Coup de Grace, a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Amsterdam on July 26, will return to Saratoga Race Course to compete as the favorite on Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop.
The seven-furlong King's Bishop for 3-year-olds was carded as race 10 and will serve as the second leg of the $1 million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4.
Coup de Grace is owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms and is trained by Larry Jones, who took over training duties from Chad Brown earlier this summer.
For Brown, Coup de Grace won a six-furlong maiden race at Aqueduct in November in his debut and a one-mile optional claimer in December at Gulfstream Park. Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the Grade 2 Holy Bull in January at Gulfstream, he showed early speed before faltering to 10th, beaten 16 ¼ lengths.
Coup de Grace has exclusively sprinted since the Holy Bull, winning the Grade 3 Bay Shore by a nose in April at Aqueduct and finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens presented by RTN in June at Belmont while racing for Brown. Both the Bay Shore and the Woody Stephens were contested at seven furlongs.
Porter transferred Coup de Grace to Jones following the Woody Stephens. In two starts for Jones, the chestnut colt came from off the pace to win both the six-furlong Oh Say Stakes by a neck on July 5 at Delaware Park and the 6 ½-furlong Amsterdam by three widening lengths.
“We ran him at Delaware to get a feel for him before we tackled everyone in Saratoga,” said Jones, who is based at Delaware Park. “He's still moving forward and is comfortable training here.”
Jones is hopeful that the Ketel One King's Bishop, which attracted front-runners like Fast Anna and The Big Beast, will set up well for Coup de Grace.
“His running style depends on the length of the race,” said Jones. “In sprint races he comes out relaxed and settles off the pace, but in routes he has shown more speed. There's a lot of speed in the King's Bishop, which should be comfortable for him. He's used to coming from off the pace in sprints.”
Coup de Grace, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, will leave from post 8 with Rosie Napravnik aboard.
C. Zee, who is trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito for Fred J. Brei, will try Coup de Grace again in the Ketel One King's Bishop.
The homebred began his career with trainer Stanley Gold in Florida, where he won the Sir Bear and Cherokee Run stakes at Gulfstream. He has been training at Saratoga since winning the Cherokee Run by a length on July 5.
“I think what happens is the weather is cooler than Florida and [horses] seem to really do well when they get up here,” said Zito. “For some reason, he's got a lot of speed up here; a lot of speed. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a very tough race. The King's Bishop every year is getting tougher and tougher. It's a great race. I hope everything goes good. We're looking forward to it. He's a very good horse.”
C. Zee set the pace in the Sir Bear and rallied from eighth in the Cherokee Run. In the Amsterdam, he went to the front from post position 1 and dueled with Big Guy Ian through an opening quarter-mile in 21.87 seconds and a half in 44.45. He gained the upper hand from Big Guy Ian nearing the eighth pole and led between calls before yielding to Coup de Grace.
Once again, C. Zee, 10-1 on the morning line, will leave from the rail in the Ketel One King's Bishop. Joel Rosario has the assignment.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo and owner Honors Stable have opted for the Ketel One King's Bishop over the Grade 1 Travers for Wildcat Red, who won the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth in February at Gulfstream and was third, beaten 8 ¼ lengths by Bayern, in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 27 at Monmouth Park in his most recent start.
Wildcat Red's accomplishments also include a victory in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Hutcheson in February, a close second in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby in March, and a runaway triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Quality Road in June. All three starts came at Gulfstream.
“I think the King's Bishop is the best spot to put him,” said Garoffalo. “The Travers is going to be tough, and I want to refresh him a little bit. The mile and a quarter is too long for him now. In this race, if we run good we still have a chance to go to [the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby] or somewhere else. It all depends on the result and how the horse comes back.”
Luis Saez will ride Wildcat Red, the 4-1 morning-line third choice, from post 2.
The Ketel One King's Bishop attracted a pair of lightly raced but promising colts in The Big Beast and Fast Anna.
The Big Beast, owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, was tabbed as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line off the strength of his 4 ¼-length maiden victory on June 8 at Belmont Park and 6 ¼-length entry-level allowance triumph on July 26 at Saratoga, both at six furlongs.
The fact The Big Beast has made only four starts in his career did not deter trainer Tony Dutrow to point the colt toward the Ketel One King's Bishop immediately following his win on July 26.
“My horse is doing fantastic and I have lots of confidence in my horse,” said Dutrow. “I know it's going to be a tough race, but I'm going to leave it at that. My horse is doing great, and I'm really confident he's going to go over there and run good. And, I respect the competition.
“He's really, in my opinion, pulled it together tremendously in the last two months,” he added. “He's very confident in himself. I think he feels like he's the real thing. I'm feeling really good about the horse coming together right at the right time for the King's Bishop.”
In his two victories, The Big Beast drew post 1. On Saturday, he'll depart from post 7 with regular rider Javier Castellano aboard.
Frank Calabrese's Fast Anna, a son of Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Dreaming of Anna, will be making his third start on Saturday. He has raced twice at Gulfstream, debuting a 2 ½-length winner in April and strolling home a 13-length victor in a non-winners of two allowance on July 6.
“This horse just seems to get better all the time,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo. “We're going to take a big swing, but he's doing so good there's no reason not to run him. I don't think it's going to make a big difference, the traffic or the people or anything that happens. He's professional. He's smart. He couldn't be doing any better.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Fast Anna, 6-1, for the first time on Saturday. The duo will depart from post 6.
The field also includes Myositis Dan, recent winner of an open allowance at Arlington Park; Noble Cornerstone, who has won two straight allowance races against New York-breds; and Noble Moon, this year's Grade 2 Jerome winner who is unraced since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop:
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