Horse racing: Starlight Racing’s young stars are set for Saratoga
With the Saratoga Race Course meet opening in five weeks, this year’s crop of 2-year-olds will begin to get more high-profile opportunities to show what they’ve got.
Starlight Racing has enjoyed a little bit of a jump on the competition, as two of their juveniles, Rose Junction and Shanghai Bobby, won impressively in their career debuts recently and will look to make the jump into stakes competition at Saratoga.
Shanghai Bobby was just off the Aqueduct track record for 41⁄2 furlongs on April 19 to win by four lengths, and Rose Junction won last Friday at Belmont Park by three lengths over Lignite, owned in part by New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker.
That performance earned Rose Junction an 88 Beyer speed figure, the highest by a 2-year-old so far this year.
While Starlight, whose managing partners are Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs, patiently waits for its top 3-year-old, Algorithms, to recover from an injury that will prevent him from running at Saratoga, their 2-year-olds have proven to be precocious.
“We’ve had two run and two win, so that’s pretty good,” Lucarelli said on Friday. “We felt confident Rose Junction would win, but you never know how well they’ll do it. J.J. [Pletcher] thought he had some talent . . . Shanghai Bobby, too.”
J.J. Pletcher is the father of trainer Todd Pletcher who operates a training center in Ocala, Fla., and breaks and trains all of Starlight’s younger horses.
Rose Junction is by Dixie Union, another of whose sons, Union Rags, won the Belmont Stakes the day after Rose Junction won going five furlongs.
It’s way too early to draw comparisons, but Rose Junction is scheduled to try his first graded stakes in the Sanford on Sunday, July 22, the opening weekend of the Saratoga meet.
Union Rags made a similar move last summer, breaking his maiden first time out at Delaware Park, then winning the second leg of Saratoga’s graded-stakes series for male juveniles, the Saratoga Special.
“The jury is still out on how far Rose Junction wants to go, but he started out well,” Lucarelli said.
That question appears to be a little less murky with Shanghai Bobby.
Starlight is always on the lookout for progeny of Harlan’s Holiday, who was the beaten 6-1 post-time favorite in the 2002 Kentucky Derby for Wolf, before he and Lucarelli became partners.
Shanghai Bobby is by Harlan’s Holiday out of Steelin’, a daughter of Orientate, the Eclipse Award-winning male sprinter that year.
His next start will likely be an overnight stakes at Belmont next weekend, and if he performs well there, that would put him on schedule for the Saratoga Special.
Shanghai Bobby ran 51.95, .30 off the Aqueduct record.
“He was pretty fancy,” Lucarelli said. “Shanghai Bobby looks like he wants to cover a lot of ground, based on his stride.”
Rose Junction and Shanghai Bobby will continue to train at Belmont, while another promising Starlight 2-year-old, Vinny Goodtimes, a son of Stormy Atlantic, worked three furlongs on the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga Springs on Friday.
They may look for a start for him late in the Belmont meet or early Saratoga.
“A lot of times your early ones are your best ones,” Lucarelli said. “We’re excited to have some firepower for Saratoga.”
Algorithms, considered a top Kentucky Derby prospect before a right front leg injury put him on the shelf just before the Fountain of Youth, has been recovering at J.J. Pletcher’s farm and has been put under tack.
He’ll gradually get up to speed in workouts, with a return to the races projected in the early fall.
“We don’t want to screw him up,” Lucarelli said. “J.J. said you can tell the horse is close, from the way he’s handled everything down there. He’s got a smart head on him.”
Starlight’s Achaemenes is entered in a difficult allowance optional claiming race on Churchill Downs’ stakes-studded Stephen Foster evening card today.
“He’s turning out to be an OK horse for us,” Lucarelli said.
Among those he’ll face are Astrology, the 2011 Preakness third-place finisher who won his 2012 debut at Oaklawn Park in April, and stakes veteran It Happened Again.
Like Algorithms, Starlight’s undefeated but lightly raced 3-year-old sprinter Thunder Moccasin has been on the shelf, but he should be available to race sometime during the Saratoga meet, Lucarelli said. He won the Grade III Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park in February, his last start.
Heavy Breathing, another Starlight 3-year-old who was second in the Lamplighter at Monmouth Park three weeks ago, will point to a stakes at Monmouth on July 8.
Unraced at 2, he’s 2-1-1 from five starts this year.
Churchill races under the lights tonight, with the spotlight intensifying at 9:39 for the Grade I Stephen Foster.
Trainer Charles Lopresti has a powerful entry of half-brothers Wise Dan and Successful Dan as the 8-5 morning-line favorite, but will run just Clark winner Wise Dan.
He followed up the Clark win last fall at Churchill by opening 2012 with a 101⁄2 -length win in the Ben Ali at Keeneland in April, breaking the nine-furlong track record in 1:46.63.
“Wise Dan is spot on,” Lopresti told Churchill Downs on Thursday. “Successful Dan is doing really well, but Wise Dan is doing equally well. I could run either of them, but Wise Dan has run only once this year, and Successful Dan has run twice, so Wise Dan gets this assignment.”
A difficult one, it is.
The field also includes Alternation, Nates Mineshaft, Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Nehro, Mission Impazible and the long shot Rogue Romance.
Alternation is 4-for-4 this year, all stakes, most recently the Pimlico Special. Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek was second to Alternation in the Oaklawn Handicap.
Nates Mineshaft had a four-race winning streak stopped in the Alysheba, where Successful Dan, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man took the top three spots, then got back on the winning track in the Lone Star Park Handicap.
Nehro, the Kentucky Derby runner-up last year, finished second in the Pimlico Special, and Mission Impazible was fourth after finishing second in the Clark, Donn and New Orleans handicaps.
Lopresti said Successful Dan will be pointed toward the Suburban at Belmont or the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows.
The Stephen Foster undercard includes the Grade III Matt Winn, the Grade III Regret and the Grade II Fleur de Lis, where 2011 3-year-old filly champion Royal Delta is 4-5 in her first start since finishing ninth in the Dubai World Cup.
NY-BRED STARS EUTHANIZED
Giant Ryan, a 6-year-old who won three New York-bred year-end awards in 2011, including Horse of the Year, was euthanized on Thursday after developing the onset of laminitis while recovering from a broken leg he suffered on Belmont Stakes Day.
Giant Ryan was battling for the lead in the True North Handicap last Saturday when he crumpled with sesamoid fractures in his left front ankle before thousands of fans in the grandstand.
Giant Ryan was sent to the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday and scheduled for surgery that never happened.
The surgery couldn’t be done right away because Giant Ryan had a blood clot, owner Shivananda Parbhoo said. The horse was treated and the clot went away, but by Thursday, laminitis had begun to set in. Parbhoo said the decision to put the horse down was made so he wouldn’t suffer.
“I didn’t want him to suffer at all,” Parbhoo said. “He was happy until the end. He was eating and drinking, but there was nothing more to do. The whole family is kind of leaning on Trinniberg because of what happened to Ryan. It was very sad and very hard.”
Giant Ryan, trained by Parbhoo’s father, Bisnath Parboo, won eight times in 17 starts, earning $686,841. He won the Grade I Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont last fall. He was a stablemate of Trinniberg, widely regarded as the leading 3-year-old sprinter in the country, won the Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont two races after Giant Ryan broke down.
Another top New York-bred, Yawanna Twist, was euthanized this week after fracturing a hind femur coming out of anaesthesia for routine ankle chip surgery.
Winner of the Grade II General George this year, Yawanna Twist was fourth in the Preakness last year, less than two lengths behind winner Lookin At Lucky.
MORE WEEKEND STAKES
Belmont Park’s feature is the Grade III Hill Prince for 3-year-olds on the turf, where Howe Great will try to recapture his winning ways after a fifth in the Blue Grass and a third in the American Turf at Churchill.
He had won four straight, including the Grade III Palm Beach, and is the 3-1 favorite in the Hill Prince.
“I don’t think his Blue Grass was all that bad, but he’s probably better on turf,” trainer Graham Motion told the New York Racing Association.
The field also includes Summer Front, who gets back on turf after a second in the Lexington on Keeneland’s Polytrack and an eighth on the dirt in the Peter Pan at Belmont.
“It was a disappointing effort on dirt in the Peter Pan,” trainer Christophe Clement said.
Two of Barbaro’s full brothers are running today. Margano is making his graded-stakes debut in the Hill Prince, and Lentenor is in the Da Hoss on the Colonial Turf Cup undercard at Colonial Downs.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown’s stable has another busy stakes day, as he’ll send Casino Host to the Colonial Turf Cup and La Pernelle to the Grade III All Along at Colonial, Dealbata to the Mohegan Sky on the Hill Prince undercard.
Motion has Pachattack cross-entered as the 9-5 favorite in the All Along on the turf and 7-5 favorite in the Obeah on the dirt at Delaware Park, both at a mile and an eighth.
She was second in back-to-back Grade I’s last year, the Personal Ensign at Saratoga and the Spinster at Keeneland before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. She opened 2012 by winning the Doubledogdare in April.
The other Grade I this weekend, besides the Stephen Foster, is the Vanity at Hollywood Park, where Include Me Out will try to make it 3-for-3 this year trainer Ron Ellis and Jay Em Ess Stable.
Ellafitz has scratched from the Vanity, and Zazu will scratch, trainer John Sadler told the Daily Racing Form on Thursday because “she’s a little off behind.”
This year, Include Me Out has won the Grade II La Canada, Grade I Santa Margarita and Grade II Marjorie Everett.
Saratoga Springs native Terri Pompay will saddle Quick Flip in the Just Smashing at Monmouth Park as she scales back after two losses in graded stakes.
On Sunday, Jay Em Ess has 2010 Hopeful winner Boys At Tosconova in the listed Lemon Drop Kid, which will go off as the fourth race.
He’s coming off a second to To Honor and Serve in the Westchester.
KOBE, GASOL TRY AGAIN
Siempre Mio, the 4-year-old gelding co-owned by Los Angeles Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, is entered in the first race at Hollywood Park on Sunday.
Bryant and Gasol are part-owners, along with Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge, who told The Associated Press that Gasol has been a regular visitor at trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn since the Lakers lost in the second round of the playoffs.
O’Neill said Siempre Mo has a “big shot” to win the race. He said Gasol is in love with all the horses in the trainer’s barn.
Bryant and Gasol bought into the gelding during a Lakers charity fundraiser in April. They engaged in a bidding war, and Bryant outbid Gasol by $8,000. Verge then offered Gasol a 25 percent interest if he made a separate donation to the team’s foundation.
Siempre Mio was scheduled to make his first start since the Lakers bought shares on May 26, but he was scratched.
HERE AND THERE
Wood Memorial winner Gemologist, who finished well up the track in the Kentucky Derby and came out of the race with a foot bruise, is ready to start breezing again and is being pointing to the Travers.
Pletcher said he may prep for the Travers in the Jim Dandy or Haskell. . . .
Trainer Bob Baffert said that Belmont runner-up Paynter, who is also being pointed toward the Travers, threw his left hind shoe in the Belmont, most likely late in the race or perhaps even during the gallop-out. . . .
A Denver drug-testing company has devised a test for a potent opiate painkiller, dermorphin, and subsequently, 11 horses in Louisiana have tested positive for it, with more positives likely to follow.
In nature, dermorphin is produced in the skin of certain species of South American tree frogs, but it can also effectively be manufactured synthetically.
The minimum penalty for a post-race positive of the drug is a one-year suspension, loss of purse, and a $10,000 fine. . ..
Three-time Grade I winner Presious Passion, a fan favorite because of his bold front-running style, has been retired with a record of 14-7-2 from 52 starts and almost $2.7 million in earnings.
He finished off the board in two starts at Monmouth this year.