Sunday at Saratoga: Patience pays

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Although he maintains a tight grip on the trainer’s standings, there are some things Chad Brown can’t control. Racing luck is one of them. He could only look on from his box in the clubhouse Sunday afternoon as Front Run The Fed got into trouble nearing the first turn in the $100,000 Better Talk Now Stakes.

Front Run The Fed broke alertly along the rail in the 1-mile turf stakes, but Our Braintrust and Bulletin were sharper to his outside and began to cross over. The former did so prematurely, ducking in as the rail became the hedge, forcing Jose Lezcano to take up sharply on Front Run The Fed. In an instant, he went from third to last and trailed the field of six by 4 3/4 lengths after a quarter-mile.

Lezcano remained patient at the back and after saving ground on the first turn, swung Front Run The Fed to the outside up the backstretch for a clear run while Bulletin set the tempo. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner went :23.74 and :46.94.

Rounding the far turn, Bulletin felt pressure from Swamp Rat as Front Run The Fed passed tiring longshot Regally Irish. Bourbon War tipped off the cover of Swamp Rat, Our Braintrust cut the corner and Front Run The Fed swung five wide into the lane.

While the others were extended, Lezcano looked confident on Front Run The Fed, giving his mount a tap on the shoulder in the stretch. He twirled the stick into his right hand, but Front Run The Fed struck the lead without feeling the whip. Lezcano showed Front Run The Fed the stick at the sixteenth pole as Bourbon War fought to his inside and pulled the whip into his left hand nearing the wire, but it wasn’t needed as Front Run The Fed scored by a half-length.

Bourbon War finished second while Bulletin was third another 2 1/4 lengths back. Front Run The Fed completed the mile in 1:34.29.

“He got pinched out of there on the first turn, was a little bit further back than I thought,” Brown said. “Jose really showed good judgment, just go to plan B and let the horse settle down first. Once he composed himself, he decided to make one run with him and it paid off.

“I thought he could, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be there if I had my choice early. Jose used really good judgment. Him and the horse together, they did everything today.”

A $300,000 buy for Klaravich Stable at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, Front Run The Fed went 0-for-3 to start his career at the end of 2018. After a break following a third as the beaten favorite at Gulfstream December 12, Front Run The Fed returned to score his maiden win going 6 furlongs on the grass at Aqueduct April 14. He followed it with a 13 1/4-length optional win at Belmont May 17 and Brown looked for a stakes. The trainer pointed for the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall Of Fame Aug. 2.

“Getting him on the turf really helped this horse a lot, getting some experience,” Brown said. “After his last impressive win, he was my horse for the Hall Of Fame earlier in the meet. He had some foot trouble, so we weren’t able to make the race. We were just patient with him, his feet are back under control now.”

Despite his impressive performances on the track, Front Run The Fed is a difficult horse to gauge in the morning. The striking bay Fed Biz colt out of the Posse mare Lawless doesn’t show his true colors until arriving in the paddock on race day.

“He’s been working good enough,” Brown said. “He’s a very average horse in the morning to watch breeze, so he’s hard to get excited about. I was more curious to see what he was going to do today. His works were OK for him, but he’s a real afternoon horse. You can tell when you put the tack on him in the afternoon, that has been consistent about him. When you put the tack on him, he’s all business in the paddock and you can tell he’s focused.”

The Better Talk Now improves Front Run The Red’s record to 3-for-6 with $160,700 earned. It was Brown’s 34th win at the meet and his fourth stakes of the weekend after Offering Plan took Friday’s West Point and Annals Of Time and Significant Form took graded stakes on the Travers Day undercard.

“I’m ready for a nap,” Brown said. “It was a really good weekend. Of course, we have to evaluate. A lot of great things happened, a couple disappointments, there always is when you run that many horses. Part of the process is digesting the good and the bad and everything in between and trying to make our plan moving forward out of here.”

Brown said the Grade 2 Hill Prince at Belmont Oct. 5 is logical for Front Run The Fed’s next start, but isn’t sure about the distance.

“Could be if we think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth. I’m not sure about that,” he said. “On the schedule, it makes sense. I’m not sure if we can commit him to a mile-and-an-eighth yet.” – Brandon Valvo


• After Wicked Whisper worked 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 breezing from the gate at Churchill Downs July 16, trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong decided to give the 2-year-old filly a week off from training. Wicked Whisper picked up right where she left off when she resumed and in her next work at Churchill July 29, she went another bullet, logging :47 for a half. The move gave her owner confidence.

“I said, ‘who was her company?’ and (Steve) said, ‘nobody, she was by herself,’ ” Alex Lieblong recalled. “Then I thought I had a better idea.”

Wicked Whisper worked three more times before making her debut Sunday at Saratoga and the filly translated her talent in the morning to a big win in the afternoon. She broke from the rail in the opener, a 6-furlong maiden special on the dirt, and led at every call. She was 2 1/2 lengths ahead after a quarter mile, 3 1/2 lengths ahead after a half, and finished an easy 6 1/4-length winner in 1:10.33.

Wicked Whisper came on the Lieblongs’ radar after a tip from Robbie Harris at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale. Alex Lieblong inspected the Liam’s Map filly and loved what he saw. He went to $500,000 to buy her and she went to Harris to begin her training.

“She looked pretty special at the yearling sale,” Alex Lieblong said. “Her rear end and her walk, she had some gaskins that I just loved from the start. Her mind, nothing really bothered her today. She’s good.”

Out of the Bernardini mare Zayanna, Wicked Whisper’s stock went up even before her impressive debut. She is a half-sister to Point Of Honor, who won this year’s Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan before finishing second in a pair of Grade 1s at the meet in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama.

“We’re very pleased. When you pay that much, a lot of times it doesn’t work out. That time, it did,” Lieblong said. “It doesn’t get much better. Oaklawn is pretty good, but Saratoga is hard to beat. If she can follow her half-sister, I’ll be tickled pink.” – Brandon Valvo


• “Manny understands the horse,” Laird George said after Manny Franco engineered a mild upset aboard No Man’s Land in the third.

The 5-year-old gelding went off the third choice in the 1 3/8-mile optional claimer on the grass, a price that made sense since odds-on favorite Tide Of The Sea bested No Man’s Land by 2 1/2 lengths going 10 furlongs at Belmont Park. But this time the outcome was reversed, with Tide Of The Sea third and a length behind the winner.

“Our horse has a lot of ability, but he keeps a lot to himself,” said George, assistant to trainer Richard Valentine. “In that Belmont race he got the lead too early and then he gets lazy and he gets caught. He doesn’t seem to know where the finish line is. But Manny does. He just waits and waits and waits to the right moment.”

Franco agreed.

“Yes, I’ve been riding him a while so I know when to move him,” he said.

In five mounts on No Man’s Land, he’s never finished worse than 2 lengths back and he’s been rider on the gelding’s only two wins.

The horse was bred and is raced by William Pape, who bought the Canadian stakes-winning dam at auction back in 2012. She was bred to Lemon Drop Kid the following year. – Terry Hill


• Owner Robert Masiello celebrated the victory of his 3-year filly Excess Capacity in the winner’s circle with his 2 1/2-year-old daughter Penelope on his shoulders with his wife and father on hand.

Excess Capacity took the lead early, opened up a 3-length lead in the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths under Ricardo Santana Jr. The daughter of Malibu Moon ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24.47.

“The only thing is this filly likes being on the outside,” Masiello said watching the replay. “I was worried someone might make a run at her there. But she stayed far enough in front that she wasn’t bothered.”

Masiello and partners purchased the filly privately this year after she’d broken her maiden and placed her with Steve Asmussen. She didn’t win in three subsequent starts and dropped in class for a $25,000 tag Sunday.

“We figured she’d appreciate the class relief,” Masiello said. “And she showed her appreciation out there.”

The lower price attracted the attention of trainer Linda Rice, who claimed the filly out of the Candy Ride mare Wicked Ride. – Terry Hill


• Steve Klesaris wasn’t surprised at Double Down Dare’s antics in the paddock before the seventh. The Cross Traffic filly is often fresh in her training and her trainer thought nothing of the display.

“She just wanted to take a little chair on the ground and bounced right back up,” Klesaris said of the excitable filly during saddling. “She’s a high-strung little girl but she’s got quick speed. It’s a big crowd for 2-year-old babies. They get a little frazzled in the crowd. You have to be very cautious.”

Making her third start, Double Down Dare broke her maiden by 2 1/2 lengths in her first start on the turf in the 5 1/2-furlong maiden claimer. A $25,000 buy for owner Joe Imbesi at last year’s OBS October yearling sale, Double Down Dare might find herself in allowance company after impressing Klesaris with Sunday’s performance.

“We wanted to try her on the grass,” said the trainer. “I like the way she relaxed right in behind them. We have to give her a chance at an allowance race after what she showed. Somewhere to run on the grass for sure, Belmont.”

Klesaris has a few more to run before the meet comes to a close. Luis Saez rides Here Comes Meg in the 10th Wednesday, a maiden claimer, and Seven Gems starts in Thursday’s fourth, a starter allowance under Irad Ortiz Jr.

“We have a few more to run before the meet closes,” said Klesaris. “We just have to get in that entry box first and we’ll see.” – Catherine Galbraith