Ron the Greek (above) was one of several top Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) contenders to drill on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Eclipse SportsWire)
By Blood-Horse Staff
It was a busy morning for top-tier workers in New York and Kentucky Sept. 15, as Ron the Greek, Flat Out, Atigun and Golden Ticket turned in moves at Saratoga Race Course while Dullahan and Little Mike did the same at Churchill Downs.
Ron the Greek, runner-up in the Aug. 4 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga for Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, and Jack Hammer, worked six furlongs in 1:14.05 on the Oklahoma training track.
Preston Stables' Flat Out, third in the Whitney in his last start, zipped five furlongs in a bullet :59.89, fastest of 12 at the distance on the day.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott expressed satisfaction at the preparations for the Sept. 29 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
"Very good works from both of them," Mott said. "I was pleased. Flat Out worked particularly well and his gallop out was very good. He generally works quicker, anyway. It was a typical work from Ron the Greek, so I'm happy."
Flat Out, a 6-year-old son of Flatter whose most recent victory came in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup while in the care of Scooter Dickey, and Ron the Greek, a 4-year-old by Full Mandate who won the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) this year, will work again next weekend, weather permitting, said Mott.
Meanwhile, Atigun, who was fourth but beaten just over a length, in the Aug. 25 Grade 1 Travers (gr. I), breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 this morning at Saratoga as he readies for the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
"Atigun is doing super," reported trainer Ken McPeek, who also sent out Golden Ticket, who dead-heated with Alpha to win the Travers. Golden Ticket was timed in 1:00.68 for a five-furlong move.
"It was a nice maintenance work for both of them," McPeek said.
Owned by Shortleaf Stable, Atigun was three, four and five wide throughout the 1 1/4-mile Travers, coming up a length short of third-place finisher Fast Falcon after a solid stretch run.
"He didn't have the cleanest of trips," said McPeek of the Istan colt, who prior to the Travers was sixth over a sloppy, sealed track in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). "Who's to say he wouldn't have won?"
McPeek said he most likely will send Golden Ticket to the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 22, partially because he wants to keep his two sophomores apart and also because he believes the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup suits Atigun better than the 1 1/8 miles of the Pennsylvania Derby.
"Both horses are doing extremely well," he said. "I think Golden Ticket will improve a little bit off the Travers, and Atigun is improving, too."
Also on the Sept. 15 worktab, but in Kentucky, were multiple grade I winners Dullahan and Little Mike. Each posted separate five-furlong moves for trainer Dale Romans at Churchill Downs in preparation for upcoming starts at Belmont.
Dullahan, a 3-year-old son of Even the Score owned by Donegal Racing, traveled the distance in 1:01 4/5, while Priscilla Vaccarezza's Little Mike, a 5-year-old Spanish Steps gelding, was clocked in 1:03 1/5.
"They both worked great and they'll work at Churchill Downs next week, then we'll work on getting a plane to New York," Romans said.
Dullahan defeated older horses to win the Aug. 26 Pacific Classic (gr. I) over Polytrack at Del Mar and is targeting the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 29 or the $400,000 Jamaica (gr. IT) Oct. 6, also on the grass. The 1 1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic is open to 3-year-olds and up, while the 1 1/8-mile Jamaica is restricted to sophomores.
Little Mike will attempt to carry his speed an additional quarter mile in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic after leading from start to finish in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (gr. IT) Aug. 18 at Arlington Park.