Weather leads to a fabulous Week 2…

The sun shone proudly every day at old Saratoga during Week 2 and not one turf race was transferred to the main track and if you know anything about the Spa and the shaky weather, that is an accomplishment.  There were two Grade I stakes races, two Grade II stakes races, and a number of strong performances.  Let’s take a look at some of the stakes races:


When can a win be very, very ugly?  Cocoa Beach’s narrow tally in this event qualifies as she was fully stretched to get up over a 16-1 shot in an effort that looked nothing like her best performances of 2008.  She may only be rounding into form right now but there has to be some concern about whether she’s just not the same.  Here’s to hoping her legs will get back under her soon.


The NY breds were on full display in this sprint as Driven by Success was considered a cinch to get trainer Bruce Levine off the duck.  He went full throttle for 6 furlongs as the pace was absolutely frenetic but unfortunately the distance was 6 1/2 and he was overtaken in deep stretch by Law Enforcement.  Congrats to trainer Mark Hennig for getting his first win of the meet.  He enjoys the “cheese dip” at Leon’s as much as I do.


One of the more interesting stakes races of the Saratoga meet is the John’s Call as it is named for one of the most admirable racehorses to grace the NY circuit.  The distance is gigantic but quite fitting for a horse like John’s Call, who got better as the races got longer.  This year’s rendition was an incredible betting affair as favoritism was well spread.  Solitaire, fresh off a win against N1X allowance company at Woodbine, surged late to get up under a flawless ride by Julien Leparoux.  Does anyone ride the weeds better than Leparoux?


Had it really been since Harmony Lodge’s win in the Ballerina that Richie Migliore won a Grade I at the Spa?  That seemed to be inaccurate but he has a more recent GI triumph at the Spa after guiding Flashing to a win from just off the pace.  The stories in this event were the dull performance from a seemingly lethargic Cat Moves and the slow final time.  On the more positive side, the win earned Godolphin a 2nd Grade I of the young meet and proved that their stable must be considered on its game for the next four weeks.


Bullsbay benefited from a perfect pace setup and a heady ride by Jeremy Rose as he inhaled the embattled pacesetters as the field turned for home and had plenty left to hold off Macho Again.  He is a consistent animal who is obviously better on the dirt but realistically he is not a Grade I horse on the dirt and the strength of this race was incredibly suspect.  Hats off to Commentator who was a game third after participating in the scorching pace.  Let’s hope he enjoys a happy and safe retirement.


The biggest question that had to be answered in here was if Game Face’s game could travel.  She answered the questions with a respectable pace-stalking victory.  She is not flashy and seems to be beating up on the same soft competition each time she goes to the post but there’s something to be said for winning.  Look for her to go off among the favorites in the Ballerina pending the health of Indian Blessing.


This field was absolutely loaded and the participants basically ensured a breakneck pace and a hot final time.  The clocking of 1:08.69 was over two full seconds faster than Game Face’s Honorable Miss as Fabulous Strike stalked the hot pace, collared Go Go Shoot and edged clear late.  He is simply the best horse in America going six furlongs on the dirt.  He will not be in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint but when our west coast friends ramble on about Zensational, they must think about this guy’s prowess going short.


What was a forgettable race on paper turned out that way as one of the worst 3/5 favorites of the meet was off the board.  Communique, a confirmed plodder with very few accomplishments, was hammered down when two scratches reduced this field to six.  She received an incredible pace setup but flattened out late and couldn’t get to Queen of Hearts and Zaskar.  The former proved best by a narrow margin.  What race was Queen of Hearts coming out of?  That’s right, she had just broken her maiden at Belmont Park.

Leading Jockeys:

Alan Garcia                         14
Ramon Dominguez          14
Julien Leparoux               11
Edgar Prado                       10
John Velazquez                10

Leading Trainers:

Todd Pletcher                    8
Linda Rice                           6
William Mott                      5
Kiaran McLaughlin          5
Nick Zito                              5

Three Thumbs UP:

1.) Billy Badgett- There is always at least one “small-time” barn that does well at the Spa and Badgett scored his fourth win of the meet with Imandra on Monday afternoon.  His ROI is also gigantic at the meet given scores by Retriever and Exclusive Scheme

2.) Bobby Flay- Even though publicity stunts can rarely go bad, his call of the 8th race on Sunday could have been a disaster.  He held his own and called a tight photo.  You also have to love a celebrity who shows up on Opening Day 30 minutes prior to the first and immediately sits down in his box with an open DRF.

3.) Godolphin- What got into the blue?  After a forgettable summer downstate they are off to a rolling start with Grade I wins by Seventh Street and Flashing, a stakes win by Cocoa Beach and a rousing return to the races by Girolamo.

Three Thumbs DOWN:

1.) Bruce Levine- Granted his record has been poor at Saratoga for years but Levine has been particularly wretched at this meet and through the last four months for that matter.  He seemed destined to rebound off of a terrible Belmont where he finished 9-82.  His 16 losses at this meet include 7 who were 5-1 or less.

2.) Arlington Park- Were they trying to run races on top of the Spa races on Saturday?  Churchill Downs Inc. does not publish handle figures but I have to imagine AP running five consecutive races within two minutes of a race at Saratoga hurt their handle.

3.) Benny the Bull- ‘Twas fun while it lasted, Benny.  The most accomplished son of Lucky Lionel is clearly past his prime and didn’t come back from his extended layoff with the same proficiency he had last year.  Here’s to hoping he’s sent back to stud or is placed where he can be successful.

The great thing about being through two weeks is that there are still four more at the Spa.  Here is a replay of last year’s Sword Dancer as this year’s version is set to feature Grand Couturier going for his 3rd straight win in this race while Better Talk Now attempts to become the oldest horse to win a Grade I.


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