Before Saratoga started, Shug McGaughey and assistant Robbie Medina were looking at the string and thinking big - or at least Medina was. (Editor's note: Originally published in Aug. 31 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
"Robbie said double digits and I thought that was a little optimistic, but it was possible," McGaughey said late Monday morning. "I came up here thinking we'd have a good meet, then we started off terrible and now it's picked up to where we're having a good meet. We might have a chance (at 10 wins) now. We've got three to run on Saturday and couple to run on Sunday. They're all live."
The McGaughey barn, filled mostly with homebreds from the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III, carries seven wins from 27 starts into the final six days of racing. The lineup of horses in stately Barn 81 between Fifth Avenue and the Oklahoma training track rail goes 30 deep with another 24 or so at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. The stable leans heavily on familiar pedigrees and mixes 2-year-olds with older horses, graded stakes winners with improving allowance types.
Monday, McGaughey ducked under the rail, stopped at the first stall and started walking and talking like only he can. The Special's Joe Clancy just listened - and tried not to daydream about which stalls housed Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Seeking The Gold, Lure and all the other greats.
Sail Ahoy: The Phipps homebred 3-year-old won once on the dirt last year. He also placed third in the Nashua and fourth in the Grade 1 Remsen. Unraced since late November, the half-brother to turf star Point Of Entry eyes a fall return and the turf. "I think he's all right. I stopped him and then he got some little problems when he was stopped in Ocala. He's just now back. He just breezed a half on the grass (:48.79, Monday)."
Onus: Janney homebred 4-year-old made two starts here, sixth in the Grade 1 Diana and fourth in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. "She went to Fair Hill and if she comes out of her race good, maybe we'll run her in the Lady Baltimore (at Laurel Sept. 27). I just want to try to back down on her a little bit and see if we can give her a confidence builder."
On Leave: Three-year-old Janney homebred ran her winning streak to three when she won the Riskaverse here Aug. 25, becoming the sixth stakes winner for her dam Meghan's Joy. McGaughey loves the options this fall. "We'll probably point her for the Sands Point but we don't have to. There are a lot of spots for a 3-year-old filly, but I'm very pleased with the way she ran the other day and the way she's doing."
Suburb: Claiborne Farm's 2-year-old City Zip filly has yet to run, but sports four works on the Oklahoma track and aims for Belmont. She's out of Fashion's Flight, a sister to graded stakes winners Justwhistledixie, Chase City and Bakken.
All In Fun: Janney's 4-year-old daughter of Tapit has won two in a row, including an allowance race going long on the turf here Aug. 17. She's placed in a stakes, so the next step is try to win one. "We're really pleased with her progression. I'll try to find a stakes for her going a mile-and-an-eighth. She's not the easiest to ride. Javier (Castellano) fits her so I'll try to find a spot where he can ride her."
Revved Up: The Phipps homebred ran twice here as a 2-year-old, but blossomed in 2016 - taking a 1 1/4-mile turf maiden July 9 at Belmont and following up with an allowance score going 1 3/8 miles on Travers Day. "He's still young and still a little bit green even though he's run enough times. His future's still in front of him."
Classic Move: By Congrats, the 2-year-old colt worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.88 Sunday, his fourth work from the gate. His dam, Streaker, is a sister to Point Of Entry, Pine Island and Sail Ahoy. "He's a pretty nice 2-year-old. He's going to go to Laurel and run September 11. He'll be pretty tough on them down there."
Initiate: The Janney homebred daughter of Pioneerof The Nile worked a half-mile in :49.55 on the Oklahoma dirt Monday after five works at Fair Hill. "She worked very well and we're hoping to run at the Belmont meet if everything goes right."
Gloaming: The Janney homebred filly finished third in her debut here Aug. 21, rallying after a slow start going 6 furlongs. She aims for something longer. "I thought she ran really well. We'll come back and try a mile race with her. I think she'll go on and be OK."
Profiteer: Janney homebred takes his name from a Phipps runner by the same name 10 years earlier. The first lost all four starts. This one, the first foal of graded stakes winner Hit It Rich by War Front, gets started this weekend. "He's a nice big horse for a first foal."
Blenheim Palace: The Phipps homebred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro and 2005 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home is 0-for-3 on the dirt but could get a chance to turn things around after working on the turf Monday. "Her first race was great, her last two have been very mediocre. I worked her on the grass this morning and I liked the way she went. She might want a mile-and-a-quarter on the grass."
Recollection: Last of eight after leading in her debut here Aug. 14, she'll get another chance at Belmont. "She caught the deep rail, they went :21 and change, that kind of wore her down. She's OK though, a half-sister to Imagining, and a little filly called Browse who hurt herself in the Delaware Oaks."
Hereditary: The 5-year-old lives two stalls down from his full-sister Blenheim Palace and has won two of nine. "He's shown some promise. He popped a quarter crack up here and we had a hard time getting him back. He's back training now and he's another one I want to run long on the grass."
Fair Point: The 4-year-old filly won Sunday's Smart N Fancy and has been first or second in all five starts this year including two wins at Saratoga. "I came up here with sprinting on the turf in mind. I put her in a three other than and it didn't go. We came back in a stakes. I had confidence she would run well, whether she was good enough or not we would see. She got there."
Asticou Trail: It's a hiking trail in Maine if you're interested. The 2-year-old filly, a daughter of Hard Spun and Carriage Trail, is "coming along." She worked from the gate Sunday and will work on the turf before the stable heads south. "She might be grass. Carriage Trail was grass and Polytrack."
Lead Astray: The 2-year-old by Malibu Moon out of champion Smuggler munched hay while his trainer called him nice and coming along. "He's got no teeth . . . no front teeth. Hey, come here." Lead Astray was having none of that but McGaughey walked in the stall and flipped the horse's lip for proof. Though his bottom teeth are normal, the colt has no upper teeth. "He got kicked when he was a baby and they say it affected the nerves and he never grew any teeth. Doesn't bother him at all. He eats good, he looks good. No, I've never seen that before."
Inspector Lynley: Janney/Phipps homebred 3-year-old broke his maiden in February, and exits a third in Delaware Park's Kent July 16. "I think he's a really nice colt on the grass. He didn't have the best of trips (at Delaware). He's running back in the Saranac Saturday."
Ironicus: Janney's 5-year-old turf star has been first or second in nine straight, including a second to Flintshire in the Mahnattan June 11. Emerged with a splint, but worked 3 furlongs on the Oklahoma dirt Monday. "I got a little bit impatient and wanted to go a little bit quicker than he did so I had to back off, which is fine. We're back on the right track. We'll point him for something around the first of October, whether it'll be at Belmont or Keeneland I don't know yet. He's a good horse. He belongs in those races."
Strident: Revved Up's 2-year-old half-brother finished eighth in his debut Travers Day. "He sort of reminds me of where Revved Up was at this time of his 2-year-old year."
Pendant: The 2-year-old colt by Bernardini out of My Flag worked from the gate Sunday. "He'll be a little later. He's really not like My Flag at all except that he wants to run long."
Coming Attraction and Orient Harbor: They live in stalls outside in the yard. There's a breeze, lots of room and plenty to see. The former, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapit and On Parade, runs this weekend. The latter won here and was fourth sprinting on the turf Aug. 20. "She needs them to go :21 and change early and she got :22 and change."
Snap Decision: The 2-year-old son of Hard Spun and Personal Ensign's daughter Salute is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Mr. Speaker and is nearing a debut. "He worked on the grass (Monday, a half in :48.79). Nice horse, or I think he is. He worked this morning like he was."
Fashion Week: Two-year-old filly owned by Andrew Rosen is by Speightstown out of the Grade 1-placed Theyskens' Theory. "She'll run at Belmont in the fall. I like training 2-year-olds here. Some guys can kind of grind it out and get them ready here and participate here in the maiden races and run back in the stakes. We don't have that many so we try to pick and choose a little bit."