Saratoga Diary: Rain continues
by Dick Powell
Rain hit the Saratoga area overnight and it was enough to force Races 3, 4 and 6 to be switched to the main track, which is listed as fast. Both turf courses are listed as good and the temporary rail has been taken down on each.
Race 1 was a steeplechase where SURPRISING SOUL took the lead and, despite a strong challenge from No Wunder, never relinquished it. The final margin was a diminishing head.
Race 2 had a final running time of 1:25.60 for the seven furlongs, which might have been surprising but when you looked at the lack of quality in this field, it was about right. There was some jostling at the start as PROMISES BROKEN came over on Caoimhe but then Special Risk came over on Promises Broken. Those two battled for the lead through a glacial first half-mile run in :48.13 and Javier Castellano took over with Promises Broken. Rajiv Maragh had Caoimhe in a drive on the inside but he tried to go across heels to get outside, thought twice about that and dove back to the rail where he was a distant second behind the winner. It was only a $2.90 win mutuel but the exacta came back a generous $22.20.
Race 3 came off the turf and the field of seven included three main-track only entrants. Todd Pletcher’s Halladay ran in an off-the-turf event here in his career debut so it was no surprise when he was entered back in a turf sprint. When the race was switched to the main track, he was a bit suspect and he did not show the kind of speed he did last out. Wesley Ward’s Tapizars Secret gunned to the front with blinkers and this time the pace was fast – :21.78 for the first quarter and :45.24 for the first half. Javier Castellan had ACHILLES WARRIOR in third and he got into his mount on the far turn. At one point, it looked like he would go right by but Tapizars Secret was game and finally relented late. The exacta between two main-track only runners paid $47.
Race 4 also came off the turf and was run at 1 1/8 miles for New York-bred maiden $40,000 claimers. Smiles from Sadie was bet down to 7-10 based on a decent second here in an off-the-turf event on a sloppy track and she was meeting the same group again. She had a wide and eventful trip before losing the bob to DANIELLE’S PRIDE, who did nothing in her lone start on dirt. It was another win for Manny Franco, who is riding lights out.
Race 5 was a second-level allowance race for older New York-bred allowance foes going nine furlongs on the main track. Joel Rosario was taking no chances when he gunned odds-on favorite MR. BUFF to the front and, despite setting a decent pace, drew off to win by nine lengths in 1:50.38. That’s it for his New York-bred conditions, so we will have to see if trainer John Kimmel moves him up to open company or New York-bred stakes company.
Race 6 came off the turf and was run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track for $50,000 claimers who have not won three races. TRUSTWORTHY was claimed by Steve Asmussen here 11 days ago for $25,000 and he brought him back as a main-track only entrant. He went gate to wire with Ricardo Santana Jr. controlling the pace and had plenty left in the stretch. The third choice in the wagering will probably drop down to the claiming ranks next time out.
Race 7 was a 6 1/2-furlong maiden event for New York-breds and form held up once again. MAKIN’ OUT pressed the pace from post 8 in the nine-runner field and made the lead around the turn. With little urging from Jose Ortiz, he widened his margin to a final 8 1/2 lengths as the 6-5 favorite over the second choice, Mrs. Orb. The chalk exacta came back $11.40.
Turf racing finally began in Race 8, which was a two-turn mile for New York-bred fillies and mares. With the temporary rail down, the inside 18 feet has not had any racing over it and was the best footing. Luis Saez, who did not have a winner all last week, put CONQUEST HARDCANDY on the lead and she fought all challenges through the lane. She figured to be tough on the lead, but if the race were run last weekend on the chewed up outer part of the course, she might not have carried her speed. It was trainer Jim Ryerson’s first win at the meet and he will forever be known to me as the trainer that unveiled the brilliant UNBRIDLED’S SONG to break his maiden here by 8 1/2 lengths here in 1995.
John’s Call won the Sword Dancer Handicap (G1) here as a nine-year old and could run all the day. The stakes race named after him was correctly run at 1 5/8 miles, and even with the three turns on the Mellon turf course, it came down to a photo finish. Irad Ortiz Jr. struck the front with Call Provision but on the far outside was brother Jose Ortiz aboard FOCUS GROUP. They hit the wire together and Jose won the photo. Soon thereafter, the stewards inquiry sign was lit and both Chad Brown trainees were under the microscope. Junior Alvarado had to check severely with Patterson Cross and after talking to both Ortiz brothers, the stewards left up Jose with the original winner and put Irad all the way back to fourth behind Patterson Cross. The final time of 2:43.83 reflected the give in the ground.
Thursday should see the sun and bright blue skies. I’m not kidding! In Race 2, TIGALU (#2) was a very impressive first-out winner going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park. She came back here and was a well-beaten third going today’s nine furlongs but that was over a sloppy track and she should bounce back here for Mark Hennig and Jose Lezcano. At 9-2 on the morning line, the daughter of Curlin should be ready for an improved effort.