Saratoga Diary: Fast and Firm!
by Dick Powell
It was so gorgeous this morning on the Saratoga backstretch, I had to break out a vest to stay warm. The humidity has dropped and this is what we think of when we dream about Saratoga. Today saw a fast main track and both turf courses listed as firm, with the racing on the hedge.
Race 1 was the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (NSA-G1) and OPTIMUS PRIME was the strong horse on the far outside with Ross Geraghty to win at 7-1. It was the second stakes win in two days for trainer Ricky Hendriks and Geraghty.
Race 2 was a first-level allowance race for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles. Manny Franco wanted the lead aboard War Value going into the turn and he was able to clear the field with a first quarter run in :24.57. Junior Alvarado had to back off a bit with MISS MIMOSA, but it was probably a blessing in disguise as he now had a target to stalk. The Violence filly was floated wide turning for home but took the lead and held on grimly over Untaken. Tagalalu had a seam to run through in the stretch but went off on the wrong lead and faded.
Race 3 was a maiden $50,000 claimer for juveniles. Tony Quartarolo put blinkers on THE SICARII and he took over to open up a big lead in the stretch, easily holding off longshot Family Biz. It was the second win in a row for sire Violence.
Race 4 was a $40,000 claimer for three-year-old fillies going a two-turn mile on the inner turf course. Luis Saez wanted the lead badly going into the first turn and he was able to get Overbook over to the hedge. Manny Franco backed off aboard Sheputaspellonme and stalked Overbook on her outside flank. Joe Bravo had ROSEBUD’S HOPE in perfect position behind and he tipped the miss off the turn to put away a determined Sheputaspellonme, scoring by almost two lengths as the 9-5 favorite. The winner was claimed by Bruce Levine.
Race 5 was a maiden special weight event for New York-bred juveniles and it attracted a full field of 10 going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf course. Kendrick Carmouche put second-time starter DASHING DAN on the lead and he never looked back as he built up an insurmountable lead that could not be beaten. Scotty Brown had a wide trip early under Luis Saez, went into the two path around the far turn and held off the late rally from Chad Brown first-time-starter Graded on a Curve to secure second and complete a $430.50 exacta. Considering it was a 10-1 over a 14-1, that’s a pretty good payoff.
Race 6 was a maiden $30,000 claimer going 1 1/8 miles. There was a spirited three-way battle for the lead through a first quarter in :23.72 and a first half-mile in :47.63. Royal Edition was in between horses for most of the trip and took over late. Our Honor dropped back after about a half-mile but came on again. However, the only one with a chance to run down Royal Edition was EXPERT. David Cohen, who continues to do his best work on the main track, had him in a drive and won it with one final surge.
Race 7 was a turf sprint on the firm Mellon turf course. Sometimes Joel Rosario can give you heart failure when he takes his mounts to the back of the pack to make one big run. Brad Cox claimed DREAM PASSAGE for $40,000 two starts back and brought him back to run third in a New York-bred allowance race here in an off-the-turf event. Once she dropped to $40K, it made her eligible for this starter allowance and it looked like she was in the right spot. Until Rosario took her to the rear and was still there, on the far outside, turning for home. But as he does so many times, here came Joel with a blinding late rally to get up at the wire. With that condition used up, Cox can now go back to New York-breds or drop Dream Passage back to open claiming company.
Race 8 was a six-furlong sprint for $16,000 claimers who have not won two races. SHANGHAI SCHWARTZ was far back early for Javier Castellano in this six-furlong dirt sprint. He was at least five wide going into the far turn but Javier had him in a strong drive where his final task was to run down the loose-on-the-lead Foolish Ghost. Brown’s runners always seem to have the extra energy in the deep stretch and this one got up by about a neck. It was sire Shanghai Bobby’s eighth win at the meet and he is one behind Tapit. The winner was claimed by Ray Handal.
Race 9 was the Riskaverse Stakes for three-year-old fillies who have never won a stakes race at a mile or over. Jose Ortiz stalked the early leader, Madame X., and took over turning for home with MONTE CRISTA. As it often happens, he gets more speed out of his mounts than they have ever shown before and the daughter of Cape Blanco was right up near the leaders before kicking on in the stretch. Tapit Today had a nightmare trip and was able to get second while Florent Geroux had Goodthingstaketime, who looked like she had some pace, way back early.
Tomorrow’s Friday card is for New York-breds and I like DISCRETIONARY MARQ (#7) in Race 6. It has taken longer than I expected for her to get through her first-level allowance condition but she did it convincingly and should be able to handle the next step up the class ladder for Christophe Clement, who is having a poor season again this year.