By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Saratoga continues with a couple of G1s on Saturday, when veteran sprinter Whitmore should get the fast pace he needs to run at in the Forego – a race in which, as a five-year-old, he beat subsequent Pegasus World Cup hero City Of Light in 2018.
Calumet Farm’s private trainer Jack Sisterson saddles three in the Forego, while later on the same card the Sword Dancer is one of the highlights of the year for turf ‘marathoners’.
There is no standout performer in this division. Sadler’s Joy, the 2017 winner, is back for the fourth year in succession after his recent DQ in the G2 Bowling Green and renews rivalries with promoted winner Cross Border and the next three home in that event.
The biggest prize of the weekend comes on Friday night with the G2 Charles Town Classic around the West Virginia bull ring.
Saratoga: Forego G1 $300,000 7f, dirt, 4yo+
Everfast: “He’s coming in extremely well. I think it was the best breeze I’ve seen from him. Typically, he can be a lazy horse on his own. I really believe he came out of the win better than he did than going in. He really stepped up his game training wise and he’s telling us he’s ready for another opportunity at a Grade 1.” Jack Sisterson (trainer)
Lexitonian: “He wears his heart on his sleeve. He made up some ground late in the Bing Crosby. He showed a new dynamic of running. He really likes to be forwardly placed and runs well with some pressure around him. California speed is a different kind of speed – he got run off his feet earlier and picked up his momentum later on.” Jack Sisterson (trainer)
Mind Control: “He came out of the Vanderbilt in great shape. He had three works at Monmouth and each one was right on queue. We’re really happy where he’s at with his training and the way his attitude is going into the Forego.” Gregg Sacco (trainer)
True Timber: “He’s a beautiful-looking horse and he was sent to us in great shape. We just gave him a break after running some tough races. We allowed him to put his feet where he wanted to from a training standpoint. He moved forward each week. It was a perfect allowance spot at Keeneland bringing him back. It was a difficult race. From a standpoint of him finishing third it was a stepping stone.” Jack Sisterson (trainer)
Whitmore: “We came out of the last race fresh and in good shape, so I decided I’d run him once before the Phoenix instead of having to work him back a couple times. The thing about New York in Grade 1s is that they always show up, so you got to bring your ‘A’ game.” Ron Moquett (owner-trainer)
Saratoga: Sword Dancer G1 $500,000 1m4f, turf, 4yo+
Aquaphobia: “We picked him up this winter at Gulfstream and he’s really flourished for us. He’s really come together. I think the more distance he gets the better he is. He’s an all-class horse and I don’t think it matters whether it’s a mile and a quarter, mile and three-eighths or a mile and a half, he seems to be able to handle it all. He’s a very professional horse and I expect a big race from him.” Nolan Ramsey (assistant to trainer Mike Maker)
Cross Border: “I don’t know what it is about Saratoga, but he seems to flourish up here. Not only does he show it in his past performances, but physically the horse does well up here. His coat looks great and he really enjoys his training. We nicknamed him ‘The Machine’ because he just really gets into his training. I think he’s probably best a mile and three-eighths. At a mile and a half, if we get the right set–up, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Nolan Ramsey (assistant to trainer Mike Maker)
Marzo: “The horse is doing exceptionally well and he’s proven at a mile and a half.” Nolan Ramsey (assistant to trainer Mike Maker)
Pedro Cara: “He ran in Qatar when I took Standard Deviation over, so that was my first introduction to him. He didn’t get over here until the summer and he had a bit of a foot issue when he got over here, but he hasn’t missed a beat since we started breezing him. I think he’s a gritty little horse. He’s not very big but he’s tough. There’s not a real standout in this division, so he fits in well with this group of horses.” Graham Motion (trainer)
Sadler’s Joy: “He’s been one of the most consistent turf horses going these longer distances. He still continues to do well; he’s still strong and he’s pretty bright. He’s run well in two Sword Dancers. He’s always right there, we just need him to be a little more forward in some of these big ones. With his running style, you hope he has a good trip but he tends to lose a lot of ground when he makes that big move off the far turn. He just has no early foot.”
Tom Albertrani (trainer)
• Visit the NYRA Saratoga website