#5 – The King’s Bishop

THE INTRIGUE

The King’s Bishop has yielded some memorable performances over the years, including Forestry’s game decision back in 1999, Squirtle Squirt’s score in 2001 on his way to a Breeders’ Cup win, Ghostzapper’s narrow miss in 2003, and more recently Hard Spun’s gritty score in 2007.  The 2009 King’s Bishop was headlined by Munnings, who was cutting back in distance off of a 3rd place finish behind Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell at Monmouth Park.  He was to be joined by Vineyard Haven, the 2008 Hopeful and Champagne winner, who was making his first start in North America since the fiurst week of October 2008. 

THE PLAYERS

 The aforementioned Munnings, who twice won graded stakes sprinting at Belmont during the spring-summer meet, came into the King’s Bishop as the one to beat.  He had shown tremendous potential as a two year-old with a handy debut win on the opening Saturday of the 2008 Saratoga meet.  After a tough trip in the Champagne and a 2nd place finish in the Champagne he was shelved.  His sophomore season was off to a poor start as he was injured and unable to return until early May.  His Woody Stephens and Tom Fool triumphs hinted at serious ability and that was why he was sent off at 9/5 in this event.

Vineyard Haven was considered a serious candidate for the Eclipse Award for Champion 2YO in 2008 after his 2nd Grade I win in the Champagne.  His subsequent purchase by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable and trip to Dubai ended up de-railing any Derby aspirations as he was well beaten in the UAE 2000 Guineas and given some time off after coming back to America.  He was coupled in the wagering in the King’s Bishop with Everyday Heroes, who came in off of a handy defeat at the hands of Quality Road in the Amsterdam.

Capt. Candyman Can was the model of consistency coming into the King’s Bishop as he had accumulated a record of 3-3 at seven furlongs with wins in the Hutcheson, Bay Shore, and Matt Winn as a 3YO.  He made his first start off a two and a half month layoff in the aforementioned Amsterdam finishing 2nd to Quality Road.  He seemed to be the most interesting prospect from a wagering standpoint given his price (7/2) as there was reason to expect he’d improve in his 2nd start off the layoff.

THE RACE

The horrible weather conditions at Saratoga on Travers day rendered the main track a sea of slop.  Vineyard Haven locked horns with his entrymate early through fractions of 22.19 and 44.64 and looked to be well on his way to a win after shaking loose nearing the eighth pole.  He began to tire noticeably nearing the sixteenth pole and by that time Capt. Candyman Can was in high gear from the back of the pack.  The two reached even terms with 70 yards to go and Vineyard Haven bore out terribly, impeding Capt. Candyman Can’s progress in the closing yards.  The unofficial finish was Vineyard Haven-Capt. Candyman Can but the inquiry sign was illuminated immediately and after a few minutes of deliberation, the stewards reversed the unofficial order and placed Capt. Candyman Can first.  It was his first Grade I win and the first of trainer Ian Wilkes’ brief career on his own and ran this gelded son of Candy Ride’s record to 4-4 at seven furlongs.

THE AFTERMATH

Capt. Candyman Can was sent to Keeneland for a start in the Phoenix on opening day of the fall meet where he surged late but came up just short to Fatal Bullet.  He exited that event in good order and wound up starting in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.   Perhaps it was the Pro-Ride or the trip but he was a no-show in Arcadia and finished eighth.  He was to be freshened and geared up for a 2010 campaign that will be concentrated on dirt.

Vineyard Haven was given almost two months off after this race and subsequently won the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel with a terrific late move.  He would later finish a game 3rd in the Cigar Mile, showing his prowess extends from six furlongs to a mile.  He is supposed to be back in 2010 and will certainly be one of the best sprinters in the country if he comes back in the same form he held this year.

THE RACE

Enjoy the King’s Bishop:

We’re better than halfway through the countdown and will move on to #4 tomorrow!

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