Crazy Saturday, huge carryover highlight Week 3

There are two feelings that strike at the core of horseplayers when the Saratoga meet reaches it’s mid-point.  The first is that there are still three weeks remaining in this terrific meet as only 5 of the 15 Grade I races on the schedule have been run thus far.  On the flip-side, the greatest six weeks in American horse racing is already half over.

We’ve been privy to some terrific efforts thus far, Forever Together’s 2nd consecutive Diana Handicap, Quality Road’s sensational return from a huge layoff, Linda Rice’s incredible run with 10 victories at the young meet, and Fabulous Strike making his Spa debut a winning one just to name a few.  What’s in store?  That’s the fun part.  Let’s take a look at some of the stakes races from Week 3.

NYSS Cab Calloway

The race itself had a tough act to follow as bugler Sam Grossman and track announcer Tom Durkin partnered for a rousing rendition of Cab Calloway’s hit Minnie the Moocher.  On the track it was Uncle T Seven who exhibited a solid turn of foot while enjoying a perfect trip under a flawless ride by Julien Leparoux.  His trainer, John Morrison, was winless at the meet coming into this event, so it was a welcome victory for the son of Freud.
BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 83

NYSS Statue of Liberty

It’s Linda Rice’s world and the rest of us are just taking up space.  When Mother Russia wired the field in the Statue of Liberty Rice earned her 2nd win of the day and her 9th of the then 14 day old meet.  She is on a tear the likes of which even Pletcher and Asmussen would be jealous.  Ramon Dominguez showed in this event why he is so tough when he’s on his game as this daughter of Mayakovsky seemed beaten in mid-stretch only to show resiliency in the waning stages. 
BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 80

National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame

On a day where the newest inducees into the Hall of Fame were honored, a Hall of Fame trainer showed further that time has not taken away his ability to win big races.  Trainer Bill Mott was a whisker away from going 1-2 in this affair as Courageous Cat earned his third consecutive victory in here while Mott picked up his 6th win in the Hall of Fame (previously known as the Gallant Man).  Am I crazy for thinking Courageous Cat is a player in a race like the Breeders’ Cup Mile?  He has shown an ability to stalk the pace and finish, he’s a full brother to After Market, who had incredible success on the turf courses out west, and is peaking at the right time. 
BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 99

Sword Dancer

On a day that had already seen an odds-on and seemingly “can’t lose” favorite go down, a pair of $50 dollar horses in back-to-back races and a grand total of one winning favorite, it can’t be considered surprising that Telling scored an upset win in here.  He was an unheralded mid-west invader who was fresh off a decent effort in the Arlington Handicap (an early nominee for key race status).  A picture perfect ride by Javier Castellano, who can ride the weeds with the best of them, led Telling into the winner’s circle.  Excuse the public if they remember longer the gallant effort of Better Talk Now who loomed boldly and stretched the eventual winner to the wire at the ripe old age of ten.  It’s an understatement to say that racing could use more horses like Better Talk Now.
BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 101

West Point Handicap

It’d be hard to find a better NY bred turfer than Banrock over the past few years.  He was fully stretched to get his 2nd consecutive West Point as he made a bold move from off the pace and caught Pennington.  He certainly didn’t embarass himself against open company earlier this year and he rewarded his connections’ prudent decision of putting him back in restricted company with a solid win.
BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 96

Troy

It’s Linda Rice’s world and we’re all just taking up space, Part II.  Awakino Cat became the first two-time stakes winner of the meet as he took the Troy after scoring in the Quick Call on day 2 of the meet.  He once again enjoyed a flawless trip under a perfect ride by jockey Alan Garcia.  Does it ever surprise anyone when Linda Rice wins a turf sprint.  Not me.

Leading Jockeys

Alan Garcia                 22

Ramon Dominguez   18

Kent Desormeaux     16

Julien Leparoux         13

John Velazquez           13

Leading Trainers

Linda Rice                      10

Todd Pletcher               9

William Mott                 9

Kiaran McLaughlin     7

Barclay Tagg                  6

Three Thumbs UP:

1.) NYRA- Click here to read about NYRA’s plan to bring Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta together in the Beldame on October 3.  I know more people than myself are a tad interested in seeing Zenyatta round those sweeping turns at Belmont.

2.) Jean-Luc Samyn- $50 winners on Friday and Saturday for the oldest rider on the NYRA circuit rejuvenated him for the meet’s 2nd half.

3.) Better Talk Now- I mentioned it already but hats off to the old-timer.  His only Sword Dancer victory came in 2004 but for more than a moment in the stretch drive it looked as if was destined for another.  He’s clearly turned back Father Time and is set for another opportunity to become racing’s oldest GI winner in the Joe Hirsch at Belmont in October.

Three Thumbs DOWN:

1.) Norberto Arroyo, Jr.- Click here to read about the troubled jockey’s latest transgressions that look as if they will end his career.  It seems as if his personal demons are going to do him in because he never lacked the talent to ride on the best circuit in America.

2.) Grand Couturier- One of the most opportunistic horses around was beaten rather handily in the Sword Dancer even with his ground-saving trip. Sure, he was behind a wall of horses turning for home, but there was plenty of time left when he had a clear path and he had no punch.

3.) Bruce Levine- I know, I know, it seems as if he can’t get a break from me in this blog.  However, Levine is struggling so terribly at this meet.  He needn’t be reminded of his horrendous record but his 0-fer streak is up to 32.

With half the meet behind us, let’s hand out some mid-meet awards:

Most Outstanding Jockey- Alan Garcia.  He’s ridden with a purpose all meet and seems poised to repeat as leading rider.

Most Outstanding Trainer- Linda Rice.  How can’t she get this honor with 10 wins and a strike rate of 40%?

Best 2YO- Hot Dixie Chick.  I think it’s safe to say no one will match her opening day effort in the Schuylerville.

Best 2YO (non-stakes performance)- Dublin.  He won a salty opening Saturday MSW and has a bright future.

Early Prediction for Horse of the Meet- Quality Road.  Let’s just say I think any of his potential Travers rivals are in big trouble.

This Saturday’s featured event is the Alabama, which was an absolutely tremendous race in 2008.  Here’s a look to whet your appetite:

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