Chester and Mary Broman's Mr. Buff dominated a state-bred stakes last out and will look to replicate that feat as part of a nine-horse field in the 38th running of the $100,000 Evan Shipman for New York-bred 3-year-olds and up on Wednesday at Saratoga Race Course.
Mr. Buff earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure for the second time in five starts last out, posting a 100 for his front-running 6 ¼-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Saginaw on June 30 at Belmont Park. That victory was the fifth in the last seven starts for the John Kimmel trainee, whose only off-the-board finish in his last eight starts came with a ninth-place effort in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 23 at Fair Grounds.
Drawing a line through that race, Kimmel said Mr. Buff has been training well and should relish returning to the Evan Shipman's 1 1/8-mile distance. The 5-year-old Friend Or Foe gelding capped his 2018 campaign with a win by a nose in the Alex M. Robb in December at Aqueduct and started the new campaign with a 5 ¼-length gate-to-wire romp in the Jazil on January 26 at the Big A, earning a 102 Beyer.
All of his wins since 2018 have come either on or close to the lead.
“He's doing really well and breezed great last week,” Kimmel said. “If someone is intent on going to the [front] and it's going to compromise our chances, we'll make an adjustment. But he's been very comfortable when he's on the lead. He's a big horse. He's 17.2 [hands]. He's got a huge stride and has a nice cruising speed. And I think a mile and an eighth is his best distance.”
Mr. Buff is 5-0-1 in seven career starts at 1 1/8 miles, with his only off-the-board effort coming in the New Orleans Handicap.
“He was undefeated going a mile and an eighth around two turns and I don't know what happened, but it was such an aberration,” Kimmel said. “So many heavy favorites that day ran off the track. The Fair Grounds is the unfair grounds to me.”
Returning to the Spa, where he is 1-1-0 in three starts, Mr. Buff will have the services of jockey Junior Alvarado from post 2.
Robert Bone's Dynamax Prime will look to build on his best career stakes appearance, running second to Mr. Buff last out in the Saginaw, marking his second consecutive runner-up effort that includes a second against optional claiming company on June 19 at Belmont that earned him a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
Since Rob Atras took over the training duties in the spring, Dynamax Prime has won twice and finished second twice in four starts. The 5-year-old son of Bluegrass Cat will now be stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in his first start at the Spa since a sixth-place effort in the 2017 Albany.
Atras said the dark bay son of Bluegrass Cat arrived at Belmont in good order, where he promptly rallied last-to-first in a sloppy allowance route on May 5.
“I only had him for two weeks and he won first time out,” Atras said. “We thought he had a shot that day and then he came back at the next condition and won that too with the same kind of trip. He broke well, sat back and made it look real easy the way he did it. He came to me in good shape. He's a small horse, I think his heart just got big.”
Manny Franco, 1-2-0 in his three starts aboard Dynamax Prime, will have the return call from post 4.
“If you look at him, you wouldn't think of him as a stakes-caliber horse – he's a bit on the smaller side,” Atras said. “But he looks great, he's dappled out and is breezing really good. He's trained really well since he got here. His works are good and he's adjusted well to Saratoga.”
Waterville Lake Stable's Sea Foam will square off against Dynamax Prime again after running third in the Saignaw. The Christophe Clement trainee will be looking for his first stakes win since the 2018 Albany at Saratoga last August.
The 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt will have the services of jockey Joel Rosario from post 3.
Joseph Hinkhouse's Vincento, who is cross-entered in Sunday's $100,000 John Morrissey, has won two in a row, including his first race back for trainer Linda Rice after being claimed out of a victory on June 20 at Belmont. The 6-year-old veteran, who has alternated between Rice and conditioner Rudy Rodriguez through claims, will be making his 41st career start overall, posting a 9-2-4 record in a career that started in 2015.
Jose Ortiz will ride Vincento, breaking from post 1.
Evaluator will be making his 4-year-old debut off a layoff of more than nine months. With trainer H. James Bond taking over for Michael Dilger, Evaluator will return to Saratoga for the first time since running second in the Albany in August 2018.
Evaluator, who was seventh in the 2018 Grade 2 Wood Memorial, last raced in October, running ninth in the Empire Classic. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will pick up the mount and will exit from post 5.
Rounding out the field is multiple stakes-winner Twisted Tom, seeking his first victory since the 2017 Empire Classic, for trainer David Cannizzo [post 6, Jose Lezcano]; Winston's Chance, conditioned by Debra Breed [post 8, Nazario Alvarado]; Gio d'Oro, returning to stakes company for the first time in six starts for trainer Brad Cox [post 7, Kendrick Carmouche]; and Control Group, trained by Rodriguez [post 9, Luis Saez].
The Evan Shipman is slated for Race 9 on Wednesday's 10-race card that will start with a 12:50 p.m. Eastern first post.
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