ELMONT, NY. -- The on-again, off-again career of Attila's Storm appears to be back on again.
After watching him work five furlongs in 1:01.72 Thursday morning over a fast Belmont Park main track, trainer Rick Schosberg said Attila's Storm would most likely make his next start in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap next Saturday at Saratoga. The Grade 2 race at six furlongs is one of four graded stakes to be run that day, with the winners of all four races earning automatic berths into Breeders' Cup events on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.
Attila's Storm has competed in the last two editions of the Breeders' Cup Sprint, finishing fourth in 2005 and fifth in 2006. He has twice placed in Grade 1 races, and four months ago won his first graded event, taking the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap over Aqueduct's inner track on March 10.
He has not run since then, however, due to a quarter crack that developed in his left front foot. Quarter cracks and a fractured hind leg have interrupted the 5-year-old's career. This latest injury occurred as Attila's Storm was training toward a possible start in the Carter in April.
"These quarter crack deals, I would say it's 50-50 which way they go unless you completely stop on a horse," Schosberg said. "He had a quarter crack in behind which originated in the Breeders' Cup when he got stepped on. That healed up perfectly, we had zero trouble with that. The one in front, we did everything exactly the same, and it just went the wrong way."
Schosberg said that some bacteria might have gotten underneath the quarter crack patch, and Schosberg was ultimately forced to take the patch off and let the foot grow out.
Attila's Storm returned to the work tab on June 23 and has breezed four times, including a sparkling five-furlong move in 1:00.92 on July 13. The next-fastest time that day was 1:02.62.
"His [July 13] work was tremendous," Schosberg said. "That kind of really put us back in the picture. He came out of it in good order, came back in six days [on Thursday] with a good work. He didn't need to go quite as fast. I think that puts us to the probable list."
An injury to Songster and the absence of Tom Fool winner High Finance make the Vanderbilt an attractive spot, Schosberg said. Others pointing to the Vanderbilt are Abraaj, Benny the Bull, Cougar Cat, Diabolical, Nar, and Simon Pure. Possible runners include Saint Anddan and Suave Jazz.
"For the first graded sprint stakes at Saratoga, it could be tougher," Schosberg said.
Could turf be in Nobiz's future?
Trainer Barclay Tagg is considering switching Grade 1 winner Nobiz Like Shobiz from the dirt to the turf for his next start.
Last Sunday, Nobiz Like Shobiz breezed five furlongs in 1:02.04 over the Belmont turf course. It was his first breeze on the grass. If Tagg opts to go to the turf, a possible start could be in the $150,000 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 6. However, he is also nominated to the Jim Dandy and West Virginia Derby on dirt and has been invited to the $1omillion Haskell Invitational, also on dirt.
"I'm not sure yet," Tagg said when asked if Nobiz would try the turf next. "I thought he worked real good on it. I was very satisfied with it. I'm going to look at all the races and see what happens. It changes around every day. I wouldn't want to commit him to the grass race and have the Jim Dandy come up light."
Tagg has done quite well moving horses from the dirt to the turf. Last year, after Showing Up won the Lexington Stakes and ran sixth in the Kentucky Derby, he developed into a Grade 1 turf stakes winner. Most recently, Dance Away Capote won an overnight stakes in her turf debut after running exclusively on the dirt.
Contessa on verge of title
By sweeping Thursday's early daily double, Gary Contessa virtually assured himself of his first Belmont Park training title. At the conclusion of Thursday's card, Contessa led Todd Pletcher, 39-32.
Pletcher has no starters on Friday and only one - Octave in the Coaching Club American Oaks - on Saturday. Contessa had horses in six races on Friday and four on Saturday. Entries for Sunday's closing-day card were to be taken on Friday.
"It would be nice to win a Belmont trainers title," said Contessa, who missed out on a third winner on Thursday when Too Much Zip finished second in the fifth. "I've won a lot of Aqueduct trainers titles, and a lot of people don't think that counts and Belmont does count. Belmont is a great place to win a title."
Last year, Contessa finished second at Belmont behind Richard Dutrow Jr.
Eibar Coa, aboard both of Contessa's Thursday winners, long ago secured the riding title. Through Thursday, he had 71 wins. Cornelio Velasquez was next with 51.
Open House offers Saratoga preview
Upstate racing fans can get a jump-start on the Saratoga meet by attending Sunday's Open House from 11 a.m to 4 p.m.
There will be free backstretch tours, handicapping seminars, concessions, and plenty of activities for kids, including carnival games, giant inflatables, pony rides, face painting, and mini-golf.
The National Steeplechase Association will present three non-betting races - two steeplechase events and one flat race - beginning at 2 p.m.
Admission is free. Also, Saratoga season passes can be purchased at the grandstand information booth. Clubhouse passes are $75, while grandstand passes cost $35.
* Entries for Wednesday's opening-day card at Saratoga will be drawn on Saturday. Entries for Thursday's card will be taken on Tuesday. There will be no entries taken on Sunday.