Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy has attracted a strong field of nine – eight in search of their first Grade 1 and one looking to add another to his resume – in the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course.
The 34th running of the race, formerly the King's Bishop, will begin the Travers Day stakes action as race 6 of the 13-race card.
Mr. Amore Stable's multiple graded stakes winner Firenze Fire will make his 12th start for trainer Jason Servis following a resounding nine-length victory in the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont Park on July 7. Earlier this year the Poseidon's Warrior colt finished fourth in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack and subsequently was 11th in the Kentucky Derby.
The Florida-bred is the only starter to own a Grade 1 victory, which he delivered as a 2-year-old by closing stoutly to win the Champagne on October 7 at Belmont Park by a half-length over Good Magic. It will be his first start at seven furlongs since his freshman year, when he was fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 4.
“Everything's going good,” Servis said of Firenze Fire, a winner of five of his 11 career starts and $834,000. “He worked OK the other day, he got a good freshening after the Derby, and it showed in the Dwyer. We've been wanting to shorten him up.”
Firenze Fire will break from post 8 and be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer Dale Romans will saddle a pair of speedy colts, led by Voorheesville, New York native Robert J. Baron's multiple graded stakes winner Promises Fulfilled, who returns off his impressive 3 ¼-length victory over Engage in the Grade 3 Amsterdam on July 28 at Saratoga.
The victory was his second graded stakes win, and first since he wired eight others in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 3 at Gulfstream. In his two previous Grade 1 starts, the Shackleford colt was ninth in the Florida Derby and 15th in the Kentucky Derby.
“This race is going to be a little bit tougher [than the Amsterdam], but that was a pretty awesome performance,” Romans said. “He's done nothing wrong since and he's trained well every day, so I think we'll see another big effort out of him.”
Romans will also have West Point Thoroughbreds' Seven Trumpets, second in the Dwyer, leaving the gate for his first start at Saratoga. The son of Morning Line posted two bullet works in the lead up to the Jerkens, going five furlongs in 59.93 seconds on August 5 and in 58.44 on August 11 before turning in a more leisurely half in 50.99 on Sunday.
“He worked real fast, freaky fast,” Romans said. “He's good to go, and you've got to send them both. I work for two owners, right?”
Promises Fulfilled draws the rail and will have Luis Saez in the irons. Seven Trumpets will run from post 5 and will be ridden by Robby Albarado, Jr.
Woodford Racing's Engage looks to turn the tables on Promises Fulfilled after finishing as the runner-up in the Amsterdam. In their first meeting, the colt by Into Mischief finished second behind Still Having Fun in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 9 at Belmont Park, 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Promises Fulfilled.
First or second in all seven career starts, Engage's lone graded stakes win came in the Grade 3 Futurity at Belmont Park last fall. He breezed a half-mile in 48.02 last Friday for the Jerkens.
“He had a nice work, I was real happy with the way he's coming in,” said the meet's leading trainer, Chad Brown, of Engage, a $550,000 2-year-old in training purchase. “It's coming up pretty tough, but he's doing well.”
Stonestreet Stable's Telekinesis will cut back to sprinting after four route efforts since his debut earlier this year when he broke his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths in a six-furlong run at Fair Grounds. The Ghostzapper colt most recently finished fifth in the Queen's Plate at Woodbine behind Wonder Gadot, coming on the heels of his victory in the Plate Trial Stakes on June 9 going 1 1/8 miles for trainer Mark Casse.
“We've always had some concerns with how far he wanted to go,” Casse said. “He's extremely fast and we think the cut-back will suit him. He's training well and it's a Grade 1, so we're going to try him.”
The Ontario-bred's lone graded stakes try came in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 14 at Keeneland where he was caught at the wire by My Boy Jack.
Telekinesis will start from post 2 with Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano in the saddle.
Zayat Stables LLC's Irish-bred Gidu will make his dirt debut after seven career starts on grass. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Frankel looks for his first graded stakes victory while returning from his fourth-place finish over yielding turf in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on August 3 at Saratoga. It was the colt's first race since his sixth-place finish in the six-furlong Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
Gidu debuted at Saratoga last summer with a runner-up finish behind multiple graded stakes placed Snapper Sinclair before returning and breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park. This year, he finished a head short and settled for second in the Grade 3 Dania Beach at Gulfstream before taking the Columbia at Tampa Bay Downs.
Gidu draw post 6 and will have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Valene Farm's Givemeaminit was second in his debut at the Spa last year and then was third in the Grade 1 Hopeful. He has one with to date, an eight-length maiden-breaking score at Fair Grounds in January, and will make his 11th stakes start for trainer Dallas Stewart. Givemeaminit will run from post 4 and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
Wachtel Stable's Still Having Fun makes his Saratoga debut for Maryland-based trainer Timothy Keefe. The Old Fashioned colt enters off a solid win over Engage and Promises Fulfilled in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 9 at Belmont, his first graded stakes score. Still Having Fun breaks from post 7 and gets Joel Rosario aboard.
Calumet Farm's Funny Duck, winner of the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on May 5 at Churchill Downs, drew post position 9 and will have Brian Hernandez, Jr. in the saddle.
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