Saratoga’s opening day festivities had a California flavor as West Coast shippers won both graded stakes on Thursday. After the Doug O’Neill-trained Comical prevailed in the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3), Ben Cecil sent out Listing to lift the $100,000 Quick Call (G3).
Comical was dispatched as the 3-1 second choice in light of her six-length debut romp at Santa Anita. Stablemate Shippy, a new recruit to the barn following a 10-length Laurel conquest, rated as the even-money favorite. The two nearly pulled off the exacta for O’Neill, until Todd Pletcher’s Kiss the Girl split them – and instead rounded out an exacta for sire Into Mischief.
Under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Comical stalked early leader Integral through splits of :22.54 and :46.24 on the muddy, sealed track. The rail-drawn Shippy, who was bumped and forced in by Integral at the start, accordingly found herself chasing a couple of lengths further back in fourth.
As Comical ranged up on the outside, and Shippy advanced on the inside, Integral was surrounded entering the stretch and beaten inside the final furlong. Comical soon forged ahead of Shippy, only to find Kiss the Girl threaten in the last yards. Never out of striking range, Kiss the Girl hit her best stride a bit too late.
Comical completed six furlongs in 1:11.66 while a neck up on Kiss the Girl. Shippy was another half-length adrift in third. The trifecta pulled 7 1/4 lengths clear of first-time starter Buxom Beast, who rallied from last to collar Integral for fourth. Lulu’s Roadrunner, His Glory, and Lady Fatima rounded out the order under the wire. Aurelia Garland, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, was scratched.
“She moved fast out of the gate and attended the pace and went forward,” Castellano recapped. “Turning for home, I was able to save a little ground, and I’m very lucky she’s a good enough filly to win the race, because the other horse was coming at her.”
Kiss the Girl got a bit lost, jockey John Velazquez reported.
“She ran in spots, but when they opened up a length and a half, she didn’t know what to do,” the Hall of Famer said. “She was running and stopping. She was just green today. When she won at Belmont, she was right next to the other horse the whole way around. She was more focused than she was today.”
Comical is campaigned by a partnership including the NHL’s Erik Johnson (ERJ Racing), Gary Barber, Dave Kenney, and Madaket Stables. Barber and Madaket purchased their interests in the wake of her Santa Anita premiere May 26.
Two-for-two with $121,500 in earnings, Comical was a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling acquisition by David Meah, as agent for Johnson. The bay was bred in Kentucky by Susan Casner, and her dam, the stakes-placed Tiznow mare Kayce Ace, is a full sister to multiple Grade 1-winning sire Colonel John as well as Grade 1 performer-turned-hurdler Mr. Hot Stuff.
Reddam Racing’s homebred Listing completed the California double as the 7-5 favorite in the Quick Call, coping with bumps at the break and a Mellon turf that turned yielding thanks to afternoon rain. Jockey Joel Rosario patiently gathered him near the back of the pack, angled out in the stretch, and got the seam en route to his third win on the card.
The 14-1 Neverland Rock, who had spurted clear of early pacesetter Abyssinian in the stretch, could not hang on as Listing mowed him down. Flashing home late to grab second was Elektronic. Last most of the way after the bumpy start, the 11-1 shot gained traction belatedly and missed by a half-length.
Sombeyay, last year’s Sanford (G3) hero trying turf for the first time, checked in another 2 1/2 lengths back in fourth. The filly Abyssinian retreated to fifth, followed by Fully Loaded and 5-2 second choice Call Paul, who tracked early but gave way in his turf debut. Four were withdrawn – Dunph, Gladiator King, Mount Travers, and the main-track-only Releasethethunder.
“The turf is soft but he was handling it fine,” Rosario said of the winner.
“He has speed and he broke sharp and it looked for a second that he wanted to be where he was. So, I just wanted to hold him together and try to move at the right time, and he did. I got in between horses and he kicked home, and that was good.”
Elektronic took longer to find his way on the going.
“We broke well but the first quarter, he didn’t handle the soft turf too good,” jockey Jose Lezcano said. “I struggled a little bit to put him back on the bridle, but finally when I did he gave me a good kick. He’s a nice horse.”
A four-time stakes winner, Listing captured last summer’s I’m Smokin S. in his career debut at Del Mar. The California-bred was well beaten in his next two, the Champagne (G1) and Golden State Juvenile, and subsequently found his niche as a turf sprinter. The bay sports a mark of 9-4-1-1, $280,400, reflecting victories in January’s Cal Cup Turf Sprint and the June 9 Desert Code S. He was also third back on dirt for the Echo Eddie and a close fourth when trying a grassy mile in the Silky Sullivan.
By Square Eddie and out of the winning Yonaguska mare Marquis Diamond, Listing is a full brother to stakes scorers More Complexity and Green with Eddie.
Listing added to a special day for the Cecil family. His trainer is a nephew of the late, great Sir Henry Cecil, who was honored by a listed stakes during Thursday’s opener at Newmarket’s July Festival.