The Sword Dancer (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
SAR- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Half on the Inner Turf
August 25, 2018
As we get closer to the running of the Travers here at beautiful Saratoga, we get a chance to view some of the greatest turf horses in the game today. A BC Turf berth is on the line, but this race is all about prestige and that big $1,000.000 Purse. Surprisingly, it was only in 2015 that the purse level was increased to its current amount, as it was half that in the majority of the prior years. Last year, we watched Midwestern Slang pick up the huge win for Oquinn Farm, and he would later finish second to Clockwork Chai in the BC Turf. He is still running well and won the Read Stakes (Grade 2) last month for new trainer Gdp Inc, but he is not here today. Clockwork Chai will be, though. On two occasions, the Sword Dancer winner has gone on to win the BC Turf. The first time it happened was in 2008 when Salamanca Stable did so with Siberian Rhythm. Interestingly, the BC Turf was the last race that Siberian Rhythm ran with Salamanca, as he was auctioned off, to Maverick Racing, for $2,555.000. He’d only win one out of eleven races with Maverick. It would happen again in 2015, this time by Tundra Kenny, for Australia Wide during that stable’s brief comeback. The gate is loaded to capacity, and there are many here to be excited about. Let’s meet the field!
#1- Danzigs Canyon (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by R J Albarado)- Without question, Maxmillion sees something in this horse, and when Maxmillion sees something in a turf horse, everyone better watch out. Prior to appearing in an open claimer as a first-time gelding for $16.000, in which there were two claims, he had not done much of anything. Jader Stable won the shake, sent him long on the grass, and he would win in a rout at MTH. A couple days later, Maxmillion purchased him for $250.000 in private sales. He would run a strong second in his Maxmillion debut, coming in the California Dreamin Stakes for CA-breds. Off that, he comes here and is ready to roll. This is the longest he has ever run, but I like how he has responded to new challenges since being gelded.
#2- Siberian Prince (Sir Daniel Martin, ridden by B J Hernandez Jr)- Was hoping to look back in his pedigree and be able to mention a Siberian Rhythm connection, but that is not the case. He can still look to follow the lead of the 2008 Sword Dancer/BC Turf winner with the similar name here. Siberian Prince is already a BC champion, having on th BC Juvenile Turf last year. This year, his progress was momentarily stalled with a couple TC prep races, but he has responded well back on the grass, as long as its not wet, and comes off a second place showing last month in the Grade 2 Read Stakes to last year’s Sword Dancer winner, Midwestern Slang. It is possible that he will be lost in the shuffle of a strong field, so watch the odds board on him.
#3- Sacred Brave (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J Alvarado)- With only one turf start in his career, it is safe to say Sacred Brave is an unanticipated entry in this field. That turf start came in January down at GP, and he ran fourth in the $100.000 Kittens Joy. After that, he would run in the TC prep races, and there was not a more unlucky horse in the game when it came to drawing outside posts for those races. Given his starting gate position, he performed admirably, but was barely on the outside looking in for the KYD. He’d run in the BEL and not do well, but bounced back impressively and won the prestigious Queens Plate up north at WO. Ran earlier this month at the sloppy Whitney and finished midpack. There are no recent public turf works to get a feel on how he will make this transition, but certainly there is plenty of potential with him.
#4- Turn Ninnie (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Heading into the Suburban Handicap, Turn Ninnie had been hot, winning three out of four races. The Suburban however, did not go well, though he was one of the high weights for that race. For the Sword Dancer, things are going to be different for this one as he returns to the grass, a surface that he has not competed on since September 2017. Only once has Turn Ninnie hit the board at the stake level on the turf, but what he does like is the distance. The last time he went long on the grass was the Grade 1 Secretariat at AP last year and it was not one of his best races. He is a better horse now then he was then, though.
#5- Mist Maker (Crocker Ggs, ridden J K Court)- There is a consistent theme with those in posts 3-5, and that is dirt horses making the change over to running on the grass. Mist Maker is joining the fun in that, as he has only raced on the grass twice in his career. For Mist Maker, you have to go back to October of last year to see the last time, and it was a third place showing in the Coronation Futurity. He was very competitive over TC prep race season, and was fifth in the PRK. He also ran second in the Queens Plate, making it interesting that the top two runners from that race wound up in the Sword Dancer two months later. Made up seven lengths in the stretch on Sacred Brave in the Queens Plate and missed by one, but he has a little more ground this time.
#6- Speeding Zeus (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by L Saez)- We now return to horses that have been regularly running on turf lately. Speeding Zeus is a veteran of the Sword Dancer, having run in the race last year as well for former trainer Maxmillion Farm. He’d be fourth that day, and has recently switched hands to D J C Racing Stables via the June auction for $77.000. That came off a win on soft turf at the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap, which is also a 12-furlong race. In his debut in D J C silks, he ran fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations and doesn’t look to really have gotten involved in the race. His history shows that, on occasion, he has a race like that. Typically, he bounces back, so I expect nothing less.
#7- The Force Awakens (Diablo Diablo, ridden by J L Ortiz)- Last year, The Force Awakens ran second in the Sword Dancer. That race followed a win in the Grade 2 Nijinsky, but since then, the force has been a bit sleepy. The only race he has won since then came in an open allowance. His last four graded stake efforts have seen him be 11th of 12, 7th of 8, 9th of 10, and then 6th of 8. Therefore, you can see why he is being made the survivor pick of several of the early picks being made on the forum in Smokey Stover’s excellent contest. Sometimes, though, a horse can be a fit for a race track, and while it can be logical for him to be a longshot here, he might be a little risky to be completely dismissed.
#8- Taniwha (Aml Racing, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- What an amazing fit for this horse Aml Racing has been. It’s been eleven months now since he was acquired from Yahudi Stables for $250.000, following a race where he was allowed to be 19 lengths out after six furlongs. Yes, even though there was a major rabbit there, he was still well behind the rest of the pack, too. Since then, he has raced smarter tactically, and has won three out of four while running in his new silks. It is also quite appealing with how Aml Racing has picked his spots. He won the Pan American, a Grade 2 at GP at the end of March, beating Midwestern Slang and Jamie Mach, among others, and most recently ran third in the Grade 1 Manhattan. Expect him to be a top threat here as well.
#9- Clockwork Chai (Mb Stables, ridden by F Pennington)- The reigning BC Turf champion is one of the undisputed best horses in the game. No one needs to be convinced of that, and there is no reason to think that things will be changing. It was a little disappointing to see him run in a LAD open allowance last month, though. With other prestigious graded events that could have been run in, it was a head scratcher. It is not uncommon for Mb Stables to use races like that as a confidence booster for his horse, but in this case I don’t see why he needed it. This is where Clockwork Chai belongs, and to make him even more of a favorite here, he has the services of the great F Pennington in the saddle. What more can one ask for?
#10- Call Me Spanish (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J Bravo)- As the early survivor forum contest selections get made, Call Me Spanish is seen as a pretty frequent survivor pick. Coming out of this barn on the grass, there is some risk in that. It also needs to be considered that he is carrying five less pounds then many in this field. He has raced twice for Maxmillion in his career after being acquired in private sales for $30.000. Prior to that, he had a decent career, but not one that suggested he’d be in the Sword Dancer anytime soon. In his debut for Maxmillion, he won the $200.000 Snow Chief Stakes against three others in June, but did not follow it up well in the BEL Derby. I think he will run decently, but probably not in the top three.
#11- Inverted Calibration (Nakamura Stables, ridden by T C Baze)- The five year old gelding is having the best year of his career, and is currently running quite well. It is a season that began with two strong ungraded stake performances, including a win in the $60.000 Old Man Eloquent at GP. This saw him be promoted into graded competition, and finally picked up a graded victory in his last start, the Grade 3 Oceanport at MTH. He is most successful when running on the lead, but this is the longest distance he will run in his career, so can he execute that strategy over the twelve furlongs here? Or will another strategy be employed?
#12- Devilish Luck (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by L H Colon)- This has been a very consistent racehorse, with seven finishes in the money out of eight starts, six being in the top two, and three being wins. Proven to be a good claim, as he was picked up for $25.000 from Mb Stables in March, and has been up to task every time the trainer has moved him forward in class. In June, Devilish Luck impressed by running second in the Grade 1 Manhattan, and then followed up that up nicely with another runner up, this being the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap right here at the Spa. Still looking for his first graded win, but that seems to just be a matter of time.
#13- Jamie Mach (Gdp Inc, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- One of the more appealing horses in this race, but will need to overcome this starting position. Last week, it didn’t matter in the Pacific Classic, so hopefully that trend can continue here in the Sword Dancer if you are a Jamie Mach fan. Plenty of reason to be such a fan, with wins in his last two starts. Won the Grade 1 United Nations at the end of June against a powerful field that included the likes of Spanish Showboat, Speeding Zeus, and Midwestern Slang. Seems to be at his best the longer the races are, so this is right up his alley.
#14- My Plucky (Hambletonian Stable, ridden by R M Hernandez)- The post position draw did not do any favors to Plucky Mach foals, with Jamie Mach in 13 and My Plucky out here in the 14th post. Since being acquired from Alegria in the June 2017 auction, My Plucky has flourished with Hambletonian, managing eight of his 13 wins with him. He has been a consistent runner in graded competition, and even when he does not win, he always seems to be in the top half of the field, at the very least. His signature win to this point is likely the Grade 2 Nijinsky at WO last month, though a couple other wins of his are pretty equal. Looks to win his third in a row here.