Features

Ian Wilkes brought a larger than usual number of 2-year-olds to upstate New York last summer for the Saratoga meeting and came away with a pair of victories late in the meet to bring his tally to three for the stand. 

 He flipped the script a bit this year, bringing a smaller number of juveniles, instead filling his barn at the southern corner of the main track grounds tucked into the far end of Clare Court with more older horses – turf and dirt, male and female. Wilkes didn’t take long to break into the win column the first Sunday of the meet with Indigo Yankee in a starter allowance and 10 days later added a stakes victory when Big Dollar Bill took the Birdstone. 

“We don’t have as many 2-year-olds up here as usual,” Wilkes said during training hours Wednesday morning as he checked up on his strings back home in Kentucky. “But it’s going good so far.”

Wilkes, stabled in the same barn that housed his former mentor Carl Nafzger and Nafzger’s mentor John Nerud before that, took a few moments Wednesday morning to talk about his Saratoga contingent with The Special’s Tom Law. (Originally published in the Aug. 9 issue of The Saratoga Special)

McCraken: Whitham Thoroughbreds homebred multiple graded stakes winner finished sixth in the Whitney. He’s won six of 14, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at 2 and Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and Grade 3 Matt Win at 3. “Definitely a better horse than that, might have been the muddy track. Just don’t know, lot of questions. But yes, he’s much better than that. I’ll probably send him back to Kentucky, just freshen him up a bit, think about something in the fall.”

Done Deal: Sierra Farm’s Iowa Sprint winner finished seventh in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt July 28. He won four straight prior to that effort. “He came out of it fine. I might try him back on the grass, there’s a sprint at Kentucky Downs I might run him in. He ran run on either. Very unique to have a horse that talented on both surfaces.”

Big Dollar Bill: Four-year-old Midnight Lute gelding appreciated the added distance winning the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone Aug. 2 for owners Dennis Farkas, Brett Franklin and Cheryl Franklin. He’s won two of six this season, with a pair of seconds, and could be on path to the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. “Nice race, fun horse, cool horse. I’ll probably point to Parx and the Greenwood. I’ll give him a try and keep letting him show us. He gets in a nice rhythm of doing races like that. There’s not a lot of those races, they’re later in the year. For him it’s always fun.”

Archanova: Chased his stablemate home when third in the Birdstone. Owned by Rusty Jones’ Turf Stable Racing, 5-year-old Archarcharch gelding should also stay on the dirt marathon track. “Third two years in a row in the Birdstone. He’s getting closer. Maybe next year we’ll get closer again. I’ll nominate him to Parx as well. I’ll look at how he does. Where we go I’m not sure yet. I haven’t talked to the owners, but there’s a good chance he could run there as well.”

Mr Cub: Turf Stable’s 4-year-old Artie Schiller gelding missed chance to run in the Fasig-Tipton Lure when it was canceled last weekend but is re-entered for same race Saturday. “He’s really improved. He’s probably a little better on the firmer turf, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll still have to run against those horses, it was a salty race. I’m expecting it to be again.”

Quick Quick Quick: Marylou Whitney’s homebred Tiago filly makes second straight appearance in the Stable Tour. A maiden winner in her second start here last year at 2, she finished sixth in a 9-furlong allowance July 26. “I tried her long last time, she obviously wants to go one turn but it was just too far. I thought she might, with her pedigree but that whole family can’t go that distance.”

Quick Entry: Whitney’s homebred 2-year-old by Point Of Entry out of the Cape Town mare Quick Town is a half brother to stakes winner Viva Majorca and Quick Quick Quick. “Getting closer, he should start in the next couple weeks. I’ll probably start him on dirt.”

Originator: Runner-up in back-to-back stakes starts, including to loose-on-the-lead winner Broadway Run in the $100,000 Coronation Cup July 30 for owners Denholtz Stables, West Point Thoroughbreds and Head of Plains Partners. “We’ll probably look at Kentucky Downs with her; she has an a-other-than. She’s a really nice horse, improving. She ran a good race, the leader, much to their credit, got away to easy fractions and was just too good.”

Indigo Yankee: Whitney homebred by Midshipman is the barn’s other winner, taking a starter allowance July 23. Three-year-old gelding won a maiden claimer at Churchill Downs June 9 in his prior start. “Where I go next? Maybe allowance now. He’s a Midshipman, I’ve been thinking about trying him on the grass.” 

Demolition: Returned from five-month layoff to finish eighth in 9-furlong allowance Aug. 3. Son of Blame is owned by LNJ Foxwoods, Alex Solis Jr. and Jason Litt. “He didn’t beat a horse but only got beat 7 (3/4) lengths so it wasn’t a bad race. He’s going to be a better 4-year-old this horse. He’s going to really improve as he gets older. He will be a nice older horse.”

Gentle Ruler: Franz Morsches’ 3-year-old Colonel John filly finished third in 1 3/16-mile turf maiden the first Saturday of the meet. “She’s still a maiden after eight starts but ultra consistent, second, thirds, had a little rough trip here. She’ll come back and run in about 10 days. She’s improving.”

Inheritance: New addition to the stable this year, 5-year-old Tapit mare hasn’t raced since a sixth in the Remington Park Oaks in late September 2016. Owned by LNJ Foxwoods, she broke her maiden in October 2015 at Belmont Park for Steve Asmussen. “She’s been off for a couple years, she’s getting closer to running. I didn’t have her before the layoff; this will be her first run for me. Nice filly. She’s working nicely. Sweet filly to be around. Quite a pleasant filly.” 

Thatcher Street: Another veteran of the stable, he won the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2016 and finished fourth here July 21 in 1-mile turf claimer for $50,000 tag for owners Randall Bloch, Phil Milner, John Seiler and Fred Merritt. “The old campaigner. He’s been a consistent horse for us. Ran good, fourth, didn’t get beat that far. We’ll run him back, there’s a race back for him in eight days. You’ve got to be happy with him, he’s a cool old horse.”

Love Point: Whitney’s 2-year-old Point Of Entry homebred is out of the winning Street Cry mare Love Dove: Grass pedigree, that’s what I tell her about Point Of Entry. He’s a little green, getting ready to run. He’s a boy, a young boy, but I think he’s OK. I’m going to run him on the grass.