Lake Placid preview: He’s Got Rhythm

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Pat Reynolds stood outside the gap to the Oklahoma training track Thursday morning and thought back to Backseat Rhythm’s first two career starts here last August – a pair of off-the-board finishes sprinting on the main track.

“Unless they’re working like Big Brown,” he said, “you have to send them out there to see what you have.”

Big Brown introduced himself to the racing world on Closing Day of the 2007 meeting, running off to a lopsided debut win on the turf for Reynolds and owner Paul Pompa Jr. Backseat Rhythm took a bit longer to catch on but made her own headlines with when the filly took her turf debut at Belmont Park in September, rallying from off the pace to score over Country Star, who went on to win a pair of Grade I stakes later that fall. She’s back at Saratoga today, this time on the turf, and rates as a major contender in the $150,000 Grade II Lake Placid Stakes at 9 furlongs.

While Big Brown left Reynolds’ barn shortly after his scintillating debut score, Backseat Rhythm remained.

After her maiden win at Belmont Reynolds shifted the daughter of El Corredor back to the main track, this time at a mile, in the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Oct. 6.

Backseat Rhythm closed well to finish second behind Indian Blessing and headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies as a major contender. Indian Blessing again proved too tough but Backseat Rhythm rallied from 13th and last to get third in another encouraging effort.

Reynolds gave the filly the rest of the season off and she returned, on turf, in an allowance at Gulfstream Park Feb. 22, checking in third. After a pair of non-threatening main track efforts Reynolds switched Backseat Rhythm back to the turf and she responded with an impressive 6-length score in an allowance race at Belmont May 23. In her last start prior to the Lake Placid Backseat Rhythm was seventh, beaten only 5 1/4 lengths by favored Pure Clan, in the Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park July 5.

Having picked up Grade I black type on dirt in two of the most important 2-year-old filly races in the country, Reynolds is hardly complaining about Backseat Rhythm’s performance last season. And he’s confident she’s on her preferred surface in the Lake Placid.

“We tried her sprinting here on the main track to start her career and she ran OK, hooked that filly Irish Smoke in her debut who came back to win the Grade I Spinaway here. We really didn’t know what we had at the time,” Reynolds said. “She took us to a lot of good places last year on dirt but I think she’s a better horse on the turf. When we tried her on turf at Belmont, going two turns, she ran a smoker that day. We tried the Frizette and Breeders’ Cup and she ran well but she’s back on turf now, which I think is her best surface.”

In the American Oaks, run over a fast and slick Hollywood Park turf course, Backseat Rhythm and regular jockey Javier Castellano stayed close to a quick 47-second half-mile. With plenty of speed singed on today, Reynolds is hoping to see his filly reserved off the leaders.

“We sent her out to California and she ran OK, but we kind of took her out of her game out there. We tried to keep her up close to the pace because that’s a fast turf course and she’s a filly that likes to be a little farther back off the pace. She came back little tired and we gave her some time and she’s coming into this really well,” Reynolds said. “Looking at her figures she fits with the horses. It’s a tough field but she’ll run well. We’ve got some speed in there to chase so we should have a good trip in behind.”

Flying Zee Stable’s I Lost My Choo (Edgar Prado to ride) would have been about 1-5 against fellow New York-breds had last week’s Statue of Liberty Stakes been left on the lawn.

Though she scratched from that spot, her win in the Grade III Virginia Oaks July 19 at Colonial Downs stamps her as a major player in the Lake Placid.

Trained by Phil Serpe, the homebred daughter of Western Expression closed from 18 lengths back to draw off by 1 1/2 lengths over fellow Lake Placid rival Namaste’s Wish. A winner of five of eight lifetime starts, I Lost My Choo is the only filly besides Raw Silk with a victory at 9 furlongs and has shown a number of different gears throughout her career. She stayed on her game after last week’s scratch with a bullet work over the Oklahoma turf Aug. 10 and Serpe is confident, providing Mother Nature cooperates.

“We just don’t know about that turf course – how much give is it going to have out there? You just don’t know how that course is going to play with all the rain on it,” he said, “but hopefully it will dry out before the race. We would have rather run last week and be about 1-5, but she fits with these horses for sure. She came back and worked well (after we scratched her), she always does. We’d actually like to have her come from out of it a little bit. Her races earlier in the year, she kind of fell into a few tough trips and was up close. The race at Colonial was a bit odd as there was a horse who really ran off early, but ideally she’ll be in there sitting mid-pack.”

Raw Silk also ventured west for the American Oaks, and the Darley Stable filly checked in eighth, though beaten only 6 lengths after being pressured through quick splits.

Tom Albertrani shifted his filly to the turf in November following a pair of disappointing main-track outings to start her career, and the result was a determined, though ultimately disappointing, 1 1/2-length score. Raw Silk made all the running that day but was disqualified and placed second for drifting out in the stretch.

Put away for the winter she returned to break her maiden at Aqueduct April 16, again leading gate to wire, this time finishing 5 1/4 lengths clear. Raw Silk made her stakes debut in the $78,000 Gaviola at Belmont May 8, finishing third, then made waves in the Grade II Sands Point May 31, wiring a classy field over good turf at today’s distance. Alan Garcia takes the return call.

Much Obliged ventures south from trainer Malcolm Pierce’s Woodbine base and rates a long look off of her neck loss in the Grade III Boiling Springs at Monmouth Park June 28. The Pin Oak Stable homebred was beaten edged that day by My Princess Jess, who returned to win the Grade II Lake George here July 25.

Prior to that effort Much Obliged won the American 1000 Guineas at Arlington Park.

A beautifully bred daughter of Kingmambo out of the Strawberry Road mare Danka, Much Obliged looms a danger in the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan, who’ s 5-for-15 for Pierce over the past two seasons.

Namaste’s Wish chased I Lost My Choo home in the Virginia Oaks, closing from 16 lengths back to finish second. Trained by Bill Mott for Live Oak Plantation, the daughter of Pulpit last visited the winner’s circle after taking the Belmont’s Miss Grillo Stakes in September but has run well against some of the best 3-year-old turf fillies on the East Coast.

Last summer Mott and jockey Kent Desormeaux took their first Lake Placid with Sharp Susan and the duo will try to double up Friday.

Rounding out the Lake Placid field are: Encanto Park (Jorge Chavez), a fringe player in three stakes and today’s potential pacesetter; Rosa Grace (Julien Leparoux), a listed-stakes winner in Europe who makes her first start Stateside; and Zaskar (John Velazquez), 10th after a troubled trip in the American Oaks, her U.S. debut.