Saratoga Diary: Week Three Wrap-Up
by DICK POWELL
Still not quite Fast and Firm but we will gladly accept Fast and Good these days. The question going into Monday centered upon how Sunday’s drying-out, outside-closer track would perform.
Race 1 was bet like it was a two-horse race and it was. Luis Saez pulled wide aboard BON RAISON and ran down the favorite, Playwright, to win by almost eight lengths. The final time of 1:50.15 was very good for $16K claimers. It was a win for Todd Pletcher who now represents value with the Chad-Brown mania going on. The winner was claimed by Gary Contessa and three others were claimed from the race.
Race 2 was the Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Series for 3yos sired by registered New York stallions. Even with the race staying on the turf, only three went postward and the heavy favorite at 2-5 was THERAPIST. Irad Ortiz Jr. had him back biding his time and he took over at will to win by 5 ½ lengths. Yawn!
Race 3 was a wide-open betting race for first-level allowance foes going six furlongs on the main track. Ricardo Santana Jr., like he has done all meet, gunned DEVILS HALO to the front for Steve Asmussen and never looked back. He paid a generous $9.30 to win for a trainer/jockey combination that now has 10 wins this meet.
Race 4 looked like a two-horse race and the only question was which Chad Brown trainee would get there first. In the deep stretch, it looked like Chiclet’s Dream had it but here came Irad Ortiz aboard CHESTNUT STREET to win going away by three lengths. The turf courses still have some give to them and Irad Ortiz is timing his moves from behind perfectly. He has five wins for Chad at the meet and four on turf.
Jose Ortiz seemed to be warming up in week three and had SHEIKH OF SHEIKHS saving ground after a rough start. He snuck through to win race 5 aboard the second choice in the wagering. The winner captured his third straight and was claimed by Lacey Gaudet. There were three other claims in the race.
Race 6 was a maiden special weight race for New York-bred juveniles and BUSTIN TO BE LOVEDgunned to the front from post 1 and never looked back for Gary Contessa and Irad Ortiz. It was a big price for a son of Bustin Stones debut runner.
Usually, going three turns on the inner turf course spreads the field out and we don’t see that much bumping but race 7 was the exception. Joe Bravo kept LADY MONTDORE out of trouble as Osare bothered Palinodie and Double Cast in the stretch and that rival was taken down and placed sixth as the stewards ruled him responsible for a chain reaction.
Race 8 was a high-class allowance race for New York-bred turf sprinters and David Donk won his second race of the meet. ELOWEASEL pressed the pace from post 10 and despite losing ground, he was always clear in his run to take the lead and held on by a length. Johnny Velazquez was up and earned his third turf sprint win of the meet.
The public made MERGER OF BANKS the even-money favorite in race 9 and they never had an anxious moment. Irad Ortiz was able to overcome a stumbling start to get him up on the pace and took over in the stretch.
As for week three, Chad Brown had eight winners and now has 18 in 16 days of racing. Todd Pletcher won four races and now has 10 for the meet. Steve Asmussen continues to roll along with three more winners and is second in the standings with 11 winners overall. Bill Mott won two races and now has nine for the meet.
Irad Ortiz poured it on with 11 winners for the week and now has 23 wins after 16 days of racing. Manny Franco had six as well as Javier Castellano. Jose Ortiz, who only had four wins in the first 10 days of racing here, had six wins and his business looks like it might be heating up, but his brother and Javier are riding great. Luis Saez cooled off a bit with only four wins and is second in standings with 17 total wins.
There were 38 races run on the main track and 20 on the turf (not counting the steeplechase race). Nineteen dirt races were run on a Fast track and 19 on wet tracks.
The average field size for the 59 races was not bad at 7.78. But to show the effect of bad weather, only 14 favorites in 59 races won (23.76%). The average win mutuel was $11.14.
In race three tomorrow, I like #6 KID CROFT. She did nothing in her career debut on turf but broke her maiden on dirt well enough to indicate she can handle modest winners. The red-hot Irad Ortiz gets the mount.