Mshawish faces tough group in Fourstardave return

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

August 12th, 2015

While a significant segment of the nation's best grass runners, male and female, will be running at Arlington on Saturday, Saratoga has put together a rather nifty turf feature of their own. The $500,000 Fourstardave H. (G2), to be run on the inner course, is easily one of the strongest collection of milers assembled so far this season.

Mshawish, who narrowly grabbed the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) and Fort Lauderdale (G2) over the winter, makes his return to racing after traveling to Dubai in late March for the Dubai Turf (G1). The Todd Pletcher trainee did very well in that test, finishing five lengths behind Europe's best older miler Solow and less than a length in back of The Grey Gatsby, one of leading top 10-furlong performers on the continent.

Although he cuts back from his optimal distance, Mshawish had the late kick to pass the wire first over this course and distance in an allowance last year (although he was subsequently disqualified), and also captured the 7 1/2-furlong El Prado at Gulfstream in mid-December.

Pletcher also saddles Jack Milton, who relished soft going when taking the Maker's 46 Mile (G1) in April after a seven-wide rally. Elevated to second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) next out, he most recently failed to fire in the 10-furlong Manhattan (G1) after a wide journey. He rallied for third in this event last year despite being blocked part of the way through the stretch.

Seek Again is back to defend his title in the Fourstardave, but has never really run back to that effort in four subsequent outings. A troubled third in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in his seasonal bow, his modest third in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) last time was relatively uninspiring.

Ironicus turned a lot of heads on Preakness Day with a devastating stretch run in the Dixie (G2) over 1 1/16 miles. The four-year-old gray was a late withdrawal from the one-mile Poker (G3) at Belmont the following month, but returned to action July 8 and overwhelmed third-level allowance company over the same course and distance.

Winner of the Poker was King Kreesa, who stole that feature setting a moderate pace. The New York-bred veteran, a strong second to Wise Dan in this race two years ago when getting 12 pounds from the dual Horse of the Year, came back to win the $150,000 Forbidden Apple with stalk-and-pounce tactics.

A multiple Grade 2 winner on dirt, Vyjack has done well in his two turf outings to date, running second in the Poker and third in the Forbidden Apple. Like King Kreesa, though, he might find some of these too tough.

Grand Arch was ineffective in both the Forbidden Apple and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in his last two, but was only a neck behind Seek Again last year and might perk up over a course he apparently likes.

The $200,000 Adirondack (G2), for two-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs, looks wide open on paper. Pletcher has entered Delicate Lady, a private acquisition following a 6 1/2-length debut win against Illinois-breds at Arlington, and impressive Belmont debut winner Tonasah.

Likely to keep the latter honest on the front end are Gulfstream shippers Kandoo, who won on debut going 4 1/2 furlongs, and Heartbreaker Girl, who also scored on first asking but for $50,000 tag.

Just Wicked, a maiden winner on Saratoga's opening day for Steve Asmussen, looks like a strong threat, while multiple stakes-laced Decked Out and Delaware Park maiden winner Lookout Sister are others who could benefit from a lightning-fast pace.

(Mshawish photo: Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)