‘Horse For Course’ Cross Border Brings Top Form To Sword Dancer

A winner of 10 races and nearly $1 million in purse earnings, Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Border has saved his best for Saratoga. Trainer Mike Maker, enjoying a spectacular summer of his own at the Spa, is hoping to continue the magic in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer.

The 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer, a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf November 6 at Del Mar, is one of seven graded-stakes – six of them Grade 1 – worth $4.6 million in purses on a blockbuster program highlighted by the 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.

Cross Border, a 7-year-old New York-bred son of turf champion English Channel, has made seven of his 35 career starts at Saratoga with six wins and a second, the latter coming in last year’s Sword Dancer. Of his $948,821 lifetime bankroll, $544,400 has been earned at the Spa.

“He’s a horse for course. I hope we have another rabbit to pull out of the hat,” Maker said. “I wish I knew [why]. I wouldn’t have to train horses. The horse never has a bad hair day. He always looks well and trains well. Obviously, he has an affinity for up here, where he’s had his best performances. So, we’ll take it.”

Cross Border turned in one of his best efforts to date last out to win the Grade 2 Bowling Green by 1 ¼ lengths July 31. It was his second career graded triumph, the other coming in last year’s Bowling Green following the disqualification of first-place finisher Sadler’s Joy, who edged Cross Border by a neck at the wire.

“His last race was spectacular,” Maker said. “Obviously, we had a great setup and we’d have no problem getting that again.”

Cross Border has placed in four other graded-stakes, beaten a neck in the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight in 2020 and third by 2 ¼ lengths in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf January 23, both at Gulfstream Park. He was a distant but decisive seconds in last year’s Sword Dancer, won by Channel Maker over a course listed as soft.

The 2-1 program favorite for the Sword Dancer is Grade 1 United Nations winner Tribhuvan. Cross Border is the third choice in a field of seven at odds of 4-1.

“Last year we had a lot of rain and it was probably a bit softer than he would prefer,” Maker said, “But he still put in a good effort.”

Also for Three Diamonds Farm on Saturday, Maker will send out Doubly Blessed in the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego for older horses sprinting seven furlongs, marking the graded debut for the 4-year-old Empire Maker gelding.

“We entered an allowance race and it failed to fill, so we figured we’d give this a shot,” Maker said. “He’s been doing great. Hopefully, he gets a hot pace to run into. We’re looking forward to it.”

Doubly Blessed has not raced since May 29 when he scored by 1 ½ lengths in a second-level optional claimer in the Belmont Park slop. In his only other stakes appearance, he ran fourth in the 1 3/8-mile Stud Muffin March 27 at Aqueduct.

After beginning his career with seven turf races, the first two for previous trainer Jonathan Thomas, Maker moved Doubly Blessed to the dirt this year and he has responded with four wins and a second from six starts including three in a row at Aqueduct to open 2021.

“He had worked well on the dirt and we weren’t getting the results we were expecting on the turf, so we figured we’d give it a shot,” Maker said. “Since he came off the turf, he turned the corner and has become a nice horse for us.”

Prior to the Forego, the shortest Doubly Blessed has run is one mile – the distance of each of his three wins this winter. Meet-leading rider Luis Saez will be aboard from post position 5 in a field of seven that includes Grade 1 winners Firenze Fire, Lexitonian, Mind Control, Mischevious Alex and Whitmore and 5-2 morning-line favorite Yaupon. Doubly Blessed is listed at 15-1.

“The competition is the main thing. The seven-eighths, one-turn doesn’t bother me,” Maker said. “It’s a pretty salty field. We’re going to find out how he fits.”

Maker said Three Diamonds Farm’s Army Wife was doing well out of her third-place finish in the Grade 1 Alabama August 21, which followed back-to-back wins in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan May 14 at Pimlico Race Course and Grade 3 Iowa Oaks July 2 at Prairie Meadows.

“She’s never missed a bite of grain coming out of the race and this morning she was a handful, so we’re happy,” Maker said. “She ran a big race, and she came out of it super. We’re pointing to the Cotillion.”

The Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles will be run September 25 at Parx Racing.

The post ‘Horse For Course’ Cross Border Brings Top Form To Sword Dancer appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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