Sword Dancer 2021 Entries: Breeders' Cup Turf to Japan?

Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien brings one of his own to run in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer ... A ticket to the Breeders' Cup Turf is on the line!
Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien brings one of his own to run in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer ... A ticket to the Breeders' Cup Turf is on the line!

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The SPA, Race 11: 1½ (Turf), Sword Dancer (G1), Purse $750k, 4+ (Saturday)

The Grade 1 Sword Dancer is a distance test on the grass at Saratoga that has stood the test of time. Winners in the past combined settling and speed to push forward to the very end … tasting victory, and snatching it from potential usurpers. There are a bevy of champions are actually those that have won on not just one occasion, but two … Majesty’s Prize, El Senor, With Anticipation, Grand Couturier (GB), Telling, and Flintshire (GB) are all part of this club. Last year’s winner, Channel Maker, is returning to defend, as he looks to join this elite group. Whomever crosses the wire first will receive the spoils—a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where they will face some tough competition at Del Mar. “Win and You’re In” is on the table ladies and gents, and the turf beckons …

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Tribhuvan (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: C. Brown):

One of a pair of Chad Brown entries in this race … the talented and well-bred gelding out of Toronado (IRE) will probably be the favorite on Saturday as Flavien Prat comes into town to ride. Last out in the UN (G1) at Monmouth, Prat guided his mount to the win in wire-to-wire fashion. Since coming over from the French provinces (he did run at Deauville too), he has for the most part succeeded as the distance tests have increased. His 2nd place to Domestic Spending in the Manhattan (G1) was impressive at odds of 16/1. The central question is, will the 1½ suit? The pedigree on both sides to speaks to it, but Prat must control the pace up front. It will not be easy against some of these powerful “stayers.”

Grade: B+

 

#2 Gufo (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Clement):

In October of last year, this Christophe Clement-trained colt wowed the bettors by winning the out of order Belmont Derby (G1), concluding the “Turf Triple Series.” That was a signature win, and vaulted the son of Declaration of War into a whole new category. Clement shipped him into the hostile Hollywood Derby (G1), where he finished 3rd behind Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait. Turning 4-yrs-old, he hit the board in the Man ‘O War (G1) and Manhattan (G1), then going on to win a “Non-G” 150k distance test @BEL. That was clearly a nice prep for this one, but since it was almost 2 months ago, his fitness will be a concern. What he does have going for him is Joel Rosario, and a well-built maturity. A player in here …

Grade: B+

 

#3 Rockemperor (IRE) (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

The “other” Chad Brown stablemate to hit the grass course at Saratoga is this 5-yr-old out of Holy Roman Emperor (IRE). Like #1, he is owned by the excellent team of Madaket and Michael Dubb … that is a potent combination. This runner, who can handle the deeper routes like a 1¼ will have his hoofs full up against these favorites. But having Irad Ortiz in the irons will assist greatly, as his numbers on the grass are always in an upward trajectory. Finishing just behind Mike Maker’s Cross Border #7, who entered here, on 31 July in the Bowling Green (G2) a touch disappointing. He is going to have to be at his best for this Grade 1, especially considering his record in these types of races is a touch below average. Brown is on a hot streak, and if you are looking for a much better price, then this is one to scrutinize. Could be a bit of a sleeper play, as most of the money will head towards those that are drawn inside.

Grade: C+

 

#4 Channel Maker (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: B. Mott):

It is always great to see a champ from the previous year return to the scene, in an attempt to go back-to-back. You must understand, this is something very difficult to do in horse racing because so much can change year-to-year. Peter Miller’s Mo Forza out at Del Mar did it last Saturday in the Del Mar Mile (G1) after a year away from the track. Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber bring us this seasoned gelding out of the famous patriarch of the sod, English Channel. Hence the name … Channel. Bill Mott helped his router build quite a resume over the years, and his class is absolutely undeniable. Shipping to the Middle East earlier this year was a bold move, and he gave it a go in Saudi Arabia and in Dubai. Though the Sheema Classic (G1) did not turn out well, he still was up against Mishriff, one of the best deep stayers on the planet. Coming back stateside in the Bowling Green (G2) resulted in a lackluster ending—7th. Can he make it back to his winning ways from before? I am not sure, but Manny Franco will try.

Grade: B-

 

#5 Moretti (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher):

The mystery guest sitting at the end of the table has to be this 5-yr-old horse out of Medaglia d’Oro from the barn of Todd Pletcher. Repole and Eclipse have gotten together to own this fine-looking runner, who amazingly enough, will be trying turf for the very first time. That is going to immediately turn a load of bettors off, simply because we will not know how he will react in competition. What we do know is that since the Summer of 2020 he has plied his trade nicely in some of the most significant Graded dirt races in the NYRA distance division. Running against the likes of Tacitus, Lone Rock, Tizmagician, Max Player, Mystic Guide, and Happy Saver cannot hurt in the least bit. Pletcher is making a shrewd move here, and with Jose Ortiz aboard for the first time, it could be a gamble that will pay off nicely. With little to go on, except a turf bloodline through the sire, there is not much more to say. Could be a boom and bust in the end too. That is always a possibility. I think it will be the latter.

Grade: C

 

#6 Japan (GB) (Jky: R. Moore/Trn: Aidan O’Brien):

Admiring this runner from afar for some time, I actually liked him quite a bit in the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot back in mid-June. The son of the now-deceased Galileo (IRE) was up against it, trying to run with Wonderful Tonight, Broome, and Hukum … 6th was the result. In my own opinion, I can say without hesitation, that no one in this race at Saratoga has the class to measure up against this caliber of deep router. In other words, that was an extremely tough race at Royal A. Lest we forget … and I am here to remind you … Aidan O’Brien is a trainer who knows shipping to the U.S. through and through. During this NYRA Meet he has had some nice success once again. I expect regular jockey Ryan Moore to settle early, and be aggressive when it counts. Some bettors might think his mount likes softer ground, but remember that the turf courses at The SPA have taken significant rain. Firm may not be exactly that … This Euro import is not a “B Team” player either; rather he has the ability to meet head-on with the best that American has to offer. Top pick for me …

Grade: A

 

#7 Cross Border (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: M. Maker):

Here is another son of English Channel who I liked even before the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. He was my top pick over Colonel Liam, and though he finished 3rd, it was a game effort to say the least. I like his late-turn-of-foot, and with Luis Saez riding, he is the perfect one to guide this Mike Maker superstar once again. He may not look like a celebrity just yet, but he certainly is on the brink of something big. Each time he takes the track, it is up against some very tough fields, Pan American (G2) … Turf Classic (G1) … Bowling Green (G2). I think he's due for a breakout race … a bridesmaid no longer. Three Diamonds has a winner, it is just a matter of “when” not “if” …

Grade: A-

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