Kenny McPeek had a hunch about Morning Gold, first when he saw her at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale and then in her training in early 2019. McPeek’s suspicion of the Morning Line filly’s talent was confirmed when she won her second start in Sunday’s third race at Saratoga Race Course.

“There was never any doubt that she had a big future,” said McPeek. “It was just a matter of getting her into the game and getting her going. We knew coming up here that she was one of our better fillies.”

The filly out of the Indian Charlie mare Woodford County cost Albert LaRose and Greg Back of C&H Diamond Racing $205,000 from Eaton Sales at Fasig-Tipton July. After a second July 14 going 1 1/6 miles on the turf in her debut, McPeek liked what he saw and kept her in the same conditions for her second start.

“She’s a big, rangy filly so it didn’t feel like sprinting her was a good idea,” said McPeek. “It felt the sooner we got her going long, the better.”

After a Saratoga win, the trainer has eyes on even tougher company for Morning Gold. He said the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park would be a long-range target with a prep at Keeneland or Churchill Downs possible.

“I like to come up with a plan to lead her into the Breeders’ Cup but we’ll see,” said McPeek. “We’ll let her tell us what the next step is. Maybe the Alcibiades at Keeneland or a stake at Churchill that might be a good spot for her. Two turns is going to be her game.” – Catherine Galbraith


• Fireball Shot is known as the professional maiden around Phil Bauer’s barn. The trainer will have to put the nickname on the shelf after the 5-year-old broke his maiden in his 19th start in the opener.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Bauer. “When you run second you save your condition and you’re still making money. He’s running great numbers. Training well. When you butt heads with the best you’re always going to run into one horse here or there but it was never a fault of his own or his performance. We rode the wave and today was the day.”

Coming into Sunday’s 9-furlong maiden the son of Street Cry held finished second eight times and third once in 18 starts, earning $131,416. Owned by Rigney Racing, Fireball Shot was a $275,000 purchase from the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.

“We bought him as a yearling, he’s part of the family,” Bauer said. “We call him the barn mascot. Every time he runs he’s doing so great. Every time he’s run up here it seemed like he needed a race and he fires his best. Today, that was awesome, it was fun to watch.”

Next up is allowance company and Bauer said he’ll take the time to prepare Fireball Shot for the challenge.

“We go back to Churchill, so we’ll see how he comes out of this,” said Bauer. “Something here may be too quick, but you know now he has to face winners. We have to pick the spots right and make sure he’s at his best. We’ll do that for him, he deserves it.” – Catherine Galbraith

• Norm Casse picked up his first Saratoga victory in the second, sending out AJ Suited Racing's Dontblamerocket to a win in the starter allowance on the grass. The son of Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, Norm Casse went out on his own in 2018 and sent out four starters at last year's Saratoga meet. Dontblamerocket, a 5-year-old gelding by Blame claimed last time for $50,000 at Churchill Downs, was Casse's third starter of the 2019 meet. He's won 27 races overall, including the Grade 3 Regret Stakes with Hard Legacy this year at Churchill, and purses of $1,203,947. Assistant Sarah Campion oversees the Saratoga string and saddled the winner Sunday. 

• Toby Sheets' name shows up on the NYRA circuit often in the winter months as Steve Asmussen's New York-based assistant. Sunday he showed up as a winning owner when Malibu Mischief won the fourth, a $32,000 claiming race for 3-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs. Sheets and Asmussen claimed the daughter of Goldencents for $25,000 out of a winning effort at Belmont Park July 6. She added another victory at 5-2 Sunday and was claimed by Jason Servis for Michael Napoli.   

• Jose Ortiz won two races Sunday to increase his season total to 35, five more than his brother Irad Ortiz Jr., atop the rider standings through 24 days. Chad Brown holds an 11-win lead in the trainer standings with 20 victories to nine apiece for Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher.