Earlier this week, Rosie Napravnik and Linda Rice swept two mid-week feature races. But yesterday's distaff heroics were more dramatic; a lot more.
We’ll say this: Two Grade 1s on the same day is probably an historic achievement, but two women winning championship events a half-hour apart? That’s never happened, ever.
On Saturday, Rice, who claimed Palace for $20,000 and turned him into a multiple graded stakes winner, continued her hot hand going back to the recent Belmont summer meet,
And given the manner in which Palace won yesterday, his talent level might just keep getting better and better.
Even though Joe Orseno did not have the speedy Happy My Way wound up 100 percent for the A.G. Vanderbilt, that speedster still looked like he was long gone at the furlong pole. But at the sixteenth marker, the water got a lot deeper.
You hear the term “reeled him in” all the time. This time, the cliché was absolutely appropriate. Rice not only has improved this runner, but has kept him performing at a very high level for a sustained period of time. Excellent work.
The career of Leah Gyarmati really began to flourish at this meeting last year when juvenile filly Sweet Reason, in the most impressive sloppy-track run I’ve ever seen, ever, won like a wild horse. And she did it again, just for good measure, in the Grade 1 Spinaway.
Noble Moon also put Gyarmati on the national map, but now the filly is beginning to push her trainer into elite company. Back to back Grade 1s in the Acorn and in Saturday’s always contentious Test Stakes has assured that.
Sweet Reason is now 5-for-8 with three Grade 1s and has not tasted defeat in Saratoga in three lifetime attempts. From the University of Allen Jerkens, he has learned her lessons well. Good for her.
Good for them.
Through a Saratoga Trip Notebook: Some runners to keep a watchful eye on; others to bet back next time postward:
Billy the Bull (1st race) was loaded with run in the Whitney day opener, tried to sneak up the fence approaching the five-sixteenths when Javier Castellano slammed the door in Taylor Rice’s face. Well meant turf sprinter continued well through the stretch at double-digit odds and will be worth a wager under similar conditions; follow.
Debuting turf runner Strong Coffee (3rd) made a good impression in the post parade with his size and demeanor for Graham Motion—who’s made a strong impression in the Saratoga trainer standings—and finished professionally, winning as clearly best; likely repeater if spotted properly next out…
In the same 1-1/16 miles event, runnerup Face the Music, a bit green in the paddock but more settled in the post parade, finished strongly down the center of the course and won’t be a maiden long; bet back…
Longshot Skerkis was aggressively handled throughout breaking from a wide post and tired late; tough read whether colt needed the effort, was the victim of dynamics, or might not have that much ability; follow progress.
Price shot Striking Style (6th) was in the bridle throughout from a wide post going two turns on turf, surged to the lead at headstretch, but was hindering rider Luis Saez who was forced to wait until clear of inside rivals before going to a right-handed stick on the filly who was trying to bear in. Saez did everything right but just got nailed on the line by favorite Granny Mac’s Kitten beneath leading rider Javier Castellano; note.
Royal Sun debuting for Todd Pletcher as the favorite in a juvenile dirt sprint, was pressured throughout and held very well for place. Good-sized colt was forced to move early breaking from the rail post, hustled on the way around, never getting a breather. Will benefit; bet back next time out.
Flimbi (7th) won the De La Rose with a strong late run, lengthening her stride perceptibly the closer she got to the wire. Bill Mott trainee has graded stakes in her future and it appears that added distance would be in her wheelhouse. When Mott’s horses improve incrementally, as this one has, take notice.
Aside from Moreno, Itsmyluckyday was the only horse that did any real running in the Whitney as even third-finishing champion Will Take Charge was a one-paced third late. After the race, trainer Eddie Plesa said that his charge proved he belongs in this company; agreed.
It’s difficult to know how to gauge the non-effort of Palace Malice in the Whitney. He’s been examined thoroughly and there was no physical excuse for the performance. He had been training very well, loves his surroundings, and, then, this.
If Pletcher enters him back in the Woodward, as he said he would this morning, it would be a signal to handicappers to cross this line off his form. If there’s more of a significant layup, that would be a red flag.
We asked Pletcher at the end of the post Whitney draw press conference whether the colt might return again at 5. The trainer said that he and Cot Campbell have not ever had that conversation. You can be sure the subject will come up now. Maybe it has already.