By Heather Pettinger —-
El Deal looks to seal Breeders’ Cup bid in G1 Vosburgh
ELMONT, N.Y. – Albert and Michelle Crawford’s El Deal will look to back up his impressive eight-length victory in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt as he heads a field of seven in the 78th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Vosburgh on Saturday at Belmont Park.
El Deal had a pair of recent victories to his credit, including a three-length score in the Decathlon in June at Monmouth Park, when he was sent off as the 5-2 second choice in the Vanderbilt on July 29 at Saratoga Race Course, his third start for trainer Jorge Navarro and his first try at a Grade 1. Breaking alertly under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, the 5-year-old son of Munnings took control of the race early and never looked back to open up by daylight and register a career-high 112 Beyer Speed Figure, an effort that surprised even the horse’s connections.
“I thought with the speed and the track being dead that week that we’d maybe win the race by a nose or even run a good second or third. There were some serious horses in there,” said Navarro. “We lost the favorite [A. P. Indian, scratched the morning of the race] so I thought we had a chance, but he really caught my eye with how he did everything, the speed figure he picked up and everything.”
Castellano has the return call aboard El Deal, who will break from post 2 as the expected favorite for the Vosburgh, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4 at Del Mar.
“I always believed he was a nice horse and he’s shown it,” Navarro said. “Training after the race up to now, he’s been pretty good. I can’t complain about anything. Do I think he ran against the best sprinters in the nation [in the Vanderbilt]? Nope. He’s still got to show up on Saturday, and if he shows up on Saturday, I think he’ll be there. He’s running against some good horses there too. There are some nice 3-year-olds that are developing into nice horses.”
One of those 3-year-olds is KRA Stud Farm’s Mr. Crow for trainer Todd Pletcher. The lightly raced Tapizar colt boasts a pair of triple-digit Beyers for back-to-back wins this summer, including a 6 ¼-length win against allowance company on August 30 at Saratoga. His only off-the-board finish came in his June debut, where he broke last and rallied late to finish a game second, coming in a neck behind the winner.
“It’s not something you normally do with a horse that’s lightly raced at this stage of his career but he’s run exceptionally well all three times,” said Pletcher. “He was a little unlucky in his first start. He kind of missed the break but still ran very well. His next two were impressive performances and fast times. The horse trains very well so we figured there’s not much else for him to do in terms of allowance races and we feel like he’s shown enough talent to step up and try a big one.
“Maybe the blessing about his first start was, though missing the break might’ve cost him that day, it also provided him with some experience,” he added. “He got a little dirt in his face and some things like that that could hopefully pay dividends in a race like this that looks like it has a lot of early pace in there. He’s very fast, I don’t see him sitting behind slow fractions, but with what appears to be a fast pace, I think he’s adaptable enough to sit behind if needed.”
Drawing post 5, Mr. Crow will be ridden by Luis Saez, who has been aboard for all three of the colt’s previous starts.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be represented by a talented duo in Takaful, Grade 2-placed a juvenile in the 2016 Remsen, and two-time New York-bred stakes winner Celtic Chaos.
Takaful, a 3-year-old Shadwell Stable homebred by Bernardini, will be taking on older horses for the first time following his runner-up finish to Practical Joke in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens for sophomore sprinters on Travers Day at Saratoga. Prior to that, he returned from a 3 ½-month layoff to register a 5 ¼-length gate-to-wire win in a six-furlong allowance on August 21.
“Obviously, he’s a sprinter. We tried to stretch out in the Remsen and a few other races. Once we turned him back, he ran huge Opening Day at Saratoga,” said McLaughlin. “He ran a monster race over a slow track. We went to the H. Allen Jerkens and he ran a great race. No excuses, he was just second best. The winner was that good. But, the turnback from seven to six is great for us, but it is 3-and-up this time and we have a lot of respect for the other horses here. Especially El Deal, he’s very fast. We’ll see what happens but he’s doing great.”
Zilla Racing Stable’s Celtic Chaos owns three wins and three seconds from seven starts this year, including neck victories in the Affirmed Success and John Morrissey for New York-breds. McLaughlin said he hopes Celtic Chaos’ late-running style will be advantageous for the 4-year-old chestnut colt by Dublin.
“He’s coming off a great race, a tough allowance race where he finished third,” he said. “He ran huge numbers and this race is all about speed. Five horses have early speed and he comes from last, so Mike Piazza [of Zilla Racing] and I decided that this is a great race-shape for us. It’s a big step up but let’s give it a try.”
Jose Ortiz, expected to be back in the saddle on Thursday, is named to ride Takaful from post 4, while Celtic Chaos will have the services of Eric Cancel from post 6.
Possible to join El Deal on the front end is Grade 1 Carter Handicap winner Green Gratto for trainer and co-owner Gaston Grant. The 7-year-old Here’s Zealous horse has failed to hit the board in four subsequent starts since posting a game neck victory over Unified in the Carter on April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Green Gratto will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche from post 3.
Owner-trainer David Jacobson will send out last year’s Vosburgh runner-up Stallwalkin’ Dude, who is exiting a distant eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego last time out. Stallwalkin’ Dude will break from the rail with Joe Bravo aboard.
Rounding out the field for the Vosburgh is Red and Black Stable’s Weekend Hideaway, a New York-bred millionaire for trainer Phil Serpe. The 7-year-old chestnut most recently finished a hard-fought second to T Loves a Fight in a talent-laden allowance on August 24 at Saratoga. Weekend Hideaway will leave from the outside post with Manny Franco in the saddle.
Elate faces six others in hopeful path to Breeders’ Cup chance in G1 Beldame
By Anthony Affrunti
A field of seven fillies and mares will run in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.
The 79th running of the Beldame is the third of four graded stakes races on the day’s stacked card, which features the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and also includes the Grade 1, $350,000 Vosburgh and the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim.
The Beldame will feature a slate of consistent runners including Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate, who will make her Belmont Park debut after drawing away by 5 ¼ lengths to win the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga last out.
Elate’s effort in that race bested last Saturday’s Grade 1 Cotillion winner It Tiz Well, who finished as the Alabama runner-up.
Elate ran her most impressive race to date in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, trying in vain to get the upper hand on Abel Tasman. Instead, she lost by a head at the wire, a decision upheld following a steward’s inquiry. The daughter by Medaglia d’Oro returned to make a huge statement in the Alabama, and will now make her eighth start of the year for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. A continuation of her persistent presence on the tote board in her fourth Grade 1 start could send her to Del Mar for a start in the Breeders’ Cup in November.
“She’s doing good, we’re real happy with her,” Mott said. “If she puts in a great performance, we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup, but we have to wait and see. We’re optimistic, but we’ll wait to see what happens.”
Elate owns two other victories in her career beginning with her debut where she beat eight others by 12 ½ lengths at Aqueduct. She then returned to finish second in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay, then finished third behind It Tiz Well in the Grade 3 Honeybee.
Sent off as the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, Elate was pulled up entering the stretch and subsequently vanned off as a precautionary measure.
“The rider pulled her up,” Mott said. “He thought she took a bad step. It was just a bad spot on the track. She was fine.”
Elate will make her ninth career start, and break from the rail with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, her rider for all three of her Grade 1 races thus far.
StarLadies Racing and Lisa Troutt’s 5-year-old mare Eskenformoney will break from the outside post. Under the guidance of trainer Todd Pletcher, the daughter by Eskendereya seeks her first Grade 1 win and is the race’s most experienced entrant, making her 27th start after finishing third in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on Saratoga’s Travers Day undercard.
“She ran well that day [in the Personal Ensign],” Pletcher said. “She gave us a little excitement turning for home. It looked like she was still in it with a chance. She finished third behind two top quality mares, but she’s doing well. We’re looking forward to trying it again.”
A victory would give Pletcher his sixth Beldame victory would break the tie he shares with D. Wayne Lukas with five. Eskenformoney will be ridden by Javier Castellano in the saddle, the 17th time they have been united.
George Hall’s mare Money’soncharlotte will carry a four-race winning streak into the Beldame. The 5-year-old by Mizzen Mast is perfect through her 2017 campaign, which began with a victory against four others in an open claiming level race at Parx. She then advanced to the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Monmouth, and prevailed before notching her first graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher.
Money’soncharlotte will run from post 5, and will be ridden by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.
Verve’s Tale enters with momentum, winning the $100,000 Summer Colony by a nose at Saratoga for just her third career victory. The daughter by Tale of Ekati broke her maiden in her eighth career start, but was no worse than third in all seven starts prior, and built a versatile demeanor by performing at five different racetracks.
Verve’s Tale will break from post 2, getting the services of Joel Rosario.
Rounding out the field in the Beldame will be Bishop’s Pond from post 3, for trainer Jason Servis and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., Presumptuous from post 4, for trainer H. James Bond and jockey Rajiv Maragh, and Bombshell from post 6, for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and jockey Luis Saez.