Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Vindication for Quality Road; Here Comes Ben Gets His Stripes


September 4, 2010

Dear Diary,

Forget the Whitney, this was more like it.

In the Whitney a month ago, the sensationally fast Quality Road set a dawdling pace, letting his competition into the fray, including the eventual winner, Blame.

The narrow defeat cost him the protem lead among this country’s older horses, which may be his again after his comprehensive 4-¾ length victory in the Woodward at weight for age.

“I certainly think we can make a strong argument,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s accomplished a lot this year with the Donn, the Met Mile, and this race. He’s certainly put himself in a position, if he wins the next one.”

The next one is the Breeders Cup Classic, where he is expected to meet recent conqueror Blame at equal weights. Blame, who was getting from five pounds from Quality Road while beating him by a head in the Whitney, will race next in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, October 2.

“The plan all along has been to go from here to the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Pletcher explained. “We’ll have his next-to-last work at Belmont Park and his final work at Churchill. So we’ll probably go to Churchill Downs 12 or 13 days out.”

That’s Plan A, just like the one he mapped out for winning the Woodward. “[Arcodoro] showed enough pace that we were able to maneuver outside him and get the trip we wanted. It went exactly like we talked about it in the paddock.”

Unspectacular yet comprehensive, the track wasn’t yielding particularly fast times all day and indeed was a bit tiring in the stretch. In the Woodward, and even in the 7 furlong Forego preceding it, no one was able to crack the :13-second mark for the final sixteenth of a mile.

But that’s all that was required for Quality Road to defeat the invading Mythical Power for Bob Baffert, who had a half length advantage on Tranquil Manner.

“He was much, much better than last time‘” John Velazquez said. “In the Whitney I was struggling to get him going. Today he was much more willing and much more on the bridle.” Quality Road was Velazquez’s fourth winner on the card and his easiest.
“In these situations, anything less than a win is unacceptable,” Pletcher said.

Here Comes Here Comes Ben

When horses suddenly get good, sometimes you need to get on the road to find out just how good they are.

Here Comes Ben is a late developing son of Street Cry and the four-year-old got good this spring and summer at Churchill Downs. Real good.

So good, in fact, that his two most recent performance figures were as good as all the Grade 1 winners in the Forego. In fact, he’s not lost a race since turning 4 in January.

Given time wisely by trainer Charles Lopresti to recover from those enervating efforts, he shows up in Saratoga for his class test. Not so much that it was Saratoga, or even a Grade 1, but at level weights of 124 pounds? That’s a real test.

As much weight as multiple Grade 1 winner Vineyard Haven, Grade 1 winner Warrior’s Reward, and multiple graded winners Big Drama and You And I Forever.

Ridden by Alex Solis, who was 1-for-36 at the Spa going into the Forego, rode him for the third straight race, achieving similar success in each instant.

Solis had his horse in position to win behind a strong pace throughout, waited for everyone to fire their best shot before making the last run and taking the lead 100 yards from the wire.

“[The Forego] is one of the reasons I came here because I’ve ridden this horse at Churchill Downs,” said Solis. “The first time I rode him I thought that he could be a Breeders’ Cup horse.”

The runnerup, Big Drama, keeps on running his eyeballs out, but that Grade 1 is still alluding him. Perhaps he can get it while the world is watching:

“Eibar [Coa] did a great job keeping the favorite down on the rail but he had to use our horse a little to do that,” said trainer David Fawkes. “We'll take him home for a little while, see how he is, and then point him towards the Breeder's Cup.”

He could meet up with Here Comes Ben Again at Churchill in the fall.

“There won’t be many seven-furlong races for him,” Lopresti said in the winners circle, “so we’re going to have to make decision. I was a little intimidated coming up here because I’ve never run in a Grade 1 before.

“Alex has been telling me all along he’s a really good horse. We brought him up here two weeks ago and he trained really well and did everything right. We had to see if he was this kind of horse, and he proved it today.”

Here Comes Ben was timed in 1:22.50 for his ¾-length victory over Big Drama. Favorite Vineyard Haven, empty when it counted most, was 1-½ lengths farther back in third.

Written by John Pricci

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