Keith Desormeaux's Grade 1-placed trainee Swipe will take on older horses in Sunday's eighth race as he gears up for a summer campaign in New York, returning from a two-month layoff in a six-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.
Swipe, overseen by assistant trainer Julie Clark since arriving at Belmont in late May, will face six rivals in his first race since undergoing throat surgery following his only off-the-board finish in an eight-race career in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 16 at Keeneland.
After turning in a trio of promising local breezes, including a five-furlong bullet gate work in 59 3/5 seconds on June 11, Swipe's connections opted to start the Birdstone colt's season a few weeks ahead of an already-scheduled start in the Grade 2, $500,000 Dwyer on July 9.
"We're hoping to use it as a springboard for the Dwyer," Clark said. "He's pretty sharp. I think he'll need the race, but it all depends on how tough it comes up, obviously. He always gives a good effort. It's always a little tough to tell exactly where they are when they're coming off a layoff, but he always tries hard."
Swipe, a $5,000 yearling purchase who has amassed an 8-1-5-1 record and earnings of over $600,000, finished second to eventual juvenile champion and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in four consecutive stakes as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Swipe, ridden for the first time by Junior Alvarado, will break from post 2. Race 8 is scheduled with a post time of 5:13 EDT.
Grade 1 Preakness winner Exaggerator, meanwhile, continues to bounce back from his 11th-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont on June 11, Clark reported.
"He's doing great. He's had a pretty light schedule," she said. "He's fully recovered and I've liked that even though he's back on the muscle and ready to go, he still goes to the track perfect.
"He had a gallop on Tuesday that was beautiful. He went at a nice pace, relaxed and easy for [regular exercise rider] Peedy [Landry], then kind of progressively picked it up and coming through the lane, Peedy could say, 'OK, that's enough, no faster,' and he didn't fight with him about it. It was good."
The dark bay son of Curlin is currently on target for a light breeze the weekend of July 9 although, Clark adds, the quick return of Exaggerator's characteristically high energy level could necessitate an earlier return to the worktab.
"On the track, he's been great. When he's cooling out after, you can tell it's not quite enough for him now. He's starting to get to where he's a little bit sharp and I like to stay ahead of that curve," she joked.
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With two victories, two seconds, and a third in his last nine starters, trainer David Donk has heated up heading into the final three weeks of the Belmont spring-summer meet.
Donk reached the winner's circle on the turf with New York-bred Cosmic Thunder breaking his maiden last Sunday and with Sugar Mags winning Wednesday's feature, a New York-bred allowance for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Speaking via telephone, Donk commented on the success of his barn heading into the last quarter of the meet.
"It's been a fun meet so far," said Donk. "We usually get our fair share of turf runners but we've had some success on both surfaces, which is nice."
On his pair of recent New York-bred winners in Sugar Mags and Cosmic Thunder, Donk was pleasantly surprised with how they both ran.
"[Sugar Mags] ran quite well the time before facing winners," he said. "Heading into yesterday's race, on paper it looked like she was going to benefit from a bit of a pace advantage. When they broke, they didn't go off quite as quick as I thought it was going to be. She surprised me with her effort and is definitely an improving filly. Cosmic Thunder, I knew he was going to like the grass being a son of Cosmonaut, and we got a terrific ride from Joel [Rosario], who wheeled him out just in time to get up and comfortable. We were very pleased with his effort."
Donk was encouraged by the second-place finish of T R Crew, who lost by a nose in his second start on Wednesday.
"He's been a bit of a project," he said. "In his previous race, he faced quite a tough field for a maiden race against some high quality horses. His last start, we cut him back in distance which he seemed to like. I thought he broke fair and improved. It looks like he'll be a pretty useful horse going forward."
Lastly, Donk provided updates on New York fan favorites King Kreesa, who will look to bounce back off a fifth-place finish in last Saturday's Grade 3 Poker, and Lady Kreesa exited her fifth-place finish in the Mount Vernon on May 30 in good order and will try to regroup in an allowance return next week.
"I'm not exactly sure where we'll go with him next but [King Kreesa] came out of the race well. It was a very tough grass race," said Donk. "Lady Kreesa will enter to run in allowance race next week and we'll see where we go from there."
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Two quality fields were confirmed for Sunday's New York Stallion Series, which consists of the $100,000 Spectacular Bid for 3-year-olds and the $100,000 Cupecoy's Joy for sophomore fillies at Belmont Park. The races in the series are restricted to the progeny of stallions based in New York State.
In the Spectacular Bid, at seven furlongs on the Widener turf, trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle Sudden Surprise, who won both of his previous New York Stallion Series starts at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The bay colt, who went 6-1-0 in 10 career starts on dirt, will be making his debut on grass out of post 3 after coming in seventh last out in the $125,000 Mike Lee. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be in the irons.
"He came out of his last race in good form, we're just hoping he likes the turf," said Pletcher's assistant Byron Hughes. "It's just a change and see if he takes to it. He didn't finish well last time, so we'll see if he finishes on the turf."
Stablemate Spooked Out, who is looking for his first stakes victory, will leave from the outside post position in the seven-horse field.
"He's another one who we'll see if he likes the turf," said Hughes.
Cloud Control will make his stakes debut from the inside post position. The bay colt had made just two previous starts, including a maiden-breaking victory on May 22 at 40-1 after Cloontia was disqualified from first to second.
Trainer John Kimmel said Cloud Control came out of that race in good order and breezed four furlongs in 50.88 seconds on Sunday at Belmont Park.
"He beat a nice group of horses in that race," Kimmel said. "As a 3-year-old, I think he'll fit in pretty well. It's his third lifetime start and I think he's going to show well."
Bust Another will be making his first start since winning the Mike Lee. The Michael Pino-trained son of Bustin Stones finished fourth behind Sudden Surprise on April 24 and will leave from post 5 with Eric Cancel aboard.
Go Go Lucky will also be making his first stakes start, drawing post 2 for trainer Mike Maker. Silent Waters, who stalked the pace and rode the rail to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Penn Mile on June 4 at Penn National, will leave from post 6. Dearie, trained by Leo O'Brien, drew post 4 with Manny Franco set to ride the son of Cosmonaut.
The Cupecoy's Joy, also at seven furlongs on the Widener turf, will see two entries from trainer David Donk in Naked Empress and Ametrine. The former drew post 5 with Velazquez aboard in her stakes debut. Ametrine will be making just her third career start and first since a maiden-breaking victory on May 21 and will leave from post 7 with Franco.
Libreta was an NYSS winner last out with a one-length victory over She's All Ready on April 23 at Aqueduct. The Tom Albertrani-trained bay filly is 2-0-1 in four career starts and drew the inside position. Jockey Luis Saez will be in the irons.
Rounding out the field are Wonderment from the Kenneth McPeek barn; Little Bear Cat, who has won two of her last three starts for trainer David Cannizzo; Baronet, who broke her maiden in her sixth start last out on May 28 at Belmont; Free N Clear, a Patrick Quick-trained bay filly making her first stakes start; Frosty Margarita, who won an NYSS race on December 20 at Aqueduct; and second-time stakes starter Louisville First, who finished third in an allowance race in her 2016 debut on June 15 at Belmont.
Highway Star is listed as main-track only entry.
Source: NYRA Communications