Saratoga Diary: End of Week Five
by DICK POWELL
Monday finished up week five and it was a really nice day at the Spa. Usually, a day like today would not be noticeable but the way the weather has been this meet, it sticks out. A larger-than-normal Monday crowd showed up due to a stadium blanket giveaway and the main track was Fast but the turf courses are still not Firm yet and were listed as Good.
Race 1 was a turf sprint for $35,000 claimers that have not won three races. Five of the six betting interests went off at single-digit odds and it looked like Johnny Velazquez was going to hold on aboard The Queens Jules but Ricardo Santana Jr. had BENEFACTOR rolling on the outside to get up by a half-length for Robertino Diodoro.
Race 2 was a New York-bred maiden $25,000 claimer for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track. Joel Rosario put Lecha into the mix right from the start and she battled gamely with two rivals. Rosario was determined to stay off the rail as much as possible and even drifted out turning for home. She still had a length lead in the deep stretch, but after being softened up THIRD CARD DOWN flew by on the outside at 15-1 to win by a head. The winner added Lasix and blinkers last out, did nothing and came back to beat the same maiden claiming level on a dry track. It was a Ricardo Santana Jr. sweep of the early double that paid $141.50.
Jimmy Jerkens was on the proverbial Duck until last Thursday when he won two races then had another winner Sunday. The barn stayed hot today in race 3 when POINT TO REMEMBER won a maiden special weight event for older horses going 1 1/8 miles by over three lengths as the odds-on favorite. The son of Point of Entry ran his final furlong in a stakes-quality :12.50.
Rusty Arnold is usually a pass with his debut runners with only 5% of his last 87 debut runners winning. The issue with CONCRETE ROSE was the juvenile filly had a strong first-out pedigree on the turf as his sire, Twirling Candy, sires 18% debut turf winners. So, in the battle of nurture versus nature, nature won when she rallied on the far outside to run down a loose-on-the-lead Introduced to win going away on the far outside of the Mellon turf course. With the rail at 27 feet and the inside still being softer, the wide path has been the winning path and it resulted in a $26.40 win price for Rusty. Considering his win percentage with debut runners, it was a fair price.
Race 5 was a $12,500 claimer going six furlongs on the main track and only five went to post as there were three early scratches. Rectify went to the lead for Luis Saez and looked like the big class dropdown would be hard to catch but Missile Bomb collared him before Dylan Davis ran them both down with ROLL TIDE ROLL. Davis might be 6-for-73 at the meet but his mounts continuously outrun their odds.
Race 6 was run on the inner turf course at a mile for $35,000 claiming fillies and mares that have never won three races. It looked like Luis Saez might be able to steal it when he put Regal Dame on the lead through a first half-mile in 50.35 seconds but he had severe pressure from Arch of Troy and MIKO before succumbing late in a three-horse photo that was won by Miko. The final time of 1:39.29 was about three seconds off what this group might usually run.
Race 7 was the third turf sprint run on the Mellon turf course today. In the stretch, it was anyone's race and Jose Ortiz had favored Black Canary down on the inside but ran out of room. Kendrick Carmouche, who can usually be found on the front end, had MISS GOSSIP rallying on the far outside and the clear path was the winning one as she got up in time to win going away at 5-1. The bad trip horses in these turf sprints with the rail way out and the turf less than Firm are the one that get stuck on the inside.
Race 8 was the Evan Shipman Stakes for New York-breds and the Jimmy Jerkens show continued. CAN YOU DIG IT was a good third on a muddy track here against open company and it proved to be the perfect tightener on a Fast main track. Tempted to try open company, Jerkens kept him against New York-breds and the result was an easy win in fast time. With the exception of Timber Ghost on Sunday, all of Jerkens' other four winners the last five days came going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
Race 9 was delayed some when Time Expired unseated Mike Luzzi and ran off. After he was caught and scratched, the field finally loaded into the gate for the New York-bred maiden $40,000 claimers on the inner turf course. Time Expired was expected to be part of the early pace scenario and with his scratch, Riendo and Last Chant went at it on the lead. Apprentice rider Romero Maragh, cousin of Rajiv, had WON'T BE MISSED in perfect position and when he took over in the stretch, the only challenge came from the feint-hearted Run for Boston. At 48-1, Won't be Missed looked like he should have been odds-on and held well to win in a shocker. It was Romero Maragh's first ride at Saratoga and he did everything right.
Tomorrow, we will look at week five and the first 28 days of racing. 12 more to go, and before you know it, this year's Saratoga meet will be in the books.