February 4, 2023

Saratoga Notebook

Last updated: 8/28/14 1:55 PM


AUGUST 29, 2014

by John Mucciolo

A huge weekend of racing, led by the Travers Stakes, topped the action at
Saratoga Race Course.

Travers S. (G1)
: Magalen O Bryant’s V.E. DAY (English Channel) slowly
began getting closer inside the final furlong and got up by a nose in the final
jump to post the upset under a fine ride by Javier Castellano. The rapidly
improving colt finished up 10 furlongs on the fast main strip in 2:20 4/5 for
trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who also saddled the runner-up.

King’s Bishop S. (G1)
: Alex and Joann Lieblong’s THE BIG BEAST (Yes
It’s True) wore down the clear leader inside the final sixteenth to post his
first graded tally for conditioner Tony Dutrow. The surging sophomore colt was a
neck clear on the line, stopping the teletimer in 1:22 1/5 for seven panels on
the fast dirt under Castellano.

Personal Ensign S. (G1)
: Juddmonte Farms’ homebred CLOSE HATCHES
(First Defence) took a nice lead on the backstretch and gave her foes little
chance thereafter under Joel Rosario, drawing off by five convincing lengths.
The Bill Mott trainee went nine panels on the muddy, sealed main oval in 1:50

Ballerina S. (G1)
: Mary and Chester Broman’s homebred ARTEMIS AGROTERA
(Roman Ruler) tracked in second to the top of the lane, took over readily in
early stretch and cruised home a facile 6 1/2-length winner for trainer Mike
Hushion. The multiple Grade 1 heroine sped seven-eighths on the fast main
surface in a snappy 1:21 4/5 under Rajiv Maragh.

Ballston Spa H. (G2)
: Phipps Stable’s ABACO (Giant’s Causeway) sat in
last to the top of the lane, moved widest of all in the final furlong and got up
by a neck late beneath Jose Ortiz. The Shug McGaughey trainee went 1 1/16 miles
on the good turf oval in 1:42 3/5.

Track Stats

A total of 65 races were held at the Saratoga Springs, New York venue, with
favorites winning at a 28 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining
for 54 percent of the wins during the week. From 39 races on the main oval, nine
animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (23 percent), while five of the 26 races on
the lawn were taken all the way on the front (19 percent).

Eight of the nine wire-to-wire winners on the dirt came Thursday and Friday,
when the main surface had some moisture in it. Just one led all the way from 19
tries during the other four days of racing.

All five turf wire jobs occurred in route races — three on the inner and two
the outer.

Trainer Chad Brown had another solid week and Todd Pletcher did not, and the
latter’s lead in the trainers’ race has dwindled to four. The stretch run is
down to this pair. Kiaran McLaughlin, whom we have touted for a few weeks, had
another strong week and was a few head bobs away from a huge one. This barn is
winning at a 22 percent clip here.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens continues to fly high at The Spa, winning at a
sensational 39 percent rate. His fantastic line reads 23-9-4-2 and he saddled
the one-two finishers in the signature race of the meeting.

Irad Ortiz Jr. might not reel in Javier Castellano in the jockeys’ race, with
eight wins to make up, but he surely will be in the top two barring something
unforeseen. His 21 percent win rate in superb for the  demanding meeting.
He has booted home horses to a total of more than $4 million in purse money.

Meet Totals

RACES:   348
DIRT:   190
TURF:   158
FAVORITES:   117 (36 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   81 (22 percent)
TURF WIRE:   34 (24 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   51 (30 percent)


Wednesday (8/20)

7TH — KENZADARGENT (Kendargent) was well backed in her U.S. debut and the
sophomore filly responded with a fine closing run to top this field going away.
We’re not sure what the Chad Brown pupil defeated in this spot, but it was a
nice start to her stateside campaign.

8TH — Christophe Clement’s aptly named SARATOGA DREAMER (Elusive Quality)
ranged up into contention approaching the turn for home and exploded late in a
powerful debut score on the lawn under Irad Ortiz Jr. The well-meant colt really
impressed us and we think he has a big future with steady development.

Friday (8/22)

3RD — MEWANNAROSE (Bwana Charlie) couldn’t catch the sharp winner but
finished up well to be a clear second on this day, his first run since May. The
Chris Englehart trainee could be very tough next out with even slight

7TH — GAP YEAR (Bernardini) broke slowly and had a lot of ground to make up
in the lane after cornering extremely wide, but this first timer almost pulled
it off with a huge rally, finishing just a nose and head shy of winning in this
fine debut. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained juvenile filly should be graduating
next time out and could be a very good one with more seasoning.

Saturday (8/23)

2ND — IMPERIA (Medaglia d’Oro) was a bit unlucky not to have won at first
asking in this turf debut as he just fell short behind a loose on the lead
winner who had everything his own way. The McLaughlin trainee made a bold late
run and should be graduating before long after being more than three lengths
clear of third. The colt got his five five-sixteenths in a wicked :28 4/5!

10TH — THE BIG BEAST looked to always have this race measured and we think
he could be any kind going forward. The sophomore appeared to have more to offer
at the end of seven furlongs, so additional ground may prove very doable, and he
rates as a very exciting prospect.

11TH — We didn’t think the dominant score by ARTEMIS AGROTERA was a fluke by
any means in this one and she could be among the top few one-turn distaffers in
training. She made short work of a very good field today.

Sunday (8/24)

2ND — We thought the Richard Violette-trained UPSTART (Flatter) was
especially impressive in running down a very clear one late to remain unbeaten.
The New York-bred juvenile finished up in a solid final time and showed a ton of
heart — and is reportedly going to tackle open foes next out.

Monday (8/25)

5TH — PUCA (Big Brown) always looked to have horse on the backstretch and
nearing the top of the lane, and the Bill Mott trainee finished with excellent
energy in finishing a clear third in a tough field. We expect this juvenile
filly to continue to improve and be a useful sort for sure.

9TH — FREE AS A BIRD (Hard Spun) makes this list yet again after another
tally when it looked as she had no chance, only to fly late and get up. The Ian
Wilkes charge seems to know exactly where the wire is and we will never feel
comfortable betting against this gem of a mare.

A Look Ahead

A huge closing weekend is upon us at Saratoga, with eight graded races on tap
through Labor Day. Saturday will play host to a quartet of graded races in the
Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward Stakes; Grade 1, $500,000 Forego Stakes; Grade 2,
$300,000 Prioress Stakes; and the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap.

The Sunday card is led by the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway Stakes and it is
accompanied by the Grade 3, $150,000 Glens Falls Stakes. The Holiday program
features the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes and the Grade 3, $300,000 Saranac

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