The King Is Dead; Long Live The King The competition for meet titles among jockeys counts only in Saratoga, or so it seems. Trainers gear up for every New York meet, but the only time a jockey’s race comes to the fore is here, from day one to day 40.
Appropriately, the riding title this year was named the Angel Cordero Award, for Angel Cordero Jr., a.k.a. the “King of Saratoga,“ who won 11 straight Saratoga riding titles and 13 in 14 years, from 1976 to 1989.
Johnny Velazquez, represented by jockey agent and mentor, Angel Cordero Jr., became the second leading rider in Saratoga history when he rode his 650th winner, surpassing Cordero now third with 649. Jerry Bailey is Saratoga’s all-time leader with 693.
If Velazquez remains healthy, he can surpass Bailey next year, having ridden 54 winners, two more than Javier Castellano who rode at Parx in Philadelphia on the final day of the meet. Interestingly, Castellano had a mount at Parx for Pletcher, Velazquez’s top client.
Bug Boys Need Not Apply
With the exceptions of Steve Cauthen, Richard Migliore and possibly even Wesley Ward, Saratoga never has been particularly hospitable to apprentices. It could be that many of the trainers who ship from other regions are unfamiliar with their current skill level of the inexperienced riders or winning is so important that horsemen want a leading rider veteran type.
But apprentices Ryan Curatolo and Irad Ortiz Jr. did relatively well this summer. Curatola is patient, with good hands and a sense of timing. Ortiz, however, is the more instinctive race rider with great natural ability.
Of greater import, I am told that both young men have the proper attitude. Hopefully, that trait will not disappear as their successes increase, an occupational hazard for all who make their living on horseback.
There are no automatics for any equine wishing to wear the mantel of “Horse of the 2011 Saratoga Race Meet.” Consider those listed, in alphabetical order:
Ask The Moon Was the meet’s only dual Grade 1 winner, heroine of the Ruffian and Personal Ensign. But she didn't have to face either Blind Luck or Harve De Grace.
Caleb's Posse Only the third horse in history to sweep both graded sprint stakes for three-year-olds, the Grade 2 Amsterdam and G1 King‘s Bishop.
Harve De Grace Became the second filly in three years and only the second female in history to win the Woodward Stakes, became a serious Horse of the Year contender.
Jackson Bend Was a dual winner at the meet, taking the sure-to-be-graded-someday James Marvin and the G1 Forego, establishing himself as the one the country’s leading sprinter/milers.
Stay Thirsty Added the storied G1 Travers to his dominating G2 Jim Dandy score to become the country’s leading three-year-old and possible Horse of the Year contender.
Tizway Answered to the nine furlong question with authority by adding Saratoga’s signature event for older horses, the Whitney, to his dominating win in the Met Mile thereby becoming a leading Horse of the Horse of the Year candidate.
Uncle Mo Fans can now answer “will we ever see him race again?” in the affirmative via a winning effort but head-bobbing nose defeat to Caleb’s Posse in the G1 King’s Bishop, no easy return spot coming off a near five-month layup.
Four-Headed Monsters Michael Dubb, the late Carl Lizza, Mike Repole and Team Valor for organizing and managing their runners in such a fashion as to dominate their peers with quality, quantity, or both.
Food For Thought It may not qualify as the quote of the meet, but at a stand where juvenile racing is a point of emphasis came this from Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard following a victory on closing day by Emerald Beech is the G3 Glens Falls Stakes:
“It takes me a while to figure them out. My training style is to have horses do well when they get older. A lot of other horses get burned out. They go into the Triple Crown and get burned out. That’s not my style. I love horses, and I try to treat them right.”