Legendary wins the Japa Racing Association. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Legendary wins the Japa Racing Association. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a Laurel Park release

Trainer Niall Saville entered Legendary for Saturday’s $250,000 Commonwealth Cup (G2) at Laurel Park Wednesday, hoping to relive a moment of triumph provided by the British import last September.

Although Legendary had previously won on soft turf, Walter Swinburn’s 6-year-old gelding demonstrated a distinct fondness for the firm going of the Laurel Park turf course Sept. 6, 2014 while romping to victory in the $100,000 Japan Racing Association Stakes.

Legendary will need to get his footing when he contends with the likes of Phipps Stable’s Mr Speaker and Sam-Son Stable’s Up With the Birds, both Grade 1 stakes winners, in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile turf test.


Legendary won’t necessarily require a firm course to offer a winning performance Saturday – when the Commonwealth Cup and the $400,000 Commonwealth Derby (G2) will be presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance at Laurel Park – but Saville certainly doesn’t want a reoccurrence of the stormy weather conditions that compromised his trainee’s performance over a rain-ravaged course in the Arlington Million (G1) Aug. 15.

Severe thunder and lightning and torrential rains enveloped Arlington Park that day before dissipating right before the Million, but the effects on the turf course proved too tough to handle for Legendary, who faded to 12th.

“I should have scratched in the paddock. I didn’t realize how bad the ground was,” Saville said. “When I watched him go by the first time, I got a bad feeling in my stomach. Put a line through it and go on.”

In his previous start over a good Belmont Park course, Legendary pressed and set the pace in the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan (G1) before fading to third behind Slumber – just a head behind runner-up Big Blue Kitten, who went on to win the United Nations (G1) and finish second in the Arlington Million.

“He’s been real close to Big Blue Kitten. A mile and an eighth is in our favor. Laurel has the best turf course in the country. It’s a fair track,” Saville said. “He is going into the race 100 percent. He’s a very cool horse.”

Legendary, who won two of 13 starts in Europe, won three of his first five U.S. starts, including the Japan Racing Association, before trying graded-stakes company for the first time in the Knickerbocker (G3) at Belmont last October. He registered a solid 1 ¼-length victory over favored Up With the Birds, a Commonwealth Cup entry, and Mshawish, who went on to become a Grade 1 winner. Although he is winless in five subsequent graded-stakes starts, his trainer is confident that his trainee is ready for a peak effort.

“He responds better to harder work. We’ve been tougher on him for this race, and he’s responded well. He is better than he was going into the Million,” said Saville, who awarded the return mount to Sheldon Russell.

Mr Speaker won three graded stakes last year, including the Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream, the Lexington (G3) on Keeneland’s former Polytrack surface and the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). The Shug McGaughey-trained 4-year-old son of Pulpit won an allowance race at Belmont July 15 two starts back before finishing fourth at Woodbine in his most recent start in the Sky Classic (G2).

New York-based Jose Ortiz has been named to ride Mr Speaker for the first time.

Up With the Birds, who captured the Jamaica Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park two years ago, is scheduled to make his fourth start for trainer Graham Motion Saturday. The veteran turf campaigner launched his 5-year-old campaign with a late-closing third in the 1 1/16-mile Dixie (G2) at Pimlico May 16 prior to a third-place finish in the 1 3/16-mile Arlington Handicap (G3) July 11 and late-fading fourth in the Arlington Million.

“It will be interesting shortening him up,” said Motion, who named Trevor McCarthy to ride the son of Stormy Atlantic. “He’s done well in all his races, he’s always knocking on the door. This is a good spot for him.”

Midwest Thoroughbreds, the owner of Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man, is scheduled to be represented by Cut to Order in the Commonwealth Cup. The Jamie Ness-trained 4-year-old is slated to seek his sixth straight victory while making his stakes debut Saturday. Claimed for $12,500 out of a dirt start at Tampa Bay Downs in April, the gelded son of Ready’s Image has gone undefeated in subsequent turf starts at Tampa, Pimlico and, most recently, Monmouth Park, where he captured a starter handicap by 2 ¾ lengths at the 1 1/8-mile distance.

Golden Glint is scheduled to make his first start since being claimed by Adam Staple and trainer Mary Eppler for $40,000 out of his last start Aug. 30 on dirt. The son of Medaglia d’Oro is slated to make a return to turf, over which he has won once in three prior starts.

Michael Harrison’s Talk Show Man, a multiple stakes winner in Maryland, and William McCarthy’s El Jefe Grande, a close third in an optional claiming allowance at Saratoga last time out, round out the field.

[su_box title=”G2 COMMONWEALTH TURF CUP ENTRIES” style=”glass”]
  1. El Jefe Grande
  2. Mr Speaker
  3. Golden Glint
  4. Cut to Order
  5. Up With the Birds
  6. Talk Show Man
  7. Legendary