Ready for Rye’s progress as a dirt sprinter stalled, but he’s picking back up again since switching to turf. A 2 3/4-length winner in his first try on the surface at Belmont Park July 4, the Tom Albertrani sophomore rolled from off the pace to prevail in Thursday’s $100,000 Quick Call at Saratoga.
The 5 1/2-furlong dash also featured the return of The Great War, last seen trailing in the February 28 John Battaglia Memorial due to another bleeding episode, and Cyclogenisis, who suffered his first loss when 14th in an exceptional deep inaugural of Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot.
But Ready for Rye was sent off as the 9-5 favorite, and he obliged. Under Javier Castellano, he raced a couple of lengths off the frenetic fractions of :20.87 and :43.76, rallied in the midst of the five-furlong split in :55.47, and edged away in a final time of 1:01.47. As the 123-pound highweight, he was conceding six pounds to The Great War.
The Great War deserves credit for holding second after chasing the blistering pace. Splitting foes in the stretch, the Wesley Ward trainee drove to the lead, only to be outfinished late by Ready for Rye. Between the long layoff and the fast fractions, The Great War acquitted himself well. If he can maintain his respiratory health, he can move forward off this. Note that the War Front colt needed longer than this trip as his 2014 campaign developed. And Ward had originally entered him in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam (G2) last Saturday, but scratched in favor of this easier comeback.
Cyclogenisis was a traffic-compromised fourth, just missing The Great War by a little more than a head.
Ready for Rye’s pedigree always smacked of turf, as a son of City Zip and a More Than Ready mare. His dam is also a half-sister to the versatile Furthest Land, best remembered as a synthetic performer for his wins in the Breeders’ Cup “Dirt” Mile (G1) and Kentucky Cup Classic.
But until this summer, there was little need to put him on turf, for he was doing quite well on the main track. Ready for Rye finished second to Carpe Diem in their mutual debut here last year, crushed a Belmont maiden in the slop, checked in second to Barbados in the January 3 Spectacular Bid, and dusted Daredevil in the March 7 Swale (G2). He didn’t show the same sparkle when third in both the Bay Shore (G3) and Woody Stephens (G2), but has been rejuvenated by the surface switch. He could become a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Earlier on Thursday, the $125,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (G1) wasn’t as formful. The Jack Fisher-trained Choral Society sprang a 16-1 upset, with reigning Eclipse Award winner Demonstrative back in third and pacesetter Divine Fortune, a past divisional champion and two-time winner of this race, a tiring fifth.
Choral Society’s pedigree doesn’t exactly bring this discipline to mind. The Florida-bred is by Holy Bull and out of the Awesome Again mare Star Singer. Yet after plying his trade mostly in claimers on the Flat, he soon hinted of more ability over fences. He was a closing fourth (elevated to third via disqualification) in the Marcellus Frost last out in restricted company.
This marked Choral Society’s Grade 1 debut, and it should be emphasized that he was getting 16 pounds from Demonstrative, the 158-pound highweight. He nevertheless showed a nifty change of gear to swoop from near the back and storm 1 1/4 lengths clear.
The next big event on the steeplechase calendar, the August 27 New York Turf Writers’ Cup (G1), will tell us if Choral Society is an emerging force in the ranks, or if the establishment fights back.