Saratoga Hits The Finish Line
SARATOGA HITS THE FINISH LINE
After 40 days and 40 nights, the 142nd summer season at the Old Spa is crossing the finish line. Here's a look back:
HORSE OF THE MEET: At first blush, Stay Thirsty, after dominating the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers. But what about Caleb's Posse, who won the Grade 2 Amsterdam, then beat a come-backing Uncle Mo by a nose in the Grade 1 King's Bishop?
After all, whereas Stay Thirsty only beat the winners of the Preakness, Belmont Stakes and Haskell in the Travers, in the King's Bishop Caleb's Posse defeated a champion colt that Mike Repole, the owner of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, called "no matter what . . . the most talented 3-year-old."
Last April, when Uncle Mo lost the Wood Memorial to Toby's Corner, Repole pointed out: "Stay Thirsty beat Toby's Corner by (4 1/4 ) lengths (in the Gotham), and Uncle Mo could beat Stay Thirsty by 10 lengths."
By that logic, Caleb's Posse would beat Stay Thirsty by 10 lengths and a nose.
Other top horses at the meet include the 6-year-old Tizway and the 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace, who became leading candidates for Horse of the Year with victories in the Whitney and Woodward, respectively; former claimer Ask the Moon, with Grade 1 scores in the Ruffian and Personal Ensign; and Jackson Bend, a two-time stakes winner going seven furlongs, including the Grade 1 Forego.
TOP 2-YEAR-OLDS: Fire On Ice (by Unbridled's Song) looked like this year's version of Uncle Mo winning first time out by 10¾ lengths on Travers Day in 1:09.67. Union Rags (by Dixie Union) won the Saratoga Special by 7 1/4 despite racing greenly in the stretch. After breaking his maiden first time out in a turf sprint, State of Play (by War Front) stretched out on grass and was a game winner of the Grade 2 With Anticipation. Alpha (by Bernardini) won his debut by six lengths going seven furlongs.
WEATHER OR NYRA?: When NYRA finally got around to canceling yesterday's last race, after the 11th had been run despite a tornado warning as a fearsome T-storm passed over the track, it was one of the first sensible decisions it made at the meet when it came to the weather.
On Travers Day, with Hurricane Irene on the way, NYRA waited until 6 p.m. to announce that Sunday's races were canceled; why it waited, no one knows. On Aug. 25, even though it rained in the morning and early afternoon, with an 80 percent chance the rain would continue, it did not take the last three races off the turf until after pick 6 betting closed. It scheduled the Aug. 21 Sunday feature, the Lake Placid, as the fourth race (to keep 2-5 favorite Winter Memories out of the pick 6?) because, it said, rain was predicted for later that afternoon when the card was drawn on Thursday. Yet the racing office still scheduled four races after the Lake Placid for the turf.
PICK 6 MANIA: Going into today's final card, more than $10.5 million has been wagered at this meet on the pick 6, according to the Equibase charts. Only five days out of 38 had a pool below $80,000; 12 days, the pool surpassed $300,000 (not counting carryovers); twice they surpassed $1 million; the average daily pick 6 pool was $278,000.
PLETCHER-VELAZQUEZ: After a two-year run in 2003-2004, when Todd Pletcher won a record 35 races both years and John Velazquez set records riding 61 and 65 winners, it seemed that never again would a trainer-jockey team dominate the standings in consecutive years like they did then.
But last summer, Pletcher saddled 36 winners, a mark he topped again at this meet with 38 winners going into today; while Johnny V., after taking the 2010 title with 57 winners, will repeat at this meet with 53 winners going into today. (Javier Castellano, second with 52 winners, is riding out-of-town today at Philly Parx.)
BUG BOYS: With the exception of Julien Leparoux in 2006, apprentice riders usually find wins few and far between at the Old Spa, which has the deepest jockey colony of any meet in America. But Irad Ortiz Jr. and Ryan Curatolo have won nearly 20 races between them this summer.
by Ed Fountaine