Tuesday, August 25, 2015

American Pharoah Works His Way Into Travers Stakes Picture

American Pharoah will try to become the second Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Travers when the 146th Midsummer Derby is contested Saturday afternoon at Saratoga.

Although the connections of American Pharoah had been targeting Travers (G1) for some time, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert didn’t give the green light until the Triple Crown winner recorded a sparkling 7-furlong workout Sunday morning at Del Mar.

American Pharoah covered the distance in 1:23.20 under his regular workmate, jockey Martin Garcia. Following splits of :23, :47.20, :58.80 and 1:10.60, American Pharoah galloped out a mile in 1:36.40. Sunday’s work was American Pharoah’s second since winning the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational (G1) Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park.

“He was more aggressive today,” said Baffert after the work. “He didn’t work all that fast last week and he wanted to get into it today. I think the track seems to be a little bit faster. We wanted to see where he is; where his energy level is. To be sure he still has it. It’s incredible that he does after all this. But he does. Then again, he’s an incredible horse.”

The purse for the Travers will be raised from $1.25 million to $1.6 million if American Pharoah starts in the 1 ¼-mile race.

The only Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Travers was Temperence Hill in 1980, who also won the Rebel Stakes that year. American Pharoah made his first two starts this year at Oaklawn, winning the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.

Sweet Home Alabama

A disappointing start Saturday ended with owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., recording their most prestigious career victory.

The Lieblongs’ Embellish the Lace scored a front-running 1 1/4-length victory in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. Embellish the Lace was scheduled to make her 2015 debut Jan. 17 at Oaklawn, but was scratched from an entry-level allowance/optional claimer because of an ankle problem, Alex Lieblong said.

Embellish the Lace won an allowance/optional claimer in her June 4 comeback race at Parx, then finished ninth in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes (G1) June 27 at Belmont Park. The Mother Goose was won by Include Betty, who also captured the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4 at Oaklawn and ran fifth in the Alabama.

Saturday began with the Lieblongs watching their Telling Metzie, a 2-year-old Telling filly, run fifth in her career debut at Monmouth Park and High Dollar Woman finish 10th in the $100,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3).

Telling Metzie is from the first crop of Telling, who won the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) in 2009 and 2010 at Saratoga for the Lieblongs and trainer Steve Hobby, an Oaklawn regular. Telling was groomed by Hobby’s wife, Metzie. Steve Hobby also trains Telling Metzie and High Dollar Woman.

High Dollar Woman was coming off a front-running victory in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G2) July 18 at Indiana Grand. She ran fifth in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.

Embellish the Lace and High Dollar Woman are from the first crop of Super Saver, who finished second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2010 before winning the Kentucky Derby in his next start. The Lieblongs, who have been major supporters of Super Saver, purchased High Dollar Woman for $675,000 as a 2-year-old and Embellish the Lace for $320,000 as a yearling. Embellish the Lace is the first Grade-1 winning female for Super Saver.

Super Saver’s first winner was I Spent It, also campaigned by the Lieblongs. Unraced since finishing sixth in the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes April 10 at Oaklawn, I Spent It is on the comeback trail after being sidelined with “bone remodeling” in his lower right front leg, Alex Lieblong said.

Last year, the Lieblongs also had an exciting Saratoga meeting with I Spent It winning the $200,000 Saratoga Special (G2) and The Big Beast winning the $500,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) 13 days later. The Big Beast is scheduled to run in this Saturday’s $700,000 Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

Embellish the Lace’s victory pushed the Lieblongs’ purse earnings to more than $1 million this year. The couple was represented by 10 winners at this year’s Oaklawn meeting to finish fourth in the standings. They have had horses for approximately 20 years and campaigned millionaire Duke of Mischief, winner of the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in 2010, in a partnership that included trainer David Fawkes.

Finish Lines

Jess’s Dream, a 3-year-old son of two Oaklawn standouts - 2007 Arkansas Derby winner Curlin (2007-2008 Horse of the Year) and 2009 Fantasy winner Rachel Alexandra (2009 Horse of the Year) - won his career debut Monday at Saratoga. The colt races for Stonestreet Stables of Barbara Banke and was named for her late husband, Jess Jackson, who campaigned Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Oaklawn-raced Sharm finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile race. … Pangburn, third in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 at Oaklawn, won an allowance/optional claimer Friday at Saratoga. The 3-year-old Congrats filly was making her first start for trainer Tony Dutrow after previously being with Kenny McPeek. ... Quality Way, a 3-year-old half-sister to Super Ninety Nine, a record 11 ¼-length winner of Oaklawn’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2013, finished fourth in her career debut Saturday at Ellis Park for trainer Dan Peitz. Quality Way trained at Oaklawn. … Champion Take Charge Brandi has recorded two bullet 5-furlong workouts at Saratoga since finishing last in her Aug. 8 comeback race, the $500,000 Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he’s shopping for a two-turn race for Take Charge Brandi, winner of Oaklawn’s $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31. … Achiever’s Legacy, unraced since finishing third in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4 at Oaklawn following colic surgery, returned to the work tab Friday at Los Alamitos, covering 3 furlongs in :37 for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. … Ghost Locket won an allowance race Saturday night at Remington Park for 1981 Oaklawn training champion Don Von Hemel and country music star Toby Keith, who bred and owns the consistent 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper. Ghost Locket has finished first or second in 14 of 19 career starts, including a March 28 allowance victory at Oaklawn, and earned $279,203. … Von Hemel’s son, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, finished 1-2 in an allowance race Saturday night at Remington with 3-year-olds Poseidon’s Way and Hillbilly Royalty, both entry-level allowance winners at Oaklawn. … Owner Staton Flurry, who won two races at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting, has a gaudy 11-7-5 record from 33 starters this year after winning races Saturday at Ellis Park (Uncle Brennie) and Louisiana Downs (Who Dat Tiger). Uncle Brennie, a 2-year-old Uncle Mo colt, is trained by Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s co-third-leading trainer this year. Karl Broberg, who won seven races at the 2015 Oaklawn meeting, trains Who Dat Tiger.  

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