Breeders’ Cup Saturday: Imprimis back for another Turf Sprint

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Jose Ortiz admitted after the Grade 3 Troy this summer at Saratoga Race Course that he made an error that cost Imprimis a victory off a nine-month layoff.

“I feel really bad for Joe and Breeze Easy,” a remorseful Ortiz said after the Troy, where Imprimis crossed the finish first but was DQ’d to third after veering at the eighth pole. “I made a mistake and I couldn’t keep a straight course.”

Ortiz’s older brother, Irad Ortiz Jr., made amends on the Broken Vow gelding a month later when he rode him to victory in the Grade 3 Runhappy Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs. Irad returns on Imprimis for Saturday’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, while Jose takes a return call for Mike Trombetta on Grade 1 winner and last out Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational winner Wet Your Whistle.

Tall Order. Imprimis makes first start since BC Turf Sprint. Written for Aug. 8 Saratoga Special by Paul Halloran.

Imprimis has run at nine tracks in three countries, yet when the accomplished 6-year-old enters the starting gate for the today’s Grade 3 Troy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course it will mark his first start at the Union Avenue cathedral of racing.

If Imprimis, owned by Breeze Easy LLC and trained by Joe Orseno, is going to log his eighth victory from 14 starts, pad his $444,548 bankroll and add his second graded stakes win, he will have to do it off a nine-month layoff, having last run in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, where he was a decent sixth.

“He had throat surgery, then he had a setback so they had to go back in and fix it,” said Orseno. “He needed a rest anyway. Going back and forth to Ascot really wiped him out.”

After Imprimis closed from eighth to win the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland in April 2019, Breeze Easy partners Mike Hall and Sam Ross decided to send him to the Royal Ascot meeting for the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes, a year after the owners won the Norfolk at Ascot with Shang Shang Shang. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Imprimis ran sixth, beaten by 4 3/4 lengths.

“He was looking for a turn and there was no turn,” Orseno said of the 5-furlong race run on the straight. “He ran well and it was a great experience.”

The overseas trip did seem to take its toll, as he was fourth in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs and third in the Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland after returning, but Orseno felt he had an excuse in both.

“He had a horrendous trip, trapped inside, at Kentucky Downs and he had nowhere to go at Keeneland,” said Orseno, who is approaching 1,900 wins in his 44-year career, including the Preakness and two Breeders’ Cup races in 2000. “He ran his race in the Breeders’ Cup, but he probably didn’t have much left in the tank.”

Breeze Easy has only been in racing for four years, but Hall and Ross have already experienced the ups and downs of the sport. They won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint with Four Wheel Drive, three years after shelling out a sale-topping $1.2 million at a 2-year-olds in training sale for a Broken Vow colt that, according to Hall, “never worked out.”

“We’re not very smart,” Hall quipped when asked what prompted him and Ross to jump into the ownership pool. “That’s the best thing I can tell you.”

With more than 100 horses, from weanlings to broodmares, they would seem to be in it for the long haul.

“Sam and I have had several different businesses together,” said Hall, who owns an oil and gas company in West Virginia. “This is kind of our hobby. There are a lot of lows in this business and very few highs, but they make you keep going. We enjoy it.”

Imprimis, who shipped in after a long van ride from Gulfstream Park Wednesday and has been in the care of Horacio DePaz in Clare Court, will break from the hedge as the 8-5 morning-line favorite today. He will have to deal with the venerable 9-year-old Pure Sensation (3-1) and Shekky Shebaz, a former Jason Servis trainee who is the 5-2 second choice for the meet’s leading trainer Christophe Clement. 

Shipping Up. American Sailor, DQ deliver first stakes win to trainer Potts. Written for Aug. 12 Saratoga Special by Paul Halloran.

American Sailor, an 8-year-old gelding who has literally run at racetracks from coast to coast, gave Wayne Potts his first stakes win when he crossed the finish line second but was moved up to first in the Grade 3 Troy Stakes Saturday. Imprimis, returning from a nine-month layoff, was disqualified for interfering in the stretch with Shekky Shebaz and placed behind him in third.

“I was thrilled to run second to the horse that beat me,” Potts said Monday, still having trouble describing the magnitude of the win. “I’m still speechless. It was a great feeling to walk in the barn and see him this morning.”

The $110,000 winner’s share moved American Sailor, by City Zip out of the Yes It’s True mare Yesshesarocket, into the half-million-dollar club, with $568,264 in 45 career starts at 22 racetracks. He has 15 wins, 9 seconds and 3 thirds.

That’s right: 22 racetracks in 16 states: Del Mar, Remington, Delta, Oaklawn, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Sam Houston, Keeneland, Canterbury, Indiana Grand, Ellis, Laurel, Gulfstream, Suffolk, Mountaineer, Tampa, Pimlico, Delaware, Colonial, Meadowlands, Monmouth. And Saratoga.

“He’s definitely well-traveled,” Potts said, in a Grade 1 understatement. “You couldn’t ask for a better shipper. And he always gives everything he has.”

Tyler Gaffalione became the 31st jockey to ride American Sailor, and there’s a story to that as well. Potts said he had a commitment from the agent of Kendrick Carmouche, but received a call from the agent at 11:03 a.m. Wednesday, the day of entries, informing him that Carmouche would be riding Pure Sensation for Christophe Clement.

“I had some choice words for him,” said Potts, who was happy to land Gaffalione at the last minute.

“I talked to a few people and they all told me he tries hard for everybody,” Potts said. “The first time I ever met him was in the paddock. He is a very classy kid, very respectful. He did everything I asked.”

With American Sailor, the instructions are typically straightforward: Send. Gaffalione followed the script perfectly, opening a 2½-length lead in the 5½-furlong sprint after a quarter-mile in :21.92. Shekky Shebaz, also trained by Clement and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. made his move from between horses, while Jose Ortiz got Imprimis in gear on the outside and easily went past both, though he came in on his brother early in the stretch, resulting in an inquiry and disqualification of Imprimis, owned by Breeze Easy and trained by Joe Orseno. Favorite Chewing Gum finished fourth and Pure Sensation was last.

“I feel really bad for Joe and Breeze Easy,” a remorseful Jose said after the following race, when he piloted My Sister Nat to a win in the Waya. “I made a mistake and I couldn’t keep a straight course.”

Fifth in the standings with 13 wins and fortunate to walk away unscathed from a spill Sunday when Frankel At Ascot ran into the rail, Gaffalione loved the effort from American Sailor.

“I’m thrilled with the race my horse ran,” said Gaffalione. “It’s not the way you want to get it done, but Mr. Potts and his team brought the horse over ready to run.”

No need for anyone in the winner’s circle to apologize, especially considering the humble beginnings of the connections. Potts started mucking stalls in 1998 for trainer David Rose at Shenandoah Downs in West Virginia, working his way up to hotwalker, groom and assistant trainer. He went out on his own in 2004 and has won 483 races, none as gratifying as the Troy.

You can say the same thing for owner Raj Jagnanan, who emigrated to the United States from Guyana in 1991 and bought his first horse in 2014.

“My father was a farmer and I grew up with horses and cows,” said Jagnanan, a consultant and real estate investor who lives in South Ozone Park in Queens, N.Y. “I thought one day this was going to happen. To win a race at Saratoga is amazing. It’s a dream.”

It’s a safe bet that Potts and Jagnanan weren’t dreaming of the Saratoga winner’s circle Sept. 3, 2017, when they claimed American Sailor for $25,000 from Joe Sharp, who ran the horse in a 5-furlong off-the-turf race at Suffolk Downs. Ironically, they lost the horse in a $7,500 claimer at Suffolk nine months later, but got him back in a private purchase within a few months.

“It was cheaper than $7,500,” Potts said. “And he’s made more than $340,000 for us since we claimed him.” 

Potts had reason for optimism heading into the race, after American Sailor, who has won races in eight states and whose only two previous graded stakes starts came in 2016, ran second in the Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth July 18, ahead of Shekky Shebaz.

“He came out of the race good and he has been training great. I was pretty confident bringing him up here,” said Potts, who suggested the Troy to Jagnanan.

“The trainer said he wanted to go in the Grade 3 and I told him, let’s do it,” Jagnanan said. “I’m very happy for Wayne. We’re close and he has been getting the job done for me.” 

The Potts-trained Runabout, with Jagnanan’s wife, Vedhya, as the listed owner, won the third race at Laurel Saturday, three hours before the Troy.

“My clients have stood behind me through the years with the claimers and this is where we’re at,” Potts said.

In the winner’s circle at Saratoga.