Grand Arch looking to register back-to-back wins in Fourstardave

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August 17th, 2016

Grand Arch may have turned in one of his least inspiring efforts in recent years in the Poker (G3) at Belmont Park June 18, but history suggests the seven-year-old is not one to take lightly in the $500,000 Fourstardave H. (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga.

Postponed from August 13 when inclement weather forced the cancellation of the latter half of the program, the Fourstardave was re-scheduled and redrawn, but with the same nine horses as were entered last week.

Although sixth by 10 lengths to loose-on-the-lead Obviously in the Poker, Grand Arch has proven far superior in the one-mile Fourstardave over Saratoga's inner turf. Two years ago, Grand Arch missed by a neck to Seek Again at odds of 11-1, and last year avenged that defeat while also turning back a belated challenge from the star miler Ironicus to register an 8-1 upset by a neck.

"We didn't want to run on a track that was going to be that soft with the amount of rain they had," trainer Brian Lynch said. "I think he prefers a little firmer going but he has run well on soft turf before. Last year's Breeders' Cup was a good effort and it was a bit soft. But we got another little maintenance work in him [after the cancellation] so hopefully he's even that much more ready."

Although Ironicus didn't make this year's edition, Grand Arch should benefit from the return presence of King Kreesa, who set the pace in last year's Fourstardave before grudgingly backing out late. The speedy New York-bred exits a photo-finish score in the $144,000 Forbidden Apple at Belmont.

"His race in the Forbidden Apple was a huge effort, a really gutty effort," trainer David Donk said. "I think right after that I was pointing to the West Point just to stick with New York-breds, but he ran so well and the race changed complexion when Tepin wasn't going to run, Ironicus wasn't ready and Obviously wasn't going to come. So I really thought it was different kind of race and it's $500,000 and I think he deserves the opportunity."

Besides Grand Arch, Takeover Target also had little chance to make headway in the Poker. Winner of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at the Spa last summer, the four-year-old had turned in a blistering rally to take the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico two back, catching Grade 1 veteran Ring Weekend in the final strides.

The Dixie was the first race back from a 14 1/2-month layoff for Ring Weekend, who landed the Saranac (G3) on the Mellon Turf two years ago. Also that summer, Ring Weekend missed to Tourist in the $100,000 Sir Cat, and that rival has subsequently placed four times in Grade 1 company.

Force the Pass has placed in five straight races since landing last year's Belmont Derby (G1), most recently finishing second by a nose in the Forbidden Apple to King Kreesa. Graded scorers Reporting Star and Blacktype could be in the mix for minor shares with their best efforts, while A Lot is a consistent check earner but might be more effective in one-turn sprints.

An impressive winner of the $100,000 Lucky Coin on July 25, Long On Value will look to sweep the Spa's major turf sprint stakes for older horses in the $100,000 Troy over 5 1/2 furlongs.

Shortening up from two-turn races in the Lucky Coin, Long On Value tracked in fifth from a wide position down the backside and always looked poised to deliver a strong stretch kick, which he did to win by a length. It was the Grade 2 veteran's first victory since the Canadian Turf (G3) in February 2015. Trainer Bill Mott will also be represented by Songsational, who captured his turf debut against allowance foes at Belmont last month.

The likely second choice in the wagering would be Green Mask, if the Brad Cox trainee runs here rather than in the Play the King (G2) at Woodbine on Saturday. Other potential win threats are Disco Partner, a close second in the Jaipur (G3) two back, and Calgary Cat, a multiple graded stakes winner in Canada.

(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)