Trainer Gary Contessa and owner Winning Move Stable entered two horses in today’s 1 3/4-miles Birdstone Stakes. One is the 7-5 on the morning line and the other is a 12-1 outsider. The favorite, Tu Brutus, is expected to scratch in favor of Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, leaving the hopes on the horse they won last year’s Birdstone with, 8-year-old Turco Bravo.
“We had a great year with him last year, it was like a dream year for that horse,” Contessa said while sitting outside his shedrow Wednesday morning. “We weren’t sure but we knew if we decided to put Tu Brutus, depending on how he was training, into the Whitney, that we would take a shot with Turco. I wouldn’t subject Turco to having to run against Tu Brutus.”
Turco Bravo won last year’s Birdstone on a sloppy track by 1 length over Desvelo and didn’t race again in 2016. In six races this year, the least amount of lengths he has been beaten is 7 lengths, and that came in a turf race. One of Turco Bravo’s defeats came 10 days ago when fifth by 8 3/4 lengths in a 1 1/8-mile allowance.
“I could tell you one thing, he’s training better this year as an 8-year-old than he ever trained as a 7-year-old,” Contessa said. “I’m willing to accept the fact, if you look at the horses that took turns beating each other in his category, they’re all $40,000 claimers now. So, he may have hit the wall.
“But, he’s training fantastic and a mile-and-three-quarters is his game so we’re going to take a shot. But if he doesn’t show up tomorrow, it’s going to be the end of his stakes career.”
To read the rest of the Birdstone preview, download Thursday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special.