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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Peter Applebee — Over one million patrons passed through the gates on Union Avenue this summer and they were treated to high quality racing throughout the 40-day Spa meet. Here are our nominees for “Race of the Meet”:

Jim Dandy Stakes: Essential Quality was spun five wide on the first turn and then was pushed out to the six path on the second turn. Meanwhile, Keepmeinmind was able to work out an inside trip as they turned for home. Horses that are wide on both turns are rarely winners, but on this day Essential Quality again confirmed his greatness by defeating Keepmeinmind even though he ran 38 feet farther than the runnerup.  In our view, it was a very underrated performance.     

Coaching Club American Oaks: How can four-horse field be such a great race? This one was. Previously undefeated Malathaat went to the front and controlled the pace until Clairiere made a  serious run at her as they turned for home but was repulsed at the 3/16th pole just as Maracuja joined the fray. Maracuja was able to wear down Malathaat late to win by a head. The ride of the meet was turned in by Ricardo Santana Jr. when he backed Maracuja off the pace mid-way down the backstretch and allowed Clairiere do all the dirty work while he saved energy until it mattered most.

Amsterdam Stakes: There are a lot exciting ways to win a race but none are as exhilarating as a sprinter throwing down the gauntlet and just bottoming out the field. Jackie’s Warrior did exactly that by posting fractions of 21.2 and 43.4. He was hand ridden the whole way by Joel Rosario who sat like a statute except for one peek under the arm to check out the competition who were so far back they weren’t even covered by Jackie’s Warrior’s sloppy kickback.  Awesome, with a capital A.

Forego Stakes: The winner of the Strangest Race of the Meet Award. Firenze Fire and Yaupon hooked up in a great stretch duel – but Firenze Fire had other ideas ashe craned his neck, turned his head, and repeatedly bit Yaupon, even getting Yaupon’s bridle in his mouth. Wild! Lost in the excitement was that Yaupon was a total pro, surviving despite being savaged for about 10 strides. He just kept on running and earned the narrow, gutty win. Firenze Fire probably cost himself the race, but gave us a memory that we will never forget.

Fourstardave Handicap:  I thought Got Stormy was out of form and over the hill.  I was dead wrong, and so was the wagering public who sent her off at 12-1. She was by the far the best horse as she skipped away from the boys to win this Grade I for the second time in three years.

Whitney Stakes: There were questions about Knicks Go’s ability to go nine furlongs as he indicated by his performances in the Met Mile and Saudi Cup.  Well, Knicks Go put all of that to bed when he broke well, went fast early, and went fast late to win by four and a half lengths, earning a 111 Beyer.  He is now six for eight for Brad Cox and clearly has stamped himself one of the horses to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Honorable Mention: Althiqa in the Diana Stakes win. Underappreciated filly earned a 102 Beyer while easily besting this field for her second consecutive Grade I win in the U.S.

And Our Choice is…. The Amsterdam. This was a super impressive performance as Jackie’s Warrior won by more than seven lengths under a hand ride after putting up spectacular fractions. Jackie’s Warrior was the horse of the meet for me, too. He returned from the Amsterdam to win the H. Allen Jerkens with a 107 Beyer, defeating the very talented Life Is Good in a much different but equally impressive performance.

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12 Responses

  1. PA–Nice summation of the highlights of a fabulous Saratoga meet! One additional performance to throw into the mix–it wasn’t a stakes race or a thrilling down to the wire duel, but Baby Yoda’s 6.5 f allowance win in an eye-popping 1:14.33 was a sparkler–earning a season’s high Beyer of 114.

  2. Gents,

    Better yet, Baby Yoda was 6-1, a rare personal Spa highlight…

    I’ll pick at nits here. I agree that ‘Jackie’s’ Amsterdam very likely was the performance of the meet. But for me, the Forego was the race.

    When you can passionate follow something for nearly a half-century and see something you’ve never seen before, well, that rates special notice.

    This is the kind of ‘controversy’ that racing needs more of!

  3. Forego race: Controversy creates buzz, opinion,and maybe,interest,media attention for outsiders of the sport but I did not hear anything about it except a ” Top 10″ mention on Espn.Too many sportiñg events don’t leave much room out for flat racing,or worse yet,harness leaving both sports in the same dark corner as many other minor ones as Lacrosse,Rugby,Surfing,Cricket..Yonkers had several $200.000 races on Friday: not a Beep,not even from most horse bettors.Ps: Watched and bet a Turf race at Kentucky Downs,with Lexcano winning it,and the track seemed uneven,with mini hills and as if it were run in England,Australia or Ireland,and guess what,today I watched a Grade I Irish race which was run on a similar track and makes me wonder why can’t the tracks be more even,flat ? Is it supposed to be like a hunting run ,and if so might as well bring in the dogs…While awaiting Belmont to open the gates I’m abstaining from betting any other track,just NFL props with the Jets,Under 44.

  4. JP–That stretch run in the Forego will forever be etched into the memory of all racetrackers who viewed it–truly a megabite of memory!

  5. Calumet Turf Cup 2021,when the best horse does not win.Arklow was the best,waiting,being blocked,zig zagging with an undecided rider who took the busy shortcut right behind too many horses. That ain’t no shortcut,but an obstacle course. Like a Ferrari behind a Yugo ! Would I give this jockey another chance on this courageous 7 yr old ? No !! Hesitation costs too much in any kind of racing..

    1. IMO, more turf races are won with these patient, covered up. ground saving tactics than lost, but hey that’s just me. But I’m a little prejudiced, given the exacta box broke the best way. But I’ve been saying, and writing, for four decades that “trouble” often results in victory. Hard to notice that when cashing. Nevertheless, that would be our objective opinion regardless…

  6. State Of Rest, who overcame a poor start to win the Saratoga Derby Invitational at 21 to 1. Soldier Rising also made up for early trouble to finish a strong 2nd at 14 to 1. Great rides by Johnny V. and Irad Ortiz.

  7. It was such a great meet that it is difficult to identify only six nominees and one winner. it was great to be back at the track and the athletes did not let us down. Peter you did a great job picking the 6 best and I loved the Amsterdam. I was so glad I stayed thru the rain delay to see it.

  8. Really deep quality. The big efforts kept right on coming and when they didn’t, multi-horses battled to the wire. Correct Dan, a very strong race meet…

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