Jimmy Toner brought his usual stable stocked with grass horses to Saratoga for the 2018 meet. Not surprisingly, as the rain-soaked meet approaches its midpoint later this week, the barn’s activity has been light with only six starters through the first 16 days.
Even less surprising is Toner’s readiness for a few more clear days to dry out the turf courses so he can get rolling. Whether that will happen is anyone’s guess, including the veteran conditioner bedded down in his usual spot off the main track.
“I don’t know how much firm ground we’re going to get this season,” Toner said Sunday after watching a set train on Clare Court. “The last few years we were fortunate with so much dry weather. I think now we might be in for one of those typical Saratoga years with rain every other day, something like that.”
“With these 2-year-olds it seems like once you get them going you have to stop. And the older horses, some of which I just got in this spring and summer, I need to get them going, too.”
Toner started 14 horses at last year’s meet, winning twice with three seconds and two thirds. This year’s Saratoga string features a mix of allowance runners, light or unraced 2-year-olds and established stakes horses – graded stakes winners Manitoulin and Hawkish occupying the stalls closest to Toner’s office occupied in the past by the likes of Time And Motion, Recepta, Winter Memories, Wonder Again and Soaring Softly.
“Those spots are usually reserved for the queens,” Toner joked as he walked down the shedrow, around the straw pillows during his Stable Tour Sunday with The Special’s Tom Law. “Hopefully we can run these 2-year-olds and they give us a line for the fall. That will determine what kind of season we have.” (Originally published in Aug. 7 issue of The Saratoga Special)
Manitoulin: Seventh in the Grade 2 Bowling Green July 28 after a close fourth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. Darby Dan Farm Racing’s 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding won last year’s Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup. “Soft ground the other day, he did not handle it, came out fine so we’ll be good to go in the Sword Dancer. He’s a tough old horse, he really is. When Mike (Smith) rides him he puts him in the race, Junior had him in the perfect spot, too. I thought he was good. They were galloping along and when he went to push on him to say, ‘let’s go,’ he didn’t go, displaced, choked up, blew a shoe. Everything that could go wrong did. Fortunately he’s fine.”
Hawkish: The big horse in the barn this year, 3-year-old Artie Schiller gelding started 2018 with three wins in four starts, including the Grade 2 Penn Mile. He finished seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby for Robert LaPenta, AJ Suited Racing Stable and Madaket Stables. “He’s up here for a little R&R. We had to give the Belmont Derby a try, he had some awesome efforts before that with an Aqueduct race and the Penn Mile. He might have topped off a bit. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in him, the way it shaped up he lost ground. We tried going long but I think he’s a top miler. We’ll cut back to a mile with him when we come out of here. He’s just in light training now. Freshening up. He got a little light, shipping, races, now he’s put some weight back on and is happy.”
Sparky: Burning Day Light Farms’ 3-year-old New York-bred Shanghai Bobby colt broke his maiden in May at Belmont and finished fourth and fifth in back-to-back allowance races downstate. “We have to have a token New York-bred. He’s OK, broke his maiden at Belmont, ran back, had a rough trip and he’ll run back up here. There’s a race on Aug. 19. He’s a neat horse.”
Soar From Shadows: Phillips Racing Partnership’s 3-year-old Bernardini filly cooled out under the shed after training by herself at Clare Court. “She’s been knocking at the door this year. She tries hard. I ran her a mile and a quarter last time, too far for her. There’s a race back here at a mile and a sixteenth on the 15th, so she’ll be going to that. She’s doing well. She wants to be a little bit on the nervous side so we try to keep her over there, keep her happy.”
Tip At Tapit: Toner pats full sister to Grade 1 winner Time And Motion on the head as she greets her guests. Bred and owned by Phillips Racing, 2-year-old daughter of Tapit shows seven breezes at Belmont and Saratoga. “She’s coming along very well, a couple nice 5/8ths breezes so far and I’m looking forward to taking her over to the Oklahoma to breeze on the grass Friday. I haven’t had her on the grass yet, so I’m anxious to. I breezed her on the dirt and now it’s time she breezed on the grass. Hopefully there’s a race for her on the 19th. She’s a lovely filly.”
Fiamma d’Oro: Art Watson Jr.’s unraced 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro cost $400,000 as a yearling. She also walked the shed after training in company with Astoundment at Clare Court. “Just got in. She was down at Niall Brennan’s place. They sent her up and I sent her up to Stowe Burke’s place (Burke Equine Therapy) for a couple weeks, get her on the AquaPacer, in the cold water spa, up some hills. She was kind of piqued behind. She’s much better now.”
Valentine’s Romance: Mike Ryan’s 3-year-old Arch filly finished sixth in debut in 6-furlong turf maiden at Belmont July 11. “She had an inside post, broke in and I’ve been waiting to break her from the gate. This filly has an amazing story. Last year we had her as a 2-year-old. She’s always been a little on the flighty side, she was tack walking in the shedrow and we’re getting ready to go out, somehow a truck went by, spooked her, she wheeled in the shedrow, dropped the rider, ran up and down the road and skidded on the road. Alongside Bill Mott’s barn there are cars parked by the fence, there’s about this much space (Toner holds his hands about two feet apart), she ran between there. I don’t know how she got there. Finally caught her, it was a bloody mess. A mess. Knees, stifles, hind ankles, it was awful. Unbelievable that she’s back, that she ran. It’s amazing how they heal up. Poor thing, she’s lucky she survived never mind back to the races. It goes to show you what horses can endure and get through. It’s incredible. She’s doing fine now.”
Violet Blue: Mike Ryan’s 4-year-old Americain filly – now a three-time member of the Toner Stable Tour – missed chance to run in the Fasig-Tipton Waya Saturday when the race was moved to this weekend. An allowance winner two starts back, she finished fourth in the River Memories at Belmont July 8. “Thank goodness they did the right thing canceling. She’s a nice filly, tries hard. Gave her the winter off and she’s come back well. Maybe not quite there yet, as far as those types of horses are concerned. If we find the right spot for her, allowance race, we might try her there, too.”
Mominou: Another repeat from last year’s Stable Tour, Ryan’s 3-year-old Congrats filly finished sixth as the favorite in the $100,000 Coronation Cup July 30. “She didn’t handle the ground. I ran two horses, Manitoulin and her, they just don’t like it. She ran at Gulfstream, Aqueduct, 1:07s, 1:08s, that’s what she wants. Hard, firm ground. She got to struggling the other day, but fortunately she’s fine. I’ll take it easy with her until we get down to Belmont and I’ll find a race for her. I don’t think we’re going to get too much firm ground here, the way the meet is going.”
Champagne Bliss: Ryan went to $105,000 to buy Into Mischief filly as a yearling last year. She’s breezed seven times, including 5 furlongs in 1:02.34 Aug. 1. “Coming along well. I’m going to run her the weekend of the 18th. She’s breezed on the dirt quite well. Irad (Ortiz Jr.) breezed her last week and said, ‘Jimmy, try her on the grass.’ I thought that was my one dirt horse. I said, ‘please, please don’t do this to me. She could have been one my one dirt horse.’ ”
Tweezer: Irish-bred 2-year-old by Society Rock stands quiet behind his full screen, a rare sight at the Toner barn. Purchased overseas for $164,108 by Bob Edwards’ e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, he’s breezed twice at Saratoga. “Bob Edwards likes to call him Hannibal Lector. He screams at everybody. When he first came in he started screaming at the fillies. Now, I don’t know what happened, he’s screaming at the pony. He doesn’t care what it is he gets after them. He’s only been here about six weeks. He’s doing well, he’s taking to training well. Except when he gets the chance to get out here and he sees things. He wants to do something. I’m not sure if he knows what he wants to do but he wants to do something. Something’s going on in his head.”
Sweet Timing: Unraced 2-year-old Kitten’s Joy filly breezed a half mile in :50.98 on the Oklahoma turf July 30. “She belongs to Mike Ryan. She might run here before we leave. She’s doing very well.”
Tap Tap Taparoo: Magic Cap Stable’s 3-year-old by Tapit out of graded stakes winner Silver Screamer endured troubled trip when eighth in 1-mile turf maiden July 22. “A little disappointed with her. I ran her a mile, she ran last year at Belmont going three-quarters and she finished good. So I thought I could get a mile out of her, but she’s a little headstrong. She ran out of there, trying to rate her she got her head up and didn’t finish. There’s a race back for her going 5 1/2. We’re going to drop back and punt. We’ll cut her back in distance and I think she’ll be fine.”
Astoundment: Unraced 2-year-old filly by Kitten’s Joy out of unraced daughter of Grade 1 winner Wonder Again is a recent arrival and is a regular at Clare Court. “Lovely filly, just came in from Kip Elser’s a little while ago. She came right here, two weeks ago. She’s getting adjusted. When they’re here everything is all new and sometimes you have to start all over again.”
Effective: Headley Bell’s 2-year-old Blame filly breezed a half mile in :51 on the Oklahoma turf Aug. 3, her third work at Saratoga and sixth overall. “Big, strong, good looking filly and she breezed well on the grass last week. She’s got some quality to her, she’ll be OK.”
Global Exchange: Otter Rock Stable’s Exchange Rate filly doesn’t turn around when the visitors show up, hind end almost touching the webbing. “She’s quick, ready to run. I’ve scratched her twice already. They took it off and I didn’t want to run her on the wet track. There’s a race for her Friday, hopefully we get to run her then.”
Shall We Dance: Unraced 2-year-old filly by Lemon Drop Kid out of stakes winner Tidal Dance shows six works, including a half in :52.16 on the Oklahoma turf Aug. 3. “She’s all right, is going to take some time. Steady. The Lemon Drop Kids are steady.”