Tagg wants a first: Trainer tries luck at triple winnings

September 17, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

When Mike Smith hops off Holy Bull after the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park today, he'll climb on Circus Music tonight in the $35,000 Montclair State College Stakes at The Meadowlands.

Smith is just one of three jockeys Maryland-based trainer Barclay Tagg is employing today in an unusual quest.

In a career first, Tagg is running three horses in three stakes at three tracks, including Royal Mountain Inn in the $400,000 Man o'War Stakes on the Super Saturday I card at Belmont Park, Older But Smarter in the $100,000 Damascus Handicap at Pimlico, and Circus Music at The Meadowlands.

Which horse has the best shot?

"I like them all," Tagg said yesterday. "Naturally, I'm hoping and wishing to win the Grade I [the Man o'War]. It's those kind of races that really boost your career and are great to win for the owners. How many chances do you get to win a Grade I?"

Tagg has a victory in one previous Grade I stakes. That came three years ago with Royal Mountain Inn's half sister, Miss Josh, in the Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park.

It's been an extremely busy year for Tagg, who for the first time, has a division of his 42-horse outfit stabled at Belmont Park. His assistant, Ruth Hargreaves, is based in New York with eight of those horses as Tagg travels back and forth to oversee the other 34 runners headquartered at Laurel.

Tagg is one of three Marylanders with a runner on the Super Saturday I card, which features six Grade I races.

Harriet and David Finkelstein of Pikesville are starting their 2-year-old filly, Stormy Blues, in the Matron Stakes. The horse unexpectedly lost to Flanders in her last start at Saratoga and seeks revenge today at a longer distance (a mile) and at a track, Belmont Park, where she broke her maiden by 16 lengths.

The main Super Saturday I event is the last racing appearance this year of Holy Bull. The 3-year-old, who has won four straight stakes since his loss in the Kentucky Derby, faces older horses Devil His Due and Tinners Way as well as the Derby winner, Go For Gin. Owner/trainer Jimmy Croll does not what to risk a $360,000 supplemental fee to run Holy Bull in the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. The fee must be paid because the horse was not originally nominated to the race as a foal. After today's race, Croll plans to rest Holy Bull until he begins a winter campaign in Florida.

Local fans have never gotten to see Royal Mountain Inn perform at a Maryland track, although that might change soon. If the horse runs well today in the Man o'War, he has been kept eligible for the $600,000 Washington D.C. International at Laurel on Oct. 15.

"This is a nice horse, but he's just not sound," Tagg said. "He's 5 years old and is just making his 13th start. After he broke his maiden as a 3-year-old, he had chips removed from one ankle. Then a year later after he won the Red Smith Handicap [at Belmont], he chipped both of his ankles. Now he's coming back after a year off. He loves to run on hard turf courses, but it's not great for his legs."

Julie Krone, who has won four of six career starts on Royal Mountain Inn, has the mount in the Man o'War. The horse was beaten in his last start about a month ago at Saratoga, a race in which he defeated 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero. "He's a big horse and doesn't handle those sharp turns on the inner turf course at Saratoga," Tagg said. "But he loves the bigger, sweeping turns at Belmont." Royal Mountain Inn is undefeated in four starts at Belmont Park.

At Pimlico, Tagg starts Older But Smarter, who he described as "a tough little guy. I'd love to see him run today at Pimlico, but I'm getting up at 3 a.m. to drive to New York. I can't be at both places." Tagg said Older But Smarter should lay "right behind the cheap speed" and suits the mile distance of the Damascus perfectly. "He's training brilliantly," Tagg said. "But he's got to run against that good horse from New York [Nijinsky's Gold]. Had I known he was coming, I would have gone in the Cliffhanger [a Grade III stakes last night at The Meadowlands]."

Circus Music, who won the Searching Stakes at Pimlico earlier this year, is favored at The Meadowlands. "But she's a tiny little filly and carries high weight of 122 pounds," Tagg said. "That could be a detriment."

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