Sunday, August 31, 2014
Trainers Prove Post-Saratoga Stay is Successful Leading to Breeders' Cup
By Tony Podlaski
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There is an underlying assumption that once the Saratoga Race Course meet ends on Labor Day, all of the horses disperse to downstate New York at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, or Santa Anita in California.
That is not the case, however, as several horsemen stay in Saratoga for at least an additional month by taking advantage of the Oklahoma training track, which remains open through the end of October. Some of these trainers and their horses have reaped the benefits of their extended Saratoga stay by racing well in the Breeders' Cup.
Since making the Oklahoma training track part of his training program from mid-April, when the facility opens, through its closing. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has found it very successful, especially after Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer trained here through the first week of October and later won the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
Other Mott horses who have raced successfully in the Breeders' Cup by staying at Saratoga for training after the meet closes include Royal Delta (2011 and 2012 Ladies' Classic winner), Unrivaled Belle (2010 Ladies' Classic winner), Mushka (second to Zenyatta in the 2009 Ladies' Classic), and Flat Out (third in the 2012 Classic).
"We like the environment and the track surface," said Mott, whose Barn 80 is within feet of the Oklahoma track first turn. "It's a very important part of our operation. Personally, it's very important because I cannot fit everything into Belmont.
"It's convenient to have the Oklahoma track this close to my barn," he added. "However, it can also be a little bit of a disturbance because some horses are walking around and jumping, some horses are splashing through the mud, but we work through that."
Mott said that Tourist, winner of the Sir Cat Stakes on Saratoga's opening day, who later finished second in the Grade 1 Secretariat, is taking a break at WinStar Farm for the fall. He has not made any immediate plans for Close Hatches (winner of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign), Seek Again (winner of the Grade 2 Fourstardave), Crown Queen (winner of the Grade 2 Knob Creek Lake Placid), and Filimbi (winner of the Fasig-Tipton De La Rose).
"We'll switch some horses around; some will stay, some will go. Some horses who are going to run right away will go to Belmont," Mott said. "We'll have to see what happens."
Steve Asmussen has also taken advantage of the extended training dates with horses like Tapizar (winner of the 2012 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile), My Miss Aurelia (winner of the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies), and Dust and Diamonds (second in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint). Asmussen believes the cooler environment and conditions in August and September have helped his horses.
"We've had success doing this going into the Breeders' Cup," Asmussen said. "Being here, they have adjusted to the surface and conditions. I don't think you can have better circumstances for a racehorse at this time of the year. This summer has been the best for me and the horses; it's been cooler. We're standing here during the third week of August in a sweatshirt. We've had a couple of warm days, but the majority of the days have been unbelievable."
Asmussen would like to see Ron Winchell's 3-year-old stars - Mother Goose and Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable and multiple Grade 2 winner Tapiture - follow that same path as he plans to keep them at Saratoga before they depart to Parx Racing during the third week of September for their respective races: the Grade 1 Cotillion and the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.
"That is the plan this year," Asmussen said. "It's important that we do as few moves as possible. Hopefully, those horses will have the same success going from here to the Breeders' Cup."
Kiaran McLaughlin has also seen moderate success in the Breeders' Cup by keeping his horses in Saratoga through late October. In 2012, Dance Card had been training over both the Oklahoma training track and Greentree's synthetic surface before finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
Since the Godolphin Racing/Darley Stable operation purchased Greentree in 2007, McLaughlin believes the training options and surroundings have helped him and his horses, especially his 2-year-olds, going into the fall.
"A lot of the Darley and Godolphin horses stay up here," McLaughlin said. "A lot of the 2-year-olds will stay up here with the hope of running down at Belmont in the fall. Because of stall limits at Belmont, we have an overflow up here. It's an extension of Belmont Park.
"We like to keep them going up here through the fall and ship them down to Belmont for the race," he added. "We like training on the dirt because we don't race on the Polytrack, but it's a nice option to have. We love it up here and the horses love it up here. Obviously, Greentree is fantastic for horses living and grazing up here. It's a great barn to live in. It's like staying at the Ritz Carlton."
While the majority of the stalls have been cleared once the Saratoga meet comes to an end, it's not uncommon to see horses training on the Oklahoma training track through the end of October for the Breeders' Cup. If anything, many of these horses will find it rewarding.