On paper, Sunday’s $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) figured to have at least an honest pace with a couple of forward types. But that’s not how the race unfolded at Saratoga. When Someliketithotbrown was handed a cozy lead, the 8-1 shot did not miss his opportunity to wire the inner turf feature.
The 2-1 Halladay, who had shown high speed at Gulfstream Park this spring, was expected to show more early zip with Luis Saez. Instead, he deferred to Somelikeithotbrown and sat in second. The tactic backfired as the leader got away with slow fractions on the firm course, and Halladay could not lift enough when it turned into a dash for home.
The plot twist might have arisen since Halladay’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, had voiced concerns about how speed was faring on the turf. That angle was not lost on winning trainer Mike Maker either, but he didn’t want to tinker with Somelikeithotbrown’s preferred style.
“It did,” Maker said of the front-running concern crossing his mind, “but you have to let him run his race. I thought his last race (a third in the Fort Marcy [G2]), he went a little too quick and opened up a little too much. But I thought it was a very credible race.”
This time teaming up with jockey Tyler Gaffalione, Somelikeithotbrown posted splits of :24.79 and :49.08, began to increase the tempo through 6 furlongs in 1:12.43, and kept quickening to keep his foes at bay down the stretch. The New York-bred reeled off his final sixteenth in :5.86 to prevail by a length, clocking 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.32.
Maker furnished the exacta as Mr Dumas, a fellow 8-1 chance, snared second in a blanket finish for the minors.
“I was very high on this horse and it looked like he showed up this afternoon as well,” Maker said.
While the Maker runners were overlooked pre-race, the Chad Brown duo of Good Governance and Olympico had attracted more attention, but neither was helped by their specific circumstances.
Good Governance, the 8-5 favorite, was somewhat inconvenienced in third. The lightly raced import had been parked just behind Somelikeithotbrown for the duration and found himself trapped on the inside. Although seeing some daylight late, Good Governance might have fared better with more room to maneuver.
Halladay was another head away in fourth, nipping Olympico who gained ground overall but couldn’t improve position in fifth. The other deep closer, Seismic Wave, trailed at every call.
“I was a little surprised down the backside when I was all by myself,” Gaffalione said. “I thought there would be a little more pressure, but I was happy with where I was and how he was running. All the credit to Mike and his team, they had him ready today.
“Every time I reached back and threw a cross and when I got into him a little bit, he kept on responding and giving me more, so I was pretty confident coming to the wire.”
The only hiccup came after the race, when Somelikeithotbrown lost his footing coming back onto the main track and unseated Gaffalione. The outrider caught the winner and escorted him to the winner’s circle, where Gaffalione eventually made his way as well.
Campaigned by Skychai Racing and David Koenig, Somelikeithotbrown sports a mark of 13-5-3-2, $546,838. The bay burst onto the Spa scene as a 2-year-old in 2018, romping in a state-bred maiden on the Mellon turf and placing second as the 11-10 favorite in the With Anticipation (G3). Also runner-up in the Pilgrim (G3) at Belmont, Somelikeithotbrown was a gritty third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The following winter, Somelikeithotbrown took his game to Turfway’s Polytrack and dominated the 2019 John Battaglia Memorial and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). His Kentucky Derby (G1) possibilities ended with a fourth in the Blue Grass (G2), which he exited with an injury that shelved him for the rest of the season.
Somelikeithotbrown resurfaced early this year, winning at Turfway in his second start back and closing for second in the Mar. 14 Kentucky Cup Classic. Not seen again until the June 6 Fort Marcy on Belmont’s inner turf, he finished third and improved for that outing here.
Bred by Hot Pink Stables and Sand Dollar Stables, the cleverly-named 4-year-old colt is by Big Brown and out of Marilyn Monroan, a Tapit mare from the further family of champions Stevie Wonderboy and Big Blue Kitten.