Saratoga Notebook, Presented by NYRA Bets: Long Neck Paula Back For The Schuylerville

Long Neck Paula training for her would-be start in the Astoria Stakes | Sarah Andrew

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY–Finally, 'TDN Rising Star' Long Neck Paula (Uncle Mo) gets her chance to run at Saratoga Race Course.

The 2-year-old filly, trained by Wesley Ward, is one of 11 entered to run in the 106th running of the $175,000 Listed Schuylerville Stakes on Thursday's opening day card at the Spa.

Long Neck Paula was the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the June 6 Astoria S. at Saratoga but didn't get to run after the stewards scratched her.

Ward had taken her off the grounds for cold water spa therapy, which was a no-no. A rule states that stewards must grant permission for such treatment and Ward had not done that.

“Everyone involved was disappointed,” Ward said Wednesday by phone from Lexington, Kentucky. “It was one of those things. You live and you learn, and you move on.”

Long Neck Paula is one of eight in the field for the six-furlong Schuylerville coming off a win. Half of those, including Long Neck Paula, won on the front end.

“This looks like a very contentious group,” Ward said. “My only concern is when you get into the first 2-year-old stakes race, and you have a bunch of very fast horses … six furlongs is a long way to go for a 2-year-old right now.”

Ward said he has seen many editions of the Schuylerville won by horses that come from off the pace. Young horses that go too fast too early are not around at the end.

“It seems to me that when they are in the early stages of their career, they can't sustain the early speed,” Ward said.

So, he will leave it up to jockey Flavien Prat to decide where to put Long Neck Paula in the race. Prat replaces Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who rode Long Neck Paula to a 3 1/2-length win in her career debut on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Velazquez has opted to ride fellow 'Rising Star' Complexion (Complexity), the 7-2 morning-line favorite for trainer Danny Gargan. Long Neck Paula, who is owned by Will Stroud, is 8-1.

“I will give Flavien the freedom to ride his own race,” Ward said. “Johnny chose to ride the other filly–and she is very talented–and we picked up a very good replacement. (Prat) is a very heady rider and that is why he is at where he is in racing. We are happy to have him.”

Honor Marie Will Likely Get New Rider for Travers

Trainer Whit Beckman has decided that his top 3-year-old Honor Marie (Honor Code) will, in all likelihood, train up to his next start, the $1.25 million GI Travers S. at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

Beckman will also be looking for a new rider for Honor Marie, who was last seen finishing fourth in the GI Belmont S. at the Spa.

“I don't know what I am going to do yet,” Beckman said outside his Saratoga barn at the Oklahoma Training Track. “I am going to start with a clean slate. Right now, it has been my biggest headache because no one wants to ride him until everyone wants to ride him.”

Honor Marie with trainer Whit Beckman and rider Simon Harris | Sarah Andrew

In the Belmont, Honor Marie was ridden by Florent Geroux, who replaced Ben Curtis, who was aboard in the GI Kentucky Derby when the colt finished eighth. Curtis could not ride in the Belmont after breaking his collarbone at the end of May.

Beckman, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, said he is going to wait a couple weeks before deciding who will ride Honor Marie.

“I would like a guy who rides this track well and I would like a guy who has won the Travers,” Beckman said. “I have a couple of riders in mind.”

For now, the plan will be to train the colt up to the Midsummer Derby but that could also change.

“Honestly, I just want him to get a chance at a mile and a quarter,” he said. “Every time he runs a mile and a quarter, he gets destroyed by some horse and can't get any traction. In the Belmont, he had trouble at the start and Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), like a honing missile, just came over on him down the stretch.”

Honor Marie, owned by Ribble Farms LLC, Michael H. Eiserman, Earl I. Silver, Kenneth E. Fishbein and Dave Fishbein, also had traffic trouble in the Kentucky Derby after finishing a solid second in the GII Louisiana Derby.

“I know he belongs, and I know, with the trip, he has as much talent as a lot of these,” he said.

Honor Marie had his first work since the Belmont last Saturday at Churchill Downs, going four furlongs in :50.40. Beckman said his first Saratoga work could come a week from Saturday.

Mott Will See if Rich Strike Still Wants To Do It

It has been 432 days since improbable 2022 GI Kentucky Derby hero Rich Strike (Keen Ice) was last seen on a racetrack. A fifth-place finish in the GII Alysheba S. at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2023 was hardly inspiring.

Since then, the 5-year-old has had front leg issues, he has been been retired, unretired and has also changed barns. If Rich Strike is going to get back to the races, it will be Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott who will get him there.

Rich Strike Wednesday at Bill Mott's barn | Sarah Andrew

“I am excited about trying to get him ready because we know the horse can run,” Mott said outside his office on the Oklahoma Training Track. “I am excited about having him and having the opportunity. It is challenging, but I think a lot of the pressure was taken off because he has had a year and a half off. Everyone must realize he is starting over.”

Rich Strike had his first timed work since joining the Mott barn on Tuesday, going three furlongs in :39.60 (14/14) over the Oklahoma track.

Mott knows it will be baby steps for Rich Strike, who is owned by Rick Dawson's RED TR-Racing, LLC.

Rich Strike turned the racing world upside down when he won the 2022 Derby at the astronomical odds of 80-1. He has had six starts since then, all of them graded stakes. Four of them were Grade I races. His best finish was a second in the GII Lukas Classic S. at Churchill on Oct. 1, 2022.

Rich Strike has been in Mott's Saratoga barn since late June.

“They gave him a lot of time to heal, he was pretty beat up,” Mott said of the time off given to Rich Strike. “The babying is over with. We are not going to go from A to Z, we will build him up. He is getting to a point where he either makes it as a racehorse or he doesn't.”

There is no target race for Rich Strike. Mott said he will use the summer to get the colt as fit as he can. The rest is up to him.

“I would hope that by the end of the meet he will be pretty fit,” Mott said. “That gives us July and August. We will space his works out properly. He may or may not be ready to run by the end of the meet. We will see.”

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