Decorated Invader headlines Saratoga Derby line-up

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Decorated Invader, unbeaten so far this year, will attempt to carry on his winning ways by landing Saturday’s $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational.

The Christophe Clement-trained son of Declaration Of War has won all three starts this term.

He landed the one-mile Cutler Bay in March at Gulfstream Park before stepping up with a demolition job the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge, also at one mile, on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park in June.

He has since returned to Saratoga Grade 2 Hall of Fame last month, recording a Beyer Speed Figure in excess of 90 for the second time on the trot.

The Saratoga Derby was initiated last year as part of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Triple series to put the spotlight on the leading three-year-old turf performers.

A field of eight are set to contest Saturday’s race. Todd Pletcher’s No Word and Colonel Liam, along with Michael Maker’s Field Pass and the second Clement runner, Gufo, ensure there are a total of five last-time-out winners in contention

Joel Rosario, aboard for Decorated Invader’s three wins in 2020, will be in the plate again and Clement has high hopes for both of his runners; with no apparent concerns at seeing Decorated Invader go up in trip.

“I’m very happy with how he’s been training. He looks great,” Clement said. “He’s been training with Gufo and they continue to work well and help each other. They work very willingly, so I’m excited to see both of them run.”

“You never know until you try, but I thought [Decorated Invader] ran great last time, so there’s no reason why he can’t do it this time,” Clement added. “The way he ran last time, it’s very encouraging [for this longer trip].”

Just like Decorated Invader, Gufo is also a son of Declaration of War, and he arrives here having won the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park last month over one-mile-and-one-furlong.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Gufo for the first time, breaking from stall five, with Decorated Invader in gate two.

“The further, the better for him,” Clement said of Gufo. “He’s a little different kind of horse. He always shows less speed in his races than Decorated Invader, but he has a really good turn-of-foot.”

Get Smokin, who ran second to Decorated Invader in the Hall of Fame and was third to him in the Cutler Bay, joins George Arnold’s Bama Breeze and the Chad Brown-trainer Domestic Spending in completing the line-up for the Saratoga Derby Invitational.

Javier Castellano rides Colonel Liam, who impressed last time when switched to turf at Saratoga and Pletcher suggests the early skirmishes could be vital for him.

“He’s always given me the impression that longer distances won’t hurt him,” Pletcher said. “The key is if he can settle as well as he did in the last race.”