced by a $3.36 R.O.I. with horses coming back off a win in 2009&#45;10. Gone Astray, who won the Ohio and Pennsylvania Derbies last year, notched his first win as a 4&#45;year&#45;old in the recent Salvator Mile at Monmouth, scoring by five lengths. Storm Showers, a 3&#45;year&#45;old filly by Storm Cat, recently closed strongly to win a maiden turf sprint in her second career start at Belmont.KIARAN McLAUGHLIN Turf or dirt, sprint or route, Kiaran McLaughlin has maintained virtually identical win percentages of 20% or slightly better in 2009&#45;10, so last year&rsquo;s Saratoga meet, when he was 8 for 22 on grass but just 3 for 42 on dirt, is probably nothing more than a statistical anomaly. To support that notion, consider that the former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas orchestrated a Horse of the Year campaign for Invasor in 2006, and guided Lahudood to an Eclipse Award as top female turf runner the following year. It must be noted, however, that McLaughlin&rsquo;s turf horses fared equally well at Saratoga in 2008, when he edged Todd Pletcher to win the training title. That year, winning debuts by juveniles Charitable Man ($9.20), Girolamo ($4.30), Regal Ransom ($4.10) and Majestic Blue ($8.40) on the main track helped put the stable over the top. Redding Colliery has been vastly improved this season, climaxed by a win in the Lone Star Park Handicap with a 111 Beyer. He may be fast and classy enough to give Quality Road a run for his money in the Whitney Handicap (Aug. 7). McLaughlin also has several quality 3&#45;year&#45;olds, including Krypton, winner of the Hill Prince; Uptowncharlybrown, who was disqualified from fifth in the Belmont Stakes after a lead pad came loose during the running; and the exciting Trappe Shot, who at press time was headed to the Long Branch after sweeping his first three starts this year by a combined 27 lengths. If a McLaughlin first&#45;time starter doesn&rsquo;t get the job done first time out, look for improvement next time, as second&#45;out maidens have been a strong category for the past several years.H. GRAHAM MOTION Ignore Graham Motion&rsquo;s longshots at your own peril, as Bullsbay ($39.60) reminded all by coming from off the pace to win the Whitney Handicap last summer. Bullsbay was the highpoint of another very productive Saratoga for Motion, who went 7 for 39 overall, with a $3.40 R.O.I. In fact, the summer of 2009 marked the fifth time in the last seven years that Motion&rsquo;s Spa R.O.I. was in positive territory, dating back to 2004, when Better Talk Now won the Sword Dancer and eventually the Breeders&rsquo; Cup Turf. Motion is from Cambridge, England, and he worked for Jonathan Sheppard for five years before going out on his own, so it&rsquo;s no surprise that he is especially adept with turf horses. During a three&#45;year stretch from 2005&#45;07, Motion&#45;trained turf horses went 17 for 71 on the grass at Saratoga, but just 1 for 25 on the main track. Motion has three turf&#45;stakes fillies capable of making a splash based on their recent form: Shared Account, who won last year&rsquo;s Lake Placid, and took the All Along Stakes at Colonial Downs in mid&#45;June second out at 4; Gypsy&rsquo;s Warning, a South African import who won the Eatontown at Monmouth in her U.S. debut; and Check the Label, a 3&#45;year&#45;old coming off victories in the Appalachian and Sands Point.BILL MOTT Bill Mott checked off a big item on his to&#45;do list when Drosselmeyer won the Belmont Stakes, giving him his first&#45;ever victory in a Triple Crown race. The youngest trainer ever inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mott was the feel&#45;good story of 2007 when he saddled 27 winners to run away with his ninth Saratoga training title. Though he suffered through a 4&#45;for&#45;72 meet in 2008, the South Dakota native rebounded big&#45;time by finishing third with 18 winners last year, just two behind Linda Rice for the top spot. Mott&rsquo;s 88 starters also included 12 seconds and 14 thirds, notably a runner&#45;up finish by Hold Me Back at 17&#45;1 in the Travers. Mott closed out the meet winning the Saranac with Al Khali and the Glens Falls Handicap with Mushka on Labor Day weekend. &ldquo;We had a great meet,&rdquo; said Mott. &ldquo;Obviously, you&rsquo;re always going to have a few disappointments. We had a lot of seconds and thirds; a lot of seconds were very close.&rdquo; Though Mott has developed the likes of two&#45;time Horse of the Year Cigar, and grass champions Paradise Creek and Theatrical, he has been quite effective with turf sprinters in 2009&#45;10, with a $2.88 R.O.I. that makes it one of his most profitable categories, along with horses making their first start in North America ($2.98). At press time, Mott&rsquo;s 12 grass wins were tops at Belmont&rsquo;s spring&#45;summer meet, including a win in the Grade 1 Just A Game by Proviso, who is headed to the Diana (July 31)TODD PLETCHER The Eclipse Award&#45;winning trainer four straight years from 2004&#45;07, Todd Pletcher may get one for the thumb judging from a stellar first half of 2010. Super Saver, who splashed through Churchill Downs&rsquo; slop to give Pletcher an elusive first victory in the Kentucky Derby, helped the stable amass $11.1 million in earnings through June 30, which ranked first in the nation. Not that anyone needs to run any benefits for the six&#45;time Saratoga titlist, who won a record 35 races in 2003 and again in 2004, but with any luck he might&rsquo;ve won the last two meets as well. He finished second to fellow former D. Wayne Lukas assistant Kiaran McLaughlin in 2008, and was edged 20&#45;19 by Linda Rice last year. &ldquo;When you run second 28 times, it&rsquo;s only fitting that you finish second at the meet,&rdquo; observed Pletcher, who went on to win the fall meets at Belmont and Aqueduct. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a little bit frustrating.&rdquo; In addition to Super Saver, Pletcher appears loaded for bear this summer in divisions across the board: Mother Goose winner Devil May Care is pointing to the Coaching Club Oaks (July 24) and Alabama (Aug. 21); after wiring the Ogden Phipps for her third straight stakes score, the late&#45;blooming Life At Ten looks like the one to catch in the Ruffian (Aug. 1); Discreetly Mine, a maiden winner at Saratoga at 2, comes off a win in the Jersey Shore and is bound for the King&rsquo;s Bishop (Aug. 28); the regally&#45;bred Hunters Bay is an up&#45;and&#45;comer after maiden and first&#45;level allowance wins; and Stopspendingmaria ran her way into either the opening&#45;day Schuylerville or the Adirondack (Aug. 15) with a big&#45;figure maiden win.LINDA RICE The Queen of Turf Sprints made history last year, becoming the first woman to win the Saratoga training title. &ldquo;It means the world to me,&rdquo; said Rice, whose 20 winners all came in races scheduled for turf, including 11 turf sprints and two off&#45;the&#45;turf races. &ldquo;I was amazed how many people knew it was a significant moment, a defining moment.&rdquo; Though Rice was 0 for 12 in races carded for the main track during her title run, it should be pointed out first&#45;time starters Mother Russia ($11.40) and Saturdaynite Sandy ($10.80) won dirt sprints in 2008 for the Obviously NY Stable. Overall, Rice has virtually identical R.O.I. numbers ($1.73 vs. $1.71) on dirt and turf the past 18 months. Rice tied for second at the 2007 meet, and the 45&#45;year&#45;old daughter of trainer Clyde Rice also made a bit of history the following year, when she saddled the 1&#45;2&#45;3&#45;4 finishers in the Mechanicville Stakes, three of which were fillies including the winner, Ahvee&rsquo;s Destiny ($20.60). The all&#45;Rice superfecta paid $3,490, but she didn&rsquo;t have it, explaining, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m superstitious, I don&rsquo;t bet.&rdquo; Also in 2008, Lady Rizzi ran five and one&#45;half furlongs in 1:00.66 to establish the current Mellon course record. Lady Rizzi won the $50,000 Buckland Stakes at Colonial Downs in mid&#45;June for Rice, and bears watching if she returns to her old stomping grounds. Rice started her own stable at age 23, and has been in New York since 1991, when she made a splash on the circuit with Double Booked, who won six turf stakes including the Bernard Baruch Handicap. RUDY RODRIGUEZ After an 18&#45;year riding career, the high point of which was a win in the Suburban Handicap aboard 40&#45;1 shot Frost Giant, Rudy Rodriguez went out on his own in March of this year. &ldquo;I was riding horses with problems, horses with mental problems,&rdquo; said Rodriguez, who also worked as an exercise rider and unofficial assistant trainer for Rick Dutrow. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to ride those kinds of horses against two, three or four favorites. But it was always on my mind to train horses.&rdquo; The results have truly been astounding. At Aqueduct&rsquo;s spring meet, R&#45;Rod won with eight of 11 starters, beginning with Aegean Breeze ($44.80), who had finished dead last by a combined 104 lengths in her first three starts of the year, but went wire to wire in her first start for the erstwhile jockey. &ldquo;I put blinkers on her…I guess she really liked that,&rdquo; he explained. Aegean Breeze led a parade of horses who improved suddenly in their first start for Rodriguez, so that by the time Belmont&rsquo;s spring&#45;summer meet rolled around bettors had climbed aboard the bandwagon. Through the Fourth of July weekend, he was tied for third in the standings and among leaders in win percentage as well, with a 14&#45;8&#45;4 record from 39 starters; the winners averaged only a $5.20 payoff, lowest on the leaderboard.DOMINICK SCHETTINO New to the Top 25 this year is Dominick Schettino, who unveiled the talented New York&#45;bred Galloping Grocer as a 2&#45;year&#45;old at Saratoga in 2004. A native New Yorker, Schettino began training in 1992, after working as an assistant for Dominic Imperio and Tommy Gullo. He saddled his first winner, My Bride, at Aqueduct the following year. &ldquo;I wanted to be a jockey, but I got too heavy so I went to Ocala to break yearlings,&rdquo; recalled the 44&#45;year&#45;old conditioner. &ldquo;I came back to New York to gallop horses and eventually became an assistant trainer.&rdquo; At this writing, Schettino was in the midst of a breakout meet with 11 wins at Belmont, including eight on the grass &ndash; second only to Bill Mott; his average mutuel of $13.00 was eclipsed only by Allen Jerkens among the top dozen trainers. Overall during the past 18 months, Schettino was 20 for 100 with turf horses, along with a $2.94 R.O.I. SAEED BIN SUROOR After winning five races at back&#45;to&#45;back meets in 2007&#45;08, Saeed bin Suroor &ndash; ably assisted by Rick Mettee &ndash; had a huge summer with Godolphin Stable runners last year, posting a record of 8&#45;3&#45;0 from just 14 starters. The stable earned $994,000 in purses, winning Grade 1 stakes with Pyro (Forego), Music Note (Ballerina), Flashing (Test) and Seventh Street (Go for Wand). Vineyard Haven was disqualified from first and placed second in the King&rsquo;s Bishop. Sara Louise (Victory Ride) and Cocoa Beach (De La Rose) also won stakes. Desert Party, who recorded a new top Beyer Figure winning the $200,000 Donald LeVine Memorial at Philadelphia Park in his seasonal bow, is being pointed to the Forego (Sept. 4). Route&#45;to&#45;sprint runners &ndash; among them Music Note in the Ballerina &ndash; have won five of seven starts ($6.39 R.O.I.) the past 18 months in the United States.BARCLAY TAGG The one&#45;time steeplechase rider gained national fame when Funny Cide captured the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but Barclay Tagg has been a long&#45;familiar name to serious horseplayers who like to back horses sent out by reliable trainers. Tagg, 72, has been a mainstay throughout the Mid&#45;Atlantic region going on four decades, ever since Tudor&rsquo;s Fancy won at now&#45;defunct Liberty Bell in 1972. &ldquo;I was involved with show horses and hunters before I was in college,&rdquo; he recalled. &ldquo;Then I got involved with racehorses in 1963, when I started managing a farm in Pennsylvania. I started riding jumpers in 1966, and five years later I started training horses, near the end of 1971.&rdquo; Tagg won with 10 of 42 starters at Saratoga in 2008, highlighted by Summer Patriot&rsquo;s lengthy victory in the 1 5/8&#45;mile John&rsquo;s Call Stakes. That veteran recently returned from a 15&#45;month layoff with two allowance preps at 1 1/16 miles, and looks to be pointed to the John&rsquo;s Call (Aug. 6) again. Last year, Tagg was 12 for 45, with a $12.60 average mutuel second only to Gary Contessa among the top dozen trainers. He currently has the good 3&#45;year&#45;old turf horses Kindergarden Kid and Beau Choix, as well as Bahama Bound, a 3&#45;year&#45;old filly who has won three of four starts on dirt. Nehantic Kat, last year&rsquo;s Yaddo winner, and My Princess Jess, third in the recent Grade 1 Just A Game, are older turf distaffers to watch for.JOHN TERRANOVA Ever since posting a 6&#45;for&#45;17 record in 2003, Saratoga has been a harsh mistress for John Terranova, who will turn the big 4&#45;0 on the first Monday of the meet. &ldquo;My father owned Thoroughbreds and we would go to Saratoga every summer,&rdquo; he reminisced. &ldquo;It was like summer camp for us.&rdquo; Though Terranova has gone just 5 for 95 the past six years, including 0 for 22 in 2009, he was having a strong Belmont meet at 11 for 39 entering the penultimate week, punctuated by Franny Freud&rsquo;s victory in the Grade 1 Prioress. &ldquo;I know how good she is and I&rsquo;m glad she got the Grade 1 under her belt, because she deserves it,&rdquo; said Terranova. &ldquo;If everything is well, we&rsquo;ll look at the Test.&rdquo; Terranova has two other good sprinters to watch: General Maximus, a New York Stallion winner and second in the Mike Lee; and Wall Street Wonder, who won the Paumonok and Toboggan at Aqueduct last winter, and is training forwardly after disliking slop in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.RICK VIOLETTE JR. Always worth following with lightly&#45;raced horses, Rick Violette Jr. won five races at Saratoga in 2009, and compiled a $3.12 R.O.I., thanks in large part to Worstcasescenario ($29.80), an Ocala sales graduate who emerged from a debut victory at Belmont to win the Grade 2 Adirondack by better than four lengths. For the same connections, Violette recently took the wraps off two more Ocala purchases, Bail Out the Cat and Let&rsquo;s Get Fiscal, who romped in their downstate debuts in racehorse time for Klaravich Stable. Violette also has a nice turf sprinter in Flamin&rsquo; Hot, a 3&#45;year&#45;old gelding who improved to 4 for 4 on the grass after recently being placed first in the $96,000 Anderson Fowler at Monmouth Park. Violette, 57, is currently the president of the National Thoroughbred Horsemen&rsquo;s Association, and president and board member of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen&rsquo;s Association. Violette got his biggest Spa victory when Dream Rush took the Test in 2007.WESLEY WARD Wesley Ward was the Eclipse Award&#45;winning apprentice rider of 1984, and now he is doing remarkable things as a trainer. In a bold move in June 2009, he invaded Royal Ascot with seven starters, and came away with two wins and a runner&#45;up finish. Jealous Again was a five&#45;length winner of the Grade 2 Queen Mary Stakes, and Strike the Deal took the listed Windsor Castle Stakes, as the pair became the first&#45;ever United States&#45;based horses to win at Ascot. Ward just missed a third winner when Cannonball &ndash; who would eventually win an overnight sprint stake on turf at Saratoga &ndash; fell a neck short in the Group 1 Golden Jubiliee. In his first full summer at the Spa in 2008, Ward posted a 10&#45;for&#45;28 record that was good for a tie for fifth in the standings. He was 7 for 32 last year. Pleasant Prince, second by a nose in the Florida Derby, has been trained forwardly at Keeneland since finishing off the board in the Preakness. Route to sprint (19 for 36, $3.96 R.O.I.) has been an exceptionally potent distance switch for Ward.GEORGE WEAVER When it comes to George Weaver&rsquo;s horses at Saratoga, bet first and ask questions later. That was a profitable approach each of the last four years, as he compiled R.O.I. totals of $2.19 (2006), $2.82 (2007), $3.86 (2008) and $2.06 last year, when he tied for fifth in the standings with Barclay Tagg. Weaver, a 39&#45;year&#45;old native of Louisville, Kentucky, worked for John Hennig, D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher before going out on his own, and saddled his first winner at Calder in 2002. On the main track last summer, Manitoba Miss won a second&#45;level allowance route ($11.60) off a 10&#45;week layoff. She ran fourth most recently in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 12. In the addition&#45;by&#45;subtraction, department, blinkers off (5 for 16, $2.61 R.O.I.) has been a productive equipment change in 2009&#45;10. Those horses putting blinkers on, however, are 0 for 18.NICK ZITO Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, Nick Zito hasn&rsquo;t reached double&#45;digit wins at Saratoga since a 10&#45;for&#45;58 summer in 2006, but you may want to take the &ldquo;over&rdquo; this year. In addition to Ice Box, Jackson Bend and Fly Down, who provided the native New Yorker with in&#45;the&#45;money finishes in each of this year&rsquo;s Triple Crown races, Zito&#45;trained 3&#45;year&#45;olds who recently turned in impressive efforts downstate include Gallant Fields, Miner&rsquo;s Reserve, Our Dark Knight, Shirley She Can and Wake Maker. Though his current Trainer Form stats with first&#45;time starters showed just five percent winners and a $0.85 R.O.I. in 2009&#45;10, Zito is more than capable of winning right out of the box. Commentator, the Whitney winner in 2005 and 2008, and Birdstone, the Travers winner in 2004, both won their debuts at the Spa. In 2006, Zito sent out no fewer than six 2&#45;year&#45;olds to win at first asking, including War Pass ($15.80), the eventual Eclipse Award winner.