Catching My Eye: Saratoga July 30 and 31

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

August 2nd, 2022

Below are a handful of runners who caught Kevin Kilroy's eye at Saratoga over the weekend, including a pair of Brad Cox horses.

Saturday, July 30

On Saturday, the big payout came in the early Pick 5, and part of that was due to Kissalot’s 14-1 upset in Race 3. Claimed in June at Churchill Downs, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. sharpened up this Fort Larned three-year-old in the morning, readying him for a frontrunning effort. On June 19, he fired a four-furlong 45.60-second bullet.

Easing off him after that, Joseph tipped his hand moving him up in class to a $50,000 starter allowance. Kissalot broke well from the rail, hustled to the lead and did not stop, pulling away from the field in the stretch and improving 20 Brisnet points in the process. Facing no heavy pressure, the only question about this new three-year-old on the block is can he duel?

Sunday, July 31

Brad Cox’s two best turf horses have run well but have not won at Saratoga. Both came up short with questionable rides by their jockeys. First, it was Set Piece in the Forbidden Apple (G3) back on July 15. Florent Geroux was able to save ground, but when the real running began, Geroux had the horse to finish first but was behind a wall. He had to grab hold as he tried to get around, shifting out in tight and never fully opening up. Finishing back 3 1/4 lengths in fifth, I argue he was the best horse in the race that day.

This past Sunday it was Arklow. The $3 million earner made his eight-year-old debut in the Bowling Green (G2). Form and fitness an obvious question with a nine-month layoff, but since May of 2016, Arklow has posted eight bullet workouts—two of those were from his last three works.

Breaking in a powerful stride, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. settled on the rail in fifth, saving ground behind the eventual winner and betting favorite, Rockemperor, who sat pretty in the two path. Ortiz had to pump the brakes twice early as Arklow was keen to run and got in tight trying to squeeze up the rail.

With that much horse and what seemed to be the design to follow Rockemperor, the best move would have been to get off the rail coming out of the final turn. Instead, Ortiz waited too long and found Arklow pinned on the rail, having to steady and come off heels long after Rockemperor had already gathered steam. He finished a half-length back in second while Rockemperor had a dream trip.

Four wins this weekend at Saratoga for Steve Asmussen, and no doubt you saw or have read about the monster run by Jackie’s Warrior to gallop around the track in the Vanderbilt (G1) and Epicenter’s powerful effort passing Early Voting and Zandon in the Jim Dandy (G2).

But let’s talk about another graded stakes-winning three-year-old in his barn who won on Sunday: Gunite. The Amsterdam (G2) came up tough with some of the top three-year-old sprinters in training, including Pinehurst, Corniche, and Accretive.

The Gun Runner three-year-old returned to the track where he won last year’s Hopeful (G1) and was sent off at 7-1. Obviously in form after winning the Maxfield at Churchill Downs last out, Gunite put it all on the line in the stretch.

After stumbling slightly out of the gate, Gunite pressed the Saudi Derby winner Pinehurst through scorching fractions, doing the dirty work out front. Gunite took over in the stretch, but after stalking in midpack, Accretive had Gunite in his sights and came late in full force, seemingly ready to surge past. Instead, Gunite dug in, quickened and held the Chad Brown second-timer at bay to the wire and in the gallop out.

Expect to see Gunite show up for another big run at the end of the meet, as he’ll look to follow in Asmussen’s three-year-old sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior’s footsteps with a win in the H. Allen Jerkens.