Hofburg is set for the Travers after his Curlin victory
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott opted to run Hofburg in the softer field of the Curlin over the Jim Dandy, probably looking to get the Belmont Stakes third place finisher a confidence building win. The son of Tapit sat in last place in the early going until Irad Ortiz asked him to pick it up and at that point there was no longer any doubt about Hofburg, as he took the lead hitting the stretch and drew off to win by five-lengths.
“He was a little hot and a little agitated today,” said Mott after the race. “Frankly, I was a little bit concerned, but I think mainly he just needed to run. He’s a little bit fresh right now and I think he just wanted to get moving forward. Hopefully, when he comes back in the [Grade 1] Travers [on August 25] he’ll be a little cooler and a little more collected. He was a little pushy.
“I think the timing [of the Travers] is right, he’s had a race over the track, a win over the track and it gives the trainer some confidence. I don’t know if the horse needed it, but the trainer did.”
Tenfold wins the Jim Dandy after erratic stretch run
The next day, the Jim Dandy was decided after an unusual stretch run by Tenfold, who is trained by Steve Asmussen. This Hall of Famer is off to one the best starts of his career at Saratoga.
Tenfold, who was sent off as the second betting choice after Vino Rosso, raced just behind the pacesetter in a stalking position for most of the race. When Ricardo Santana Jr. set him down turning for home, Tenfold responded and took the lead and appeared to be on his way to a convincing victory.
Racing near the long video screen by the sixteenth pole, Tenfold seemed to get distracted by the bright lights. Santana got the horse’s focus back, but then the son of Curlin seemed to have had enough of the stick and veered away from the whip dramatically to his right several paths not far from the wire. Again, Santana was able to straighten Tenfold out and they crossed the line ¾ of a length ahead.
“I told Steve [Asmussen] that today, I want to change my plan and put him [Tenfold] over there in the race and it worked today,” explained Santana. “I put him over there close to the speed and turned for home [and] he opened up. I had plenty in the tank. He was watching the TV [infield monitor] and he got a little scared, but he passed the wire first. We got lucky and passed the wire first. Today he showed his class.”
Vino Rosso, on the other hand, continued to be a bit of an enigma. Sent off as the Jim Dandy favorite, this Todd Pletcher trainee could not make a sustained run on the Saratoga track. Behind the leaders by more than 10 lengths, he was able to make a strong middle move, but could not keep that momentum, eventually finishing third just a head behind second place finisher Flameaway.
A disappointed co-owner Mike Repole gave his evaluation of Vino Rosso, “We’ve seen this performance before. He has done it at Tampa a couple of times. Maybe a little moisture in the track and he runs in spots, but when he puts an effort into it he makes up ground. He made up probably 10 lengths in less than a quarter mile, and he put his head down and galloped out in front. The biggest key now, if we decide to go the Travers, is to get him to run 100 percent of the race and not 50 percent of the race.”
Spa sprinters impress
On the Jim Dandy undercard, the two best performances came from the sprinting winners of the Amsterdam and the Vanderbilt. Promises Fulfilled and Imperial Hint both drew off to convincing victories in fast times that earned identical 108 Beyer Speed Figures.
In the Amsterdam, trainer Dale Romans made the decision to keep his 3-year-old sprinting as opposed to running him in the Jim Dandy and Promises Fulfilled made Romans look good. The son of Shackleford took charge at the top of the stretch and drew off from Engage.
“The horse has done so well since Belmont Day that I just didn’t see him losing it, and I’m usually a pessimist, but he’s just changed,” said Romans. “He turned a corner. It’s like he’s a man now. I think we’re going to see bigger and better things out of him. When he backed off, I thought, Luis is a smart kid, he knows what he’s doing. I’m happy he sat there, do I want to go 21 [seconds] and change? The best thing Luis did was engage early, he got outside, slowed down a touch, they had the half in 43 together, and still kept going. I haven’t had many horses that can do that.”
Likely the best performance of the Saratoga meeting to date came from Imperial Hint in the Vanderbilt. I know that’s saying a lot considering Monomoy Girls’s victory in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but the Parx based runner put on a powerful run without even being asked. Jockey Javier Castellano was able to get the son of Imperialism to relax and rate in the early going. Sitting like a statue, Castellano was able to effortlessly get the lead, open a four length cushion and then coast home to the wire.
Trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. was pleased, “You always want a horse a little bit off the pace, we knew he could do it. I left it to Javier [Castellano] to make a decision on where he wanted to be. He has a lot of experience riding this track and knows the horse very well. He’s a professional.
“That’s the way I wanted to see him win. For Imperial Hint, it’s great to have a Grade 1. I think I’ll go back to the barns and see how he came back. It’ll probably be [in] New York [his next start], we don’t know yet. I’ll pick a spot. Now, I have to keep him sound and healthy and hopefully I can go back to the Breeders’ Cup. Probably right now, I’ll keep him at three-quarters [of a mile].
Photo of Hofburg courtesy of NYRA