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Paddy O'Prado Tries Older in Turf Classic

In Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park, top turf 3-year-old Paddy O’Prado will face a host of new challenges.

 

Opposing older horses for the first time in his career, Paddy O’Prado will also get his first test at 1 ½ miles. Given the way the colt has handled new experiences in the past, trainer Dale Romans expects a solid effort.

 

“There are always questions when you do something for the first time, but if I didn’t think he would handle a mile and half or run well against older horses, I wouldn’t bring him,” Romans said. “This is something he needs to prove he can do in order for us to take him to the Breeders’ Cup [Turf].”

 

So far, Donegal Racing’s star sophomore has met every challenge with aplomb and carries a three-race win streak on grass into the Turf Classic, including his first Grade 1 score in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park last time out on August 21. Prior to that, Paddy O’Prado won back-to-back races at Colonial Downs, taking the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on July 17 and the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup in June.    

 

While he excels on turf, the son of El Prado has also run credibly on both synthetic surfaces and dirt, and it was a second-place finish in April’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes over the Keeneland Polytrack that prompted his connections to send the colt to the Kentucky Derby. Third over a sloppy track in the Run for the Roses, Paddy O’Prado was sixth in the Preakness two weeks later before returning to grass, the surface on which he broke his maiden in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on March 6.

 

“He ran his breakthrough race in the Palm Beach and since then he’s never looked back,” Romans said. “He’s done well on everything he’s run on, including several different types of turf courses, so I don’t think it matters. It’s nice training him because there aren’t a lot of problems – we just keep him happy and get him over there.”

 

Kent Desormeaux retains the mount and the 3-1 morning-line favorite will break from post position 9 under 121 pounds.

 

The only 3-year-old in the field of 11, Paddy O’Prado faces a slew of seasoned elders, including two-time Sword Dancer winner Telling, who again will attempt to parlay a victory in the Grade 1 race at Saratoga into a Turf Classic triumph. Last year, he finished third over soft turf in this race, but was disqualified to fourth for interfering with Grand Couturier in the stretch, and went on to a disappointing last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

 

“He’s doing super,” said Steve Hobby, who trains the 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy for JoAnn and Alex Lieblong. “This is really an important race for us – the Breeders’ Cup was a disaster last year and he’d have to run really well here to try that again. He doesn’t have to win, but of course if he did, that would make the decision easy.”


The 2010 Sword Dancer was Telling’s first win in six starts since taking the previous edition of the race and Hobby said he believed the horse was rounding into form.

 

“At the risk of stepping on my tongue, I feel like he’s better this year than last year. He’s happier and a little more settled – not as anxious as he used to be,” Hobby said. “He was so calm going into the Sword Dancer that I started to worry about him, but he ran well that day and we hope he’s ready to run well again.”

 

Javier Castellano, aboard for the Sword Dancer and Turf Classic in 2009 will ride Telling, 8-1 on the morning line, from post 7.

 

Looking for his second Grade 1 in the Turf Classic is Winchester, who upset dual Eclipse and five-time Grade 1 winning stablemate Gio Ponti in the June 5 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. Since then, the Bertram Firestone-owned son of Theatrical has finished third in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth on July 3 and second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Belmont on September 11.

 

“He came out of the [Bowling Green] in good order and he’s been training well,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “It’s a bit quick – I would have preferred an extra week, but that’s the way it is. He had a very nice work on Sunday [5f, inner turf, 1:01.55].”

 

Cornelio Velasquez has the call aboard 9-2 morning-line third-choice Winchester from post 10, while Garrett Gomez has been named to ride the trainer’s other entrant, Grassy. Owned by Adele B. Dilschneider, Grassy exits a seventh-place finish in the Sword Dancer and will break from the rail.

 

Bowling Green winner Al Khali is one of two entered for trainer Bill Mott, who will also saddle the mare Treat Gently. The British-bred daughter of Cape Cross has one win, one second and one third from three starts at 1 ½ miles, all in France, and exits a fifth-place effort in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on August 21.

 

“[Al Khali], has been close [running a mile and half] and he was at a mile and three-eighths last time and seemed to handle that okay,” said the Hall of Fame trainer. “[For Treat Gently] I think the distance is important. If we thought she was as good at a mile and a quarter, we would run her against the fillies, but I think the mile and a half suits her a little better.”

 

Seeking to defend his title in the Turf Classic is last year’s upset winner Interpatation, who exits a fourth-place effort in the Sword Dancer.


Completing the field are Bearpath, runner-up in the Sword Dancer; Strike a Deal, fourth in the Bowling Green; Solitaire, eighth in the John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga on August 6, and Never On Sunday, a Group 1 winner in France who has not raced since a second-place finish behind Bearpath in the Grade 3 Pan American at Gulfstream on March 27.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Grassy (KY)

G K Gomez

126

C Clement

12-1

2

Never On Sunday (FR)

P Fragoso

126

P L Biancone

12-1

3

Solitaire (ON)

R Maragh

126

H J Bond

30-1

4

Treat Gently (GB)

J R Velazquez

123

W I Mott

12-1

5

Al Khali (KY)

A Garcia

126

W I Mott

4-1

6

Bearpath (KY)

C H Borel

126

I R Wilkes

6-1

7

Telling (KY)

J Castellano

126

S Hobby

8-1

8

Strike a Deal (KY)

R A Dominguez

126

A E Goldberg

15-1

9

Paddy O'Prado (KY)

K J Desormeaux

121

D L Romans

3-1

10

Winchester (VA)

C H Velasquez

126

C Clement

9-2

11

Interpatation (KY)

J Lezcano

126

R Barbara

20-1


 


 

 

 

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