Irish invader State of Rest sprang a 21-1 surprise in Saturday’s $1 million Saratoga Derby (G1), while the other two turf stakes on Whitney Day went to favorites War Like Goddess and Flavius.
Saratoga Derby (G1)
Trainer Joseph O’Brien has a penchant for upstaging father Aidan, and the wunderkind accomplished the feat again here. State of Rest didn’t have quite the resume of his fellow European shippers, led by 1.15-1 favorite Bolshoi Ballet. But the Ballydoyle hotpot stalled in the stretch as State of Rest powered to a new career high and paid $44.20.
Bolshoi Ballet broke alertly and took up a forward spot, unlike in his Belmont Derby (G1) score. The favorite tracked pacesetter Cellist through a swift opening quarter that took its toll. The chart reports the initial fraction as :21.96, while Trakus recorded :22.66 on the firm Mellon turf.
Cellist continued to carve out splits of :47.54 and 1:11.88, and braced for Bolshoi Ballet’s challenge swinging for home. That challenge didn’t materialize as much as favorite backers hoped.
Meanwhile, State of Rest had enjoyed a textbook trip with Hall of Famer John Velazquez. Brushing the gate in a slightly tardy start was his only miscue, as the Teme Valley runner was well placed in midpack on the inside. Angling into the clear down the lane, State of Rest surged past Bolshoi Ballet and Cellist to finish 1 3/16 miles in 1:53.35.
“The horse is actually a very, very nice horse,” Velazquez told NYRA publicity, “and he was not really paying attention out in the post parade. So I was a little bit worried that his mind wasn’t on the business, and that’s what he did. He didn’t break very well. I didn’t panic. I just saved all the ground, looking for somewhere to go down the stretch and when I got him out, he responded really good.”
“I thought Johnny gave him a fantastic ride,” Joseph O’Brien said. “The pace was pretty strong and he got him comfortable and came home strong. We knew he would like the firm turf and getting more distance today.”
French import Soldier Rising stayed on strongly on the inside to place second, a length adrift of State of Rest, in a fine prep for the Sept. 18 Jockey Club Derby. Another 2 1/2 lengths back in third came Du Jour, who appeared to be scrimmaging between foes in upper stretch.
Bolshoi Ballet flattened out in fourth, trailed by Godolphin’s Secret Protector, who was never in position after a troubled start; Cellist; Palazzi; Yes This Time; Irish shipper Cadillac, who tired after chasing the pace; King Fury, who was using this as an ad hoc stepping stone to the Travers (G1); and Flashiest.
State of Rest’s stakes breakthrough boosted his bankroll to $592,679 from an 8-2-1-2 line. Third in last fall’s Champagne (G2), he was fifth in both the Tyros (G3) and Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) as a juvenile. State of Rest returned with a hard-charging, traffic-compromised third in the June 26 Celebration S. at the Curragh.
“He was unlucky not to win his last race,” O’Brien noted. “He ran really well and we knew that getting more distance today would suit him well.
“We weren’t sure how he would handle this level and he had never been around these turns before, but he handled everything really well.”
The Starspangledbanner colt inherits stamina from his dam, Repose. The Quiet American mare is a half-sister to stakes scorer Prince Alzain, Group 3-placed stakes vixen Echo River, and multiple Grade 1-winning steeplechaser Spy in the Sky.
Bred by Tinnakill Bloodstock in Ireland, State of Rest twice sold at Tattersalls. The bay went for €45,000 as a December weanling and €60,000 as a yearling the following October.
Glens Falls S. (G2)
George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess continued her ascent in the turf distaff ranks with an emphatic, last-to-first performance in the $250,000 Glens Falls S. (G2). The 0.85-1 favorite picked up right where she left off in the spring when capturing the March 27 Orchid (G3) and April 23 Bewitch (G3).
Freshened by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott with an eye toward the fall majors, War Like Goddess was confidently handled by regular rider Julien Leparoux. The English Channel filly bided her time at the rear as frontrunner Dalika opened up a big lead. After failing to relax through splits of :24.80, :49.05, 1:13.82, and 1:38.84, Dalika was swamped on the final turn.
War Like Goddess took the overland route, but ground loss couldn’t make a dent in her superiority. Ambling up nonchalantly, she was just nudged to put the race away in midstretch. War Like Goddess drew off by 3 1/4 lengths and clocked 1 1/2 miles on the firm inner course in 2:27.55.
“She gave some kick in the end,” Leparoux said. “I think today she broke good. We got bumped, so we were last because of the little bump in the beginning. But she still had the kick, so that was nice to see. I think she’s going improve for it.
“She’s very nice. I think she can endure any kind of ground and even when she was pulling a bit on me early on, she’s fresh. She had a very nice kick, so I’m very excited to be able to ride her.”
My Sister Nat, last year’s Glens Falls runner-up, had to settle for second again. Temple City Terror closed another neck back in third. Luck Money, Dalika, Orglandes, and Call Me Love rounded out the order of finish.
Now 5-for-6 with $383,684 in earnings, War Like Goddess sustained her lone loss when fifth in Gulfstream Park’s The Very One (G3). The four-year-old was making her stakes debut off a layoff in that Feb. 27 affair, after smart maiden and allowance tallies at Churchill Downs last fall. She’s since won three straight graded races, and bound for a Grade 1 tilt in the Sept. 4 Flower Bowl (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
War Like Goddess has come a long way since her cheap sales prices. The Calumet Farm-bred brought a mere $1,200 as a Keeneland November weanling, and RNA’d for $1,000 as a September yearling at that venue. She ultimately sold for $30,000 as an OBS June two-year-old.
The stakes action kicked off in the $120,000 Lure S. on the Mellon course, where Juddmonte homebred Flavius ruled in wire-to-wire fashion by 1 1/2 lengths. The Chad Brown trainee inherited last-minute favoritism after fancied stablemate Value Proposition dislodged his left front shoe behind the gate. Brown opted to let Value Proposition run with three shoes, but NYRA officials announced that he would be competing for purse money only.
As a result, Flavius replaced him as the 1.35-1 favorite in the suddenly reconfigured betting. Sent straight to the front by Flavien Prat, the War Front ridgling got away with cozy fractions of :24.52 and :48.99. Tell Your Daddy tried to apply pressure through six furlongs in 1:13.25, but Flavius kicked away turning into the stretch and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.53.
The top three remained the same at every call. Tell Your Daddy held second by the same 1 1/2-length margin from Value Proposition. Dreams of Tomorrow fared best of the closers, rallying to finish fourth across the wire (and round out the trifecta as the third betting interest).
Delaware, Brown’s third runner, also passed a couple of rivals to place fifth. Next came Fighting Seabee and Temple. Several scratched – Ballagh Rocks, who’s cross-entered to Sunday’s Oceanport S. at Monmouth; Midnight Tea Time; Guildsman (by the veterinarian); and Juddmonte’s Tacitus, the main-track-only entrant.
Flavius was notching his third stakes victory, following the 2018 Trigo S. at Leopardstown during his Irish career and last season’s Tourist Mile in a course-record 1:32.21 at Kentucky Downs. His scorecard of 12-4-3-1, $691,173, also includes placings in the 2020 Seabiscuit H. (G2) and First Defence S. as well as a runner-up effort in the May 22 Seek Again S. last out. Flavius isn’t far off Grade 1 level, having finished fifth in last fall’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and a close fourth in the March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1).
“This has a been a horse that we brought over here with expectations that he could move up to the next level, and he’s gotten close to this level,” Juddmonte’s Garrett O’Rourke said.
The Kentucky-bred six-year-old is out of the Grade 2-winning Dynaformer mare Starformer, who is also responsible for Florida Oaks (G3) third Oyster Box. Starformer is herself a daughter of Group 1 victress Etoile Montante, from the family of such current headliners as Country Grammer, Bonny South, and Obligatory, fifth in Saturday’s Test (G1).