Saratoga Diary: Half-way through the meet
by Dick Powell
Twenty days of racing are in the books and now we begin the second half of the meet. Like the first half, yesterday’s rain played havoc with today’s card and six races were taken off the turf. Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow but the rail on the Mellon Turf course was extended to 27 feet while I was sitting in my seats. Not sure if they are going to do the inner.
In Race 1, which was run over a track that started out as dood (harrowed), Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won his second race of the meet with TAKE NOTICE. He pushed the pace on the outside and was much the best through the lane as the second choice going seven furlongs.
Race 2 drew a field of six in an off-the-turf event now going seven furlongs and Todd Pletcher won yet another claiming race. Barry Schwartz, who owns yesterday’s Fourstardave Stakes (G1) winner Voodoo Song, got the money here with homebred SINGAPORE TRADER,who was dropping down to maiden claimers for the first time.
Race 3 only had five $16,000 claimers go to the gate for this six-furlong sprint and BIG GUY IAN dueled for the lead from the inside and held on gamely by a nose to hold off Data Driven. Once again, David Cohen rode the dirt track here perfectly and is still a tough customer to try to pass.
I can’t remember the last time Shug McGaughey won a 5 1/2-furlong dirt race. Maybe with a two-year-old but even then, McGaughey likes to start them going longer and might not have them cranked up. BROWSE had been racing on turf going middle distances but in this off-the-turf 5 1/2-furlong sprint, he removed blinkers and Jose Ortiz put him on a lead he never relinquished. The time for the sprint distance was 1:03.47 on a track that was upgraded to fast.
Race 5 came off the turf and was run going seven furlongs. Only five went to the post and as the longest price on the board, BRUCIA LA TERRA won first-time out for Barclay Tagg, who is having a terrific meet (9-3-2-2). Manny Franco continues to ride in good form and these short fields make it tough on anyone’s business since there are so few opportunities.
In Race 6, our play of the day, FEEDBACK,did not take much early money but it began to show late. Bet down to 27-10, she was sent to the front by Irad Ortiz Jr. and the race was over as she dominated while throttled down to the wire. It was definitely a stakes-caliber performance and gave Chad Brown his 23rd win for the meet – 10 ahead of Todd Pletcher’s 13.
Race 7 saw four go to the post in an off-the-turf event at nine furlongs. FROSTIE ANNE acted up behind the gate and Junior Alvarado had to dismount. He got back on her and that was the only way she was going to lose this. At the start, Alvarado put her on the lead through a first-half in :47.45 and it was just a matter of how far she was going to win by. It was another winner that raced at Finger Lakes last out and she gave Rudy Rodriguez her second winner of the day.
With 14 minutes to Race 8, Stage Left was scratched, leaving a field of four in the $180,000 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) for juveniles going 6 1/2 furlongs. Friesan Fire stands for $4,000 stud fee in Pennsylvania, yet his undefeated Army Mule is a Grade 1 winner who cost $825,000 at auction. CALL PAUL is another Pa-bred son, costing $210K earlier this year. He went to the front for Irad Ortiz Jr. through a first quarter in :22.48 – not really that fast. Turning for home, he was challenged by Tight Ten and those two came together in the stretch but Call Paul prevailed while constantly drifting into Tight Ten. No harm, no foul these days. It was the fourth win of the meet for Jason Servis and 28th for Irad Ortiz Jr.
The Waya Stakes was supposed to be run last Saturday but was postponed until today and it was run at 1 1/4 miles. Naturally, it came off the turf, lost it Grade 3 status and only four fillies and mares contested it. Waya, owned by Peter Brant, was a multiple Grade 1 winner on turf that beat boys here in the Saratoga Springs Cup going this distance on a sloppy track and came back later that year to win the Beldame Stakes (G1). Chris DeCarlo, in his first ride of the meet, put TRICKY ESCAPE on the lead for Lynn Ashby, who was sending out her first starter at the meet. Winner of the Cardinal Handicap (G3) in an off-the-turf event on a sloppy Churchill Downs track back in November, she went to the front here and held off all challengers.
After tomorrow, there is ONLY three weeks left of racing up here. In Race 2, Bobby Barbara sends out #5 AREWEHAVINGFUNYET in her second start off the claim. She turns back to seven furlongs but has a good record at the distance and should be fit for a strong effort. Don’t be turned off by the alleged move UP in class. This ain’t your father’s Saratoga and class levels are not what you think they are.