Saratoga Diary: Off the turf again
by Dick Powell
The weather on Thursday was exactly like expected when writing yesterday’s column on Saratoga. Unfortunately, the skies opened up at 9:30 p.m. (ET) last night and then more storms hit the area overnight. The result was a fast main track and both turf courses were listed as yielding. Races 2, 3, 5 and 6 were switched to the main track and there was the usual plethora of scratches.
Race 1 was a 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprint for New York-bred $25,000 claiming fillies and mares. Manny Franco gunned Gypsy Jo to the lead and she was stalked by Unrepented and My Won Love. David Cohen looked like he was getting the perfect trip aboard Satin Sheets but here came Jose Ortiz aboard lukewarm favorite TIMELY TRADITION to win it by a neck.
Race 2 was a maiden special weight and was run on the main track at seven furlongs. Luis Saez put END OF SPIRITS on the lead and was pressed by Rucksack. Illudere loomed boldly on the turf but could not go on and End of Spirits pulled away to a two-length win to complete a generous $27.80 exacta over Illudere, the 7-5 favorite. They wound up going a quick 1:22.71 as there was a bit of a tailwind in the home stretch.
Race 3 was run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track for $62,500 claiming three-year-old fillies. Even with only four horses going to the start, it was an eventful race as Johnny Velazquez dove to the rail with MATTY’S MAGNUM to take the lead in the stretch while Jose Ortiz aboard Naple’s Legacy lugged in from an outside path. The two were on a collision course and brushed in deep stretch, but no harm, no foul.
Race 4 was a $50,000 dirt sprint going 6 1/2 furlongs for sophomores. STONEY BENNETT gunned to the front from his outside post and held off all challengers to win as the odds-on favorite. I thought Zombie had a chance but all he was able to do was chase and ran out of gas as the leader had plenty left in the stretch.
Race 5 was run on the main track at 5 1/2 furlongs for New York-bred maiden $40,000 claiming fillies and mares. A field of eight went to the gate and the betting public sent off six of them at single-digit odds. Mike Luzzi has had a tough meet with only one win and very few live mounts. However, Chris Englehart put him up on the logical BID YOU ADIEU and Luzzi delivered by sending her to the front and held on by a neck to win a four-horse photo.
Race 6 was another off-the-turf race at seven furlongs. It was for open $25,000 claimers and there were some prolific winners in the field of six. Hardly a Secret took the late money and was bet down to 7-5 favoritism. Altar Boy gunned to the front and led to the top of the stretch, where he took some bad steps, was pulled up and had to be vanned off. While Hardly a Secret was battling Bad Student, Dylan Davis had POSHSKY in a drive and went on to win it by five lengths at 7-1.
Race 7 was a maiden special weight for New York-breds going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt, and all 10 juveniles were first-time starters. Irad Ortiz Jr. broke POPPY’S DESTINY well and took a short early lead. Six Brothers tried to press the pace and Grammie Dance looked like he was getting a good trip until he kept lugging in through the stretch. After opening up a big lead in the stretch, Poppy’s Destiny shortened stride and desperately won the bob over True Gold. Risp got cut off down the backside and rallied relentlessly to be part of the close finish.
Race 8 was the first turf race of the day as New York-bred, first-level allowance fillies and mares went 5 1/2 furlongs on a Mellon turf course rated as yielding. A bulky field of 12 went postward, Kendrick Carmouche gunned favored STONEFACTOR to the lead and she never looked back. She opened up a big lead in the stretch and held on over longshots Wantagh Queen and Birthday Gift in 1:04.56.
Race 9, the P.J. Johnson Stakes, was held up for about 10 minutes when Mintd did a pirouette and unseated Irad Ortiz Jr. as they were nearing the gate. Irad did a sensational job of holding on to the reins and never let her go as he popped back up. The Irish-bred filly was immediately scratched and, as she was walking back on the main track, she got loose from her handler and did a tour of the dirt track. She was finally corralled by two outriders and some track workers, who got her under control and walked her out the backside gap.
While all this was going on, the remaining field of six had to pace around. The post-time betting favorite was DOGTAG and Jose Ortiz gave her a brilliant ride. Diving to the rail on the inner turf race going 1 1/16 miles, the two-year-old daughter of War Front had her ears pinned back and once clear, Jose got her to open up a few lengths. The only late challenge came from Varenka, who got up for second. It was the second day in a row that a two-year-old turf stakes race was won by a maiden.
Friday should be a perfect day of weather and hopefully all will stay on the turf. There was a decent amount of give to it today and the running times were a few seconds slower than normal. Race 7 is a maiden special weight for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track. FRENCH EMPIRE (#7) was a good third chasing the pace here going seven furlongs in nice time and draws well with Irad Ortiz Jr. back aboard.