Dream Rush heads strong Saratoga field

Posted: August 04, 2007

Many stakes races this season have offered more lucrative purses, but few have presented more competitive fields than today's Grade I Darley Test Stakes at Saratoga.

The $250,000 race for some of the best 3-year-old filly sprinters in the nation is headed by multiple-stakes winner Dream Rush, who captured the Grade I Prioress in her last start, on July 7 at Belmont Park.

Dream Rush, trained by Richard Violette, has won five of seven starts but faces 12 opponents in the seven-furlong Test, including Akronism, trained by Tim Ritchey and ridden by Tony Black.

Black, 55, has been riding for 37 years but is making a rare trip to the Spa.

"I've ridden there five or six times but haven't won yet," Black said yesterday while driving to Upstate New York. "I was second there on Avery Hall, who jumped tire tracks in the stretch left by the tractor and got beat in a photo. I rode Devil's Honor [the 1996 Pennsylvania Derby winner] in the Saratoga Special and just missed."

Akronism easily handled the speedy Cantrel in the Jostle Stakes in June at Philadelphia Park, winning by nearly eight lengths under Black while completing the 61/2 furlongs in a sprightly 1 minute, 15 seconds.

"I know she has to step it up to handle those horses," Black said.

Astor Park, undefeated in three starts at Delaware and Monmouth Parks, is also in the Test and will be trained for the last time by Todd Beattie.

The $7,500 yearling purchase was recently bought for vastly more by the Team Valor Stables and Gary Barber, and will be turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher after the race.

Other threats in the Test are Pletcher's Cotton Blossom; Appealing Zophie, trained by Steve Asmussen; Sheets, trained by T.V. Smith; Nick Zito's Silver Knockers; and Boca Grande, trained by Shug McGaughey.

The race will be televised by ESPN beginning at 5 p.m.

Haskell tomorrow. The $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, headed by Preakness winner Curlin, drew a terrific field - which includes Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday.

But those connected with a couple of long shots in the eight-horse field think they have a chance.

When Bill Currin, the breeder, owner and trainer of Stormello, heard that his horse was given long odds by Monmouth line-maker Brad Thomas, he seemed surprised.

"I hope the line-maker's not a big guy," Currin said with a laugh. "I might have to slap his face."

Stormello, 15-1, is making his fifth cross-country trip of the year, from California.

"He's a very good shipper," Currin said. "He thinks he's going to a party."

Reata's Shadow, 50-1, is trained by Joe Orseno and will be ridden by Joe Bravo.

"This race is a dogfight - it sets up nice," Bravo said. "Watch him down the lane. He'll be running at them."

Bravo won the 2004 Haskell aboard Lion Heart.

Delaware contest. Delaware Park will offer $25,000 for first place in next Saturday's handicapping contest.

A $100 entry fee and $200 betting stake are required, and the top two finishers will gain a berth in and paid trip to the Daily Racing Form-National Thoroughbred Racing Association contest in Las Vegas in January. The third and fourth finishers gain entry and a paid trip to the World Series at the Orleans, also in January.

For information and entries, send e-mails to bill.moore@delawarepark.com.

West Virginia Derby. The $750,000 event at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va. (ESPN, 5 p.m.), boasts a wide-open field of 10 second-tier 3-year-olds.

Delightful Kiss, the stretch-running Ohio and Iowa Derby winner, may be given an edge over Blue Grass winner Dominican and Sam P.

Rocco vs. Rocco. When El Pirata nosed out Baltic after a race-long battle in the sixth race at Delaware Park on Tuesday, it was a family affair.

Joe Rocco Jr., 25, rode the winner. Joe Rocco Sr., 47, was on the runner-up.

"We've finished one-two before, but this was only the second time it was really close," the elder Rocco, a winner of more than 3,500 races, said yesterday. "He beat me that time, too, a couple of months ago.

"I was yelling after the finish because I dropped my rein for a stride when I switched sticks, and it might have cost me the race. Everybody was ribbing me. But [my son] has really turned into a fine rider."


Contact staff writer Craig Donnelly at 215-854-2839 or cdonnelly@phillynews.com.

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