Combatant will change surfaces – maybe – in hopes of changing his fortunes when he runs in Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.
The Hall of Fame is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf course, but according to weatherunderground.com, there is a 100 percent chance of rain Friday, with as much as 1.41 inches possible. If it is forced to the dirt, the Hall of Fame would be run at 1 1/8 miles.
Combatant debuted on turf last September and finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. He has made eight consecutive starts on dirt since then, winning just a maiden race at Churchill Downs last October.
Combatant spent the winter and spring chasing the Kentucky Derby dream. He accumulated enough points to qualify for the race, finishing 18th, 42 3/4 lengths behind Justify. In his only subsequent start, Combatant finished fifth in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill.
“I feel like he’s going to make a lot of money on the turf,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s got a lot of talent, he’s just taken a whole lot of dirt in his face the last five or six starts.”
The Hall of Fame is scheduled to be Gidu’s first start since he finished sixth in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June. Trainer Todd Pletcher felt Gidu ran a respectable race and said the way the horse finished in that six-furlong race indicated to him that he may handle more distance.
“The key is if he’ll settle a little the first part,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher was not sure if he would run Gidu if the race came off the turf.
Pletcher also entered Maraud, who won the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill going 1 1/16 miles over yielding turf. He enters off a sixth-place finish in the Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles.
“Going into the first turn, he got jostled around quite a bit,” Pletcher said. “He ran pretty steadily from there in what I thought was a difficult race.”
Ride a Comet, 3 for 3 on turf and a winner in the slop, and Raging Bull, second in the Manila Stakes, also look like contenders in the 10-horse field.
Combatant, by Scat Daddy
Last 3 Beyers: 74-41-92
◗ Training well on the Oklahoma turf course, including a fastest-of-60 half-mile move in 49.60 seconds on July 27.
◗ Was a bit wide and a little green in his lone turf start last September, when narrowly beaten in his career debut.
Maraud, by Blame
Last 3 Beyers: 88-82-91
◗ Was talented enough to win his career debut at this distance and over this course last September.
◗ Handled yielding turf in beating a solid field in the American Turf.
Ride a Comet, by Candy Ride
Last 3 Beyers: 88-79-62
◗ Undefeated in three starts on turf and has won in the slop in a race originally scheduled for the turf.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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