Cross Border bids to continue Saratoga love affair

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Saratoga will play host to Friday's Skidmore

Connections admit is it is clear that Cross Border ‘seems to flourish’ at Saratoga and that leaves them upbeat going into Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer.

The New York-bred Cross Dancer is trained by Mike Maker and is currently a faultless five-from-five on the track at Saratoga.

Having ended his 2019 campaign by finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont Park, Cross Border began the new year with a neck second to Spooky Channel in the William L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

Two starts later he was only one-length behind Instilled Regard when fifth in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont on July 4th.

He coasted to success down in grade back at Saratoga on July 22nd and, having crossed the line in second spot 10 days later behind Sadler’s Joy in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, he was awarded that race after the stewards’ disqualified the winner for interference.

Connections can’t quite put their finger on it, but it’s clear that Cross Border appears to thrive in every aspect of being at Saratoga.

“I don’t know what it is about Saratoga, but he seems to flourish up here,” said Maker’s assistant Nolan Ramsey. “Not only does he show it in his past performances, but physically the horse does well up here. His coat looks great and he really enjoys his training.

“We nicknamed him “The Machine” because he just really gets into his training. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it is about Saratoga, but he likes it up here.”

Jose Ortiz retains the mount aboard Cross Border from stall six in Saturday’s race and Ramsey sees the trip as being within his range.

“I think he’s probably best a mile and three-eighths. At a mile and a half, if we get the right setup, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Ramsey.

Crossed Border is set to be one of a treble entry for Maker in the Sword Dancer line-up.

Marzo set the pace in the aforementioned Bowling Green and stayed on for fifth, beaten just over two-lengths. Ricardo Santana Jr. will ride as Marzo bids to gain a first success in six runs.

Maker will also saddle Grade 1 winner Aquaphobia, who will be hoping for a quick surface given that eight of his nine career wins have been on firm turf.

Claimed by the yard back in January, his best effort so far for Maker saw him finishing second to recent Grade 1 Fourstardave scorer Halladay in the Sunshine Forever in May at Gulfstream Park.

A seven-year-old he may be, but his new connections feel there is still plenty class in Aquaphobia.

“He’s been a horse that was on my watchlist for a long time,” Ramsey added. “We picked him up this winter at Gulfstream and he’s really flourished for us.

“I think the more distance he gets the better he is. He’s an all-class horse and I don’t think it matters whether it’s a mile and a quarter, mile and three eighths or a mile and a half, he seems to be able to handle it all. He’s a very professional horse and I expect a big race from him.”