Creator, Gun Runner turn in final works for weekend stakes
Belmont S. (G1) winner Creator took to at Saratoga's Oklahoma training track early Monday morning to wrap up his major preparations for the Saturday's $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) Saturday, the 1 1/8-mile local prep for the $1.25 million Travers (G1) on August 27.
The gray Tapit colt breezed solo shortly before 6 a.m. (EDT) with exercise rider Abel Flores aboard, covering a half-mile in :49.56 for trainer Steve Asmussen, his third local work since arriving at the Spa in early July including a five-furlong move in 1:01.87 over the main track last week.
"He's doing really well," said Asmussen, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame on August 12. "I think he's trained very well over both surfaces. He's gotten a lot out of his gallops here at Oklahoma and I liked his work over the main track last week so I feel really good about him. My only concern with the Jim Dandy, going from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth, is that it may be a bit short for him, but I feel good about it as a prep for the Travers."
Owned by WinStar Farm and Bobby Flay, Creator outgunned Destin late to win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont by a nose, his second Grade 1 victory following his 1 1/4-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby in April at Oaklawn Park. His Arkansas win earned the three-year-old enough points for a berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 7 but the colt failed to fire in the "Run for the Roses" after checking hard at the top of the stretch to finish 13th in the field of 20.
Gun Runner, another sophomore from Asmussen's talented roster, worked a half-mile in :49.78 Monday morning at Oklahoma ahead of his bid in the Haskell Invitational (G1) on Sunday at Monmouth Park.
Boasting five wins from seven career starts as well as a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the chestnut son of Candy Ride is exiting a resounding, 5 1/4-length victory in the Matt Winn (G3) on June 18 at Churchill Downs and could emerge on the Travers radar depending on the outcome of Sunday's Haskell.
"I think the spacing for the Haskell is good for him," Asmussen noted. "The Matt Winn was six weeks after the Derby and six weeks to the Haskell and I think he's stayed in a very good rhythm. I'm kind of excited about his chances there. I think that with Gun Runner, our performance in the Haskell would have everything to do with that [going to the Travers]."
In other Jim Dandy news:
Race Me Home, most recently second to Economic Model in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day, is headed for the Jim Dandy following a sharp half-mile work in :47 3/5 Monday morning.
The Irish-bred son of Oasis Dream, out of the multiple graded stakes winning mare Society Selection, went out shortly before 10 a.m., and was kept well off the rail by exercise rider Laz Gonzalez, as directed by trainer Dale Romans.
"I didn't want to go out right after the break [at 8:45] because there's a lot of traffic and he can get aggressive," Romans said. "When we went out, I thought the rail might be a little dead so I told him to stay off it.
"I was happy with the way he went," he continued. "I told the rider to go in :48, so that was good, and he galloped out strong."
Race Me Home, purchased for $185,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sales, was fourth in his first start going 6 1/2 furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs in March behind winner Decorated Soldier, who came back to take the Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park. Fourth again in a seven-furlong maiden race at Keeneland, Race Me Home scored his first win by a hard-fought head when stretched out to 1 1/8 miles on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
In the Easy Goer, also at 1 1/8 miles, he rallied from fifth after a bumpy start to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
"He's always been a horse we thought highly of," Romans said. "I kind of like the spot we're in now. He's been under the radar, improving, and we have nothing to lose."
(Adam Coglianese Photography)