Eight accomplished older sprinters will contest the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes Aug. 2 at Saratoga Race Course. Saturday's six-furlong event drew an evenly-matched field headed by True North Stakes winner Palace.
Antonino Miuccio's Palace, who won a stakes for New York-breds last summer at the Spa, has also won added-money events at Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack. The 5-year-old City Zip horse has been off the board just three times in 19 starts, winning nine, and he has finished in the top three in all three of his Saratoga outings.
Following the True North, Palace finished second behind Clearly Now in the Belmont Sprint Stakes going seven furlongs in early July for trainer Linda Rice. At six furlongs, the bay is 6-4-1 in 11 starts. His nearly-$800,000 in career earnings paces this field.
Recent form moves up Happy My Way, who enters the Vanderbilt riding a three-race win streak for trainer Joe Orseno. Most recently, the Wilko gelding won the Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard. In his previous race Happy My Way scored in the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Both victories were by an impressive 5 ¾ lengths.
ALFRED G. VANDERBILT HANDICAP DRAW
Happy My Way, who was third in a turf allowance/optional claimer at the Spa last summer, has never run on the main track there, but he is a sharp 4-for-6 at the distance on dirt.
Bahamian Squall takes another crack at the Vanderbilt after finishing second in last year's edition, two lengths behind Justin Phillip . The 5-year-old Gone West horse won the Smile Sprint Handicap immediately preceding the Vanderbilt last year, and eventually ran sixth, beaten 2 ¾ lengths, in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint. He made his first start of this season July 5 at Gulfstream, running third in the Housebuster Stakes.
Lightly-raced Bakken, beaten less than a length by Palace in the True North in just his fourth lifetime start, has room to improve. He won his first two races last fall in New York in front-running fashion, then shipped to California and ran fifth in the Malibu Stakes. The True North, his first start in more than five months, likely sets him up well to contend here, and he will be a pace factor along with Happy My Way.
Capo Bastone made his mark at Saratoga last summer with a flashy move from off the pace to win the Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes. He has gone off form since, however, and has yet to revisit the winner's circle in five subsequent starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. He has been soundly defeated in Grade 1 and Grade 2 company since, and when dropped down to an allowance/optional claimer last out at Belmont, he came in a distant second to Big Business. Capo Bastone, the only Grade 1 winner in the field, would benefit from a hot pace duel early.
Falling Sky, winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes a year ago but no factor in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, has been shortened up to one-turn affairs. This February he took the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes by 5 ½ lengths. Having failed to contend in a pair of Grade 2 events since, he won a stakes at Parx in June and should be on or close to the Vanderbilt lead.
The son of Lion Heart has also been entered in the West Virginia Governor's Stakes at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort Saturday by trainer George Weaver.
Vyjack, another Derby also-ran from a year ago, has been cut back to sprint distances following desultory performances in the Belmont Stakes and Haskell Invitational Stakes in 2013. This April he won an allowance/optional claimer at Aqueduct but ran up the track in the Met Mile and was eased in the Suburban.
Lemon Drop Dream rounds out the field. In April he won the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park, but then was a distant second to Happy My Way in the Maryland Sprint and was soundly defeated in the Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint in June. He tends to run mid-pack and then make his move late.