Displaying items by tag: horse racing

IN A SUMMER FRAUGHT WITH WEATHER ANXIETY, it was literally a breath of fresh air to see the sun come out and to feel a cool breeze just in time for the fillies to parade in front of the huge crowd for the 138th running of the iconic Grade 1 Alabama for 3-year-olds. 

An improbable winner would emerge in Eskimo Kisses, sent off at 9-1, when she snuck up on the rail, coming from last to first, to dominate the field with a 6-1/2 length victory.

The table was set by a generous Talk Veuve

To Me, who went out to a quick :22.52 quarter and :46.79 half, handing Kisses a free pass to dessert, as the big chesnut closer relished the perfect scenario she was given by the streaking pacesetter and gobbled it up like manna from heaven.

Spotting Veuve 15-1/2 lengths early on, Kisses would give dirt-splattered jockey Jose Ortiz his second straight Alabama, after last year’s victory aboard Bill Mott’s Elate.

Following trainer Kenny McPeek’s instructions to a tee, Jose sat back patiently, saving ground on the inside, and let Kisses do all the talking when she was ready. And she made it look easy, turning back Steve Asmussen’s 6-5 favorite Midnight Bisou, and Hall of Famer, Mike Smith, with the aplomb of a seasoned vet!

For Brooklyn-bred owner Harold Lerner, it seemed almost as easy as his entry into the horseracing business, when he and wife Helen, at odds of 175 million-to-one, hit the mother lode for $258 million in the Mega Millions Jackpot in Rutherford, New Jersey in 2005!

After waiting a couple of days, Helen decided to make their life-changing announcement at her alma mater, Seton Hall, and from there on gave Harold, a lifelong horseplayer from a long line of the same, her blessing to go for the gusto as a horse owner in the game he was so passionate about!

Calling Saratoga “the temple,” Harold equated his Grade 1 victory at the Spa to winning the Super Bowl, as the feeling you get having your picture taken in the Winner’s Circle here is indescribable! 

Kenny McPeek has often been classified as a “router specialist,” following his victory in the 2002 Belmont with Sarava, and his exciting dead heat win in the 2012 Travers with longshot Golden Ticket, and it appears that with Eskimo Kisses, a daughter of To Honor and Serve, he has found a filly who was bred to succeed at the classic 1-1/4 mile distance, too. 

The powerfully built Kisses, who paid $20 on a $2-win ticket, obviously had no problem with the heavier going on the track that had been soaked the night before in torrential downpours, as she recorded a 100 Beyer. 

Midnight Bisou, on the other hand, did not like the surface at the Spa one bit, per Mike Smith. She didn’t like it for the CCAO, either, even when it was dry, so this just shows you that her preference is for the hard as a rock “superhighway” she’s accustomed to in Cali, as opposed to ours. She did win the Mother Goose, however, over the deep surface at Big Sandy.

After Kisses kicked clear of Midnight Bisou, the battle was on between Bisou and her stablemate in the Asmussen barn, She’s A Julie, and Ricardo Santana, Jr. pushed Julie gamely ahead of the favorite, Bisou, to take second place.

Considering the success McPeek has had in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes, following back-to-back victories with Take Charge Lady and Edgar Prado in 2002 and 2003, it appears that he’ll next point Kisses toward this race at his home track Keeneland.

In another race for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Lake Placid, which immediately preceded the Alabama, e Five Racing and Chad Brown’s multiple graded stakes winner and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion, Rushing Fall, returned to the Winner’s Circle after a 15-week layoff.

Going a mile and an 1/8 over the Mellon turf course, with the rail set at 27’, Rushing Fall and her Hall of Fame jockey Javi Castellano, were able to overtake the frontrunner, Go Noni Go, ridden by Luis Saez, from the outside on the far turn, and pulled away in the stretch, outkicking runner up Capla Temptress for the 2-3/4 lengths victory. Lake George winner Daddy is a Legend, with Manny Franco up, was third.

This was a back-to-back victory in the Lake Placid for Javi, as he won last year with Elizabeth Moseley’s homebred Proctor’s Ledge, who also pulled off the rare double, as she won the companion race, the Lake George, earlier in the meet in 2017.

Rushing Fall became a millionaire with this victory, and chances are we will see her next in either the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont in four weeks on September 15th, or in 8 weeks on October 13th in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.

During last Thursday’s 4th Race the racing community collectively stood up and cheered for one of their own, when Tradeable, a 2-year-old NY-bred daughter of Exchange Rate, gave John Hertler his first win since March 13th, 2016, and his first victory at the Spa in 5 years. 

To understand why this particular victory was meaningful to so many people, is to know why John Hertler is such a respected and much-loved fixture on the New York racing scene. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he was the conditioner of 1984 Whitney, Woodward, Marlboro Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup Winner Slew o’ Gold.

The former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson, John’s story is one of kindness and decency at its core, but in recent years, it is his amazing will and his hallmark “stick-to-it-tiveness” that have made him an inspirational figure in the face of adversity.

John will never complain or much less discuss his existing physical limitations, as all he wants is to carry on as usual with a smile, and to just show up, which he does every single day. While most of us would have decided to fade into the distance long ago, he has chosen to remain very much present, and is teaching all of us a very valuable lesson as he does.

In the finale on Monday’s card, apprentice jockey Romero Ramsay Maragh, based at Gulfstream and a cousin of Rajiv, brought home a 3-year-old NY-bred son of Overanalyze, Won’t Be Missed, for Jimmy Ferraro, as a 48-1 longshot!

Under a brilliant ride by the young bug boy in his very first mount at Saratoga, Won’t Be Missed paid $98, and gave both his rider and anyone lucky enough to bet on him a real thrill! 

This was the third start of the meet for Won’t Be Missed, who had dropped down to a $25K maiden claimer last time out, when he finished far back in 6th. He returned this time to a $40K tag and took advantage of the 7-pound weight allowance for the bug at 111 pounds. Rajiv, giving up 13 pounds at 124, came in 4th behind his young cousin.

I was so very saddened to hear of the passing of Bailey, the beloved service dog of native Saratogian and friend, John Huppuch, last Thursday. Bailey, a sweet 10-year-old beagle/ basset hound mix, was a fixture around town, and at the racetrack, and had become somewhat of a celebrity since accompanying John to the track every day and was even featured in the NYRA Team Overnighter just days before his passing.

John has been a bartender at the track for 21 years, and Bailey has been his faithful “barback” for almost half that time. In an industry filled with animal lovers, I know that everyone’s heart is breaking for John, and I hope that John will feel our love.

It’s hard to believe that Travers weekend is already upon us, with 28 days down, and just 12 remaining, as Opening Day seems like 5 minutes ago! But what an exciting Travers is unfolding in front of us, along with an entire card filled with exceptional Grade 1 races.

Bob and Kris Edwards of e Five Racing and Chad Brown’s Good Magic, the impressive Haskell winner, was made the morning line favorite at 2-1, and drew a perfect outside #9 post per Chad, which bodes well for his early speed if he breaks well. Jose Ortiz will once again be in the irons.

How incredible it would be for Kris, a 1985 Saratoga High grad, and for hubby Bob, who she met in college at Plattsburgh, if they can hold up the Man O’ War Cup in victory, just as it will be for Mechanicville’s Chad, who has repeatedly stated that this is the race he most covets!

Chad has his best chance yet to do just that, as his other entry, Gronkowski, who drew an ideal inside post per Chad, because of his closing style and need to save ground, was made the second choice at 4-1. Gronk will be ridden by Joel Rosario but has yet to race since his 2nd place finish to Justify in the Belmont.

Wonder Gadot, the Canadian-bred daughter of 2002 Travers winner Medaglia d’Oro, will be ridden by leading jockey Irad Ortiz, and will try to make history by becoming the first filly to win the Midsummer Derby since Lady Rotha in 1915, who did so via disqualification. Six other fillies in the very early runnings of the race won before her.

Gadot, correctly pronounced “Ga-dote” per Israeli-born beauty Gal Gadot, the Wonder Woman actress who the filly was named after, is actually the first filly even entered since 1979, when John Veitch’s Hall of Famer Davona Dale, with Hall of Famer Jorgie Velasquez aboard, finished 4th as the favorite.

Two horses I will certainly have my eyes on are Vino Rosso, Todd Pletcher’s son of Curlin, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez, and is listed at 10-1 on the morning line, and Catholic Boy, who is trained by former Pletcher assistant Jonathan Thomas, who will be ridden by another Hall of Famer in Javi Castellano. Javi also holds the Travers record with 5 victories. Catholic Boy is listed at 8-1, along with one of Steve Asmussen’s two entries, Tenfold, the Jim Dandy winner, who will have Ricardo Santana aboard.

With gorgeous weather anticipated, I can’t wait for this great day to arrive, and I hope that everyone is as excited as I am!

Published in Winner's Circle
Thursday, 23 August 2018 11:56

News & Notes

Friday, August 24

New York Showcase Day
Travers Eve will be dedicated to New York-breds during New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course. The afternoon’s card will feature six stakes exclusively for New York-breds, including the $250,000 Albany for 3-year-olds, the $200,000 Funny Cide for budding New York-bred stars, and the $150,000 West Point presented by Trustco Bank. The Knight Caps, the official glee club of the United States Military Academy, will perform their alma mater in the winner’s circle following the running of the West Point. 

Red Jacket Ceremony
The day will be highlighted by the induction of four-time Eclipse Award-winning and two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert into the Saratoga Walk of Fame during the annual Red Jacket Ceremony. The ceremony will take place adjacent to the winner’s circle following the day’s fifth race at approximately 3:30 p.m. During the event, Baffert will receive an emblematic Saratoga red jacket and his plaque will be formally unveiled to the public. The Saratoga Walk of Fame honors and showcases the achievements of those who have made significant contributions to the sport of thoroughbred racing and to the advancement of the Saratoga Race Course.

Saratoga County EOC Food Drive at Community Outreach Booth
The New York Racing Association will welcome the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC) to Saratoga Race Course to host its annual food and essential goods drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fans are invited to donate non-perishable dry and canned goods as well as toiletries at the Community Outreach Booth, located on the Jockey Silks Room Porch and across from the Saratoga Walk of Fame. Fans who donate three or more items will receive a 2018 Saratoga baseball cap, while supplies last.

Taste NY: Craft Beer
This weekly event offers guests a selection of New York craft beers available for sampling in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five craft beers for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. 

The Last Race Showcase at The Stretch
NYRA invites fans who are in attendance to experience The Stretch for free from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Stretch is Saratoga’s exclusive new hospitality area located in the Grandstand at the Top of the Stretch. There will be food and drink specials and live DJ entertainment. Fans can enjoy the new amenities at The Stretch, including a private bar, concessions, hi-def video screens and televisions, and dramatic views of the Stretch run. 

 

Saturday, August 25 - TRAVERS DAY 

Travers Day
Saratoga’s most anticipated race - the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers will return for its 149th running as the feature on a blockbuster card. This year’s Travers is sponsored by Runhappy, a champion sprinter currently standing at Claiborne Farm.
In addition to Kentucky Derby runner-up and Haskell winner Good Magic, the Runhappy Travers field is expected to include Wonder Gadot, who will seek to become the first filly to win the Travers since 1915. Other probable starters include Jim Dandy winner Tenfold, Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso, Belmont Derby winner Catholic Boy, Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski, and Haskell runner-up Bravazo.
The Runhappy Travers will be one of six Grade 1s on Travers Day, which will also feature the $1 million Sword Dancer, the $700,000 Personal Ensign, the $600,000 Forego, the $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, and the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy. Rounding out the impressive card is the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa.
Gates open at 7 a.m. with a special first post time of 11:35 a.m. All guests are subject to enhanced screening upon entering the grounds and will not be permitted to run once inside the property for their safety. This policy will be strictly enforced. 
There is a strict limit of one picnic table per person that may be reserved in the backyard. Re-selling of picnic tables is not allowed and will result in expulsion from track grounds. 
Fans planning to attend Travers Day can review a full list of track policies at www.nyra.com/saratoga/visit/saratoga-track-policies. 

NYRA Bets Seminar
Join Mike Watchmaker, Nick Tammaro and Richard Aller at the NYRA Bets Simulcast Center for a handicapping seminar to discuss their picks for the day. Find them on the second floor of the grandstand near The Stretch. The seminar begins at 11 a.m. 

Fashion Saturdays
Designed to showcase the tradition of style in thoroughbred racing, Fashion Saturdays will feature women’s and men’s apparel and accessories from local retailers, as well as a selection of home décor, spa care and jewelry items at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Josh Cellars Wine Tasting
Fans are invited to enjoy a wine tasting with Josh Cellars from 3 to 6 p.m. in the upper grandstand by section R, located adjacent to the entrance to The Stretch. 

Ketel One Saturdays at The Post
The fun will continue with Ketel One Saturdays at The Post. Fans are invited to sample the new Ketel One Botanicals from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host the Backstretch Employee Service Team, which aids the hard-working men and women employed to take care of the horses in the barn area.

 

Sunday, August 26

Smart N Fancy
The day’s feature is the $100,000 Smart N Fancy for fillies and mares on the turf.

Low Roller Challenge
Sunday will include the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Taste NY: Food and Artisans
Each Sunday will welcome guests to a lively on-track market of numerous food and artisan vendors featuring products made exclusively in New York State. The market will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion.

Woodford Reserve at the Jim Dandy Bar
Guests are invited to the Jim Dandy Bar to sample Woodford Reserve Saratoga Personal Selection, crafted exclusively for racing fans at the Spa, from 2 to 4 p.m. 

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host the Capital District New York Synchronized Skating, which represents athlete skaters from across the Capital Region. 

 

Monday, August 27

Better Talk Now
The afternoon will feature the $100,000 Better Talk Now for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Berkshire Bank Family Mondays
Monday will be highlighted by Berkshire Bank Family Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavillion. All kid-friendly games and activities, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred, are free of charge, with the exception of one designated activity which carries a suggested donation to benefit a local school or PTA. The beneficiary of the sixth Monday of the season is Chango Elementary School in Ballston Lake. 

Berkshire Bank and Hannaford Supermarkets Backpack Giveaway
The first 500 kids, ages 12 and under, to visit the Coca-Cola Saratoga will receive a free drawstring bag filled with school supplies, courtesy of Berkshire Bank and Hannaford Supermarkets. One drawstring bag per child, who must be present to receive.

Low Roller Challenge
Monday will include the continuation of the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Living Resources, a non-profit organization which provides services to individuals with a broad range of disabilities and impairments, including brain injury survivors and veterans.

 

Tuesday, August 28

DARK DAY, NO RACES

 

Wednesday, August 29

With Anticipation
The afternoon will feature the $150,000 With Anticipation for two-year-olds on turf.

NYRA Bets Late Pick 5
The multi-race wager covers the last five races of every card of live racing at Saratoga. It features a minimum single-ticket payout of $150,000 daily and $300,000 on Saturdays to NYRA Bets customers nationwide online and on-track in New York. The offer is only available to NYRA Bets customers. 

NYRA Bets Promotions
New customers who sign up for NYRA Bets using the promo code “SPA” will receive a $200 new member bonus. Visit NYRABets.com for details. Play the Trifecta in a selected stakes every day at Saratoga to earn a 10 percent bonus. Look for the stakes schedule on NYRABets.com.

College and Alumni Day
This year’s College Day will invite college students and alumni to enjoy an afternoon at the Spa. The Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion will feature an array of special activities and giveaways for guests.

Fan Appreciation Week
From Wednesday, August 29 through Monday, September 3, NYRA will thank its fans with a series of special events, activities and offers during closing week of the 2018 season at Saratoga Race Course.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany.

 

Thursday, August 30

P. G. Johnson
The afternoon will feature the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for two-year-old fillies on turf.

Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits
Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits offers guests a selection of cider, wine and spirits available for sampling each Thursday of the meet in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five varietals for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. 

Aperol Thursdays at The Post
Each Thursday, guests have the opportunity to sample Aperol Spritz cocktails at The Post Bar from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will feature the Saratoga Regional YMCA.

Published in Winner's Circle
Thursday, 09 August 2018 20:00

News & Notes

Friday, August 10

Tale of the Cat
The $100,000 Tale of the Cat for sprinters is the feature in the afternoon.

Saratoga Challenge
Friday marks the first in a pair of live money challenges which will occur as two separate one-day contests. The Saratoga Challenge on Friday will guarantee a first-place payout of $15,000, as well as awarding entries to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge to the top finishers and the 2019 National Handicapping Championship to the top three finishers. The challenge will consist of wagering exclusively on Saratoga races through the following pools only: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella and Daily Double. Friday is a $1,000 minimum buy-in. For more information about the Saratoga Challenges, visit NYRA.com/Challenge. 

Taste NY: Craft Beer
This weekly event offers guests a selection of New York craft beers available for sampling in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five craft beers for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. 

Paint & Sip
Guests will be able to enjoy a beverage while they craft their own masterpiece on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course. The Paint & Sip event includes admission to the Whitney Suite, art supplies, snacks and a race day program. Those interested can purchase tickets by calling the NYRA Box Office at 844-NYRA-TIX.

The Last Race Showcase at The Stretch 
NYRA invites fans who are in attendance to experience The Stretch for free from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Stretch is Saratoga’s exclusive new hospitality area located in the Grandstand at the Top of the Stretch. There will be food and drink specials and live DJ entertainment. Fans can enjoy the new amenities at The Stretch, including a private bar, concessions, hi-def video screens and televisions, and dramatic views of the Stretch run. 

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Dyer Phelps, the oldest African American ministry in Saratoga Springs, dating back to its establishment in 1862 by Miss Dyer Phelps.

 

Saturday, August 11

Fourstardave, Adirondack and Fasig-Tipton Lure
The headlining Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave will be accompanied by the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack. The card will also include the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure rescheduled from Whitney Day.

NYRA Bets Seminar
Join host Pete Fornatale with Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr. and handicappers Jake Ballis and Jonathon Kinchen for a special seminar at the NYRA Bets Simulcast Center, located on the second floor of the Grandstand near The Stretch. The seminar begins at 11 a.m. 

Fourstardave Challenge
Saturday marks the second in a pair of live money challenges which will occur as two separate one-day contests. The Fourstardave Challenge on Saturday will guarantee a first-place payout of $25,000, as well as awarding the same entries as on Friday. The challenge will consist of wagering exclusively on Saratoga races through the following pools only: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella and Daily Double. Friday is a $2,000 minimum buy-in. For more information about the Saratoga Challenges, visit NYRA.com/Challenge. 

Saratoga Challenge
Friday marks the first in a pair of live money challenges which will occur as two separate one-day contests. The Saratoga Challenge on Friday will guarantee a first-place payout of $15,000, as well as awarding entries to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge to the top finishers and the 2019 National Handicapping Championship to the top three finishers. The challenge will consist of wagering exclusively on Saratoga races through the following pools only: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella and Daily Double. Friday is a $1,000 minimum buy-in. For more information about the Saratoga Challenges, visit NYRA.com/Challenge. 

Fashion Saturdays
Designed to showcase the tradition of style in thoroughbred racing, Fashion Saturdays will feature women’s and men’s apparel and accessories from local retailers, as well as a selection of home décor, spa care and jewelry items at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Woodford Reserve and Jeff Brisbin at the Jim Dandy Bar
Guests are invited to the Jim Dandy Bar to sample Woodford Reserve Saratoga Personal Selection, crafted exclusively for racing fans at the Spa, from 2 to 4 p.m. 

Ketel One Saturdays at The Post
The fun will continue each Saturday of the season with the Ketel One Saturdays at The Post. Fans are invited to sample the new Ketel One Botanicals from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The Last Race Showcase at The Stretch
The Stretch is Saratoga’s exclusive new hospitality area located in the Grandstand at the Top of the Stretch. There will be food and drink specials and live DJ entertainment. Fans can enjoy the new amenities at The Stretch, including a private bar, concessions, hi-def video screens and televisions, and dramatic views of the Stretch run. 

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host TAKE THE LEAD, which was launched by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to find homes for retired racehorses. TAKE THE LEAD partners with established aftercare programs to provide rehabilitation and retraining placements for thoroughbreds retiring from competition on the New York circuit.

 

Sunday, August 12

Saratoga Special and Fasig-Tipton Waya
Sunday will feature the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special, presented by Miller Lite, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya rescheduled from Whitney Day.

SaraYoga
Racing fans will be able to enjoy the tranquility of SaraYoga, a one-hour yoga session, which also includes brunch, a complimentary mimosa or Bloody Mary, admission and gratuity. The yoga session will begin at 8 a.m. and yoga mat rentals will be available. Those interested can purchase tickets by calling the NYRA Box Office at 844-NYRA-TIX.

Low Roller Challenge
Sunday will include the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Taste NY: Food and Artisans
Each Sunday of the season will welcome guests to a lively on-track market of numerous food and artisan vendors featuring products made exclusively in New York State. The market will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host The Joseph Ahmed Foundation, which aims to promote treatment and cure of Ewing’s Sarcoma and other sarcomas by funding research, promoting the development of treatments, developing awareness, and providing support for patients and their loved ones. 

 

Monday, August 13

Saratoga Dew (NYB)
The day’s feature is the $100,000 Saratoga Dew for New York-bred fillies and mares. 

Berkshire Bank Family Mondays
Monday will be highlighted by Berkshire Bank Family Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion. Free Jockey Autograph Books are available for children while supplies last. All kid-friendly games and activities, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred, are free of charge, with the exception of one designated activity which carries a suggested donation to benefit a local school or PTA. This week’s beneficiary is Stevens Elementary School in Ballston Lake. Berkshire Bank Family Mondays takes place just across from the Berkshire Bank Family Zone, an interactive play area featuring games, attractions, an Adirondack-style chair and Berkshire Bank charging station. The Berkshire Bank Family Zone is open every day of racing during the Saratoga season.

Low Roller Challenge
Monday will include the continuation of the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Friends of Moreau Lake, which partners with New York State Parks to enhance the experience for every visitor with education, events, and stewardship.

 

Tuesday, August 14

DARK DAY, NO RACES.

 

Wednesday, August 15

Bolton Landing
This day’s feature is the $100,000 Bolton Landing for two-year-old Fillies.

NYRA Bets Late Pick 5
The multi-race wager covers the last five races of every card of live racing at Saratoga. It features a minimum single-ticket payout of $150,000 daily and $300,000 on Saturdays to NYRA Bets customers nationwide online and on-track in New York. The offer is only available to NYRA Bets customers. 

NYRA Bets Promotions
New customers who sign up for NYRA Bets using the promo code “SPA” will receive a $200 new member bonus. Visit NYRABets.com for details. Play the Trifecta in a selected stakes every day at Saratoga to earn a 10 percent bonus. Look for the stakes schedule on NYRABets.com.

Adirondacks Day
Saratoga Race Course will highlight the majestic Adirondacks region, including the home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid. The day-long event at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion will feature activities, exhibits and entertainment which showcase the great attractions of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Center for Disability Services, which is upstate New York’s largest providers of services and programs for individuals who have disabilities.

 

Thursday, August 16

Union Avenue
This day’s feature is the $100,000 Union Ave. for Fillies and Mares three and up.

Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits
Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits offers guests a selection of spirits available for sampling in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five varietals for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. 

Aperol Thursdays at The Post
Each Thursday, guests have the opportunity to sample Aperol Spritz cocktails at The Post Bar from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host K9s for Warriors, an organization dedicated to providing service canines to warriors suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post-9/11.

Published in Winner's Circle

THE SKIES LET LOOSE overnight, pounding the dirt and turf at Saratoga before Whitney Day, but by early morning, the sun was once again shining down upon the Spa!

After several glorious hours basking in the sunshine, the 40,000+ late arriving fans were easily fooled into thinking that the bright blue sky would remain all day. Ominous storm clouds swiftly rolled in, changing their thinking, and lurked above the track just after 5:00, during the Grade 1 Test for 3-year-old fillies.

What started out as sporadic raindrops, quickly turned into a full-blown torrential downpour, and created a bizarre situation for NYRA, the TV broadcast, fans, but most importantly, for the horses and their connections already in the Paddock for the prestigious, $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney, the day’s finale.

What was supposed to be a shortened, old school, 9-race card, after the original 10th and 11th, the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya, and the Fasig-Tipton Lure were cancelled earlier because of the soft turf, ended up being just as long of a day with the lengthy delay, as lightning strikes threatened!

Amazingly, the eight horses stranded in their claustrophobic stalls during the 44-minute delay, with full tack on before the Whitney, behaved very well, much less considering the close proximity of their human counterparts trying to take cover in their crowded space!

Trainer Rick Violette did say, however, that his star gelding, Diversify, was getting really antsy, and was trying to kick the stall walls down, so he and his longtime sssistant trainer, Melissa Cohen, and his groom, took him out in the rain, and walked him around his #6 ring to calm him down.

Diversify’s pent up energy served him well, however, as the 5-year-old NY-bred exploded out of the gate, under meet-leading jockey, Irad Ortiz, Jr., and was loose on the lead, wiring the field, while receiving another gaudy 110 Beyer, just as he did in the Suburban! The always aggressive “Juni” was the only jock to come home without a spot of mud on his white pants!

Although Chad Summers’ fellow NY-bred, fan-favorite, Mind Your Biscuits, made it a New York, New York exacta, he never really threatened Diversify, in spite of recording a fine 104 Beyer, as he just couldn’t compete with Diversify’s controlling and dominant speed.

It is to MYB’s credit, however, that he was able to prove some naysayers wrong, as he handled the two turns, in his first try, and gamely fought and held on for 2nd.

The late charging 38-1 longshot, Parx shipper Discreet Lover, tried to run MYB down for his Owner/Trainer, Uriah St. Lewis, but his gutsy attempt came up just short, for 3rd. And what a wonderful story St. Lewis’ is!

The native of Trinidad, who used to run track at a high school near Aqueduct, became enamored with the horses running close by, and would literally run to the Big A after practice. He became hooked as a gambler, but remarkably, turned this initial passion into becoming a trainer!

And what a move Uriah made when he purchased Discreet Lover for the relative pittance of $10K! His 5-year-old has now earned over $900+K, and along with his fellow 5-year olds, Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits, we are reminded of the good old days when our equine heroes stuck around past 3!

On the same day I learned about St. Lewis’ story, I also received the very sad news that a fellow native of Trinidad, NYRA’s Selma Brathwaite, had lost her battle with cancer. 

Selma, who became a racing fan when her Dad would take her to the track in Trinidad as a little girl, was with NYRA for over 32 years. I spent a summer working next to Selma in the office of Jerry Davis, the former Director of Admissions, thanks to my old friend and Selma’s old tennis buddy, Sonny Taylor, a Placing/Patrol Judge, who got me the job. Sonny has incredibly been with NYRA for over 50+ years and is showing no signs of slowing down!

I’ll never forget Selma’s big smile and huge personality, or her lilting voice and soothing Trinidadian accent, and I’m so very happy that NYRA, most appropriately, will name a race in her honor this Fall at Belmont.

It was a very proud day for the NY breeding industry, with Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits’ one-two finish, as these two bright stars have shed much deserved light on NY’s very successful breeding program, now placing them in an even more prominent position nationally.

Diversify boosted his earnings to $1,959,425 from 10 wins and 2 seconds out of 15 career starts, and he has certainly been a much-needed elixir for Rick Violette, and for Rick’s longtime good friend and co-owner of Diversify, Ralph Evans.

Rick and Ralph are lung cancer survivors, and both underwent surgery 3 years ago. It seemed fitting that a rainbow magically appeared in the sky while Ralph’s daughter Lauren, the co-owner of Diversify with her Dad, led Diversify into the Winner’s Circle, with Rick and her Dad by her side, while the race’s namesake, 92-year-old Marylou Whitney, was seen holding the Whitney Cup to her lips, as if drinking Champagne!

Mind Your Biscuits, the 2-time winner of the rich Dubai Golden Shaheen, has now earned a whopping $4,159,286, with 7 wins, 10 seconds and 3 thirds in 23 career starts, after being purchased by Chad Summers and his family members for a mere $30K! In perhaps the most exciting finish this year, who could ever forget his amazing, come from behind thriller in the Shaheen, when he seemingly came out of nowhere from last to nip XY Jet at the wire! 

Rick Violette has stated that he will now bypass the Woodward, as Diversify will try to become a repeat winner in the Jockey Club Gold Cup next, after winning the JCGC last year, while Chad Summers’ plans for MYB are not yet set in stone. 

Chad remarked that Rick taught him a valuable lesson when he waited ‘til the morning of the Whitney Draw to enter Diversify, as Rick let his horse dictate when he was ready to run! After Diversify’s amazing breeze the Sunday before, which Chad also happened to witness, he knew Rick would have to enter him, and Chad now says he will do the same with Biscuits before the Woodward.

If MYB is not ready to go in the Woodward, it appears that he may then go in either the Grade 2 Kelso Mile at Belmont, or perhaps he’ll wait for the Grade 3 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs, contested at 1-1/8 mile, as it could be the perfect prep for Summers’ star before the Breeders’ Cup, over the same track November 3rd.

Before Ma Nature had a chance to rain on their parade, the 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1 Longines Test were able to strut their stuff in the 8th Race. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, Chad Brown’s Separationofpowers, with Jose Ortiz aboard, turned back the strong challenge of Steve Asmussen’s Mia Mischief and Ricardo Santana, Jr., during a spirited stretch drive, as the daughter of Candy Ride passed the daughter of Into Mischief late for the victory.

Following her impressive 11-3/4 length maiden victory last Summer at the Spa, Seperationofpowers finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Spinaway closing weekend, before collecting her first Grade 1 victory in the Frizette at Belmont October 8th. After a fourth-place finish at Delmar in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, it was discovered that the filly had an ankle chip that required surgery, and a subsequent 8-month layoff to rehab.

When she returned in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont July 8th, she finished fourth once again, but certainly proved she was more than ready with her victory in the Test last Saturday. With the Grade 1 Ballerina falling too soon on the schedule on Travers Day, and with the daunting task of facing division leader Monomoy Girl in the Cotillion, it seems likely that Separationofpowers may try the one turn 1-1/8-mile Beldame, and an exciting potential matchup with Bill Mott’s Elate!

One of the most entertaining events of the meet, next to the PDJF Jockeyoke, is the annual Jockey vs. Trainers Basketball Game to benefit the New York Racetrack Chaplaincy, and the wonderful services they provide for the backstretch employees. Led by Chaplain Umberto Chavez and Nick Caras, their dedication is invaluable in meeting the needs of those who are the heart and soul of the industry. 

What is usually a very close contest quickly turned into a route, as the superior speed and quickness of the jockeys was on full display! The jockeys were perhaps motivated by the special appearance of Hall of Famer and New York Knicks great, Bernard King, who served as their celebrity bench coach.

From one steal and fast break after another, and an array of long range bombs, the jocks, led from the opening tip by the very athletic Manny Franco, took off to a 24-2 lead, and never looked back in the 58-33 blowout! Manny was eventually named MVP, but he received a lot of help along the way from his close buddies, the Ortiz bros, and Luis Reyes, as the Puerto Rican National Team has nothing but height on this quartet of talented Boricuas!

On a sultry opening night of the select Saratoga Sale that had even the coolest customers sweating, the fillies reigned supreme, as they accounted for seven of the top eight purchases! 

Larry Best of OXO Equine has been one of North America’s leading buyers of late, and he let it be known early on that he was all about business! He went to $1.2 million to get Hip 26, a striking chestnut daughter of 2015 Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah, out of the multiple Grade 1 winner, Life At Ten, and later in the evening spent $950K on an Into Mischief filly.

In between these two transactions, Bob Baffert, acting as an agent for M.V. Magnier, spent a cool million on this hot night for a NY-bred son of American Pharoah, out of Mrs. Gerald A. Nielson’s NY-bred mare, Party Silks. Baffert gushed that it was “love at first sight” for the bay colt who is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-placed graded stakes winner Upstart.

It was a good first night for Fasig-Tipton before my deadline, as they experienced an 18.5% gain in gross sales over last year, and the average price rose 7.1% to $348,976, while the median remained the same at $300K.

On top of the two American Pharoah million-dollar babies, seven yearlings went between $750K-$950K, while sixteen sold for over $500K, and 51 sold for over $250K, making it an evening as robust as the humidity.

Irad Ortiz powered his way to the top of the Jockey Standings with 23 wins after picking up three wins on Friday’s card, two stakes wins on Saturday in the Fasig-Tipton De La Rose aboard Chad Brown’s Uni and in the Grade 1 Whitney, and then closed out the 3rd week on Monday with a 4-win day, including the New York Stallion Series/Cab Calloway Division Stakes aboard Therapist for Christophe Clement. 

Juni is sitting in the driver’s seat with 16 days down and 24 to go, while unbelievably, his Eclipse Award-winning younger brother Jose sits in 8th place with 10. However, I’m sure the competition filled with brotherly love will heat up over the next 24 days!

Luis Saez continues his excellent riding, after winning the Gulfstream title this Winter, and sits in 2nd with 17 wins, followed by Javi Castellano with 16 and Ricardo Santana with 13. Johnny V, Manny Franco and Joel Rosario are tied with 12, rounding out the top seven.

In the Trainers Standings, Chad Brown sits alone at the top with 18, followed by Steve Asmussen with 11, Todd Pletcher with 10, and Bill Mott with 9, while “Big ‘Miah” Englehart and Joe Sharp are tied with 5, and Kiaran McLaughlin and Robertino Diodoro are tied with 4.

Probables for Saturday’s Grade 1 $500K Fourstardave for 3-year-old and up at a mile on the turf include Linda Rice’s Voodoo Song, who most definitely proved to be a “horse for a course” after winning 4 races at the Spa last summer, Bill Mott’s Yoshida, Todd Pletcher’s Made You Look, Jimmy Jerkens’ Delta Prince, Brian Lynch’s Heart to Heart and Kelly Rubley’s Divisidero.

With the Arlington Million Festival of Racing always being held on the same day as the Fourstardave, a horse like Divisidero, the son of Kitten’s Joy who most recently won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, could opt to run there instead, and we won’t know ‘til after I go to press. Several of our top jocks will be flying to Chicago, too, giving some of the hungry jocks in the room a chance to pick up a few rare mounts, and hopefully a couple wins in their absence! 

Published in Winner's Circle
Friday, 03 August 2018 11:29

Manuel Ycaza

MANUEL YCAZA passed away just a few days before the Saratoga meet began. To many he is someone that they never have heard of. To sports fans it is a name that may have sounded familiar. Then there are those of us, the racing public, who remember him. And do we ever.

Ycaza came by way of his native country Panama. It was in Mexico City where he began to rock the racing world. There he shook that racing establishment to its core. Day in and day out he thrilled the fans with his distinct, anything goes riding style. “Manny” as he was now known had conquered Mexico. Now it was the time to move north of the border to showcase his ever-growing mastery of race riding. He was going to break tradition, in a very big way.

This was another time. The jockey colony in this country was still limited very much to a white presence. This was about to change. Ycaza broke the barrier. As his successes mounted, many other Spanish speaking jockeys would make their way to the North American racing scene. Names like Beaza, Pincay, Cordero, Vasquez, Valasquez and so many more that reached the pinnacle of success in their new-found home. It didn’t take long for this tiger in the saddle to reach the dizzying heights that most can only dream of.

It was the 1960s…

Ycaza won stake races in bunches. Count the 1964 Belmont Stakes and the D.C. International three times. Here at the Spa, he nailed down the Travers Stakes twice. He took Canada’s most important event, The Queen’s Plate. To list them all would take half of this page. He wasn’t just riding high at the racetrack. He married the Miss Universe of 1960, Linda Bement. He was now a very big star. Two races stand out in his storied career. One took place here at Saratoga. It was the 1962 Travers Stakes. The race has stood the test of time as the greatest race ever held at the Spa. Ycaza had the mount on Ridan. A national institution, Bill Shoemaker was aboard Jaipur. The fans in attendance that day were treated to a horse race for the ages. On the clubhouse turn Shoemaker and Ycaza hooked up. From that point on they could not be separated. On to the backstretch and down the straightaway the battle continued. At the top of the stretch they were nose and nose. Through the stretch, they mirrored each other. They hit the finish line as one. It was a photo finish. Shoemaker and Jaipur got the call by a nostril. Ycaza had lost. At the same time, he had cemented his name in the annals of Saratoga Race Track lore.

Let’s move forward 5 years…

The place Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The track Garden State Park. It was the Jersey Derby, a Memorial Day fixture at the long-gone track. Ycaza had the mount on one of the greatest horses to ever grace the American turf, Dr Fager. It was a four-horse field and the good Doctor looked like a mortal cinch. When the bell rang Manny crossed over into the path of the rest of the field. This move would lead to the flashing lights on the tote board indicating a steward’s inquiry. Fager won the race by six open lengths, only to be disqualified. This episode showed the one crack in Ycaza’s armor. He lived by a rough riding, cowboy style. And in some cases, died by it. He found few, if any friends among the track stewards, who abhorred his in-race antics. In his twenty-year career, he spent a mind boggling twenty-four months on the sidelines, due to rough riding suspensions. It is fair to say with Manny, you got what you asked for. Owners and trainers alike knew that with his great skills, he could be lengths better than other jockeys.

On the other side of the coin, there was always the possibility that the undisciplined riding could very well cause his mounts to be disqualified.

1970 came and Ycaza’s star was about to fade. Injuries, disqualifications and suspensions had taken their toll. He retired in 1971. Six years later he was inducted into the horse racing Hall of Fame here on Union Avenue. It was a well-deserved and fitting tribute to this all-time great.

Not one to rest on his laurels, he traded in his tack for a harness sulky, where he had limited success at New York area raceway venues. Manny Ycaza was the product of his environment. He learned his trade in Latin America where cowboy style riding was considered the norm. The racetrack crowd in New York fell in love with him. He was what they wished they could be, tough, brassy, with the nerve to take chances with an all-out will to win at any cost. Sure, they knew that it could cause them to lose a bet on occasion. What mattered more, he would do everything possible with his God given talent to get his horse to the finish line in front.

Note to Saratoga fans,

Manny along with his three Whitney Stakes scores, took a total of four riding titles at the Spa.

It can be said that Manuel Ycaza did it all. And without doubt, he did it his way.

An all-time great gone at eighty.

Published in Winner's Circle

MANY TRAINERS who come to Saratoga often become independent with a solid set of horses before the age of 30.

Thirteen-time Saratoga leading trainer Todd Pletcher was also 29 when he started his own barn in 1996 after being an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Mechanicville native Chad Brown was also 29 when he left Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel to train his own horses in 2007. 

For Jorge Abreu, who will be 44 on Aug. 16, not only has it taken him more time to become a trainer, he has also learned how to become successful after starting with just one horse before building that into a 40-horse stable through hard work, committed owners, good help, and long hours.

“Being a trainer is not easy,” Abreu said. “You need to have a good background with a little bit of money saved, especially since everything is expensive in New York. You also need to have clients who are going to support you.”

Abreu’s journey of becoming a trainer has its roots in Saratoga for more than 20 years. Starting with the late Murray Garren, Abreu eventually migrated as an exercise rider for Billy Badgett, who is now general manager of Gulfstream Park.

Abreu then worked for John Terranova as an exercise rider and assistant, which included handling Bob Baffert’s horses when they shipped from California to New York.

After six years with Terranova, Abreu moved to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito’s barn for another six years as an assistant while galloping horses that included two-time Whitney Handicap winner Commentator and Bellamy Road, the Wood Memorial winner who later finished second in the
2005 Travers.

However for nine years, Abreu may have received a lot of his training skill set by working with a plethora of graded stakes winners – both turf and dirt – from the aforementioned Brown.

“I’ve worked with many people,” the Dominican Republic native said. “I really learned a lot by working with Chad. I was going to train horses on my own the year before [in 2015], but I wasn’t ready. I gave myself one more year because experience is always good.”

Before going on his own, Abreu also wanted to be fair with Brown by staying with him for one year. During that last year in 2016, Abreu trained just one horse: a then 4-year-old New York-bred filly named Woodville who graduated from the maiden ranks and won an allowance race in her first two starts at Saratoga.

“She had been training well,” Abreu said. “So I pointed her to Saratoga and she won. That kind of opened the door a little bit. My background was really good. So, I got some people to support me when I was getting ready to leave.”

One of his first supporters was Steve Weston, owner of Parkland Thoroughbreds, who had given Abreu an unraced filly named Ellie’s Honor. Just like with Woodville, Ellie’s honor won her first race in January 2017 at Gulfstream Park. Abreu’s two-horse stable, which included New York-bred All Show, quickly grew after that win.

“When I won my first race at Gulfstream Park, I got about 15 horses a week later,” Abreu said. “By the time I left Florida, I had 22 horses. Since then, everything has been going well.”

Last year at Saratoga with just 10 starters, Abreu eventually scored a winner on the turf near the end of the meet with Hope’s Roar for NY Final Furlong Racing Stable.

Abreu has been at the Oklahoma Annex barn since the beginning of May. Over the past year, Abreu’s stable continues to expand with stakes-caliber horses that include Goodthingstaketime, who finished third in the Grade 3 Lake George Stakes on Saratoga’s Opening Day card, and Pas de Soucis, who is being trained for Saturday’s Fasig-Tipton De La Rose Stakes as part of the Whitney Day undercard.

Along Pas de Soucis and Goodthingstaketime from owner Peter Bradley, Abreu has also been receiving horses high-profile owner Michael Dubb. Abreu has been surprised and grateful for being this established within three years.

“Michael Dubb and Peter Bradley have been very good supporters by putting good horses in our barn,” Abreu said. “Things have been going well. I never expected to have this happen so soon.”

However, one of the things that has placed a setback on Abreu has been the weather. With over three inches of rain falling in the Capital Region last week, Abreu’s horses have seen limited time in training and racing on the turf.

“I have a good mix of horses, but they are all turf horses,” Abreu said. “The weather is killing me a little bit. Been here since May and there has been a very dry spell. In Sarataoga, when it rains, it really rains. When it’s dry, it’s really dry. There is no in between.”

Abreu doesn’t let the weather discourage him from putting in a 15-hour day that starts at 4 a.m. because he knows the horses are worth it not only now, but for his career and future.

“The horses make me get up in the morning. These horses make me want to come here to see them, train them, and be around them,” Abreu said. “At the end of the day, you are only good as your horse.”

Published in Winner's Circle
Friday, 03 August 2018 11:20

Weezie at the Flagpole: 10 Days Down!

IN SPITE OF harrowing weather through Friday, Saratoga fans were blessed with a Jim Dandy Saturday, as Ma Nature cooperated once again with glorious weather over the weekend!

Finley’sluckycharm opened up this past week’s stakes action on Wednesday, by avenging her loss at the wire in last year’s Grade 2 Honorable Miss to Paulassilverlining, by dominating this year’s edition with her 2 1/4 length win over Vertical Oak.

The Twirling Candy mare has now amassed earnings of well over $900K+ for trainer Bret Calhoun, with 11 wins in 17 career starts, and her next stop should be the Grade 1 Ballerina on the Travers undercard, before prepping back home at Churchill Downs for the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

In Thursday’s John Morrissey, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for NY-breds, the 8-year-old crafty veteran, Weekend Hideaway, would have made the race’s namesake, “Old Smoke”, very proud! In his first win since defeating Diversify in the Commentator at Belmont in May of 2017, the son of Speightstown withstood an objection from last year’s John Morrissey winner, Celtic Chaos, to win the race for his second time, with Luis Saez aboard for Phil Serpe.

Weekend Hideaway certainly epitomizes the moniker, “Horse for a Course”, as this indomitable NY-bred broke his maiden at the Spa, over a similarly sloppy track in 2012, and has won here every even-numbered year since and has won at least one race each year since his debut!

After breaking his maiden at Gulfstream in early March, Hofburg did not taste victory again until last Friday’s 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes. Following a 2nd place finish to Audible in the Florida Derby, and then a 7th in the Kentucky Derby, and a 3rd in the Belmont Stakes behind Justify, Juddmonte Farm’s homebred son of Tapit needed a confidence booster, or as his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was quoted to have said, “so did I”!

Although Hofburg probably wasn’t crazy about the going on the sloppy track, the lightly raced, inexperienced chestnut had no problem putting away the small and modest field and recorded a 100 Beyer with his 5-length victory, while gaining valuable experience heading into the Travers.

Hofburg’s victory was just the beginning of another fantastic Birthday weekend for Bill Mott, as he also was part of the thrilling dead heat finish in Saturday’s Grade 2 Bowling Green with his Channel Maker, and Chuck Lawrence’s longshot Glorious Empire, while also collecting a win with Satisfy in the 4th.

On his actual 65th on Sunday, the Hall of Famer’s uncanny ability to find the Winner’s Circle on his special day continued, as he brought home Glossy in the 3rd, and a longshot named Length in the 5th, who paid $28.40! Mott won nine Saratoga training titles between 1992-2007 and has now won races in 17 out of 25 years on his Birthday! A seven-year streak from 2007-2013 was actually ended by a dark day in 2014.

Mott’s biggest Birthday gift came last year in the Jim Dandy, when his Good Samaritan beat Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Good Samaritan will make his return to Saratoga in this Saturday’s Whitney, which will be the Harlan’s Holiday colt’s seventh Grade 1 start of his career.

In other action on Saturday, Dale Romans helped fulfill the dreams of his longtime friend and client, local businessman Bob Baron, when Promises Fulfilled, a 3-year-old son of Shackleford, who Romans also trained, was victorious in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam.

Baron, a graduate of RPI and member of their Hall of Fame as a QB, who earned Division III All-America honors his Senior year, was introduced to Romans by their mutual friend, another local businessman, Roddy Valente, some 20 years ago, and their relationship has continued to blossom.

Promises Fulfilled wired the field in the Fountain of Youth in early March but had disappointing finishes in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, which is when the team decided to make him a sprinter. It seems like a great switch after his commanding 3 1/4 length victory in the Amsterdam, under meet leading jockey, Luis Saez, and we will next see him in the H. Allen Jerkens on Travers Day.

While Romans has amazingly won a race at Saratoga for 26 straight years, he was hard pressed to ever remember winning two on one card, which he and Luis Saez combined to do on Saturday, as they also won the 3rd Race with Gray Nile.

In Saturday’s lone Grade 1, the 6-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Imperial Hint, a Parx shipper, proved that you can’t judge a book by its cover, as the little horse with a whole lot of heart and speed to burn, crushed the field! Trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr., who used to work at Saratoga as a kid, had to pinch himself as he and his family entered the Saratoga Room following the race, as it was his, and his gutsy little horse’s first Grade 1 victory!  What a “feel good” story it is all around, as owner Ray Mamone, who has a body shop in Jersey, lost his wife not long ago, and horse racing has helped to fill the void in his life.

In a quirky running of the Jim Dandy, Steve Asmussen’s Tenfold was able to overcome his crazy antics down the stretch, with a final lunge at the wire, to nip Mark Casse’s Flameaway.

Tenfold ducked out twice, getting spooked, and ended up way outside the middle of the track. Per his jockey, Ricardo Santana, Jr., the son of Curlin, by Tapit, was more intent on watching the big screen infield TV after that, than running his race!

Tenfold was not the only one showing signs of quirkiness, however, as Vino Rosso, another son of Curlin, and Sporting Chance, the son of Tiznow, both had their problems, too!

Vino Rosso, who obviously did not like the going on the sealed track, refused to run early on, but came flying late, to finish a head behind the runner-up.

Last year’s Hopeful winner, Sporting Chance, who is known for his characteristic ducking out in the stretch, which got him disqualified from the Blue Grass, totally blew the turn, and was pulled up by Luis Saez, when it was apparent he could not recover.

Following this madness, I cannot wait to see what the Travers will bring, when we see this wild crew join the likes of Good Magic, Wonder Gadot, Hofburg, Catholic Boy, Bravazo and Gronkowski.

Wonder Gadot’s connections made the decision to race her against the boys once again in the Travers, following her victory over a very sloppy track in last Tuesday’s 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown. This has complicated matters for Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez, as he has the mount on both Wonder Gadot and Vino Rosso, and he is, of course, still first call for Todd Pletcher, which will bring loyalty into question while making this tough decision. It also will make things tricky for Mark Casse, as he trains both Wonder Gadot and Flameaway, and it seems that only the filly will go!

Good Magic cruised to an easy victory in the Haskell on Sunday, under Jose Ortiz, and stated his case for being the best 3-year-old colt left in training. The son of Curlin was never really threatened, enroute to a convincing, albeit misleading, 3 length victory over Bravazo, while Lone Sailor and Core Beliefs came in 3rd and 4th, off the pace. Good Magic has surely cemented his case to be the morning line favorite heading into the Travers with this Haskell victory.

Jose Ortiz had to have his spirits lifted with his excellent 4-win day at Monmouth, following his uncharacteristically slow start at the Spa, as not only did he win the Grade 1 Haskell, he also won the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, the Grade 3 Matchmaker, and the Wolf Hill Stakes.

Saturday’s $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney has turned into a showcase for New York-breds, with a much-anticipated matchup between Rick Violette’s Diversify and Chad Summers’ Mind Your Biscuits. Diversify was named the 7-5 morning line favorite during Tuesday’s Post Draw at Sperry’s, following his monster performance in the Suburban, that earned him a career-high 110 Beyer, and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. Biscuits was made the 2-1 second choice, and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Backyard Heaven, named after their 5th Avenue home here in Saratoga that overlooks the Oklahoma, was made the third choice at 9-2, and will be ridden by Javi Castellano for Chad Brown. Todd Pletcher’s Tapwrit will be ridden by Johnny Velazquez and was given 6-1 odds, while Bill Mott’s Good Samaritan will have Jose Ortiz up, at 12-1 odds. Rounding out the field will be Ian Wilkes’ McCraken at 15-1, with Brian Hernandez, Jr. up, and Dalmore with Ricardo Santana, Jr., and Discreet Lover with Manny Franco, both at 30-1.

The PDJF weekend culminated with the always hugely successful and wildly popular Jockey Karaoke at Vapor on Monday night. Veteran jockey Mike Luzzi and Phil Teator rocked the packed house with their rendition of the Kiss hit, “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night,” and with their classic black and white Kiss regalia and warpaint, were the judges choice, including a hilarious Wayne Lukas, in a spirited competition that will now have them teeing off against the California winner, Joe Talamo, in an online, YouTube and Facebook poll. Talamo performed “Play that Funky Music White Boy”, and the trash talking started soon thereafter!

Luis Saez is doing all his talking on the track, as he leads the Jockey Standings after 10 days with 13 wins! Juni Ortiz is right on his tail with 12, while wily veterans Javi C and Johnny V are tied at 10 with the hot, young Panamanian, Ricardo! Joel has 8 wins, Manny 6, and Jose Ortiz and Junior Alvarado are tied with 4.

Not surprisingly, Chad Brown leads the Trainer Standings through the first 10 days with 10 wins, while Steve Asmussen has 8, Bill Mott 7, and Todd Pletcher 6.

Stay cool on Whitney Day, but hot with your picks, ‘til we meet again, next week!

Published in Winner's Circle
Friday, 03 August 2018 11:12

Commentator’s “It” Factor

CERTAIN RACES have nostalgia baked into their conditions.

For instance, Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney Invitational, a nine-furlong scamper, wire-to-wire, has a long history and like the Travers, reliving races of this magnitude roots you in time, for better or worse.

Ten years ago, the great New York-bred Commentator vied for his second career Whitney. He won his first in 2005, rebuffing the monstrous future Horse of the Year Saint Liam. In 2008, Commentator went straight to the front. 

“Well, I would say that was unbelievable,” Zito said. “He won in 2005. We beat the Horse of the Year. That was special. That was great. In 2008, three years later to win the Whitney, that’s a really special horse.”

There’s no denying Commentator had a certain “it” factor. All the great ones have it and for someone like Zito, a Hall of Famer and life-long horseman, to say it, you know it goes beyond mere impressionism and into something more concrete.

“We love every horse in the barn,” he said. “We love all horses, but you can tell it’s different when someone walks down the street. ‘That’s so and so. That’s this one and that’s that one.’ The presence of someone. That’s where he stood out. You could see he had a different presence to him. Obviously you can’t come back from setbacks and perform on a high level [like he did]. Nine out of 10 horses—90 out of 100 horses— don’t do that.”

The playbook for horses of this nature is alarmingly simple: go to the lead, not too fast, see what happens.

In 2008, when 24 and change went up and Commentator relaxed, you knew he had what it took to dictate the terms of the race. Turning for home, he opened up like it was nothing.

Zito, coming off an upset win in the Belmont Stakes with Da’Tara two months earlier, paraded down from box, pointed at the ABC camera, and stormed down the stairs to the winner’s circle.

It was a magical performance as Commentator thwarted popular horses like Grasshopper, the same colt who gave Street Sense all he could handle in the 2007 Travers, and Student Council. Commentator schooled them all.

When Zito speaks of Commentator, it’s always with reverence, almost like he couldn’t believe what the Distorted Humor gelding was capable of. It’s one thing to ration speed in the three or four path and let the pace setters do the heavy lifting. It’s another to take the herd to the woodshed on the lead, to be rabbit and tortoise all in one package.

Slow and steady wins the race? Say what now?

“I just think, again, his demeanor, his performances were unbelievable,” Zito said. “I remember [jockey] Johnny [Velazquez] telling me, who won the Whitney in 2008, he told me when went up to New England for the Mass Cap, [Commentator] could’ve beat anybody that day. Even though running in New England the company is not a Saratoga class or Commentator class. That day he could beat anybody. Johnny is one of the great jockeys ever. I believe him.”

In 2009, by then an eight-year-old, Commentator saddled up for the Whitney yet again. Zito figured it would be the horse’s final race, win or lose. He always noted how wonderful and patient the owners Tracy and Carol Farmer were with the horse. They trusted Zito and his team to bring the horse along. Exercise rider Maxine Correia, groom Gustavo Sanchez, the hot walkers, everyone. 

 A horse doesn’t get to the starting gate on its own. It doesn’t even get there on the skill and attention of a trainer alone. 

If Commentator had an easy lead in the 2008 Whitney, he would get no such easy pass in 2009. Pressed from the start Commentator turned for home in the lead, but Bulls Bay, a titanic long shot came flying off the turn and blew past Commentator. Macho Again, another late closer, breezed past Commentator. 

But Commentator, tired, lots of wear and tear in those old bones, settled for third.

Zito said in 2009, “Father Time catches up to everybody.”

I remember following Zito after the race as I was doing the reporting for what would become Six Weeks in Saratoga. I kept my distance by about 20 yards. Zito walked with his head low, hands in his pockets. 

Sorry to cite my own book, but here’s what I wrote:

“Zito’s chin dropped to his chest while he walked under the roof of the grandstand, weaved his way through tables, and glued his feet to the floor in front of a television. On the television streamed the replay of the Whitney. Zito stood like a sentinel, his arms folded, neck craned up at an angle. He made no sound. In this replay, Commentator still ran, still fought. There was the head-on shot, the pan shot, illustrating the many views of defeat. It was on this screen that Commentator still raced. At last Zito tore his eyes away from that screen with his head low, scuffing his feet across a worn path back to his barn.”

I remember then Zito telling me that had Commentator won that Whitney he was going to retire him that day.

And on the phone just a few days ago, reliving memories of the old war horse, he added, “Then he would’ve marched across the street right into the Hall of Fame.”

Brendan O’Meara is a freelance writer and author of Six Weeks in Saratoga. He also hosts The Creative Nonfiction Podcast.

Published in Winner's Circle
Friday, 03 August 2018 14:06

News & Notes

Friday, August 3

Shine Again
The day’s feature race is the $100,000 Shine Again for fillies and mares.

First Responders Appreciation Day,
presented by Brookview Village
NYRA will honor police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics during First Responders Appreciation Day. The day will feature free grandstand admission for all first responders with proper identification. Numerous local police, fire and emergency service departments will host activities and demonstrations at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion. Guests can take advantage of child’s safety seat demonstrations and fittings for free children’s bicycle helmets, while supplies last (limit two per family). A variety of emergency service vehicles and equipment will be on display in and around the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion. Young fans will enjoy face painting and caricature drawings.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Gallop NYC, a non-profit organization based in New York City that offers therapeutic horsemanship programs to children and adults with disabilities.

Taste NY: Craft Beer
This weekly event offers guests a selection of New York craft beers available for sampling in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five craft beers for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Fridays at The Post
Guests will be invited to sample bourbon cocktails starting at 6 p.m. and stay on-track after the day’s final race to enjoy DJ set and dancing plus trivia to win special prizes from Woodford Reserve at The Post Bar.

 

Saturday, August 4

Whitney Day & Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing
The 91st running of the prestigious 1 1/8-mile Whitney will top a blockbuster day of racing that includes five stakes as part of the Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing. The Whitney will pair with the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya for turf fillies and mares. Also Saturday are two additional turf stakes: the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure and the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for fillies and mares.The Whitney will go to post as race number 9 at 5:46 p.m. preceded by the Longines Test. Both the Whitney and Longines Test will be broadcast live on NBCSN. A special edition of Saratoga Live will air on FS2 beginning at 2:30 p.m. Guests are strongly advised to allot additional time for arrival on Whitney Day due to enhanced screening.

Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits
Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits offers guests a selection of cider, wine and spirits available for sampling each Thursday of the meet in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five varietals for $5 at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. 

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host the Yaddo Garden Association, which is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Gardens at Yaddo, including the marble and terra cotta features.

Fashion Saturdays
Designed to showcase the tradition of style in thoroughbred racing, Fashion Saturdays will feature women’s and men’s apparel and accessories from local retailers, as well as a selection of home décor, spa care and jewelry items at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fashion Saturdays is sponsored by: Bumble B Boutique, Caroline and Main, Complexions Day Spa, EMBRACE THE RACE®, Lifestyles, Miss Scarlett Boutique, The National and TOGA Heritage.

Woodford Reserve and Jeff Brisbin at the Jim Dandy Bar
Guests are invited to the Jim Dandy Bar to sample Woodford Reserve Saratoga Personal Selection, crafted exclusively for racing fans at the Spa, from 2 to 4 p.m. Guitarist Jeff Brisbin will play acoustic favorites from noon to 4 p.m.

Ketel One Saturdays at The Post
The fun will continue each Saturday of the season with the Ketel One Saturdays at The Post. Fans are invited to sample the new Ketel One Botanicals from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and enjoy music from a live DJ and dancing under the stars following the day’s final race.

The Last Race Showcase at The Stretch
NYRA invites fans who are in attendance on Whitney Day to experience The Stretch for free from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Stretch is Saratoga’s exclusive new hospitality area located in the Grandstand at the Top of the Stretch. There will be food and drink specials and live DJ entertainment. Fans can enjoy the new amenities at The Stretch, including a private bar, concessions, hi-def video screens and televisions, and dramatic views of the Stretch run. 

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, which aims to preserve the history and foster understanding of thoroughbred racing in America by providing public access to equine art, artifacts, memorabilia, film, video, books, and historical archives.

 

Sunday, August 5

Troy Handicap and Alydar
Sunday’s card offers two stakes - the $200,000 Troy Handicap on the turf and the $100,000 Alydar. 

Jockey Legends Day,
presented 
by Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing

Some of the greatest riders in the history of thoroughbred racing will gather at Saratoga Race Course for the fourth annual Jockey Legends Day. The day’s activities will feature special appearances by some of the Spa’s most accomplished riders and autograph signings on the Jockey Silks Porch from noon to 1 p.m. There will be a special trackside presentation after the fifth race.

Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing
The Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing will continue with Sunday’s edition of the “Best Turned Out Horse” award, during which Fasig-Tipton will recognize the hard work that goes into daily grooming with a special prize for the groom of the best-turned-out horse participating in the Alydar. The award will be presented to the winning groom in the winner’s circle prior to the race.

Low Roller Challenge
Sunday will include the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Taste NY: Food and Artisans
Each Sunday of the season will welcome guests to a lively on-track market of numerous food and artisan vendors featuring products made exclusively in New York State. The market will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, a non-profit organization that accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding. 

 

Monday, August 6

NYSS Cab Calloway
Monday features the $100,000 Cab Calloway for 3-year-old New York-breds on the turf.

Saratoga Umbrella Giveaway
Racing fans will take home the second giveaway of the 2018 meet, the fan-favorite Saratoga invertible umbrella. The umbrella features the Saratoga Race Course logo etched in white against a black exterior with a red interior lining. All giveaways are free with paid admission, while supplies last. Saratoga season pass or season ticket plan holders are guaranteed to receive a premium Saratoga giveaway item based on the following guidelines: Season pass or season ticket holders must be present at Saratoga Race Course on the day of the giveaway; enter through the designated season ticket holder lines; and redeem the giveaway by no later than 3 p.m. Redemptions will begin when gates open to the general public at 11 a.m.

Berkshire Bank Family Mondays
Monday will be highlighted by Berkshire Bank Family Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion. Free Jockey Autograph Books are available for children while supplies last. All kid-friendly games and activities, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred, are free of charge. Berkshire Bank Family Mondays takes place just across from the Berkshire Bank Family Zone, an interactive play area featuring games, attractions, an Adirondack-style chair and Berkshire Bank charging station. The Berkshire Bank Family Zone is open every day of racing during the Saratoga season.

Low Roller Challenge
Monday will include the continuation of the Low Roller Challenge which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live bankroll and $10 to the prize pool. Registration begins at 11 a.m. near the Fourstardave Sports Bar.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host The Orchard Project, which is based in Saratoga Springs and is one of the preeminent theatre laboratories in the United States.

 

Tuesday, August 7

DARK DAY, NO RACES.

 

Wednesday, August 8

Quick Call
Wednesday features the $100,000 Quick Call for 3-year-olds on turf.

Italian-American Day presented by Aperol Spritz
The day-long celebration of Italian culture and heritage will feature traditional Italian music, dance, food, entertainment and games at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The afternoon will also include an Aperol Spritz tasting at The Stretch, located inside the Grandstand at the Top of the Stretch.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which helps retired horses in need.

 

Thursday, August 9

NYSS Statue of Liberty Division
Thursday features the $100,000 NYSS Statue of Liberty Division for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

Fabulous Fillies Day
Saratoga Race Course will celebrate women and their contributions to the thoroughbred industry while raising funds to support The Breast Cancer Research Foundation on Fabulous Fillies Day. This year’s event will for the first-time honor local breast cancer survivors during special winner’s circle presentations throughout the afternoon in partnership with To Life! The day will also feature the return of the Best in Pink fashion contest for women and men, sponsored by vineyard vines and Moet & Chandon. A highlight of the day will be the Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon, presented by vineyard vines and Moet & Chandon, along with Saratoga Living. This year’s luncheon will honor Vivien Malloy, owner of Edition Farm and secretary and treasurer of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

Aperol Thursdays at the Post
Each Thursday, guests will have the opportunity to sample Aperol Spritz cocktails at The Post Bar from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Fans are also invited to stay on-track after racing to enjoy music from a live DJ and dancing under the stars.

Community Outreach Booth
The Community Outreach Booth will host Floyd Warriors, an organization that seeks to link all available help with families newly diagnosed to help them through the first months of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Published in Winner's Circle
Thursday, 17 May 2018 14:52

Preakness Stakes

When Justify brought the pipe to Kentucky, it harkened back to 2004, that time that Smarty Jones and Lionheart went to the front and finished 1-2 respectively. With both horses in the 2018 renewal coming back for the Preakness, something similar might happen. 

Justify’s win raises a far more wide-ranging point that doesn’t get volleyed around too much: that Bob Baffert is the greatest trainer of three-year-olds of all time. 

Because he rarely has older horses (a product of training such great young ones) and never a turf horse (only 1,177 turf starters since 2000 as of this writing. Compare that to 8,005 on dirt), he can’t be considered the greatest all-round trainer, but when it comes to training three-year-old colts—and one special filly—who, aside from D. Wayne Lukas—even comes close?

“He’s right up there,” Lukas said in Art Wilson’s Orange County Register story. “You can put him anywhere you want in the top three or four and you will be right. I mean, I think that what he’s accomplished and what he’s put together … you gotta look at the big picture. Our game is more than just training race horses. It’s managing people, managing horses, developing studs, affecting the breeding industry, causing economic impact in the sales ring, and Bob has done all of that. Bob affects every facet of the industry in some way or another.”

This is also a guy who won his first Derby and most recent Derby 21 years apart, first with Silver Charm and then with Justify. And there’s the matter of a Triple Crown winner thrown in there like in ain’t no thang.

I always thought it would be fun to do a fantasy draft for horses and see whose stable would kick a superlative amount of tail, but why open that up when we could have a Fantasy Draft of Baffert’s best three-year-olds? Justify could very well be on his way to joining the elite Baffert sophomores, but let’s take a dive and rank the 10 Best Baffert Three-Year-Olds of the past 21 years. 

10. Drefong

This son of Gio Ponti won the King’s Bishop and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as a three-year-old adding a fourth BC Sprint to Baffert’s CV.

9. Congaree

Congaree ran a screaming fast opening mile to the Kentucky Derby in 2001 before losing the photo finish for second place in the fastest Derby since Secretariat. We’ll never know what was laced in the dirt that day at Churchill, but Congaree would be far higher on this list were it not for his stablemate later in this list.

8. Lookin At Lucky

He was the best horse of the 2011 Kentucky Derby with the worst post: Post 1. To quote race caller Tom Durkin (in his final Derby call), Lookin At Lucky had to tap on the brakes heading out of the gate. It cost him the race.

He came back two weeks later to win the Preakness Stakes and reassert himself as the best three-year-old of his class. He’d later win the Haskell and be named Champion Three-Year-Old.

7. War Emblem

This horse was sorta like the Allen Iverson of colts: small, scrappy, tough. War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2002 but couldn’t make it three in a row in Baffert’s third try for the Triple Crown in a span of five years.

War Emblem would soon win the Haskell, a race Baffert wins with colonic regularity.

6. Silver Charm

Silver Charm brought Baffert to the scene as we know it. He was Baffert’s first Kentucky Derby winner, first Preakness winner, and first shot at the Triple Crown, something that would be painfully close—too close to call—just a year later in 1998.

5. Real Quiet

Go watch Real Quiet’s Belmont Stakes. … How does he lose!? How is he not the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown after 20 years? It would take another 17 years before that streak got snapped, but Real Quiet had the game and nearly pulled off the feat.

At three, he won the Derby, Preakness and the Santa Anita Derby. He lost by the shortest of margins in the Belmont Stakes, which gives him an edge over Silver Charm and War Emblem.

4. Arrogate

This is a tough one to slot. Are we still drunk off his 2017 Dubai World Cup win as a four-year-old that it clouds our (my) vision? 

In a sense the answer to that question is yes, but as a sophomore, Arrogate exited his allowance condition in California only to break the track record in the Travers Stakes. He took a breather then beat California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

It was a forgettable season for the Triple Crown with Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Creative Cause winning the three big spring races, but aside from Exaggerator, no other three-year-old took command of the division until Arrogate went mental in the final push for the Eclipse Award.

3. Point Given

Few horses these days run in all three legs of the Triple Crown especially if they tire and finish poorly in Kentucky as Point Given did. This monster went on to win the back end of the Triple Crown sweeping the Preakness and Belmont Stakes after flattening out in the Derby.

He later won the Haskell and the Travers en route to being named Horse of the Year, and, naturally, Champion Three-Year-Old.

2. Silverbulletday

She won eight races in her three-year-old season including four Grade 1s. She was so dominant among her own gender that she ran in the Belmont Stakes only to flatten out to seventh after carrying the field around the oval on her back for eight furlongs. 

She won the Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama Stakes and finished second the Grade 1 Beldame against older fillies and mares. 

1. American Pharoah

It has to be American Pharoah, the 12th winner of the Triple Crown who went on to win the Haskell in style, lose the Travers, and then complete the “Grand Slam” by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic like it was a Monday-morning gallop. 

American Pharoah was perfectly campaigned and had the equally perfect mix of talent and demeanor, which allowed him to weather 99 percent of all challenges. 

Who else could handle that kind of pressure beside Baffert? Few…few indeed.

Now, where will Justify sit? Who knows, but he is unbeaten and if he wins the Preakness he’ll be in this company and his running style seems perfect for yet another Haskell win and maybe a Travers win for the greatest trainer of three-year-old horses the world has ever known.

Published in Sports
Page 2 of 3

Blotter

  • COURT  Ellen K. Zwijacz, 42, of Wilton, was sentenced Jan. 6 to 364 days in jail following her Nov. 1, 2021 guilty plea to felony grand larceny in the second-degree, according to a statement issued by the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office. Zwijacz, a Wilton attorney, admitted to transferring control of a client’s funds without the knowledge of her client using fraudulent legal documents from 2013 to 2018. The attorney also submitted documents to an insurance company to change address and beneficiary information on life insurance policies so that she received any correspondence and benefits and used her position as…

Property Transactions

  • GREENFIELD Thorton Hager sold property at 33329 NYS Rt 9N to Madison Baltodano for $235,000. Gerard Parisi sold property at 45 Braim Rd to Sean Burden for $280,000. Cartier Construction Co LLC sold property at 39 Wilton Rd to Todd Stinson for $419,500. Nichelle Diggins as exec. sold property at 196 Plank Rd to Toby Middlebrook for $125,000. Stephanie Shippey sold property at 475 Middle Grove Rd to Robert Poirier for $230,000. HALFMOON Homeland Properties LLC sold property at 36 Greenbrier Way to Olaoluwa Fajobi for $486,185. Michael Chase sold property at 10A Winchester Pl to Kenneth Mannion for $313,000.…
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