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Seek Again, Silver Max Head Fourstardave

When Seek Again joined the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, his first assignment couldn't have been more demanding - face two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan this spring in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

 

Even though Seek Again, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last December in his first start in the United States and last for trainer John Gosden, he went off at 7-1 in the Turf Classic. The Speightstown colt, however, showed class and heart, just missing to the champion in a thrilling stretch run, beaten by a head.

 

Seek Again now faces another stern test: coping with the often mesmerizing speed of Silver Max in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

 

"Oh, boy, that was a tough beat," Mott said of the Turf Classic. "I've been in some seconds this year that were close, some tough beats, and that was one of the tougher ones. Man, oh, man, that hurt. It was one of those that had you leaning."

 

After the Turf Classic, Mott raced Seek Again at 1 ¼ miles in the Grade 1 Knob Creek Manhattan on June 7 at Belmont Park. The colt made up 10 lengths in the middle of the race but came home beaten 2 ¼ lengths, finishing third. Mott had to choose between running in the Arlington Million, also at 1 ¼ miles, or cut back to a mile in the Fourstardave.

 

Seek Again, the 3-1 third choice on the morning line, ran the first five races of his career at seven furlongs or a mile in England, and Mott likes the options the Fourstardave gives him for the remainder of the year.

 

"We felt like if he ran here and he was real effective at a mile, there were probably a few more opportunities at a mile between now and the end of the year," Mott said. "We may find out a mile is too short, but he's already won at seven [furlongs]. We hope there is something [in the race] to keep the pace honest along with Silver Max."

 

Mott has good reason to express that hope. Silver Max, a 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver, returned from a nearly eight-month vacation June 28 and crushed a solid field in gate-to-wire fashion to win the Grade 2 Firecracker mile at Churchill Downs.

 

Always swift, Silver Max broke out as a 3-year-old, winning six straight turf races, including the Grade 3 Transylvania, Grade 2 American Turf and Grade 2 Virginia Derby. All the victories were recorded on the lead and all came by open lengths.

 

Silver Max, the 9-5 favorite for the Fourstardave, struggled to regain his good form last year until scoring in the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth Park. That led to victories in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at the Spa and the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. The run came to an end with a fourth-place finish behind Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

 

Trainer Dale Romans said the reason to give him a long rest after that was simple.

 

"Because he had run from the time he was 2 [years old] here in Saratoga, never missed a day of training, never missed a single race, he had won 12 races, and I looked at him one day and said, 'You deserve a vacation,' Romans said.

 

After the long rest at Goldmark Farm in Ocala, Fla., Silver Max came back as good as new in the Firecracker, and Romans expects a powerful effort in the Fourstardave.

 

"He's going to the front like he always does," Romans said of Silver Max, who will break from the inside post. "If someone can run by him, I want to buy him. He's got himself in peak form. Mother Nature made a fast horse with stamina."

 

If any horse is going to press Silver Max early, it's likely to be Sayaad, a 4-year-old colt by Street Sense owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

 

With five wins from 11 starts, Sayaad, 5-1 on the morning line, has steadily improved his form and speed since debuting July 5, 2012 at Belmont Park, a maiden race in which Carried Interest knocked off Palace Malice. In his most recent start, Sayaad returned from nearly nine months off to wire the field in the Forbidden Apple Stakes over yielding turf July 4 at Belmont Park. He earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, tops for his career.

 

"He's a nice horse," McLaughlin said. "He just missed eight months with an abscess and feet issues from October to July. He's won his last three. We got him on the right surface and he's fast, and we've found the right distance, and he's doing well. So, luckily, Shadwell is patient. For all those months off, he never left the barn with the abscess. Obviously, Silver Max is speed too, so we have to work out a trip."

 

Jack Milton, the 5-2 second choice, enters the Fourstardave off a close-up fifth-place finish June 14 in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, the lone "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Mile in the United States. In his prior start, on May 26, the Gary Barber-owned son of War Front won the Grade 3 Poker by 2 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure, the seventh-fastest number run on turf in the country this year.

 

"I think we ran him back a little bit quick in the [Shoemaker]," Pletcher said, "but he was doing well and we decided to take a shot. In retrospect, he probably would have benefitted from a little more time, although he still ran a good race. So, we've been freshening him up and pointing him to this since then.

 

"Ideally, he would like to sit off the pace and make one run, but depending on the pace of the race, we'll just play it by ear."

 

An uncoupled entry from Woodbine-based trainer Brian Lynch completes the field.

 

Grand Arch (8-1), a 5-year-old gelded son of Arch, enters off a powerful half-length score in the Grade 2 King Edward on his home track at the Fourstardave distance. Dorsett (20-1), who has run in four straight graded stakes and returns to the distance of his last victory, completes the field.

 

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