Trainer Jorge Navarro will be represented by a trio of runners in a competitive edition of the Grade 1, $ 350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt for seasoned sprinters at six furlongs Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, led by Grade 2 Smile Sprint winner Delta Bluesman.
A $ 30,000 pickup at the claims box in October 2014, Monster Racing Stable’s Delta Bluesman has amassed seven of his nine career wins and more than $ 370,000 in earnings in the 21 months since he joined Navarro’s barn.
While nearly all of his wins have come in his typical front-running fashion, Navarro was pleased to see a new dimension from the Florida-bred in the Smile Sprint as Delta Bluesman gamely overcame an early speed duel in his graded stakes debut to prevail by 3 ¾ lengths and secure his berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint this fall.
“Since I claimed him two years ago, this horse has always shown me he has the potential,” said Navarro. “I think maybe I wasn’t patient enough when I first got him. Every time a race would come up on the turf I would run him, but he’s been a different horse on the dirt. He’s always showed a lot a talent in the morning.”
The 6-year-old Wagon Limit gelding has crossed the wire first in each of his last four starts and, despite being disqualified and placed fifth for interference in the Decathlon in May, has earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures for his last three efforts, all against open company at six furlongs.
“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Navarro continued. “He’s coming out of a big race four weeks ago. I was going to give him 40 to 50 days but he came out of the race super – the best I’ve ever seen him come out of a race actually. So why not? We’ll just take a chance. It’s a Grade 1, a short field, the money’s great and, the main thing, the horse came out great. There isn’t another option until next month, so we’ll take the chance. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
Emisael Jaramillo, who rode Delta Bluesman to his Smile Sprint victory, will have the return call. The pair will depart from post 3.
Delta Bluesman will be joined in the Vanderbilt by stablemates Chublicious, the New Jersey-bred winner of the Mr. Prospector on June 26 at Monmouth Park, and Catalina Red.
Owned by Anthony Lenci, Catalina Red was transferred from Florida-based trainer Chad Stewart shortly before the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard, a race the 4-year-old Florida-bred by Munnings won by a length over graded stakes winner Calculator at odds of 14-1. Catalina Red returned in the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park in June pressed the early pace before fading to fourth.
“I blame myself for the race at Belmont Park, I don’t blame the horse,” said Navarro. “Private Zone was scratched from the race and there was no speed in the race, so I got in his way. I told [Javier] Castellano to get away from the pony, warm him up good and keep him close to the pace. But he doesn’t want any part of that. Catalina Red is a horse that wants to take back and make one run, so that was my fault. The horse is ready; he’s been doing really good.”
Catalina Red will leave from post 2 with jockey Luis Saez aboard for the first time, while Chublicious will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo from post 6.
Alto Racing’s Anchor Down will shorten back up to six furlongs for trainer Todd Pletcher following a pair of one-mile graded stakes efforts at Belmont, including a 6 ¾-length romp in the Grade 3 Westchester on May 7 and a game second-place finish behind Frosted in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 11.
“We considered the distance [of the Vanderbilt] a little bit but we’re going to give it a try,” said Pletcher. “I thought his most impressive race was the Westchester and, although well beaten by Frosted, he did show some courage to run on to be second in the Met. Up here [at Saratoga], you get limited options. You either go six, seven [furlongs] or a mile and an eighth and I don’t think any of those are perfect for him, so we decided that the Vanderbilt is a Grade 1 so we’d take a shot.”
Anchor Down, a 5-year-old son of Tapit, will break from the rail with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Also on tap for the Vanderbilt are Grade 3 Belmont Sprint winner A. P. Indian for trainer Arnaud Delacour; Steve Asmussen trainee Holy Boss, who capped a four-race win streak last year with a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Amsterdam; Requite, winner of the Parrot Key in June at Gulfstream for George Weaver; and Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap runner-up All Star Red for the barn of Rudy Rodriguez.
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