Phipps Stable is in the business of developing stakes horses, and if a
horse shows promise, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has license to
take all the time he needs to let that potential be realized.
Photo: adam mooshian, NYRA
is such a horse. The son of Giant's Causeway signaled his quality when
second at 13-1 in the 2011 Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, yet it took 21
months after that before Imagining won any kind of stakes race.
slow development has done him good, and now, at age 6, Imagining has
become a major force in the high-end turf marathon ranks. He goes off as
one of the favorites Sunday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer
Invitational, a premier 1 ½-mile grass race for 3-year-olds and up at
Saratoga Race Course.
Sword Dancer, along with the $100,000 Alydar Stakes for older horses,
will be televised as part of The Jockey Club Tour on FOX, which makes
its third visit of the summer to the historic Spa.
show will air from 5-6:30 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes, and
FOX Sports Go. On-air duties will be handled by NYRA's Richard Migliore,
Andy Serling and Maggie Wolfendale along with Greg Wolf and Simon Bray.
breaking through last August with a powerful, front-running score in
the restricted Idle Rich Stakes, Imagining has won the ungraded Bowl
Game and the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap, finished second in the Grade 1
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and won the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes. In
his most recent start, the Grade 1 Knob Creek Manhattan on June 7, he
was uncharacteristically far back and then six wide in the upper stretch
before finishing sixth.
had a real good year last year," McGaughey said of Imagining, 7-2 on
the morning line. "He just had some little things, little injuries that
kept him from being better earlier on. We got all that behind him last
summer. He had a good fall and obviously has had a pretty good year this
McGaughey would like Imagining to race in the clear in the Sword Dancer, and his best work has been done running near the pace.
doesn't ever like to be in a jumble," McGaughey said. "If he can get a
clear shot, he's fine. The day of the Red Smith [November 16 at
Aqueduct], he was back, but he was on the outside and in the clear. I
think he has a little bit of a problem if he gets all jammed up or
stopped or something to that effect."
Dancer, 8-1, enters the Sword Dancer for Diamond M Stable and trainer
Ken McPeek off a third-place, half-length loss to Finnegan's Wake in the
Grade 3 Arlington Handicap on July 12. Winner two starts back in the
Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at the 1 ½-mile distance at Churchill Downs,
the son of War Front has run at eight tracks in a 14-race career. Last
year, he made rare foray off the turf and finished sixth behind Will
Take Charge in the Travers.
distance suits him and he's doing quite well," McPeek said. "The
Arlington race, there were two choices - a mile and a quarter and a mile
and a half [in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes on July 12], and he's won
graded stakes at both distances. It looked like the mile and a quarter
came up a little easier with a shorter field, but he stumbled a little
and that cost him the win."
Diamond M principal owner Tony Malatino lives in Saratoga.
0-for-5 at the 1 ½-mile distance on the turf, Flaxman Holding's Main
Sequence is coming off a strong score in his United States debut, a
victory in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 6 at Monmouth Park.
by Graham Motion, the 5-year-old gelded son of Aldebaran competed in
top company when racing in England and finished second in the 2012 Group
1 Epsom Derby.
United Nations was his first start over firm ground, and he relished it
and the 1 3/8-mile distance. He is the 2-1 favorite on the morning
think there's some question as to what his best distance is," Motion
said. "He certainly handled the [1 3/8-mile] distance at Monmouth. I
don't see a mile and a half being a problem for him, especially on firm
turf on a tight course."
of Fame trainer Bill Mott will run Amira's Prince, sixth last out to
Imagining in the Man o' War on May 11 at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old
was privately purchased by Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners
and Gary Barber after running the first seven races of his career in
Ireland. He reeled off four straight wins, two in Grade 2 stakes, before
finishing third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap behind winner
Lochte and Imagining.
bounced back to finish second by a neck in a Grade 2 stakes at Fair
Grounds, but was given a break after the loss in the Man o' War.
gave him a little time after the last clunker, thinking we'd freshen
him up a little bit," Mott said of his 6-1 shot. "A mile and a half
suits him. We hope he returns to his old form. His [disappointing
performance in the Man o' War] was just one of those things. I hope he
doesn't do it again."
Eclipse (5-2), second by a neck in the United Nations and the
world-record holder at the distance; Perfect Timber (12-1) and O'Prado
Ole (15-1) complete the field.
FOX telecast will feature a tribute to NYRA announcer Tom Durkin, who
will retire August 31 after calling races at NYRA racetracks for 24
years. It will also spotlight 2-year-old colts Jess's Dream and Cozmic
One, the first foals out of Horses of the Year Rachel Alexandra and
Zenyatta, respectively. Both colts are currently in training at Saratoga