Saratoga Diary: Week Two Begins
By DICK POWELL
I hate to obsess about the weather up here but I will anyway. If you are playing Saratoga from around the country, checking the forecast is almost meaningless. Rain was forecast and it did rain in the area. But, it hardly rained in Saratoga despite ominous clouds on the horizon. With a quarter-million dollar Pick 6 carryover, it paid to wait and see if any races came off the turf and what the course conditions were going to be. The main track was listed as Good as were the turf courses at the start of the day. The humidity was unbearable and many horses were soaking wet going to the gate.
Race 1 was a steeplechase and the horse I bet, Officer Sydney, fell going over the first jump and unseated his rider. NEW MEMBER won it for Jack Fisher.
HEXAMETER was overbet in race 2 but she proved tons the best as Luis Saez guided her to a six-length front-end score.
Race 3 was for maiden $40K claimers going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon Turf course. SPORT was 0-for-10 coming in but his last start was his first against maiden claimers and he was making his second start off a long layoff. Back early but saving ground, he got rolling around the far turn and ran down Mark Hennig’s Wisely who looked like he had the race won when he surged to the lead in the stretch.
Race 4 was back on the wet main track and like many 6 ½-furlong dirt sprints, we saw a fast first quarter. Joel Rosario sat RIFF RAFF off the pace in fourth while saving ground and swung out nearing the top of the stretch. He drew abreast Mr. Buff inside the furlong pole and went on to a clear win as the lukewarm favorite.
New York-bred maiden special weight runners going 5 ½ furlongs contested race 5 and the favorite, Aquariva, scratched on the way to the gate. The only filly to race was Damselfly and she was dismissed at 8-1 so it was anyone’s race. Kendrick Carmouche was winless coming in but he had five seconds and two thirds from 10 starts here and like he does every day no matter where he is riding, he put Parx invader Collegeville Girl on the lead and never looked back. Trainer Richard Vega was 0-for-19 first-time out but he had this filly cranked for a big debut effort.
Race 6 was horrible to watch and our heart goes out to Heartspoke and her connections.
Bill Mott expressed concern before race 7 about ENGLISH DANCER’s ability to handle softer turf based on a poor effort in her lone try over grass with some give in it. With Johnny Velazquez aboard, she got a perfect trip stalking the lone speed and took over to win at 3-1. Velazquez is winning 23% this year on the turf and now has three turf wins at the meet including the Diana S. G1 with Sistercharlie.
In race 8, Joe Sharp won his second race of the meet with MORRISON in a high-class allowance for New York-breds on the Mellon turf course. Sent off as the narrow fourth choice in the field of six, Luis Saez took over turning for home and Morrison was much the best.
FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM won a Grade 1 stakes two starts back at Keeneland going seven furlongs but then tired last out at Churchill Downs when she had to rush up from post 1 after a dull start. She came back 81 days later from an outside post and won the Honorable Miss (G2) going six furlongs in 1:09.48. She was 3-5 going into the gate and paid $3.90 but nobody pays attention to winners that drift in the last odds flash.
Not sure why the NYRA simulcast feed keeps showing the turf being listed as Good while the Equibase charts indicates it is Yielding. Sharp and Saez combined for another win in race 10 as FOUR KNIGHTS dominated in his first start off the claim as a new gelding.
I’m not even going to try to guess Thursday’s weather but I will go to race 9, the John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds going 6 ½ furlongs. There seems to be enough gate speed in it but #7 GOLD FOR THE KING looks to have enough versatility to sit just off the lead with Jose Ortiz and pounce.