Super Saturday II Omnibus
Story & Photo by Teresa Genaro
The New York Racing Association didn’t luck out with the weather on the two big days of its fall meet this year, but at least Hurricane Matthew kept his distance, and the second of two Super Saturdays was buoyed by the presence of a bona fide superstar when the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard showed up to watch his equine namesake run.
The man nicknamed Thor made his way to the paddock with owner Mike Repole, whose Thirst of Victory was taking on Syndergaard in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne. Unfortunately, the horse took after the human, putting in a magnificent performance, only to fall short just short of the wire, not unlike the Mets, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday despite Syndergaard’s impressive outing.
The Champagne went to Chad Brown’s Practical Joke, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and now undefeated in three starts. As in the Hopeful, Practical Joke had to eke out a victory, this time head-bobbing with the pace-setting Syndergaard to win by nose, that nose perhaps in front for the only time at the second the horses hit the wire.
“He’s handled the distance increases every time we’ve asked him to,” said Brown, who also finished third in the race with Favorable Outcome, “and we’re looking forward to getting to run him a little bit further. He’s undefeated. He’s a really good horse.”
The Champagne was one of four Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” races on the card; while Syndergaard didn’t get the financial benefits of winning the race, owner Eric Fein said that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is definitely under consideration for the New York-bred.
Trainer Christophe Clement, whose name doesn’t exactly spring to mind when you think about trainers of two-year-old fillies, may well – or may not – be heading to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after his Yellow Agate just got up in the final strides to take the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette, Clement’s first win in the race.
Coming to the Frizette off a maiden win last month at Belmont, Yellow Agate ran a determined race, taking aim at leader Libby’s Tail in the stretch and getting past her with a powerful late surge under jockey Manny Franco, who got his second Grade 1 win after earning his first last weekend in the Vosburgh.
“Where do we go next?” said Clement in the winner’s circle. “Let’s enjoy this for a day or two. I’m aware of the Breeders’ Cup. I’m also aware of other things. I’ll have to speak to my owner about the next step, but let’s just see how she comes out of this race and go from there.”
Yellow Agate is owned by China Horse Club.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is thinking Cigar Mile after winning the Grade 2 Kelso with Alto Racing’s Anchor Down, the five-year-old getting his first win since the Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont in May.
“He’s run well every time in a one-turn mile at Belmont,” said Pletcher. “It seems to be his thing. It was no disgrace being second to Frosted in the Met Mile that day.
“I would probably think a one-turn mile is a little more to his liking (than the two-turn Breeders’ Cup Mile)…if I were guessing right now I’d probably lean towards the Cigar Mile.”
Chad Brown hit a personal trifecta in the Grade 3 Hill Prince, with his Camelot Kitten, Beach Patrol and Annals of Time, respectively, filling out the top three spots, with little more than a length separating them.
“You put three horses in a race like this, with so many talented horses in the race, you’re just happy that one of them wins,” said Brown. “And for them to sweep the purse is an incredible feeling.”
Brown won three of the day’s six graded stakes races – not a bad day at the office, but perhaps just another day in the life of the Chad Brown barn.