A Group 1 winner overseas and multiple graded stakes winner in the United States, Wes Welker and Sheep Pond Partners’ Undrafted is set to make his debut over the Saratoga turf in Monday’s $ 100,000 Lucky Coin.
The 5 ½-furlong Lucky Coin for 4-year-olds and up will be the 25th lifetime start for the 6-year-old Purim gelding, most recently sixth by 2 ½ lengths in defense of his 2015 victory in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting June 18.
In his only other start this year, Undrafted was a sharp half-length winner of the Grade 2 Shakertown April 9 at Keeneland, where he has been training since returning from England.
“This is the best he’s been. He’s a funny traveler but he came back really good this time so I told the owners to fire him right back,” trainer Wesley Ward said. “He’s like an old country boy that doesn’t like to get out of his hometown. He’s not a good shipper so we try to ship him on top of the race.
“This year, the plane was leaving and unfortunately it was a week from the time he got here to the race,” Ward added. “It’s a little too much for him to be away from home. I conceded putting him on the plane rather than vanning him from Kentucky, so hopefully he’s ready to go.”
Ward brought Undrafted to Saratoga as a juvenile in 2012 following his impressive debut triumph at Keeneland and a third in the Willard Proctor Memorial in California, but he did not race again for 5 ½ months until an optional claiming allowance victory at Gulfstream Park that December.
“He got here as a 2-year-old and we were thinking of running him,” Ward said. “When he got here he kind of started wilting down so I just pulled the plug and turned him back out.”
Favored at 8-5 on the morning line, Undrafted drew post 12 in a 13-horse field for the Lucky Coin that includes main-track-only entrants Weekend Hideaway and All Star Red.
“He comes from behind so it doesn’t matter where he draws,” Ward said. “He sits back there and if they go fast early he’ll be flying late.”
Ward is weighing his options with Kitten’s Joy gelding Maniacal, who is 2-for-2 this year. In addition to the Grade 2, $ 200,000 Amsterdam at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track July 30, he is considering the $ 100,000 Quick Call at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass Aug. 4. Both races are restricted to 3-year-olds.
Maniacal broke his maiden April 29 at Keeneland off more than a year layoff and came back with a half-length allowance victory over elders June 10 at Belmont Park, both on the dirt under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“He had some physical issues so we just gave him time to overcome it. He always showed a little bit of promise at 2 but he was kind of like a big kid growing and he finally grew into himself,” Ward said. “When he broke his maiden at Keeneland he ran a big race that day, and the other day he ran really big against older horses and showed a big heart, too. When they came and went by him he battled back and won the race. Now we’ll see if he’s that good.”
Ward, who also owns Maniacal, plans to work him Monday over the Saratoga turf.
“I’m going to breeze him and see how he likes that,” he said. “This way, it will give me another option.”
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