Exaggerator bulls way through in Saratoga Special
Keith Desormeaux had one of the nation’s top two-year-olds last year in Texas Red, and now the trainer has another good juvenile in Exaggerator, who rallied from off a hot pace to win Sunday’s $200,000 Saratoga Special (G2).
Last early as longshot John Q. Public ripped off an opening quarter in :21.60, Exaggerator advanced into contention around the far turn while racing close to the inside. Meanwhile up front, even-money favorite Saratoga Mischief poked his head in front of John Q. Public, recording a half-mile split in :45.19.
In the stretch, Saratoga Mischief opened up a one-length lead. Hammers Vision on the outside took a run but couldn’t sustain it, while Exaggerator waited for a path between Saratoga Mischief and a tiring John Q. Public. Finding it late, Exaggerator stormed up inside the favorite and drew off to win by three-quarters of a length in a time of 1:16.39 for 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track. Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Exaggerator paid $11.60.
This has been a summer at Saratoga to remember for Desormeaux, who trains Exaggerator for Big Chief Racing, and it isn’t over yet. Texas Red prevailed in the Jim Dandy (G2) a few weeks back and is a top contender for the August 29 Travers (G1), while Exaggerator could come back in the Hopeful (G1) on Labor Day.
Fifth in his Santa Anita debut in early June and then a nose winner of a July 25 maiden at Del Mar going six furlongs, Exaggerator had everything set up perfectly for him in the Saratoga Special. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll need similar circumstances to win. Indeed, he’s bred to thrive over a route of ground being by dual Horse of the Year Curlin and out of a mare by Vindication, the juvenile champion who won as far as nine furlongs in a brief career. He appears to have gotten an extra infusion of precociousness from his dam, Dawn Raid, who set a track record at Woodbine as a two-year-old.
Perhaps the better Saratoga Special performance was turned in by Saratoga Mischief, who pressed that hot pace and only yielded very late. The Todd Pletcher trainee arguably might have held on longer if he had been allowed to rate a little farther back behind John Q. Public, who wasn’t much of a threat to steal, but jockey John Velazquez surely thought he had enough horse to kick clear once he was able to get past that longshot. It didn’t quite work out this time.
Hammers Vision hung after making a mild bid for the lead in upper stretch and finished more than five lengths behind Exaggerator. A son of Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Court Vision, he was an impressive debut winner on Belmont’s inner turf and might be better off returning to that surface.
Second choice Holding Gold, a Woodbine debut winner on Polytrack, had been working well over the Saratoga strip but faded to fifth in the six-horse field. The son of top Australian runner Lonhro is another that might things more hospitable on turf or synthetic surfaces.
Photo courtesy NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.