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Vanderbilt Not a Gimme for Trappe Shot

Trappe Shot will look to remain unbeaten in 2011 and pick up his first career Grade 1 victory when he competes in Sunday’s $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.

 

The six-furlong Vanderbilt will be broadcast live on VERSUS as part of the NBC Sports Group’s “Summer at Saratoga” series. The telecast, which will run from 5-6 p.m., will also include the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap.

 

Although Trappe Shot was effective in routes during his 3-year-old campaign, winning the Long Branch and finishing second in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, his connections elected to focus on sprints in 2011.

 

The decision was prescient as Trappe Shot, owned by Nicholas Brady’s Mill House, won a pair of six-furlong stakes this spring at Belmont Park, taking the Waldoboro overnight stakes by a half-length on May 11 and the Grade 2 True North Handicap presented by Emirates Airline by 8 ½ lengths on June 11, Belmont Stakes Day.

 

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin realizes the importance of the Vanderbilt, which would enhance Trappe Shot’s stud value and build his case as 2011’s Champion Sprinter.

 

“We feel like he’s there right now, so it’s important to win a Grade 1 for him as a stallion and maybe as Champion Sprinter,” said McLaughlin. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but he’s doing very well.”

 

McLaughlin expressed concern over Trappe Shot’s tendency to have trouble at the start of his races, but said his versatile running style helps him land a good trip, regardless of how he comes out of the gate.

 

“I asked [jockey] Johnny [Velazquez], ‘What post would you like?’ And he said, ‘It doesn’t matter with him,’” noted McLaughlin. “It’s nice to hear that from a jockey. Sometimes you are concerned because he has not broken cleanly in every race. His last race was probably his best race breaking. He stumbles a lot, so hopefully he breaks well. You don’t want to give up too many lengths going six furlongs against this type.”

 

Velazquez will once again ride Trappe Shot, who drew the outside post in the field of eight and was made the 7-5 favorite and 118-pound highweight.

 

Donald Dizney’s Apriority was runner-up by a head in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita in January, took a Gulfstream Park optional claimer by 4 ½ lengths in March, yielded late to Morning Line in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in April, and was nosed out by Aikenite in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in May.

 

Originally scheduled to compete in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 9, the 4-year-old was withdrawn from consideration after developing a foot abscess and has trained up to the Vanderbilt, in which he is seeking his first black-type victory.

 

“We might be a little behind the eight ball, but we need to run and he usually brings his ‘A’ game over,” admitted trainer David Fawkes.

 

Apriority, made the 3-1 second choice on the morning line and assigned 116 pounds, will leave from post 7 with Ramon Dominguez aboard.

 

Hamazing Destiny is also searching for a breakthrough victory, having finished second in his two most recent starts, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in November and the James Marvin at Saratoga on July 22. Like Apriority, Hamazing Destiny has yet to win a stakes.

 

“The comeback effort was really strong, to have that long layoff and go seven-eighths [in the James Marvin,” said Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who trains the 5-year-old for Westrock Stables and Barry Butzow. “The only concern now is whether it was too strong. I hope he rebounds from that to run back in the Vanderbilt. I think he is better at six furlongs, but when they run that strong and that well, you’re always a little concerned about the ‘bounce theory,’ as they call it.”

 

Hamazing Destiny, the 5-1 morning-line third choice, drew post 4 and will tote 115 pounds, including jockey Jose Lezcano.

 

Bank Merger, winner of the Gallant Bob and second in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop in 2010, has never finished outside the exacta when competing on dirt. Following a pair of disappointing efforts over the all-weather this winter at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, the Godolphin Stable color-bearer made a winning return at Belmont on July 8, taking an optional claimer by six lengths against three opponents in the mud.

 

“He won a little easier than we thought he would,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “He’s the kind of horse who outruns the way he trains. He had a good race and seems to be coming up to this race in good shape, too. He seems to travel really well over this track. [The Vanderbilt is] a good gauge to see how he does against really good sprinters.” 

 

Julien Leparoux will ride Bank Merger, assigned 116 pounds and installed at 10-1 on the morning line, from post 2.

 

From the rail out, the field also includes Noble’s Promise, who followed his victory in the Grade 3 Aristides with a close second in the Smile; Atta Boy Roy, second in the Aristides and third in the Iowa Sprint; Calibrachoa, who had a four-race winning streak snapped when he finished third in the True North; and Sean Avery, second in the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park in his latest outing.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Noble's Promise (KY)

A Garcia

117

K G McPeek

8-1

2

Bank Merger (KY)

J R Leparoux

116

S bin Suroor

10-1

3

Atta Boy Roy (WA)

J L Castanon

115

V Lund

15-1

4

Hamazing Destiny (KY)

J Lezcano

115

D W Lukas

5-1

5

Calibrachoa (KY)

J Castellano

116

T A Pletcher

8-1

6

Sean Avery (KY)

J Bravo

115

A Iwinski

20-1

7

Apriority (FL)

R A Dominguez

116

D Fawkes

3-1

8

Trappe Shot (FL)

J R Velazquez

118

K P McLaughlin

7-5

 


 

 

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