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Sword Dancer Next for Winchester?

Winchester, second when returning from a seven-month absence in yesterday's Stars and Stripes at Arlington Park, could make his next start in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga on August 13, trainer Christophe Clement said Sunday morning.


Winner of last year's Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park, Winchester went to the sidelines after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs and 11th in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin Race Course. The 6-year-old son of Theatrical made his first start over a synthetic surface in the 1 ½-mile Stars and Stripes, which was originally scheduled for Arlington's turf course.


"He'll train for one of these major races coming up, like the Sword Dancer," said Clement of the Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone homebred. "I think it's good he had a race yesterday, even if he got beat. It should benefit him, and we'll keep trying."


Clement added that Winchester arrived at Belmont this morning and will ship to Saratoga next weekend. That's when the trainer plans to start Giants Play, who will go in the grade 1 Diana for fillies and mares.


The 1 1/8-mile Diana will be Giants Play's shortest race to date since her arrival in the United States. In her most recent start, she earned her first stakes victory when she held off Zagora by a head in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 2 New York at Belmont on June 25.


"I would feel better if [the Diana] was a mile and three sixteenths or a mile and three eighths," said Clement. "The filly is doing great and is very sound."


Giants Play used to tug at her rider in the early stages of her races before Clement opted to place a net over her mouth for the New York.


"There's no doubt [it made a difference]," said Clement. "It makes her more manageable for the jock. Her last race was impressive."


Clement added that Ruthenia, a stakes winner who was third most recently in the Xtra Heat overnight stakes at Belmont on June 5, will make her next start in Saturday's Hattie Mosley Stakes, while reigning Champion Male Turf Horse Gio Ponti will breeze at Saratoga tomorrow morning in preparation for a possible start in the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 13.


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