There are plenty of reason to be positive in the eyes of trainer Conor Murphy ahead of Emmaus‘ run in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga but he admits it is going to be a stiff ask for his challenger.
The $400,000 mile contest has attracted a strong line-up, with top-level winners Raging Bull, Got Stormy, Uni, Valid Point and Without Parole amongst a field of nine going to post.
The Invincible Spirit gelding cost $650,000 at the 2015 Goffs Orby Yearling sale and went on to win at Listed level in Britain over seven-furlongs when cared for by Roger Varian.
His best form in Europe came on softer ground but that didn’t stop Murphy parting with $253,505 at the 2018 Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale in order to bring him to the United States.
The trainer felt he was a good enough to do himself justice on quicker ground around the likes of Woodbine.
“They’d paid a nice price for him as a yearling and he won impressively first time out, so I knew the horse but I never really considered him for the States,” said Murphy. “I went over to the sale in Newmarket and even though he was one of the highest rated horses in the sale, I didn’t have him high on my list as his best form was over soft going.”
“When I saw him, he was a beautiful-looking horse. His best form was on soft turf but he’s such a good moving horse,” added Murphy. “We liked him a lot and I bought him thinking he’d fit Woodbine more than anywhere else.
He made his US debut in the spring of last year and has proved a good acquisition for the Murphy yard, placing in Grade 2 company at Woodbine and running well in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last season.
It has been a similar tale this season. On his most recent start, Emmaus finished fifth in the Maker’s Mark Mile in a tight finish, just behind Fourstardave rivals Raging Bull in third and Without Parole in fourth. He was a 41/1 outsider in that race but was beaten under a length.
While conceding Saturday’s Saratoga event has a ‘Breeders’ Cup Mile‘ look to it in terms of quality, Murphy is keen to roll the dice on a two-turn mile track to see what it bring for Emmaus.
“We always felt he would be more suited to a two-turn mile race,” said Murphy.
“It’s a very tough race Saturday, but he ran a big race last time and only got beat a length. With Halladay and Got Stormy in there, I think there should be a hot enough pace on.
“Our horse has done nothing wrong and he deserves a chance. He doesn’t know what price he is.”