February 22, 2024

Weather still a potential factor in rescheduled Hall of Fame

Mysterious Night wins the Summer Stakes at Woodbine (Photo by Michael Burns Photography)

It remains to be seen whether Mother Nature is done messing with the $500,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), the Friday feature at Saratoga.

The field for the one-mile grass test for three-year-olds was in the paddock on Aug. 4 when a summer storm, including lightning, forced its postponement and the cancellation of the last several races on that afternoon’s program.

Turf course conditions deteriorated later that weekend to where several races on the Sunday card were belatedly transferred to the main track. Racing at Saratoga this week began Wednesday with all turf races moved to the main track and the scheduled steeplechase postponed.

The Hall of Fame field of nine remained intact after its re-drawing. Godolphin homebred Mysterious Night, who dazzled winning the Summer (G1) at Woodbine last September, will look to regain winning form after a pair of dull efforts in Europe to start the season. The gelded son of Dark Angel adds blinkers after trailing the field in the Craven (G3) at Newmarket and finishing 12th of 15 in the Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot.

The other overseas raider, Ocean Vision, was Group 2-placed in France last season and is 2-for-4 this term, most recently finishing fifth in the Prix Paul de Moussac (G3) at Longchamp.

The American contingent includes recent Manila (G3) winner More Than Looks; Bat Flip, last seen taking the Central Park S. at Aqueduct in November; recent Penn Mile (G2) runner-up Behind Enemy Lines; and General Jim, the Pat Day Mile (G2) winner who finished up the track in the Woody Stephens (G1) last out.

Trainer Chad Brown offers a three-prong challenge. Appraise, a distant runner-up to Mysterious Night in the Summer, made his season debut a winning one against allowance foes at Belmont, while Mischievous Angel steps up in class after winning on debut going six furlongs.

“We rested him last year with sore shins after the race in Canada and the horse came back fine. We were just patient with him,” said Brown of Appraise.

More intriguing is Carl Spackler, who followed up a scintillating maiden win at Gulfstream with a sub-par eighth as the favorite in the American Turf (G2).

“He’s a horse we’ve always been very high on. He went to Churchill and didn’t handle the turf at all,” Brown said. “He came out of the race sick and I had to rest him a little bit and get him healthy.”