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Justin Phillip, Fast Bullet face off in Forego; Za Approval tops Bernard Baruch

Fast Bullet got the best of fellow Zayat Stable colorbearer Justin Phillip in the True North (Jim Tyrrell/Horsephotos.com)

While the Woodward is the headline act on Saratoga's final Saturday program, talented casts have been assembled for both the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego and Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch on the undercard. A field of nine will go in the seven-furlong Forego while seven line-up in the Bernard Baruch.

The Forego will pit Justin Phillip and Fast Bullet against once another for a third time. The duo first met in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, with Justin Phillip finishing fifth, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Fast Bullet in sixth. That was actually Fast Bullet's first race of the year, and he would go on to take an optional claimer at Hollywood Park by 7 1/4 lengths on December 6.

The Bob Baffert pupil once again disappeared for some time, not showing up until the True North Handicap at Belmont Park on June 8. Justin Phillip was entered in that contest off a win in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, but could never catch his rival as Fast Bullet wired the field for a 2 1/2 lengths triumph. Conditioner D. Wayne Lukas has since taken over training duties on the five-year-old son of Speightstown, and will give Luis Saez a leg up on Saturday.

"He's a beautiful horse, and his race record speaks for itself," said Lukas, who won the Grade 1 Travers on Saturday with Will Take Charge. "Whatever he does, I'm going to have very little influence on it. (Owner) Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat wants to run, and (winning a Grade 1) would be a big boost to his stud career."

Unlike Fast Bullet, Justin Phillip hasn't been idle since the True North. The Steve Asmussen charge ran fourth by two lengths in the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder before shipping to Saratoga for a two-length score in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. John Velazquez was aboard for that Grade 1 win and retains the mount on Saturday.

Jackson Bend captured the 2011 running of the Forego but, while preparing for his 2012 title defense, a morning training mishap in which another horse knocked him to the ground saw the chestnut running a subpar seventh the day of the race. The Hear No Evil six-year-old was eventually retired, but plans to send him to stud were put on hold after he showed discomfort when observed with test mares in January.

Jackson Bend found himself rehabilitating at a farm in Ocala, Florida, and began showing signs of his former competitive self. His connections decided to give him another shot on track, and the Florida homebred rejoined trainer Stanley Gold's shedrow. He finished fifth in his return on June 8 in a Calder stakes, but then just missed when third in the Smile Sprint by 1 3/4 lengths and a nose. The chestnut filled that same spot in the Housebuster at Gulfstream Park earlier this month, and will get a jockey switch to Javier Castellano as he seeks a return to the big stage in the Forego.

Sage Valley is also looking for his moment in the spotlight after taking the July 19 James Marvin at the Spa by a rallying length. The dark bay had a four-race win streak broken when a one-paced fifth in the True North, but rebounded well in the Marvin to earn his second Grade 3 victory of the year. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, the Discreet Cat four-year-old earned a 108 BRIS Speed rating for that win and keeps jockey Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.

"We always liked him a lot," Rodriguez said. "I don't think he needs the lead. I think he'll be able to relax. In (the True North), he kind of slipped leaving the gate, and I think we brought him back a little too quick (off his win in the Maryland Sprint Handicap). We've given him some time, and we know he likes Saratoga. He has been training here very, very well."

Though entered, Rodriguez added he is unsure whether Sage Valley will compete in the Forego.

"We'll take a look at the race," the trainer remarked. "The horse is here and is ready to run."

Also entered in the Forego are Grade 3 victor Lea, placed behind Wise Dan in the Firecracker and Fourstardave Handicaps in his last pair and making only his second try on dirt in this spot, and recent Teddy Drone runner-up Javerre, who captured the General George earlier in the season.

"He ran so well in that one (dirt) race (when winning by 3 1/4 lengths)," trainer Al Stall Jr. said of Lea. "We like the way the horse is training, and if you go by (Ragozin numbers), the race on dirt was the best race in his life by many, many points."

Completing the field are multiple stakes heroes Strapping Groom, Golddigger's Boy and Saratoga Snacks, the latter of whom will be making his graded bow in this spot.

Za Approval will try to get back on the winning track in the Forego (Ryan Denver/Equi-Photo)

The Bernard Baruch for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf begins the stakes action at Saratoga on Saturday. Za Approval is the top draw in a bunch that also includes Silver Max, Turallure and Tetradrachm.

Za Approval just made his stakes debut in February at Gulfstream Park, running a close fourth in the Canadian Turf, before taking the Appleton next out by a length. Trainer Christophe Clement shipped his Ghostzapper five-year-old up to Monmouth Park, and the gray gelding responded with yet another Grade 3 win, this time in the Red Bank. Za Approval moved up in class last out to take on Grade 1 rivals in the Shoemaker Mile and proved he belonged when second behind turf miler Obviously.

Multiple Grade 2 scorer Silver Max brings a win into the Bernard Baruch, having wired the Oceanport Handicap by 5 3/4 lengths on July 28 at Monmouth, while Tetradrachm, a three-length winner for new trainer Bill Mott over course and distance on August 3, faces stakes rivals for only the second time.

"I think he's back, and he'll end up being one of the best turf horses in the country when the year is done," trainer Dale Romans said of Silver Max. "He had the makings of it last year. I squeezed the lemon a little bit, and he needed a freshener. He got it, and he's doing a lot better."

Turallure captured the 2011 Bernard Baruch prior to a nice win in the Woodbine Mile and a heartbreaking nose second in the Breeders' Cup Mile. The gray six-year-old son of Wando opened 2012 with a nice second in the Makers 46 Mile but hadn't shown much for trainer Charles LoPresti until a head second last out on July 24 at the Spa against optional claiming rivals.

"That's the way he got when he got really good, and that's the way he got when he got to the Breeders' Cup," LoPresti said, admiring the well-muscled Turallure as he stood on an EquiVibe vibration therapy machine outside his barn. "He looks really good, this horse right now. He's going to run a really big race, I think.

"Like Wise Dan, when you get to the fall of the year, midsummer and the fall, for whatever reason these horses get good," he added. "I think Saratoga really agrees with this horse, because of the atmosphere, the barn area, going to the turf to breeze. We go to Keeneland, and it's really quiet there, and he gets in the thick of all this (at Saratoga) and does good."

Grade 1 winner Willyconker, recent Nijinsky victor So Long George and listed scorer Paris Vegas round out the Bernard Baruch field.

"We tried so much to take him back last year, we took him back so far, and he'd make his run, but he was too far back," trainer Tom Voss said of Paris Vegas. "We've kept him closer this year, and he's done much better. He's making his run, but they're all getting first run on him. At least now he's in position to make his run. We're here; we're going to take a shot at it. He's doing so good, and he runs well here."

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