PURELY HOT TUNES UP FOR REMATCH WITH GROUPIE DOLL
Tuozzo Racing’s Purely Hot, runner-up to champion Groupie Doll in the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2) on September 9, tuned up for an expected rematch in Saturday’s $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) by working a half-mile in :48.20 at Keeneland Sunday morning.
With regular rider Harry Vega aboard, Purely Hot posted fractions of :12.20, :24.40, :36.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 to the satisfaction of 24-year-old trainer Nick Caruso.
“That was a second faster than she worked before the Presque Isle race,” Caruso said of the 5-year-old mare who has finished first in six of seven starts on the all-weather surface at Presque Isle. “That was a good work for her.”
Caruso claimed Purely Hot for $4,000 in January at Penn National.
“She had won easily for $25,000 last year at Presque Isle and I knew I was going to be going there so I thought it was worth a shot,” Caruso said.
However, Caruso lost her to the previous owners for $8,000 in February but then claimed her back for $10,000 in March and that was the last time Purely Hot has run for a tag.
At Presque Isle, with Vega in the saddle, Purely Hot streamrolled the local competition and gave Groupie Doll all she could handle before yielding late in the 6½-furlong Masters.
“I know a lot of people are going to look at that race and say Groupie Doll just beat a $4,000 claimer,” Caruso said. “She is not a $4,000 claimer and that race was no fluke. I think she is a better all-weather track and grass horse. She has run four times on the grass and won two with a second.”
Caruso believes he has a couple of things in his favor going into the TCA, which is run at six furlongs.
“It is a cut back in distance and we get a break in the weights this time,” Caruso said of Purely Hot, who gave Groupie Doll 3 pounds in the Masters but will be getting weight Saturday. “I am a big Groupie Doll fan, but she is going to have to run to beat her (Purely Hot).”
Vega, who plans to ride here the entire meet that begins Friday and runs through October 26, will be seeking his second Keeneland stakes victory. He won the 2002 Phoenix (G3) aboard Xtra Heat.
WARD HOPES HOME-FIELD EDGE WILL GET JUDY THE BEAUTY ELUSIVE GRADED STAKES WIN
Trainer Wesley Ward has become of master in recent years of unveiling promising 2-year-olds at the Keeneland spring meet.
Judy the Beauty was one of those, winning at first asking in April 2011 for Ward, who is also the owner. Undefeated in two Keeneland starts, Judy the Beauty has compiled a career mark of 11-4-6-1 with earnings of $465,757.
However, missing from the resume is a graded-stakes victory, an omission Ward hopes to rectify in Saturday’s Thoroughbred Club of America (G2).
“I thought she was going to get it at Saratoga,” Ward said of Judy the Beauty, who flipped at the starting gate and had to be scratched from the Ballerina (G1) on August 23.
Judy the Beauty resurfaced 2½ weeks later with a third-place finish behind Groupie Doll and Purely Hot in the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2).
“I was a little disappointed in that race, but we had not planned to go there initially,” Ward said. “But we brought her back here which has basically been her home for two years and she has been training great. She worked :58 and 4 (on Thursday, the best of 24) and I think when you have a game in your own backyard, you have an advantage.”
In addition to the TCA, Ward plans to be active in three other stakes this weekend plus the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) on October 9.
In Sunday’s Juddmonte Spinster (G1), Ward plans to send out Sisterhood for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Second in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) here in April, Sisterhood finished eighth in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on September 7.
“I think she is one of those Kitten’s Joys that is better on the Polytrack than on the grass,” Ward said of Sisterhood who has compiled a 4-2-2-0 mark on Keeneland’s main track. “She has been doing very well.”
Ward will be represented in Friday’s Darley Alcibiades (G1) by Richies Party Girl and in Sunday's Bourbon (G3) by Here’s Johnny.
Ward took both juveniles to Europe in August to race at Deauville.
“You like to take horses you think will have a chance and they both ran very credible,” Ward said of the duo that finished fourth in their respective races.
A winner of a two-turn grass race in her most recent start at Churchill Downs, Richies Party Girl worked five furlongs in 1:00 here Saturday on the main track in her final major move for her Polytrack race debut. Here’s Johnny has made all three of his starts on turf, with the most recent being a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.
For the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, Ward has La Mejor Fiesta, who worked five furlongs on the main track in 1:00 Sunday morning.
“She broke her maiden on the grass at Churchill Downs in her first start and I was pointing her to a stakes at Saratoga but she got sick the day of the race,” Ward said. “I was disappointed in her last race (a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies), but she has trained well since.”
CLASS TEST AWAITS TANGLEWOOD TALE IN SATURDAY’S TCA
Mario Martinez’s Tanglewood Tale brings a three-race win streak to Keeneland for Saturday’s Thoroughbred Club of America (G2), a dive into deeper waters than the filly has faced before.
“I do not know her ceiling yet,” said 28-year-old trainer Mike Wilson, who claimed the filly for $20,000 at Saratoga in September 2012. “I know she won her first start (in 2011) by seven lengths against maiden special weights at Saratoga and horses like typically can run.”
A year after the maiden win, Wilson claimed the filly as he started building his stable after going out on his own.
“There were no physical issues with her,” Wilson said. “We put about 150 pounds on her, gave her some TLC and worked with her to relax. She had run well and she never quits, but she just needed to get her confidence back. We dropped her in for $35,000 at Saratoga and that was all she needed.”
A product of Darley’s Flying Start program, the University of California-Davis graduate cut his teeth on the track working for Hall of Famers Richard Mandella and Bob Baffert. Tanglewood Tale will be his first starter at Keeneland.
“It will be a good test to see what level she is. Unfortunately Groupie Doll is in there with her,” Wilson said, referring to last year’s TCA winner and champion female sprinter.
The TCA also offers the first chance for the filly to run on Polytrack.
“If the race were at Presque Isle or Del Mar, I don’t think we would have tried it because those seem like deeper all-weather tracks,” Wilson said. “I think she likes it tighter like it is here.”
Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Say (IRE), a Group 3 winner in Europe, arrived at Keeneland late Saturday night and took up residence in the quarantine barn for her expected start in Saturday’s $400,000 First Lady (G1). Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Say most recently finished third in the Group 1 Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on September 7. Say is expected to clear quarantine Monday night and go to the track Tuesday according to T.J. Comerford, the traveling lad overseeing the filly’s preparations here. … Beginning Monday, there will be a renovation break at 8 a.m. on the main track.