41ST SARATOGA RACING DIARY: 2019, THE LONGEST SEASON

The Storied Spires of Saratoga Race Course                                          Photo by Toni Pricci

Buzz, what buzz?

Before the meeting started, we spoke with some of the locals. The message was clear: “They’re Off in Saratoga!” but you better hurry, only two months left before we’re back at Belmont.

And we won’t be on Long Island all that long either this time. That’s another story; another day.

But the July 11 opening got off with a bit of an emotional whimper. Tomorrow, a Friday, when the forecast calls for sunny skies, there should be a little more pop.

Still, over 22,591 people showed up despite sketchy weather and bet $3 million on track, nearly $16 million from all sources

Even though I’m no longer an all-Saratoga-all-the-time guy and no longer live there—miss it!—I’m happy for the horsemen and backstretch workers who don’t have to do all their banking and laundry  in one 24-hour period.

FIRST RACE: Armament wins the battle of the drop-downs with Real Dan, who was flat throughout. Thought maybe Todd wanted to get the drop on Chad for leading trainer but not in this spot. Well done Gary Gullo, whose owner obviously wanted a Spa score–claimed for $30K, drops in for $14K opening day. Bingo!

SECOND: Chad 1—Todd 0.  Sayaff is a maiden no more. Javier Castellano quarter-horsed him virtually step, pressed by Declined who was on a hard chase; the chaser tired. But Brown’s horses don’t tire. Vehement was along to pick up place pieces.

THIRD: Best horse finished third as race was run. The Rock Says raced wide throughout, 4x first turn, rated chase 3x all backstretch, and was in a drive between horses throughout the tough, stretch trip. Probably should follow this one. Jose O, on the lead, had enough horse to survive. Kudos to Vincento’s connections, winning first time off Linda Rice claim.

FOURTH: Justice prevails; in that the best horse, not the best trip, won a turf race. Local Hero made a huge 4x move at the 5/16, momentum carrying him 6x entering stretch in inner-turf mile, hung in the final furlong but was resurgent when it mattered most. Zap Daddy, pocketed throughout, tipped out after entering lane but failed the eyeball test in a finish that was thisclose.

FIFTH: A couple of debuting state-bred juvenile fillies put on a show, completing an exacta at big prices. Winning Big Q  made a bold 4-wide sweep on the turn and continued well through the lane, getting Rosario off the duck and giving Gullo his second winner in last than two hours; good on him.

In defeat, runnerup Impazible Donna was even more impressive. Caught in close at the start, virtually eliminated, she made an even bolder turn-move than the winner–even wider than Big Q. Rosario had put his whip away but was lucky the strategy did bite him as ‘Donna’ just kept coming. Everyone saw what happened so she’ll be overbet, but she had a bet-back trip; note.

SIXTH: Lots of things going in this one: Veterans Beach, cranked up from good position, finished very well late, but ultimately was nailed. Three Outlaws was never a threa,t but was flying at the finish after the fact; follow. Bronx Bomber was running very well in midstretch then idled; long strider might want two turns. Light the Posse came from last and finished strongly for the win. Pipes was going well while wide in the stretch under indifferent handling; follow back!

SEVENTH:  Theybetsdamunnys, from 6-1 to 5-2, and Wegetsdamunnys, giving Chris Clement his first of the meet and Rosario his second on the day. Despite a dawdling pace—even for grass—Joel waited, then waited some more before cutting the filly loose in midstretch and she roared home from the center of the course. No hop like the drop, from state-bred stakes into optional claiming allowances winners’ circle.

G3 SCHUYLERVILLE: Despite a quick shower and sealed muddy track, form held in Saratoga’s traditional opening day stakes. Integral blasted out for the lead under a hustling Saez and held the lead entering the stretch but Comical, chasing throughout benefitted from being outside the leader in the wet going.

Meanwhile, favored Shippy cut the corner and loomed a threat and Kiss the Girl was rolling late on the outside. Javier Castellano wouldn’t let Comical be denied, driving hard to the finish. All three fillies raced very well and their progress should be followed throughout the meet. Kiss the Girl likely will appreciate more ground.

G3 QUICK CALL:  Who needs Kentucky-breds? The cold trifecta in the first turf sprint stakes of the year was Cal-bred first, NY-bred second, Great Britain-bred third; cool. Cooler still was Rosario, who didn’t rattle despite being stuck inside at headstretch with nowhere to go. He eventually tipped out, found a seam, caught Neverland Rock, then held off late-charging Elektronic. Cal-bred certainly looks like an early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

NINTH: Race was taken off the turf, scratched down to a field of three in the mud. Good night.

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