By Dick Downey
Once Mr Speaker, the Dania Beach Stakes winner, finishes in the Palm Beach on grass this Saturday, his ultimate intermediate target is going to be the New York Circuit this summer, according to trainer Shug McGaughey.
A lone dirt experiment didn't work out.
"I took a shot in the Holy Bull, and he didn't run that bad. I think when (Lezcano) started riding him, that's when the grass part of him kicked in," the trainer said. So it's back to the grass with a possible stop in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland en route to the $1.25-million Belmont Derby on July 5.
"He wants the grass," McGaughey said. "So I'm looking forward to getting him back on the grass on Saturday and, everything being equal, we'll make our way back to Belmont. We'll nominate him (to the Blue Grass), but they've got some awfully good races at Belmont. Now there's that million-dollar race on Fourth of July weekend, and there's a couple of good 3-year-old races at Saratoga. The Phippses like to key on Belmont and Saratoga, so I'd like to have a fresh horse for that."
Wait and See with Top Billing
McGaughey has previously said he'd probably run Top Billing next in either the Florida Derby or Wood Memorial. He's in no hurry to make a decision.
"He's come out of his race really well," the trainer said. "The track was quick all week (before the Fountain of Youth) and you could see it was speed-favoring on Saturday. The Florida Derby is where I would like to run him, but I'm going to wait and see what the track's like and how he bounces out of it. I'd prefer to run here."