Dwyer winner Kid Cruz hit Saratoga's main track at approximately at 7:15 a.m. (ET) on Monday before turning in his final breeze for Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers, traveling four furlongs in :49 while working in company with A Marked Man.
Kid Cruz, a four-time stakes winner who was third in the Jim Dandy on July 26 at Saratoga, began the work on the inside a neck in front of A Marked Man. He entered the stretch on even terms with his stablemate before finishing approximately a half-length in front. A Marked Man, a maiden, needed urging to keep up with Kid Cruz during the gallop out.
"He went perfect. I was very happy," said Linda Rice, who trains Kid Cruz for Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable. "I told my (exercise rider) I was looking for :49 (for a half-mile) and (a five-eighths gallop-out in) 1:02, and he hit it right on the money. I was happy with it."
Rice said Kid Cruz usually needs a workmate to exert himself when he trains.
"I've always breezed him in company," Rice said. "It just puts him on the bridle a little better. He's a little lazy. I certainly didn't want to change that today coming into the race."
Kid Cruz, claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden win last November at Aqueduct, will be the first Travers starter for Rice, who won the 2009 Saratoga training title.
"For me, I've been training here at Saratoga for 20 years and have had a lot of great (memories)," Rice said. "My first Grade 1 win was at Saratoga with Things Change as a two-year-old. The long term goal, I've always aspired to compete in and win the Travers. Going into it, I'm real excited about that. Anytime you have a three-year-old that wins four stakes races as a three-year-old, you're happy about it no matter where you got them."
Also working for a Saturday engagement was Grade 3 winner Hot Stones, who breezed a half-mile in advance of her next start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina for female sprinters at seven furlongs.
Trained by Bruce Levine for owners Roddy Valente and Charles Casale, the four-year-old New York-bred daughter of Bustin Stones was clocked in :48 3/5, ranking 17th of 68 horses at the distance.
It was the second work for Hot Stones since finishing third behind Antipathy and Stanwyck in the Shuvee Handicap on July 27. On August 11, she went four furlongs in :51 1/5, also on the main track.
"She went nice. We just wanted a :48 and change, just to open her up," Levine said. "We worked her last week an easy half. She ran a mile and an eighth in the Shuvee, so she's cutting back. One thing we know, she's fit."
Run at 1 1/8 miles over a muddy, sealed track, the Shuvee was Hot Stones' first start beyond a mile. The top two finishers are both targeting Friday's Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign, also at the Shuvee distance.
Hot Stones captured the Bed o' Roses Handicap on June 21 at Belmont Park in her only try at seven furlongs. A maiden winner at Saratoga last July, she has a victory and two thirds in three career Spa starts.
Levine heads into the Ballerina with the barn in good form, having posted six wins, one second and one third from its last 15 starters. Four of those wins have come on grass: milers Distorted Beauty, Al's Gal and Invading Humor, and sprinter Ziptronic.
Overall, Levine is 7-4-4 from 29 starters at Saratoga with purse earnings of $339,357.
"We've had a tremendous meet. My help's doing a super job," Levine said. "We just got a little lucky here and there, which is great."