Saratoga Diary: Closing Day
by Dick Powell
The Saratoga 2018 racing season concluded on Monday. Amazingly, the heat and humidity were back with a vengeance and it was extremely uncomfortable for all involved. Many horses were having water poured on them in the paddock even after being saddled so it was hard to tell who was sweating and who just had a bath. In fact, if a horse wasn’t sweating today, they were in trouble. The temporary rail on the Mellon turf course was not down, as it showed everywhere, but at 12 feet. Not sure why that was but it’s been a long meet and I’m not sure about a lot of things.
Race 1 saw Javier Castellano gun first-time starter Honey Parade to the front of the maiden $50,000 claimers for 2yos going six furlongs. She continued on to where it looked like she might steal the race at 17/1 but Jose Ortiz wound up FLY AWAY BIRDIE from way back due to an awkward start and won easily by over three lengths.
Race 2 was a turf sprint for $40,000 claimers that have never won two races. Irad Ortiz Jr. put MCERIN on the lead and never looked back as the even-money favorite. Second choice All Clear won the photo for second to complete a $19 exacta. The final time of 1:00.97 was the second-fastest of the entire meet.
Race 3 was a maiden special weight race for 2yos going six furlongs on the main track and it was over when Jose Ortiz gunned COMPLEXITY to the front and he never looked back. The final margin was 4 1/4 lengths and the final time was a quick 1:09.78. The son of Maclean’s Music cost Klaravich Stables $375K and was another winner for the Chad Brown juggernaut.
Race 4 was an open $25,000 claimer going 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track and David Cohen rallied IMPERATORE from off the pace to get up by a head in his first start off the claim by Pat Reynolds. The middle distance speedball showed to be the strong horse on the dropdown. Cohen actually won a turf race at the end of yesterday’s card but this was, naturally, on the dirt. The winner was claimed by owner/trainer Dermot Magner who has been active in the claim box no matter what the price.
Race 5 was a two-turn mile event on the inner turf course for $40,000 claimers that have never won two races. The speed looked to be the stretch-out sprinter Looking Ready so Jose Ortiz let that one go and sat about four lengths behind while saving ground. He moved him out on the turn and had enough left to hold off favored Kulin Rock. The winner was claimed by Gary Gullo.
Race 6 was a Mellon turf course race going 1 1/16 miles for juvenile fillies. Jose Ortiz put Peace Corps on the lead from an inside post and she was stalked by Toy Moon. Ricardo Santana Jr. never saved ground at all aboard PRINCESA CAROLINA and the daughter of Tapit out of a Grade 1 turf stakes winner ran her down to win by three parts of a length. I know this is redboarding of the highest order but the two fillies, the third and fourth choices, combined to pay an amazing $135 for the exacta. Favored Seek and Destroy lost all chance when she broke poorly and never got involved.
Race 7 was a 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprint for first-level New York-bred allowance foes. SICILIA MIKE sat off a brutal pace and swallowed up the field on the far outside to win going away for Dylan Davis and Gary Sciacca who avoided the dreaded “Duck” at the 11th hour. Barely Impazible was a good second off a 392-day layoff for Chad Brown and Javier Castellano.
Race 8 was a two-turn mile on the inner turf course and Luis Reyes put 9/1 shot BOOTLEGGER to go to the front and then he slammed on the brakes. Javier Castellano had Saratoga Colonel in behind horses but had no place to go and had to wait for running room. Reyes cut the corner to open up a clear lead and held off Pocket Player in the stretch.
Race 9 was the Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) for 3yos and up going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf course. Voodoo Song was sent off as the 3/5 favorite based on his 5-for-5 record over the Saratoga turf and pace advantage. Projected won the battle as he engaged the favorite on the far turn and put him away in the deep stretch but here came stablemate Forge to his outside and QURBAAN on the far outside. They hit the wire together but Irad Ortiz Jr. timed Qurbaan’s final move perfectly and won it by a nose at 13/1. The son of Speightstown was making his American debut after racing mostly on synthetic tracks in France.
Race 10 was the Hopeful Stakes (G1) for 2yos going seven furlongs. The final stakes race of the 2018 Saratoga racing season was being run for the 114th time and while it might not have the prestige that it once had, it is still the target for most juvenile maiden winners here. On paper, it looked loaded with speed and it seemed like the horses on the outside would have the edge. Nitrous broke sharply for Ricardo Santana Jr. from post 3 and he was quickly joined on the inside by Johnny Velazquez aboard MIND CONTROL. Those two were joined by favored Mucho around the turn and just when it looked like Mind Control was going to give it up, he found more to spurt in the final 100 yards. The son of Saratoga horse for the course Stay Thirsty held off Mucho to pull off the upset at 10/1. It turns out that his maiden win at Monmouth Park going six furlongs in 1:09 and change was the real deal.
The final race at Saratoga was a New York-bred maiden $40,000 claimer for fillies and mares going a two-turn mile on the inner turf course. SUNSHINE GAL wound up dominating them from post 12 under an aggressive ride from Ricardo Santana Jr. The first-time turf runner was making her first start for Danny Gargan who wins 21 percent first start out of his barn but that post on the inner turf course scared me away.
Besides a long nap, tomorrow will be a wrap up of week seven and the entire meet. For now, thanks for following along and can’t wait for Belmont Park to open up on Friday.