OCEANS MAP LOOKS TO DOUBLE UP IN JAPAN TURF CUP
Oceans Map, a last out stakes winner at the distance for owner-trainer Gregg Sacco, looks to make it two in a row when the 4-year-old gelding lines up against six others in Saturday’s $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel Park.
The 58th running of the 1 ½-mile Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up and 50th renewal of the $100,000 All Along at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares 3 and older are among five turf stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 10-race Fall Festival of Racing program.
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By Liam’s Map, a multiple Grade 1 winner on the dirt, Oceans Map has seen his races get progressively longer since running third in a one-mile allowance April 17 on the Gulfstream Park turf, including an open allowance victory going 1 1/16 miles May 15 at historic Pimlico Race Course on the undercard of the 146th Preakness (G1).
“It’s been a natural progression. We always wanted to try him at longer distances,” Sacco said. “These races, you can’t really train a horse to go a mile and a half. Either they can do it or they can’t. It’s fortunate that he can do it. We look forward to Saturday with him.”
Following his win at Pimlico, Oceans Map ran seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Monmouth (G3) after contesting the pace. He rebounded to be second by a half-length in June 28 allowance at Delaware going the same distance, then ran last of 10 in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1) July 17 at Monmouth Park.
“In the U.N., I didn’t give [jockey] Isaac Castillo the greatest instructions. I told him to take him back and make one run. He fought him in that race and it really wasn’t his fault. He only got beat 10, 11 lengths to some of the better mile and a half horses in the country,” Sacco said. “It was a deceivingly good race, so that encouraged us to run him in the stake at Delaware. He was able to settle him and come running and he finished full of run. I think he’s a natural at the distance. We were very encouraged by the race and hopefully he’ll run another good one for us in Maryland.”
Oceans Map earned his fifth career victory and first in a stake in the 1 ½-mile Cape Henlopen Aug. 16 at Delaware, his most recent start, where he pulled clear in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths over Real Factor, who also returns in the Japan Turf Cup.
“The only two bad races he had all year, one was the Grade 1 and the other he got in a speed duel on a soft turf which he didn’t’ really handle that well. [Jockey] Jose Ferrer was trying to fight him off the speed but he just was rank,” Sacco said. “He’s really run well for us all year, going back to Gulfstream. He’s improved as a 4-year-old, with maturity and distance. The last race he was full of run at the end.
“It’s all about the trip, but we will let him run his race,” he added. “Break, drop his hands and wherever he settles, he settles. Then, when the running starts, see what happens.”
Mychel Sanchez has the call on Oceans Map from Post 5. Oceans Map is 4-1 on the morning line.
The morning line favorite in the Japan Turf Cup is Tide of the Sea (6-5). The Mike Maker trainee won the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January but has since lost six straight. Horacio Karamanos has the mount.