Departing to shorten up, revert to dirt in Vanderbilt
Multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing proved himself effective on turf when capturing the June 27 Firecracker (G2) over a mile at Churchill, but trainer Al Stall Jr. is changing direction with the War Front gelding at Saratoga. His next objective? Saturday's Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at six furlongs on the dirt.
"He's coming out of the Firecracker in good shape," Stall said. "We've been wanting to shorten him up a little bit and see how he does for a couple of years but we just haven't really had a real chance.
"We think the turf horses up here are really, really good and certainly much tougher than the Firecracker, so we're just going to take a shot and see how he does sprinting. He's only been around one turn twice in his life and he's won both times. Hopefully he fits somewhere in the race next weekend."
Departing made his career debut going six furlongs at Fair Grounds, where he rallied to a stylish 2 1/4-length victory. He spent his entire sophomore campaign around two turns, racking up lucrative victories in the Illinois Derby (G3), West Virginia Derby (G2), and Super Derby (G2). The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred kicked off 2014 with a good-looking allowance score at Churchill's one-turn mile, but didn't win again last year. He snapped his losing streak in the Firecracker.
Interestingly, connections had been thinking of the Kelly's Landing, a seven-furlong test on dirt the same night as the Firecracker. Hence the Vanderbilt isn't a total bolt from the blue. His rivals are expected to include Kelly's Landing winner Viva Majorca and such heavy-hitting sprinters as Rock Fall, The Big Beast, Salutos Amigos and Clearly Now. Palace, last year's Vanderbilt winner, was entered in Thursday's John Morrissey. Trainer Linda Rice had previously mentioned that she'd look at both races.
Stall also spoke of Paid Up Subscriber, who overcame traffic to get up in time in Saturday's 6TH race at the Spa. The sophomore filly by Candy Ride was coming off a maiden win at Churchill.
"She's a filly we've always been high on," the trainer said. "She just didn't really have a chance to run too much with her trips, including yesterday. For her to win two out of three with the way things have gone for her on the racetrack, we're kind of excited about stretching her out and maybe one time getting a clear trip and seeing what happens."
Departing photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.