Saratoga Diary: Final Sunday of the 2018 meet
by Dick Powell
Fast and firm. Perfect weather. Why can’t Saratoga be like this every day?
Because if it was, it wouldn’t be Saratoga.
A dozen races were carded again today but at least the first-race post time was 12:30 p.m. (ET). Saturday’s last race barely went off in time, as there is a New York State law that prohibits Thoroughbred racing to be conducted after the sun goes down. Race 12 beat the deadline by about four minutes, but at least today the last race should be run before 7 p.m. On Monday, the temporary rail is down on the Mellon turf course.
Race 1 was a seven-furlong dirt sprint for $16,000 claimers who have not won two races. Chad Brown looked like he had another winner when Take it to Scale loomed large in the stretch as the 7-5 favorite but Luis Saez battled back on the inside with RULER OF THE NILE, who took the lead again to win by 1 1/2 lengths for Todd Pletcher. They covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.75. The winner was claimed by Steve Asmussen and the second-place finisher was claimed by Mike Maker.
Race 2 was a turf sprint for New York-bred juveniles. Ro Jo battled for the lead in between horses down the backside and still was in front. But here came Joel Rosario, the master of the last-to-first move, and he ran the field down with RHYTHM WITH SOUL, a first-time starter from John Kimmel by Munnings. There are times during the year that Rosario’s late move doesn’t work but lately, he has them timed perfectly.
Race 3 was a first-level allowance dirt sprint going six furlongs. Rubus battled on the lead with Kendrick Carmouche before being joined by Fully Vested. Jose Ortiz took the speedy ALMITHMAAR back off the pace but joined the fray on the outside in the deep stretch. Similar to yesterday’s double DQ, Joe Bravo had to steady aboard Fully Vested as Carmouche came out with left-handed urging and bumped Almithmaar. There was a stewards’ inquiry into Rubus and he was taken down and placed fourth.
Race 4 was a maiden special weight for juvenile fillies going seven furlongs on the main track. There were a bunch of extremely well-bred fillies but none better than GRACEFUL PRINCESS. The daughter of Tapit is out of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and she showed up looking like a million bucks. Or, in the case of her dam, $10 million bucks. Manny Franco put her on the lead and she never looked back to hold on by almost two lengths in 1:23.58. My play of the day, Fancy That, was a bit on the small side and acted up in the post parade. Maybe when they stretch her out I could bet her but she looked nothing like what her pedigree indicated.
Race 5 was on the inner turf course for $40,000 claiming fillies and mares who have never won two races. Irad Ortiz Jr. put DISCREET IMAGE on the lead and, despite numerous challenges, the 13-1 longshot held on by a nose over 2-1 favorite She Doesn’t Mind. It was another win for David Donk and the 50th of the meet for leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr.
Race 6 was a 5 1/2-furlong dirt sprint for New York-bred juvenile fillies. David Cohen hustled TAKE ME TO HARDOON from the gate and he stalked the speedy Sassy Agnes. In the stretch, it was a two-horse race and Take Me to Hardoon surged to a one-length win over Sassy Agnes, with the rest of the field far behind. It was Cohen’s 15th win at the meet and all came on dirt.
Race 7 was the second division of the maiden special weight for juvenile fillies going seven furlongs on the main track. This time, the pace collapsed and it set up second-time starter TAKECHARGE MIRELLA, who was a good second first-time out here going 6 1/2 furlongs and now rallied from farther back to get up by a nose with Joe Bravo. It was Kiaran McLaughlin’s 10th win of the meet from only 37 starters.
Race 8 was an open $40,000 claimer for sophomores going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course. The previous two-turn race on the now firm inner turf course went gate to wire, but this time Jose Ortiz took YEAR OF THE KITTEN back to the rear. He picked up horses willingly and, when set down for the drive, he pulled away to an easy win at 4-1. Mike Maker has been quiet for most of the meet and that might have contributed to the generous price.
Race 9 was a first-level allowance race for three-year-old fillies going 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon turf course. Jose Ortiz tried to come from behind in the stretch but, not only did he not have any room, he was being bounced around as he looked for that non-existent room. He finally got MIGHTY SCARLETT loose and she exploded to win going away for Chad Brown at 4-5.
Race 10 was the Prioress Stakes (G2) for sophomore fillies going six furlongs on the main track. It was a two-horse race right from the start as Ricardo Santana Jr. put Mia Mischief on the lead and she was pressed by DREAM TREE. In the stretch, Dream Tree, coming off a 210-day layoff for Bob Baffert, put her head down to pull away to a convincing win. While at 7-5 during much of the betting, she drifted up to 9-5 and was actually the second-choice behind Mia Mischief.
Race 11 was a first-level allowance event for fillies and mares going a two-turn mile on the inner turf course. Johnny Velazquez gave EXCELLENT SUNSET a perfect ground-saving ride and, when the inside stayed open in the stretch, he got her to quicken and open up a lead that he held to the wire over Munchkin Money, who was a handful in the paddock.
LABOR DAY MONDAY SELECTION
In Monday’s Race 3, trainer Rick Violette sends out second-time starter BINARY (#3), who was an even fourth in her career debut going 5 1/2 furlongs in a fast time. The winner that day, Nitrous, who is in the day’s Hopeful Stakes (G1), had the advantage of having a race under his belt. Binary, a son of Into Mischief, adds blinkers and gets Irad Ortiz Jr. back aboard.