Looking for Magic in Sanford

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Little Jake Bucci was a lot like most toddlers-turned-preschoolers getting ready for those big days going off to school for the first time. With at least one minor exception.

“My horse’s name is Jake’s Magic Hat because my grandson, you know how most kids are during their childhood and when they’re babies they have their blankies,” Joseph Bucci, owner of the Tiz Wonderful colt who goes in today’s Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, said Friday morning outside the bay colt’s stall in trainer Eddie Kenneally’s barn. “They develop that and get attached to it. Maybe four or five years old before they get the blankie. Well, Jake never had a blankie but he had a hat.”

Jake went everywhere with the hat, his grandfather said, but when it came time to go to kindergarten his teacher in Geneseo, N.Y., about a 3 ½-hour drive from Saratoga Springs, wouldn’t let him wear it in the class.

Jake’s a little older now, a first-grader with a horse named for his favorite accessory. He’ll be at Saratoga Race Course to see Jake’s Magic Hat take on Debt Ceiling and Hollywood Talent, the first two finishers from the Grade 3 Bashford Manor June 29 at Churchill Downs, and impressive maiden winners All in Blue, Southern Blessing and Wired Bryan. And he’ll get a little extra perk, again thanks to his grandfather.

“He’s still got the hat with him here,” Bucci said. “I said ‘we’re coming out in the morning and we’re going to put it on the horse and take a picture.’ He’s here and he’s excited.”

Kenneally is excited to send Jake’s Magic Hat out for his second start, too, after a sharp win going 5 furlongs a month ago at Belmont Park.

The $90,000 buy at OBS March, picked out of Niall Brennan’s consignment on the advice of Barry Berkelhammer, breezed a strong 5 furlongs last Sunday at Belmont before shipping north. He’s trained well so far at Saratoga, too.

“Four, five, six days of gallops across the track,” Kenneally said. “He’s doing good, settled in good, and the weather’s going to cool down, which will help everybody. This horse is ready to go.”

Bucci said Jake’s Magic Hat was the cheapest horse he bought at the OBS March sale, but came to hand quickest. That’s a good thing when you’re bringing your grandson to the races on his summer vacation.

“From a business point of view it was a bargain,” said Bucci, owner of American Rock Salt, the largest sale mine in the U.S. and seller of rock salt all over the Northeast. “

“It was a bargain,” Kenneally said. “We paid 400, 315, 215, 210 for others. He was the least expensive horse you bought Joe.”

“And he starts first and he’s in a stakes race already,” Bucci said.

Wired Bryan steps into stakes and open company for the first time for trainer Michael Dilger.

A graduate of the initial Darley Flying Start class in 2005 and a seven-year assistant to Todd Pletcher, Dilger registered his first career winner with the Stormy Atlantic colt June 19 at Belmont. A homebred for Stuart Subotnik’s Anstu Stables and out of the classy Runaway Groom mare Red Melody, Wired Bryan won by 7 ¼ going 5 furlongs in :56.64.

Dilger’s been in Saratoga with a small string since May, including Wired Bryan, and expected the gray colt to run well. He was confident, based on what he saw himself all spring and from early reports from Anstu when they shipped him to Saratoga.

“They liked him. His mother obviously was a talented runner for Anstu as well,” Dilger said. “He’s by Stormy Atlantic, who can get you a runner. They were hopeful, as any breeder is with a 2-year-old in March. Hopeful. But he had done everything right and he was one they liked. But until you get up here and start to train them a little bit you just don’t know.

“He’s settled in. He’s an easy horse. If he’s not on the track he’s eating. If he’s not eating he’s sleeping. In that sense he’s all that you’d want. We were confident when we ran him, probably wasn’t expecting 56 and 3/5 for the five-eighths, but we knew he was nice. It was a pleasant surprise.”

Debt Ceiling and Hollywood Talent, separated by 2 3/4 lengths in the 6-furlong Bashford Manor, are the only Sanford entrants with more than a single start. Debt Ceiling is 3-for-3, also with a victory in the Rollicking Stakes on the Preakness undercard for trainer Jerry Robb.

Starlight Stable’s All in Blue was a buzz horse all spring at Saratoga yet still got away at nearly 7-2 in his debut July 4. The More Than Ready colt was professional going 5 furlongs, winning easily, but drew the rail for his second start in the Sanford.