Hofburg takes on 'slightly new schedule' in Saratoga return

July 16, 2019 01:47pm

Hofburg, the popular 4-year-old who ran in multiple legs of the 2018 Triple Crown series, will belatedly get his season going Thursday at Saratoga, where Bill Mott has entered the Juddmonte Farms homebred in an allowance optional claiming race at 1 1/8 miles.

Garrett O’Rourke, general manager at Juddmonte, said the son of Tapit is on a “slightly new schedule” from what was originally planned after developing a foot abscess back in May. Rather than go in an allowance race at Churchill Downs to prep for the Aug. 3 Whitney (G1), now it’s on to Saratoga in hopes that the Aug. 31 Woodward (G1) may come into play.

“The expectation will be that there will be some rust as long as he’s been off, but he’s a very high-energy horse,” O’Rourke said. “I’d love to be able to say I know exactly what he’s going to do when he comes back. We have some hopes that he’ll run well the way he’s been training, but we’ll have to see Thursday how he performs.”

Hofburg last year went from second-out maiden winner to placing in the Florida Derby (G1). From there, he ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Belmont Stakes. The colt won Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes — also at nine furlongs — but missed the Travers Stakes (G1) due to a fever.

After two more defeats, most recently against older horses last October in Keeneland’s Fayette (G2), it was back on the shelf.

“He’s a bigger, stronger horse, and he’s healthy,” O’Rourke said. “So assuming that the ability level that he had last year is there, it gives us every reason that even though we missed the Whitney, we’ll just slot right back into the Woodward, Jockey Club (Gold Cup) and races like that.”

Hofburg will break from the No. 2 post in a field of seven in Thursday’s ninth race, which goes at 5:51 p.m. ET. He’s listed at even money on the morning line.

RELATED: Thursday's Saratoga entries

Since taking three weeks between works to heal up the foot, Hofburg has breezed consistently, most recently going five furlongs Sunday in 1:01.00 over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.

“You can only gauge so much by how they’re training in the mornings when the farthest you work them is 5/8,” O’Rourke said. “With horses that excel at a mile and an eighth and beyond, you can see their well being in works, but I don’t think you can see their true ability until you get them into a race.”

Juddmonte, the global racing and breeding operation for Saudi Arabia’s
Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, is also looking forward to Saratoga stakes with a pair of 3-year-olds.

O’Rourke said Seismic Wave, another Bill Mott trainee who finished fifth behind Henley’s Joy in the recent Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), will go in the second leg of New York’s “Turf Trinity,” the Aug. 4 Saratoga Derby.

“Bill thought he possibly got a little hot or acted like maybe the heat affected him a little bit. That might be an excuse. That might not be,” O’Rourke said. “He’s a very high-energy horse, and he was a little duller in the paddock than he would usually be that day. He’s a horse that has proven to be competitive with the winner of the race that day in the past.”

In the sprint division, Juddmonte has Honest Mischief, a lightly raced maiden winner trained by Chad Brown, pointing toward the July 28 Amsterdam (G2). If all goes well, he could step up a higher for the Aug. 24 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) the next month.

“I think he’s a horse we would love to get to the Grade 1 level, and Chad definitely feels like he’s that sort of horse,” O’Rourke said. “He ran a sneaky-good race on the last day given he had to work hard early in the race and hung on there.

“The winners came from last and second last. With a bit more experience and foundation under him, I think we’ll go into the Amsterdam feeling pretty good about him.”

And we’d be remiss not to mention Hidden Scroll, whose 104 Beyer Speed Figure on debut still ranks second this season among all 3-year-olds behind only Covfefe’s record-setting performance in Pimlico’s Miss Preakness (G3). The son of Hard Spun, trained by Mott, was last seen finishing third in allowance optional claiming company on Kentucky Derby day.

O’Rourke maintains that Hidden Scroll “looks like a Grade 1 horse.”

“We’ve just decided to give him the summer off,” he said. “Things weren’t going the right way for him. He’s another one that didn’t really seem to like the heat when it got hotter in Florida and again on Derby day. There was no point in going straight to even hotter weather with him.

“He’s actually back jogging on the farm — looks magnificent — and we’ll send him back to Bill here in the next few weeks.”


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