This weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week is the 2013 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga Racetrack in Saratoga, New York. The $500,000, Grade: 2 event, which will be contested at a flat mile, drew a field of seven including 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
I remember the races’ namesake very well. Fourstardave was a gelding by Compliance and an enormous fan favorite. He was affectionately called the “The Sultan of Saratoga” because he’d won at least one race at Saratoga in eight straight years (1987 to 1994).
Overall, he made 99 starts and finished on the board in 55 of them including 21 wins, 18 seconds and 16 thirds with 15 of the 21 wins coming on the turf surface. He also set a track record of 1:38 4/5 for a mile and a sixteenth and earned over $1.6 million.
In early October of 2002, Fourstardave was shipped to BelmontPark to take part in a post parade of retired New York-breds on New York Showcase Day.
On October 14th, he was taken out to the track in early morning to do some light jogging but unfortunately suffer a heart attack and died instantly….he was 17 at the time.
His body was shipped back to his old stomping grounds (Saratoga Racetrack) and buried in Claire Court. This is one of Saratoga’s highest honors being there are only three horses that are buried there. (The speedy A Phenomenon, who sadly broke down and had to be euthanized on the spot during the running of a race at the Spa, Irish bred Mourjane, who won 10 of 36 starts and, of course, Fourstardave. Please note: Champion Go for Wand is buried in the Saratoga infield, not in Claire Court.)
Aside from the Fourstardave Handicap, which will be televised live on NBC in a one-hour broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. EST, it is a relatively quiet stakes weekend. The only other race that caught my attention was Saturday’s $100,000 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park. The race will mark the 2013 debut of 2012 champion female sprinter Groupie Doll.
Groupie Doll was brought back to training in February but was “off her game” and was resent back to the farm for some extra R & R
It doesn’t appear that her presence has scared anyone off as 11 other females will line up against her on Saturday.
The good looking chestnut (now five year old) mare will make her first start since finishing second (by a head) to Stay Thirsty in the Cigar Mile Handicap last November at Aqueduct.
Saratoga – Saturday, August 10, 2013
Race 10 – 5:45 PM
Three Year Olds And Upward
One Mile. (Turf)
|1||1||Wise Dan||6/G||L||J R Velazquez||129||C LoPresti||
|2||2||Skyring||4/C||L||J Alvarado||118||D W Lukas||
|3||3||Za Approval||5/G||L||J Lezcano||118||C Clement||
|4||4||Mr. Commons||5/H||L||E S Prado||117||J A Shirreffs||
|5||5||Willyconker||6/G||L||J L Ortiz||115||E J Guillot||
|6||6||King Kreesa||4/G||L||I Ortiz, Jr.||117||J C Englehart||
|7||7||Lea||4/C||L||J Rosario||117||A M Stall, Jr.||
1) Wise Dan– we could be looking at the next in a long line of all time great geldings if this 2012 Horse of the Year continues on his present course….his numbers and off the pace running ability are nothing short of staggering.
He’s won 10 of his last 11 races dating back to October of 2011. In that stretch, seven of those 10 wins have been in Grade: 1 races. Moreover, he is 16 for 23 in his career, 9 for 10 at this distance and has banked over $4.1 million.
He handles a firm turf course with just as much ease as a yielding one, so surface conditions mean nothing to him.
When trainer Charlie LoPresti was asked how Wise Dan was coming into this race, Lopresti said “He’s a little bit more mature, more settled recently…I would say he’s every bit as good as where I had him last season….he’s perfect”
“I never in my life had a horse like this,” LoPresti added. “People don’t believe me when I tell them, but he’s a freak of nature.”
When asked how good Wise Dan is, rival trainer Al Stall Jr., who saddles Lea on Saturday afternoon, said Wise Dan is “Not good. He’s Great…. Great…. Hall of Fame first time on the ballot. What else can you say? To be that kind of horse, you have to have everything come together. Talent, and mind, and certainly soundness.”
But you what readers?…throw out the statistics, throw out the accolades from his own trainer as well as the rival trainers and watch this move. This was his July 27 work in preparation for this race. Personally, I had to watch it three times (with mouth hanging open) because I couldn’t believe a) the splits and b) the fact his exercise rider had him in hand all the way around and standing up in the irons the last quarter mile or so.
Even with his rider holding him back he went the first three furlongs in :34.4, he hit the five furlong pole in an eye popping :57.1. As if that wasn’t enough, he galloping out six furlongs in 1:09 flat and seven in 1:22.2.
But it doesnt end there, just a week later the good looking chestnut went a half in :49.1 out five furlongs in 1:02 flat.
“I just wanted to do something easy with him,” said LoPresti. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I didn’t want to take him to the turf again. I just wanted a nice, easy work for him, just something to keep him ticking over to next week.”
Logical pick in what could be the easiest race I’ve broken down all year long even though he’ll be conceding 11 to 14 lbs to his rivals. .
2) Za Approval– is batting .500 on the grass (6 for 12…with three seconds) and had a two race wins streak snapped by probably the best west coast turf miler (Obviously) in his last. (The Shoemaker Mile that was completed in a lighting 1:32.4)
This stretch runner gray son of the wickedly fast Ghostzapper should be rolling down the stretch and should bring home either the second or third place check.
3) Lea– is an intriguing horse as he finished just two lengths behind Wise Dan in his last race. (The Firecracker Handicap)
What makes it interesting is he ran Wise Dan to two lengths in just his seventh career start and he’s never been off the board in his career (7-4-2-1), so you know that wasn’t a fluke race
“When we ran against Wise Dan in the Firecracker, he’d already won two other grade I races this year and we’d won a three-other-than allowance off the turf. So we lacked quite a bit of recency. Straight handicapping, we’re sitting on a pretty good race. Whether that’s good enough to win, I have no idea.” said trainer Al Stall Jr.
His speed figures have been steadily climbing and if we haven’t seen the best of him yet (and I suspect we have not) he could make things interesting in deep stretch.
Mr. Commons even though he has been a bit of a disappointment lately (He hasn’t won since Feb of 2012). Trainer John Shirreffs said he is “looking forward” to running Mr. Commons in the Fourstardave based on the way he came out of his last race.
“He’s eating well, he’s training great, the rider is commenting that he came out of that race with a lot of energy,” said Shirreffs las week. “It looks like this next race should be really good.”
The speedy King Kreesa will be in front as far as he goes and obviously likes the distance (5 starts, 3 wins, 1 second and 1 third). Even though he’s been manhandled by Wise Dan the last two times he’s faced him, they still cant let this gelding by King Cugat lope along on an uncontested early lead or he might prove tough to catch.
Record: 14-39 = 36%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces:
**** Thoroughbred owner L.R. “Bob” French Jr. died last Friday night. He was 86.
Among the plethora of horses that ran under his name include champions Capote, Mt. Livermore, (who later became a leading sire) and multiple graded stakes winner Terlingua, who is also the dam of Storm Cat.
But perhaps the best horse he ever owned was the great Landaluce. Out of the first crop by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Landaluce clearly ranks amongst the best and most brilliant fillies I’ve ever seen run live.
The monsterous filly raced just one year (1982) and started five times, she won all five by a combined winning margin of 46 ½ lengths.
As she prepared for the the 1982 Grade: 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on November 28, Landaluce became ill with Colitis X. She went down hill fast from the blood clots that formed thoughout her body by the severe bacterial invasion and died on December 11, 1982.
Her finest hour came in the 1982 Hollywod Lassie….the track announcer calls in front by 15 at the wire, but the official margin of victory was an astounding 21 lenghts. (Be sure to notice the hand ride by Laffitt Pincay…he never asked to run at any point).
**** 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb was supposed to be shipped to Saratoga this past Wednesday to finish preparing for the Aug 24 Travers Stakes, but will now be shipped on Sunday (Aug 11) instead.
Trainer Shug McGaughey reported that Orb is “thriving under the care of exercise rider Jennifer Patterson in Maryland” and will remain for another few days.
“He was scheduled to come on Wednesday, but I might keep him there a couple extra days,” McGaughey said this past Monday. “Jen’s the one asking me, ‘Leave him here for another week, let me work him there one more time without having to change tracks.’ He’s really doing excellent up there. Every time I go see him, I’m more pleased.”
“I said ‘I’m going to leave it up to you,’ have him take a look and see how well he’s doing,” the trainer said.
Orb has breezed five times at Fair Hill since running third in the Belmont Stakes (June 8).
He went three furlongs in :36 on July 3, then turned in three straight four-furlong works–:50 1/5 on July 10, :49 1/5 on July 20, and :48 1/5 on July 27, then went five furlongs in 1:00.3 last Saturday
**** In other Travers news, 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow came out of the Haskell Invitational with a soft tissue injury in his leg and will miss at least the rest of the summer season, according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
* Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes’ winnerPalace Malice will return to the track to work on Sunday (Aug. 11)
* Also expected to drill at Saratoga on Sunday is 2013 Haskell winner Verrazano,
* Jim Dandy third place finisher Moreno will work six furlongs on Saturday (Aug. 10)
The son of Ghostzapper has improved leaps and bounds of late. “He’s good. He’s better than he was before,” trainer Eric Guillot said of Moreno. “He’s going to have to be, right?”…yes sir….he mostly will.
**** Rockport Harbor, a winner of five of eight career starts highlighted by victories in the Remsen and Nashua Stakes’ was humanely destroyed last week at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., yesterday due to complications of laminitis.
The gray/white stallion was the number one sire by progeny earnings in Pennsylvania for 2013 and stood (most recently) Pin Oak Lane Stud in the town of New Freedom
**** Normandy Invasion, fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is back in training after missing some training time due to a foot abscess
“He’s been galloping for over a week, but I am not sure of the timetable,” said trainer Chad Brown. “After another week of galloping, I might let him breeze. Right now, I just want to get him to his first breeze and then go from there.”
If you recall, Normandy Invasion took the lead briefly at the top of the stretch in the Derby before dropping back in deep stretch.
Even though this stretch running son of Tapit has just one win in six career starts, he is obviously a quality horse and I’m not ready to write him off just yet.
Thanks for reading…