The grass looks like it’s been groomed by Vidal Sassoon. The walking ring could pass for a scale replica of the main track’s oval. The shedrow has fewer rocks than your swimming pool.
Little has changed this year at Todd Pletcher’s Barn 62 near the Oklahoma training track – with one exception.
Tristan Barry has arrived at the Spa to serve as the six-time meet-leading trainer’s top assistant. He fills the role previously held by Seth Benzel, who ventured out on his own.
Barry oversaw the majority of Pletcher’s stock on the Kentucky circuit the past several seasons, and after the barn didn’t start a horse on Opening Day, he’ll be thrown into the fire today, overseeing a 2-year-old maiden in the fifth race and the improving Bullion Cache in the featured Grade II Sanford Stakes.
Barry, 33, grew up in Ireland and has risen through the ranks in his nine years with Pletcher, plying his trade at Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Though Saratoga offers all a horseman could want, it’s not common dinner table conversation back home.
“I grew up in Limerick, so Saratoga is not really a place I was too familiar with and really didn’t know too much about before I got here,” Barry said. “I love it here so far but I’m trying to treat it as just another location.”
As calm as Saratoga Lake on a mild summer morning, Barry is easing into his first full summer in Saratoga while trying not to be overwhelmed about a town that can be as much about the social scene as it is about the horses.
“I’m glad to be here for the meet but it’s just part of the job,” Barry said. “I’ve been to Belmont a lot of times and have dealt with a lot of horses in South Florida that are Saratoga horses, so I’m just trying to take everything in stride.”
As is Bullion Cache, a grand-looking son of Seeking The Gold who broke his maiden at Churchill in his second career start. After running third in his debut, Bullion Cache put things together June 25, sprinting to a controlled early lead and drawing off through the stretch to take the 5-furlong dash by 2 1/2 lengths.
From a maiden in June to a Grade II contender in late July – such is the life of an early season 2-year-old.
Contention in the $150,000 Sanford does not run as deep as it might normally, so Barry looks forward to seeing how Bullion Cache handles the next logical step.
“The 2-year-old crop at the moment is looking for someone to take it over, so we’ll see if we can get it done,” Barry said. “He’s doing well and he’s done nothing wrong so far. He had two good races at Churchill, so we expect him to run well here.”
Owned by Starlight Partners, Bullion Cache gets the services of John Velazquez and is not the typical Pletcher 2-year-old. While the majority of the barn’s stakes runners are precocious and have sprinter/miler pedigrees, Bullion Cache’s script figures to be written when he gets to stretch his legs this fall.
“He looks like he’s waiting for more ground but has always put forth a top effort so far,” Barry said. “Certainly the farther the goes the better he should be, so tomorrow is another good step.”
The same can be said for Darley Stable’s Desert Party, a $2.1-million son of Street Cry. The Eoin Harty-trainee broke his maiden at Arlington Park in come-from-behind fashion June 22 – no small feat at 4 1/2 furlongs, especially when breaking from post 10.
“His race at Arlington was visually impressive. It’s virtually impossible to win there going 4 1/2 furlongs from that post, as you start right on the turn,” Harty said. “For him to get up and run the way he did was very promising.”
As one of Darley’s primary conditioners in America Harty knows his way around a multi-million dollar juvenile. He also knows that the price tag doesn’t necessarily guarantee performance.
“We have been very high on him but a lot of times you get those horses with the big purchase price and they don’t live up to the hype, but that’s not the case so far with him,” Harty said. “He’s got that turn of foot you look for, so while he does want to run farther, races like the Sanford and the Hopeful became options after his win at Arlington.”
Edgar Prado picks up the mount.
Wesley Ward had the overwhelming morning-line favorite in the Sanford with Notonthesamepage, but indicated he would scratch the homebred son of Catienus after battling a 104-degree temperature Wednesday morning. Notonthesamepage would have been the horse to beat, and more importantly the horse to catch, and the Sanford now looks like a scramble up front.
Officer Ipod should provide some pace from his rail draw. The son of Officer beat just five others in his June 29 debut at Delaware Park, but did it the right way, scoring a gate-to-wire win by 4 1/4 lengths. Ramon Dominguez was aboard for the unveiling and gets the return call for Tony Dutrow.
Dagnabit goes forth as the only two-time winner in the field, and boasts the only stakes experience, a half-length score in the $105,000 Tremont at Belmont Park June 29. The New York-bred son of Freud sat off a moderate pace that day and was up late to defeat four others. Rick Dutrow, Tony’s brother, gives the return call to Cornelio Velasquez, who won his first Spa riding title last year.
Vineyard Haven will make his first start for Bobby Frankel after being purchased privately following a nifty debut win at Calder for owner/trainer Lynne Scace. The son of the Frankel-trained Lido Palace sat off a quick opening quarter of 21 3/5 seconds and drew off to score by a widening 4 1/4 lengths over a next-out winner. Frankel tabs go-to jockey Javier Castellano and Vineyard Haven should be looming on the far turn.
Phosphorescent could be in the mix early and rates as the only horse to try the Sanford’s 6 furlongs, taking his debut July 5 at Churchill for Dale Romans and West Point Thoroughbreds. The pricey son of Rock Slide pressed a sub-22 quarter-mile in Kentucky and Robby Albarado should be able to play things off the break from the outside draw.