Sporting a perfect record through four starts this year, Green Lantern Stables LLC homebred A. P. Indian puts his win streak on the line in Saturday's Grade 1, $700,000 Priority One Jets Forego at Saratoga Race Course.
The 37th running of the seven-furlong Forego, a 'Win and You're In' qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, is carded ninth (4:12 p.m. EST) on a blockbuster Travers Day program highlighted by the 147th Mid-Summer Derby featuring the winners of two of this year's three Triple Crown races.
Also on Saturday's 13-race card are the Grade 1, $1 million Longines Sword Dancer; Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign; Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina; Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop; and Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa featuring the return of undefeated filly Lady Eli.
A. P. Indian opened his 6-year-old campaign finishing second as the defending champion in the Decathlon Stakes May 14 at Monmouth Park but was placed first when winner Delta Bluesman was taken down for interference on the far turn.
The Indian Charlie gelding followed up with his second straight win in the Donald LeVine Memorial Stakes June 18 at Parx Racing, earning him another shot at graded stakes company in the Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship July 9. A.P. Indian rated off the lead before taking over at the top of the stretch and determinedly held off Marking to win by a head.
"When you look at the numbers in the races he won last year, when he was well, he was running the same kind of numbers he is this year," Fair Hill, Maryland- based trainer Arnaud Delacour said. "I think with him it's really a question of timing. Last year we started early and he tailed off a little bit in the middle of the year. This time we aimed for the spring and it worked out a little bit better."
Delacour brought A. P. Indian back to Saratoga, where he was sixth following a rough trip in last summer's Tale of the Cat. This year, given an ideal ride by Joe Bravo, he tracked Delta Bluesman for a quarter-mile before taking over the top spot and dueling the length of the stretch with Holy Boss before prevailing by 1 ¼ lengths in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt July 30.
"Coming back from the Belmont Park Sprint Championship, the horse was doing so well. Mentally it did him a lot of good," Delacour said. "He came back so pumped up, I would say, and so confident that I said now is the time to try him at the best level. I'm glad it worked out."
Unbeaten in three career tries at seven furlongs, A.P. Indian drew post 11 in a competitive field of 12 and will carry Bravo and top weight of 124 pounds.
"Definitely there's a trip factor involved when you run in a full field so it's going to be up to Bravo to decide. I'm not going to be able to help him much from where I'm going to be," Delacour said. "The thing is he seems to be pretty versatile. He can sit off the pace and he can make the pace if we have to, which is good because I think there will be a lot of speed in it."
Also exiting the Vanderbilt are Anthony Lenci's Catalina Red, who was third, and sixth-place finisher Anchor Down, a Grade 3 winner owned by Alto Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher. A 5-year-old Tapit ridgling, Anchor Down has run strictly in graded company this year, winning the one-mile Grade 3 Westchester May 7 at Belmont Park and finishing a distant second to record-setting Frosted in the Grade 1 Met Mile June 11.
Anchor Down, who drew the rail for the Vanderbilt, was bumped at the break and never got into stride, and was beaten 6 ¾ lengths. Jose Ortiz, up for the last three races including the Westchester, is back aboard from post 5 at 120 pounds.
"We were actually thinking Forego from the very beginning and we felt like the best way to get there was through the Vanderbilt.
Unfortunately, we drew the rail that day. We know he doesn't like it but we felt like we needed to give it a try," Pletcher said. "He ran competitively that day in spite of not really liking the post. I think the main thing is that seven furlongs is a better distance for him than six. He looks good. He seems to be coming up to it well."
Chalk Racing's Ready for Rye is seeking his first victory as a 4-year-old in the Forego. After winning four of eight races in 2015 including the Grade 2 Swale over Gulfstream Park's main track and the Quick Call on turf at Saratoga, he has two seconds and three thirds from five tries this year, all on dirt.
He has been second or third in four Grade 3 stakes in 2016, most recently beaten 4 ¼ lengths when third to A.P. Indian in the Belmont Sprint Championship. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rides for the first time from post 9 at 118 pounds.
"He's coming into this race really fresh. We gave him a little time off in between," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "He was getting a little bit light on us and we wanted to get some weight back on him. He looks fantastic right now so we're going into the race feeling very good. He runs really well fresh and I think he'll appreciate the cooler weather, as well."
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will send out a pair of starters in Godolphin Stable's Marking and Shadwell Stable's Tamarkuz. A 4-year-old son of champion Bernardini, Marking came within a head of A.P. Indian in the Belmont Sprint Championship, his second start since returning from a winter and spring in Dubai. He gets a new rider for the Forego in Joel Rosario, who will navigate from outside post 12 at 118 pounds.
"Marking is doing great. He ran real wide last time and just missed. Seven-eighths should suit us, the time is good in between and we're making a change of riders," McLaughlin said. "He's doing great and we like our chances. He just ran very wide last time, extremely wide. The whole thing was wrong."
Tamarkuz is a multiple group stakes winner in Dubai still looking for his first North American victory. Sixth behind Private Zone in last year's Forego, his lone start this year came against stablemate Frosted in the Met Mile when he was wide on the turn and gave way to finish ninth, his first race in eight months.
"He came in and ran quickly off the winter break in South Carolina and he's doing really well since then. We think that he deserves a chance in a Grade 1, seven-eighths. He's doing really well and we wanted to give him a try," McLaughlin said. "He's a very nice horse. He's won some nice races and he deserves a chance again. It's a Grade 1 and I know it's a tough spot, but he's that type of horse."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride from post 6 at 118 pounds.
Rounding out the field are multiple stakes winner Stallwalkin' Dude, who won his second straight Tale of the Cat August 12 at Saratoga in his 43rd career start; Chief Lion and The Truth or Else, second and fifth, respectively, in the Tale of the Cat; Schivarelli, a third-level allowance winner at the Forego distance August 8 at the Spa; 2015 Grade 1 King's Bishop runner-up Limousine Liberal, most recently second in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint July 2 at Gulfstream Park; and 4-year-old Dannie's Deceiver, making his stakes debut.
Source: NYRA Communications