The New York Racing Association’s Turf Trinity series has quite a ways to go to catch up with the traditional Triple Crown for 3-year-olds that starts with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Yet as the second leg of the initial series approaches, the Turf Trinity has proven an effective lure for horsemen eager to take home part of the combined $3 million up for grabs for 3-year-olds in the three turf stakes.

“I’m a huge fan of this new series,” said Jeff Bloom, managing director of Bloom Racing Stable. “It’s a Triple Crown. It’s not the traditional Triple Crown we all talk about, but it is a Triple Crown. We have some impressive, strong turf horses who are such a big part of racing, so why not showcase them?”

Bloom was intrigued by the concept of the Turf Trinity in February when it was introduced by NYRA along with the Triple Tiara turf series for 3-year-old fillies, but his feelings gushed like an oil well when Bloom Racing’s 3-year-old son of Kitten JoyHenley’s Joy, captured the first race in the new series, the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) July 6 at Belmont Park.

Now Bloom and trainer Mike Maker will take aim at the second leg as Henley’s Joy tops a field of 11 entered in the first edition of the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course at the same 1 3/16-mile distance as the Preakness Stakes (G1)—only on turf.

“It would be phenomenal to take down the first Turf Trinity,” Bloom said. “We’re excited about it.”

While sweeping the Belmont Derby, Saratoga Derby, and the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes Sept. 7 at Belmont will not bring Henley’s Joy the same kind of fame and fortune extended to American Pharoah  and Justify , Bloom sees plenty of merit in showcasing young turf stars in a format the average sports fan can understand.

“It’s a great thing for the sport and the fans and the betting public. There’s no question these are very intriguing races that are very competitive and are a lot of fun,” Bloom sad. “You are essentially taking some good horses and great races and turning it into an event that’s easy for people to understand and to rally around. It’s easy to create a story around it and to create a compelling situation for people to follow.”

Helping matters is that the final leg of the series is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series and will award a free spot in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) to the winner.

“Don’t think we weren’t aware of that,” Bloom said about the all-expenses-paid berth in the BC Turf. “That’s why we started looking at the series and ran in the first leg. We thought all along it was something to point to. We never saw it as one race. We thought the series was right up his alley, and to cap it off with a ‘Win and You’re In’ is great and will only enhance the competition in that race, especially from overseas.”

As for Sunday’s race, Bloom and Maker have been pleased with Henley’s Joy’s progress since his three-quarter-length victory at 20-1 odds in the Belmont Derby.

“He’s doing really well. Mike and I were talking about how much stronger he is coming out of the Belmont race,” the former jockey said. “He’s been a remarkable horse that’s never been off his feed. He hasn’t lightened up. He’s put on weight. He’s glowing. As I put it, he’s breathing fire around the barn. We’re coming into the race the right way.”

Henley’s Joy, who drew the rail for Sunday’s race, was purchased for $50,000 from Cary Frommer’s consignment at the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training and has earned $953,160 from four wins in 11 starts. He was bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey out of the Bluegrass Cat mare Blue Grass Music.

The field of 11 also includes the runner-up in the Belmont Derby, The Elkstone Group’s Social Paranoia, who led by a length in midstretch of the July 6 stakes but could not fend off Henley’s Joy late. His performance for trainer Todd Pletcher only reaffirmed the consistency of the 3-year-old son of Street Boss  who has just one win in nine starts but has never finished worse than third.

Social Paranoia drew post 2.

Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, Michael Kisber, and Bethlehem Stables’ Rockemperor, who closed quickly in the final furlong to grab third in the Belmont Derby when making his United States debut for trainer Chad Brown, also will meet up again with Henley’s Joy and Social Paranoia at the Spa.

Other starters returning from the Belmont Derby include the European-based Cape of Good Hope (eighth in a field of 14), Digital Age (fourth), and Seismic Wave (fifth as the 9-2 favorite). The ninth of 11 races on the Sunday card, the Saratoga Derby features two runners from the famed international barn of trainer Aidan O’Brien: Cape of Good Hope and Mohawk, coming off a group win 3 in Ireland. Both are sons of Galileo campaigned by Coolmore-associated owners Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.

Also among the new faces is Leonard Green’s A Thread of Blue, a Hard Spun  colt who sold for $430,000 from the Niall Brennan Stables consignment at the 2018 OBS March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. He won the Palm Beach Stakes (G3T) and was last seen finishing fourth in the Penn Mile Stakes (G2T) June 1.

“It’s a tough race, obviously,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “But we think he deserves a chance. We think the extra distance should help, and there’s tight turns. We think it’s better staying at home and not having to ship.”

Maker is also sending out Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ Kadar, who was a close third in a July 18 allowance optional claiming race in his U.S. debut at Saratoga.

“He ran a really good race,” Maker said. “He didn’t get away very good and was carried extremely wide. He finished strong and just missed in a very competitive allowance race.”

ENTRIES: SARATOGA DERBY INVITATIONAL S.

Saratoga Race Course, Sunday, August 04, 2019, Race 9

  • STK
  • 1 3/16m
  • Turf
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:48 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Henley’s Joy (KY) Jose Lezcano 122 Michael J. Maker 4/1
2 2Social Paranoia (KY) Manuel Franco 122 Todd A. Pletcher 6/1
3 3A Thread of Blue (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Luis Saez 122 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 12/1
4 4Rockemperor (IRE) John R. Velazquez 122 Chad C. Brown 7/2
5 5Eons (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Trevor McCarthy 122 Arnaud Delacour 15/1
6 6Kadar (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 122 Michael J. Maker 30/1
7 7Cape of Good Hope (IRE) Julien R. Leparoux 122 Aidan P. O’Brien 15/1
8 8Digital Age (IRE) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 122 Chad C. Brown 9/2
9 9Seismic Wave (KY) Joel Rosario 122 William I. Mott 6/1
10 10Mohawk (IRE) Wayne Lordan 122 Aidan P. O’Brien 10/1
11 11Flying Scotsman (KY) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 122 Jack Sisterson 15/1