Fresu boards for Group 3 winner Meraas on his USA debut

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY— Maitha Salem Mohammed Belobaida Alsuwaidi, Group 3 winning sprinter Meraas and its Group 1 winner Antonio Fresu will make their North American debut on Saturday at Saratoga in Race 7, an optional six furlong race for ages 3 and up.

“I’m really looking forward to racing in the States for the first time. Obviously Saratoga has a lot of history and it’s a great track. I can’t wait to see it, said Fresu, who won the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen last year at Meydan Racecourse from farthest post 13 aboard Zenden.

Coached by Chad Summers, Meraas, who sports a 14-5-1-1 record, was last seen taking over Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint at Fresu in February at Meydan for the former conditioner Musabbeh Al Mheiri.

The 5-year-old Oasis Dream gelding was eliminated by Group 1 week vet Dubai Golden Shaheen in March and was later shipped to the United States. Summers, who won the Dubai Golden Shaheen in successive years in 2017-18 with New York-born multi-millionaire Mind Your Biscuits, said Meraas cooled off before returning to training.

“He came in late March and we wanted to give him some time, so he was at Paragon Farm in Kentucky for a few months,” Summers said. “He came to Belmont and our plan was always to bring him back in a race for compensation and continue from there to see what path he would take us on.”

Meraas has made his first 12 starts on either grass [10] or synthetic [2] for conditioner Mark Johnston, but returned to rejuvenated form trying Meydan land, beating a field of 11 by 4 3/4 lengths in December when under maximum weight ahead of their Group 3 score.

Meraas blew five times this summer at the main Saratoga track with a trio of ball breezes under practice pilot Alfonso Camacho, including a three-eights effort in 35.20 on July 15; a half mile in 46.07 on August 5; and five-eighths in 1:00.69 on August 14.

“Antonio is a great driver and not only did he drive it in both races in Dubai, he was his regular driver in the mornings. He told us when we worked on it not to ask him. He said, ‘he’s gonna do it all on his own, drop your hands,'” Summers said. “The first time it got windy it didn’t look like it was going very fast, then you look at your watch and he was 35 and change. It continued from there. He made 46 dishes and it looks like he’s not moving. He has this long stride and just motors. We never really rode it. We didn’t go company or have a jockey work with him because I was afraid he was going too fast. It’s just him.

Summers said Meraas had demonstrated an encouraging form of dirt in his two Dubai starts.

“When he first raced in the Handicap in December, he was carrying 137 pounds. He broke and went about his business and won so impressively,” Summers said. “He came back to Group 3 and it was the same – he found more and beat a nice field. It gives you some excitement about what he could be here.

Meraas, listed at 6-1 on the morning line, will leave far post 10 on Saturday in a field led by impressive allowance winner Juddmonte Elite Power [post 6, Joel Rosario, 5-2 ML]a 4-year-old Curlin colt, for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

“There are a lot of beautiful horses in there. Bill Mott’s horse is really nice,” Summers said. “It’s a deep, quality field and we haven’t been out since February. This is Saratoga. It’s a very deep area. We will be looking to get through this race and see where we are and weigh our options. But Saturday will go a long way in showing us who he is and where he is and where we need to go next. All credit goes to the family for giving us this horse and the opportunity to race in America.

In addition to Elite Power, a $900,000 purchase from September’s Keeneland Yearling Sale of multi-graded stake-winning mare Vindication Broadway’s Alibi, a strong field competing for the $120,000 purse includes graded stakes placed Greeley and Ben [post 1, Junior Alvarado] and bet winners Amundson [post 3, Jose Ortiz] and foolish ghost [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche]. Also entered are stakes placed Hoist the gold [post 8, Jose Gomez]who graduated by disqualification last September at Churchill Downs when the eventual Cyberknife, two-time freshman winner, was demoted.

But despite the solid peloton, Summers is carried by the big morning efforts of Meraas and the presence of his familiar rider.

“It gives you confidence knowing he handled that dirt,” Summers said. “Antonio knows the horse and I don’t want to have any excuses before this race. I want to give this horse his best chance to win and Antonio is a Group 1 winning jockey making his American debut, so hopefully he can do it.

Fresu, 30, from Sardinia, Italy, said he was looking forward to the opportunity.

“I am really happy to join Meraas again. I had a good feeling with him in Dubai during the winter,” said Fresu, who is represented in Dubai by Michael Adolphson. “I thought he would have a very good chance in the Golden Shaheen, but unfortunately he didn’t show up. I saw his training sessions in the United States and he is doing well. I know he hasn’t raced for a long time, but I think he’ll be pretty fit for Saturday. I think he’ll have a chance.”

NYRA Press Office

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