A decade after Big Blue Kitten gave Chad Brown his first victory in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), the trainer will saddle 6-5 favorite Stone Age as he tries for victory No. 4 in the 1 ½-mile turf race, one of five Grade 1s at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
The Sword Dancer is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in November at Santa Anita Park, a race in which Stone Age finished second last year for trainer Aiden O’Brien. The 4-year-old son of Galileo enters the Sword Dancer off a six-month layoff, having come in 12th in HH The Amir Trophy (G1) in February at Doha in Qatar.
Stone Age had his fifth workout for Brown on Sunday, covering 5 furlongs in 1:01.85 at the Spa. While Brown acknowledges the colt may not be in peak form for the Sword Dancer, he thought it would be better to just run him rather than try to navigate through weather and construction at Belmont Park this fall.
“That will set me up for the (Joe Hirsch at Belmont on Sept. 30) and the Breeders’ Cup,” said Brown, who will give Flavien Prat a leg up on Saturday.
Trainer Christophe Clement, who saddled Gufo to back-to-back victories in 2021-2022, will be vying for his fifth overall victory in the Sword Dancer with Soldier Rising, a 5-year-old son of Frankel who has yet to win a graded stakes. Along with Gufo, Clement took the 2011 edition with Winchester and the 1999 running with Honor Glide.
The well-traveled Channel Maker, now 9, looks to follow up on his victory last month in the Bowling Green (G2) for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Winner of the 2020 Sword Dancer en route to winning the Eclipse as champion turf male, Channel Maker is 10-6-5 from 54 starts with earnings of $3.89 million.
“It’s surprising that any horse is a graded stakes winner at nine, much less Channel Maker, and much less at Saratoga,” said Mott, who also won the Sword Dancer with Broadway Flyer (1996), Fraise (1992) and Theatrical (1987).
The Sword Dancer is one of five Grade 1s on Travers Day. Post time for the race is 5:31 p.m. ET.
1. Soldier Rising (Jose Ortiz, Christophe Clement), 5-1
2. Verstoppen (Declan Cannon, Brendan Walsh), 8-1
3. Bolshoi Ballet (John Velazquez, Aiden O’Brien), 5-1
4. Daunt (Javier Castellano, Bobby Ribaudo), 20-1
5. Pioneering Spirit (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Linda Rice), 8-1
6. Channel Maker (Manny Franco, Bill Mott), 7-2
7. Stone Age (Flavien Prat, Chad Brown), 6-5
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.