SARATOGA DAILY NOTEBOOK
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2005
by Dick Powell
I liked one horse today and it won. Break out the champagne! But most importantly, it was from my favorite trainer/jockey combination - Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez.
READY TO TALK (More Than Ready) had run twice at Monmouth Park on the dirt and showed good speed both times. On Friday, she drew the rail where she could use her speed to her best advantage. Juvenile fillies going two turns on the turf as early as July 29 is virtually unheard of and early speed seemed to be a big edge against others that might be worried about the distance.
More Than Ready is developing into a strong turf sire with two crops to race. His progeny have done well on the main track and not many have tried the turf yet, but those that have loved it. On rock-hard turf that is carrying speed, Ready to Talk just looked like the perfect fit she was.
Velazquez broke her on top and had an easy lead into the first turn. Unlike many two-turn juvenile events we have seen here over the years, this group behaved pretty well. Ready to Talk waltzed through a first half in :49.74 and she was having everything her own way. She let it out a notch on the turn with a :23.96 third quarter and maintained her narrow lead as the field neared the top of the stretch.
Velazquez, who had masterfully rationed out her speed to this point, now got busy in the stretch and Ready to Talk actually drew away to a 1 3/4-length win, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.60. Considering how slow the early pace was, the final time was good even over hard turf. Chetten County (Giant's Causeway) rallied nicely for second and won't be a maiden much longer.
Almost as if the gods of racing were smiling down on me, Ready to Talk returned a healthy $9.50 to win even though it was the fourth-straight win for Pletcher/Velazquez. It makes up for my mistakes on Thursday and she must be quite a filly to carry the extra weight that I burdened her with.
The rich get richer. James Scatuorchio began to make a name for himself in 1999 when his More Than Ready won the WHAS-11 S. on the undercard of the Kentucky Derby (G1). He developed into a Grade 1 stakes winner when he won the King's Bishop here in 2000 and earned more than $1 million.
Scatuorchio also owns ENGLISH CHANNEL (Smart Strike), winner of the Virginia Derby (G3) last out and the leading three-year-old turf male in America. He's eligible for a $3 million bonus if he can win the Secretariat S. (G1) and the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). Scatuorchio usually pays around $100,000 for his horses and his record as an owner gets better each year.
Now that More Than Ready is at stud, Scatuorchio is benefiting both as an owner and a breeder. He purchased READY'S GAL (More Than Ready) for $120,000 as a yearling before the sire struck gold. She just missed in last year's Frizette (G1), finishing ahead of the classy Grade 1-winning Sis City (Slew City Slew). Off for seven months, she returned to the races this year with two dull efforts on the main track going short.
Last out, Pletcher put her on the turf for the first time and she responded with a sharp win in the Little Silver S. at Monmouth Park going gate to wire. On Friday, Ready's Gal was the 5-2 second choice in the Lake George S. (G3) and, just like her stablemate Ready to Talk, she drew post 1.
Velazquez sat in behind the pace duel between Who's Cozy (Cozzene) and Beaugeste (Military). Just like in Harness racing, you can sit in the pocket, get a dream trip and never get out. Turning for home, Ready's Gal was all dressed up with nowhere to go, but Velazquez doesn't win 22 percent on the turf by hitting the panic button. He waited patiently and when the hole opened up on the rail, Ready's Gal was more than ready and spurted through to pull away to a 1 1/4-length victory over a four-horse place photo.
Two wins on the card for Pletcher/Velazquez/Scatuorchio/More Than Ready/filly/turf/post 1. And, Pletcher now has six wins already for the meet and Velazquez has ridden all six and one other.
George Weaver used to be an assistant trainer to Pletcher and he's off to a good start at the meet. He had a nice winner on Thursday with Maybry's Boy (Broad Brush) and three seconds with his other starters. Wrigley (Grand Slam) got caught in Wednesday's juvenile maiden race but has run well in both career starts. Drizzly (Summer Squall) was flying late only to miss by a neck in Thursday's finale and Chetten County was a good second in today's juvenile filly turfer.
Weaver has many of his mentor's strengths, including his runners excelling on the turf. They always seem to be fit for their races and make a strong appearance on the track.
Horses to Watch
4TH - ZIPPY MISSY (City Zip) gunned to the front and held well for second. Galluscio does not win very often first time out so she was doing it on her own natural talent and will be tougher with a race under her belt and a glib racing surface.
6TH - MY BALLET (Belong to Me) ran evenly and hung in the stretch when it looked like she might get by the leaders. She was probably compromised by the hard turf and deserves another chance going longer.
Saturday's Best Plays
Saturday's card has a $500,000 guaranteed Pick 4 pool beginning in the 7TH race.
We'll try to get things rolling in the opener with RETRIBUTION (Rob 'N Gin). He has good early speed and broke his maiden in his turf debut on firm going. Even from post 7 he should be able to get a good, early position with Cornelio Velasquez.
In the Pick 4, I'll go with Angara (GB) (Alzao) in the Diana (G1). Bucharest (Victory Gallop) and Desert Breeze (Deputy Minister) are my picks in the 8TH race. I'll use Flower Alley (Distorted Humor) and Reverberate (Thunder Gulch) in the Jim Dandy (G2), and Massoud (Mutakkdim) in the finale.
My Pick 4 is: 3 with 5, 8 with 1, 2 with 1.
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