Saratoga Diary: Stormy Friday
By DICK POWELL
This is getting ridiculous! Crazy weather hit Saratoga again Friday afternoon with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. Then, the sun came out. Then it started storming again and it might continue into the night. I live about 10 miles from the track it was dry as a bone here. But, not for long. As the last race went off, it started pouring again.
The racing on Friday started out as Fast and the turf courses were Good. Race 1 went off as scheduled and Steve Asmussen’s BANKIT fought off all early challenges and drew off to a convincing 6 ¾-length win in the good time of 1:04.35. It was the second win at the meet for new sire Central Banker.
It started to rain before race 2 and the tractors hurried out to seal the main track. The chalk parade continued as RADIANT BEAUTY went gate to wire on the inner turf course in the slowish time of 1:39.37 for the mile. The early $2 daily double paid $5.50.
Now, this is where it got interesting. The horses were in the paddock for race 3 and the skies opened up. The wind was blowing hard enough that I was feeling the rain up in row K. With thunder and lightning, the horses were kept in the paddock and the main track was in danger of washing away. After a couple of thunderclaps right over the track, the horses hurried out to the starting gate without much warm-up and a Sloppy (sealed) main track was waiting for them. Nick Zito used to be money over wet tracks when mud caulks used to be allowed and his very logical RIDE ON FAITH was a game winner by a 1 ½ lengths over the favorite.
To no one’s surprise, it was then announced that all the turf races were being switched to the main track. Wesley Ward’s SHANGROYAL looked like he would be hard to catch after a terrific third on the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs against stakes foes. The public agreed and sent him off as the odds-on favorite and Joel Rosario poured it on to win by 11 lengths. Considering the six-horse field, the exacta with the 3-1 second choice, paid a very generous $10.60.
Race 5 was a six-furlong sprint for New York-bred allowance runners on the main track and Manny Franco gunned STONEY BENNETT to the front and never looked back for trainer Linda Rice who was visiting the winner’s circle for the first time this meet. The winner was coming off a 166-day layoff as a new gelding but his gate speed was perfect for this surface.
Race 6 looked a two-speed number on the slop and it turned out that way for OUT OF TROUBLE who chased Conquest Hardcandy and poured it on to a 14 ½-length victory to give Luis Saez his second winner on the day and Brad Cox his third of the meet from just six starters.
Race 7 was run at nine furlongs on the sloppy main track for $25K claimers and Jose Lezcano won the race at the start when he sent SAIDA to the front going into the clubhouse turn and then slowed the pace down while controlling the pace as the 7-5 favorite. Lakota was a game second after chasing the pace and pulling out for the drive but she fell short.
The parade of speed continued in race 8 when Saez put wet-track lover FLOWERS FOR LISA on the lead and despite setting a quick pace, there was no catching him. It was Saez’s third win of the day and he is now tied with Javier Castellano with nine winners for the meet.
HOFBERG was much the best in the Curlin Stakes as Irad Ortiz Jr. took him to the outside down the backstretch to keep him out of the wet kick back. He rallied around the turn and even with a severe speed bias all day, he proved much the best. It looked like Hofberg got a lot out of the race but like many sons of Tapit, he was warmer than usual going to the gate and that might be a problem four weeks from now in the Travers Stakes (G1).
Race 10 was delayed a bit when many in the field balked loading into the gate and when the race finally went, it was raining again. Kendrick Carmouche gunned LADY VICKI from post 1 and she never looked back. Trinni Ninja literally rallied 10 wide in the stretch to get up for second.
Saturday has a juvenile maiden special weight event in race 5 and I like Bret Calhoun’s #6 MACHO CITIZEN. The first-time starter by Proud Citizen (11% debut winners) is out of a dam by Macho Uno (13% debut winners) that won her career debut coming from way back and has produced three 2yo winners from four foals to race including a Grade 3 stakes winner. Red-hot Luis Saez rides.