'Fall' rock solid after Vanderbilt duel

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

August 1st, 2015

Rock Fall and The Big Beast put on an entertaining show through the stretch of Saturday's $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga. In a case of one having his head down and the other up, it was even-money favorite Rock Fall who prevailed by a nose.

A rating third while Favorite Tale carved out splits of :22.74 and :45.31 while chased by The Big Beast, Rock Fall bid for the lead turning for home. Favorite Tale held on for one more furlong before yielding to the top pair, who had a ding-dong battle in the final sixteenth.

Under Javier Castellano, Rock Fall completed six furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.75 and paid $4. He is owned by Stonestreet Stables and is trained by Todd Pletcher.

This was by far the hardest Rock Fall has had to work since he commenced his present six-race win streak in May 2014. Perhaps a bit rusty when taking a second-level allowance by only a length in mid-March following a nine-month layoff, he's otherwise had an easy time of things. Even when making his stakes debut last out, in the June 6 True North (G2) at Belmont, the son of sprint champion Speightstown opened up late to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

A lot of credit goes to The Big Beast for proving a worthy rival. This was the colt's first start in nearly four months, and it was a corker. It didn't hurt his cause that the venue was Saratoga, where he won twice last season including the King's Bishop (G1). He seemed to get a lot of play on Saturday due to the horse-for-the-course angle, and he lived up to those expectations.

The Big Beast had run only twice this season before this, taking an allowance at Oaklawn in early March and then running fourth as the favorite in the Carter H. (G1). He's a proven winner outside Saratoga, but if he can run up to the level he shows at the Spa elsewhere he'll continue to be a major player in the division.

Third-place finisher Favorite Tale ran as well as could be expected. The Smile Sprint H. (G2) winner was simply outclassed late. Salutos Amigos, who ran fourth, was covered up along the inside for most of his journey and is probably the type of horse that prefers to rally outside rivals. I wouldn't put it past the multiple Grade 3 winner to show he belongs at this level in the future.

The older sprint division is especially deep this year on the East Coast, and Rock Fall is arguably the best at the moment. It would be a surprise to see him run before the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont on September 26, which would be a final tune up before the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). The Vosburgh might feature a tantalizing showdown between Rock Fall and Private Zone, who has won the last two editions of the Vosburgh.

(Rock Fall photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)