News & Barn notes

Sacco Looking For Freedom Road To Break Through On The Grass In Sunday’s $100,000 My Frenchman Stakes

July 14, 2023

Trainer Gregg Sacco is prepared for whatever impact the weather may have on Sunday’s $100,000 My Frenchman Stakes with both Freedom Road and Playground Legend entered in the Monmouth Park feature that day, but he’d prefer the 5½-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds remains on the grass.

He would run both horses in that case – which would mean the opportunity to finally find out if Freedom Road will take to the turf.

Back racing after a non-impactful showing in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, Freedom Road has returned with a couple of third-place finishes, the most recent on June 21 at Parx in an optional $50,000 claimer.

Sacco is looking for a breakout performance from the son of Malibu Moon-Lovable Lady by Not For Love and hopes a first career turf try will provide it.

“He has run well for us on the dirt and we’re looking for a little bit of a pop-up race from him,” said Sacco. “He ran a decent race in his last start but he hung a little bit that day. So we’re looking for a little breakout performance as a 3-year-old.”

There is enough in the breeding of Freedom Road for Sacco and his son Will, who has taken on a major responsibility running the stable, to believe turf may serve as a bit of wake-up call for the colt.

“His mare ran twice on grass in stakes and won one (the Jameela Stakes at Laurel) and was second in the other. She was also a stakes winner on the dirt,” said Sacco. “He is by Malibu Moon and a lot of Malibu Moons run well on both surfaces.

“It’s a little bit of a question mark. We feel he will handle the grass but you don’t know until you run them over it. We’ve never even trained him on it.”

If the race is switched to the main track due to rain, Freedom Road, owned Pinnacle Racing Team and Madaket Stables, will still run, Sacco said.

That’s not the case for Playground Legend, who broke through with a Maiden Special Weight win going 5½ furlongs on the turf at Monmouth Park on May 28 in his last start. He is turf only.

“Playground Legend needs to step up against this group,” said Sacco. “But the horse who was second to him last time (Captain Quick) broke his maiden next time out. It’s only his third turf start so we’re looking for improvement with him. But he has to step up here. We know that.”

Playground Legend, a son of Collected, is also owned by Pinnacle Racing Team.

Sacco, like Freedom Road, is looking to break out a bit as well, with a 4-9-5 line from 31 starters so far at the Monmouth Park meet.

“The horses have run good races,” he said. “It’s a little bit frustrating with the nine seconds. But they’re running well and training well so you hope for a little racing luck and that they continue to move forward and that those seconds and thirds turn into wins.”

Eight 3-year-olds are entered for the My Frenchman Stakes as a well as MTO Super Chow.