The effects of a difficult winter led to an unproductive spring for Evaluator and English Soul. But even as summer heads into its twilight, there is still ample time and opportunity for these two New York-breds to make something of their 3-year-old seasons.
Evaluator, winless in four starts this year, looks well spotted by trainer Michael Dilger to end that drought in Friday’s $250,000 Albany Stakes for 3-year-olds, while trainer Ray Handal couldn’t be any more confident in the chances of English Soul in the $200,000 Fleet Indian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Friday’s New York Showcase Day program at Saratoga.
The Albany and Fleet Indian are two of six stakes, totaling $1.15 million in purses, and 11 races overall restricted to New York-breds on Friday. The card also features the induction of two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert into Saratoga’s Walk of Fame. Baffert will be here for the ceremony, which takes place after race 5.
Evaluator, a son of Overanalyze owned by R and H Stable, won on turf here in his debut last summer. He concluded his four-race juvenile campaign with a win in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes going a mile on dirt last October at Belmont.
Evaluator had a promising 3-year-old debut, getting beat a nose in the Damon Runyon. It went sour thereafter.
In February, the Belmont Park barn Evaluator was stabled in was placed under quarantine and he was forced to miss the Gander Stakes. Evaluator went into the Grade 2 Wood Memorial off a three-month layoff and unsurprisingly finished seventh of nine. He returned to New York-bred company in May at Belmont, where he finished seventh of eight under Rajiv Maragh in a race run over a sloppy track.
“Sloppy track and the rail wasn’t very good that day and [Maragh] decided to go down there,” Dilger said.
Evaluator returned from a two-month layoff with a second-place finish to the older horse Calculated Risker in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race here on July 23. It’s the most promising effort at the Albany distance by the seven members in the field.
“We’re not concerned about the distance,” Dilger said. “The thing for us is if there’s enough speed up front, which it seems like there should be, he has something to run at at the end.”
Sea Foam, trained by Christophe Clement for Waterville Lake Stables, won the New York Derby by 3 1/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles at Finger Lakes. He put away token pressure from Spectacular Kid that day, but on Friday may get some early heat from either Singapore Trader or Speke, both trained by Todd Pletcher for Barry Schwartz.
Sea Foam must carry high weight of 124 pounds, spotting seven pounds to all but Analyze the Odds, the Mike Lee winner at seven furlongs, who gets in with 119.
Clement said Sea Foam “always showed quite a bit of speed in the mornings.”
“I always thought he was more of a seven-eighths to a miler,” Clement said. “We’ll stretch him and see what happens. I thought he was impressive at Finger Lakes.”
The Albany will be run as race 3.
After beginning her 3-year-old season with a victory in the East View Stakes at Aqueduct in January, English Soul was away from the races for 4 1/2 months owing to a neck abscess.
After running second in the Bouwerie and third in the New York Oaks, English Soul, in the estimation of trainer Ray Handal, is ready to run her best race in the Fleet Indian at 1 1/8 miles.
Handal felt there were a couple of issues in the New York Oaks that may have worked against English Soul. First, it was the first time she had shipped that far the day of a race. Second, he had upped her dosage of Lasix owing to a bad endoscopic examination a few weeks before the race.
In the Oaks, English Soul set the pace, took some pressure, and was run down by Split Time while losing a nose decision to Crashing Connie for second. English Soul did gallop out past the field.
Handal thinks English Soul has moved forward since the Oaks and, despite her having to break from post 11, he is confident in her chances.
“If she’s the horse that I think she is, she’s going to win the race,” Handal said. “She’s as good as I’ve ever had her right now. She’s training super, and this is the best I’ve seen her look weight- and health-wise before she had that abscess in her neck in the winter.”
Split Time, trained by Linda Rice for Tic Stables, is 5 for 7 and shouldn’t have a problem with the added distance coming off her two-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile New York Oaks.
“It was her first time around two turns,” Rice said. “We wanted to get her around two turns, and I was pleased with the way she handled it.”
A live longshot could be Our Super Nova, who was checked out of the New York Oaks at the three-eighths pole and was not persevered with thereafter.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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