To Honor and Serve, a dual graded-stakes winner who was taken off the Triple Crown trail with a suspensory ligament injury, will make his return to the races in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam at Saratoga Race Course.
The 6 ½-furlong Amsterdam for 3-year-olds will be To Honor and Serve's first start in a sprint since he finished second to Astrology on debut in a seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga last September.
Following that race, the son of Bernardini broke his maiden by 8 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park in October, swept the Grade 2 Nashua and Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack in November, and was third in Gulfstream Park's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February and Grade 1 Florida Derby in April.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott pondered several options for To Honor and Serve's return before he opted in favor of the Amsterdam .
“I was looking for a spot to get started, and I couldn't think of anything better,” said Mott. “I didn't think he was ready for the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy or Curlin. I decided we'd try the sprint to get a race in him and go from there. We're not making a decision on where we're going until after the race. For a big horse, he has a little bit of speed. You don't think of him as a sprinter, but I'm trying to learn something myself.”
To Honor and Serve drew post position 5 for the Amsterdam , which pleased Mott.
“It's a good post,” said Mott. “I'm glad I'm not stuck down on the inside. With all the fast horses, I'd rather be outside a little bit.”
Javier Castellano will ride To Honor and Serve, who was installed at 4-1 on the morning line.
The Amsterdam attracted a pair from the barn of Steve Asmussen, who will send out graded stakes winner Justin Phillip and the promising, albeit lightly raced, Wine Police.
Justin Phillip flirted with the Triple Crown trail this winter at the Fair Grounds, winning an optional claimer, finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Lecomte, and never threatening when eighth in the Grade 2 Risen Star, all in routes.
Subsequently turned back in distance, Justin Phillip responded by finishing third in a pair of one-turn races at Aqueduct in April – the Grade 3, seven-furlong Bay Shore and the Grade 2, one-mile Jerome – and winning the Grade 2, seven-furlong Woody Stephens presented by VisitNassauCounty.com at Belmont Park on June 11.
“We tried to stretch him for the money, basically, and backed him up for success,” said Asmussen.
Justin Phillip, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will have the services of Ramon Dominguez from the outside in the field of seven.
J. Kirk and Judy Robison's Wine Police has made three career starts, with two having come at Saratoga last year. After drawing off to a 7 ¾-length debut score and finishing third in last year's Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful, the 3-year-old son of Speightstown resurfaced at Churchill Downs this spring, winning an entry-level allowance by 2 ¼ lengths.
“He's had three solid races, he likes Saratoga , so we have that going for him,” said Asmussen. “He's done well since his race at Churchill. There are a lot of reasons why he should run well.”
Travelin Man won April's Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream Park in his second start and enters the Amsterdam off a sixth in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in April and a fourth in the Woody Stephens.
All three of the colt's three career losses occurred when he left from post position 1 or 2. Trainer Todd Pletcher was hoping Travelin Man would draw an outside post for the Amsterdam , and that's what the E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred got as he will leave from post 6 on Monday.
“I don't think he liked the surface at Churchill,” added Pletcher. “I thought he trained well in the slop at Churchill, but he didn't seem to like it at Belmont .”
Caleb's Posse, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Ohio Derby in June two starts back, will cut back in distance for Amsterdam and will likely remain in one-turn races going forward. He enters Monday's race off a fourth in the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on June 25.
“Most of the races [for 3-year-olds] the remainder of the year are 1 1/8 miles or longer,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains the son of Posse for McNeill Stables and Cheyenne Stables. “We were planning on him being a one-turn horse as an older horse, anyway, and this kind of moved the schedule up a little bit.”
Von Hemel admits Caleb's Posse is most effective going seven furlongs to a mile.
“I wish it were a little further, but he's certainly capable,” said Von Hemel. “Hopefully, we'll be able to keep him in firing distance.”
The Amsterdam field also includes Arch Traveler, winner of the Ziggy's Boy overnight stakes at Belmont in May prior to his third-place finish in the Woody Stephens, and Redeemed, who has won three straight, including a 3 ½-length victory over older horses in a July 4 optional claimer at Belmont.
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