Last year's Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan is on target for the Grade 1 Whitney, while Yoshida, also nominated to the 91st running of the Whitney, is likely to stay on the turf for the interim, pointing for the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 11, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said from his barn Friday morning.
“We want to keep our options open just in case Good Samaritan wouldn't be ready to go for some reason, we can switch them at the last minute if we had to,” Mott said of Yoshida's nomination.
Owned by Winstar, China Horse Club, SF Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Yoshida ended his 2017 campaign with a win in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on October 7 over Belmont Park's inner turf course and started his year with a win in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Following that effort, Mott took the 4-year-old Japanese-bred colt by Heart's Cry across the Atlantic to run in the Group 1 Queen Anne going a straight mile at Royal Ascot on June 19, where he finished a close fifth in his first career start outside of the United States.
“He stepped up and ran good and got beat by a length and quarter for the whole thing. It was a good effort,” said Mott. “He poked his head in front coming up the hill and gave us a thrill for a moment. Just as he was coming to the wire, he kind of idled a little bit and didn't have enough to finish it off.
“It's a different type of race,” he added. “Speaking to Wesley Ward, he told me that if you're able to run the same race over again, the second time, those horses seem to perform a little bit better. I don't know if it's the conditioning part of it or the mental part of it, where they learn that they actually aren't going to turn. Maybe these horses are waiting for a turn.”
Yoshida is likely to try his luck over the dirt, a surface switch that could be flattered by his pedigree, Mott said. Yoshida's dam is multiple graded stakes winner Hilda's Passion, who capped a solid career with her 9 ¼-length victory in the 2011 Grade 1 Ballerina on Saratoga's main track.
“The ownership and management of the horse want him to try the dirt at some point in his career because he's bred somewhat for the dirt,” Mott said. “He's been very good and effective on the turf, but his mother was a Grade 1 winner on the dirt here in Saratoga. He's worked well enough on the dirt, so you can see it happening and at some point, we want to try him in the afternoon on dirt. I don't think there's anything like the proof you find out in the afternoon.”
Good Samaritan ran seventh last out in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9. A deep closer, the 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt was unable to make up much ground on the frontrunning Bee Jersey to finish 7 ¼ lengths behind the winner.
“He closed well but we didn't have the pace scenario we were really looking for,” Mott said. “We were hoping for a real hot pace, but it was an honest pace, just average.”
Good Samaritan won the last time he raced at the Whitney's distance of 1 1/8 miles, capturing the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap by 2 ¼ lengths. That built on his runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on November 24 at Churchill at the same distance, earning him a personal-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
Good Samartian also won at the distance at Saratoga last year, rallying from last of five to beat Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Jim Dandy before running fifth in the Grade 1 Travers later in the meet.
“Just given the Jim Dandy here last year, the mile and an eighth at Saratoga seems like a good [spot] for him,” Mott said.
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