by Teresa Genaro
Trainer Chad Brown has already hit a couple of milestones at Saratoga Race Course, which sits about 20 miles from the town in which he grew up, Mechanicville. Two years ago, he got his 1,000th winner at the track where he spent summers as a kid; he also set a new record for wins, getting 40 at the most competitive meet in the country.
Last year, Todd Pletcher tied that total, but in the 6TH Race on September 1, Brown reclaimed the record, getting his 41st win at Saratoga 2018 when second-time starter Spirit Animal won a maiden special weight by 1 1/4 lengths.
Spirit Animal is owned by Klaravich Stables, which will claim its first Saratoga owner’s title this summer. The nom de course of Seth Klarman, Klaravich has 18 wins heading into Saratoga last two days; runner-up Michael Dubb has half that.
“Chad’s amazing,” said Klarman, standing in the winner’s circle watching his trainer get engulfed by reporters. “It’s great to be in relationship with him here, and it’s very exciting to be doing well at this meet.”
Spirit Animal broke from post 3 under Javier Castellano and raced three wide heading into the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile contest on the firm Mellon turf course. They settled in fourth a couple of lengths off the lead heading up the backstretch, moving up to join the leaders coming around the far turn. After briefly dropping back, the dark bay colt kicked in again, coming into the stretch, still three wide, on even terms with pacesetters Hubba Bubba and Winning Factor.
The latter quickly folded, but Hubba Bubba remained a threat inside the sixteenth-pole, when Spirit Animal drew away for the record-setting win.
Klarman purchased the son of Lemon Drop Kid for $120,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, on the advice of Brown and bloodstock agent Mike Ryan. Out of the Bernstein mare Iconic Spirit, he was bred in Kentucky by Caldara Farm Inc.
A host of Brown’s friends and family converged on the winner’s circle, including the trainer’s parents, Jerry and Patti Brown.
“They’ve been big supporters of mine,” Chad Brown said. “They got me into this, taking me to the picnic area many years ago. They’ve really been a mainstay every day of the meet here, being with me and being around my staff. We’re all just a big family and they are very excited as well.”
Win #41 came a day after his father hit a milestone himself: on Friday, Jerry hit the five-year anniversary in his recovery from cancer.
Although a win in a graded stakes race – the Brown-trained Raging Bull captured the Saranac (G3) three races later – might have provided another level of celebration, it is perhaps fitting that the milestone score came with a two-year-old.
“We try to learn every year when we exit this meet how we can do better,” Brown said, “and two-year-olds are really the key. If you can get some of them ready to win some two-year-old races, you’re most likely going to have a good meet.”
“Good” may be a bit of an understatement. As of Friday midcard, Brown’s winning percentage at the meet was a stout 28 percent; he was running at 62 percent of in-the-money finishes, and his meet-leading $3.8 million in earnings this summer is more than double that of the trainer behind him, Todd Pletcher with $1.7 million.
“You have to work for every win,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter what the odds are or how prepared you are. There are a lot of people prepared, and a lot of horses prepared; to win is really hard.
“That makes it even more meaningful, knowing how difficult it is.”