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Sep 11, 2009

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The greatest meeting in racing has finally come to an end. The six weeks of racing at Saratoga ended on September 7th, Labor Day and racing now moves to Belmont for the Fall Championship Meeting which runs from September 11th- October 25th.  

            The final weekend of Saratoga was a real success as the great three year old filly RACHEL ALEXANDRA graced Saratoga with her presence in the Grade I Woodward Handicap for older horses. RACHEL ALEXANDRA as she has done in the past took on the boys and this time older horses in the 1 and 1/8th miles race which carried a purse of $750,000, raised because of her presence. With eight horses entering the gate and seven betting entrants “RACHEL” was still sent off as the heavy 1-5 favorite. Breaking from post position three she was sent up towards the lead but was quickly challenged by DA’ TARA the 2008 Belmont Stakes winner. After disposing of that rival past a solid half in 46:2, she then took a bit of pressure from PAST THE POINT, who was second to the great CURLIN in last year’s running of the Woodward. Again the filly put away that rival, past the ¾ mark in a very quick 1:10:2. As they approached the top of the stretch, BULLSBAY, the Whitney hero took his shot but couldn’t get by, but deep closer MACHO AGAIN was flying down the center of the track, getting to the neck of RACHEL ALEXANDRA but he couldn’t get by coming up a head short in racehorse time of 1:48:1. “Rachel the great” as track announcer Tom Durkin called her has now beaten the boys three times this year and now has beaten older males. The thought is that she might not race again this year; she has had some hard races and the time might be now to give her a rest. However, nothing has been decided so we will have to wait and see. Her trainer Steve Asmussen and her owner Jess Jackson will see how she comes out of the race before any decision is made.

            The Grade I Forego was also run that day a race earlier and PYRO, one of the top three year olds last year came from well back and overcame trouble to score by a half length over the 6-5 KODIAK KOWBOY. READY’S ECHO, another who had some traffic trouble finished just another half length back in third. 

            On the last Sunday of the meeting the two year old fillies were on display in the Grade I Spinaway run at seven furlongs with a purse of $300,000. HOT DIXIE CHICK another 1-5 shot from the Steve Asmussen barn owned by Jess Jackson’s wife Barbara Banke’s Grace Stables broke from post one in a field of eight horses. After settling in second behind longshot BICKERSONS while still down on the rail, she came through at the top of the lane and drew away for an easy score by almost two lengths in a solid time of 1:22:1. BEAUTICIAN, who was second to HOT DIXIE CHICK on opening day in the Grade III Schuylerville closed well again to finish more than eight lengths clear of the show horse, BICKERSONS and will be a force to reckon with the further they go.

            On the final day of the meeting, Monday, September 7th, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Hopeful Stakes for two year olds also at seven furlongs with a purse of $300,000. Twelve horses went postward after the early scratch of NOT MACHO ANY MORE and surprising favorite in the race was DUBLIN who came off a maiden win back on August 1st. Despite a stumble at the start he quickly recovered and settled in fourth before making a strong move to take over into the lane for an easy two length score. ASPIRE another interesting prospect closed well for second with AIKENITE closing well for third at 20-1. The previously undefeated BACKTALK ran a respectable fourth.

            On the jockeys and trainers races, Ramon Dominguez ended all doubt who the best rider in New York was. If there was anyone out there who still wasn’t sure— Dominguez was the best and he showed it at Saratoga with 45 wins in just 36 days of racing. He was five clear of Alan Garcia last year’s winner with Rajiv Maragh just 12 back in third. Dominguez also led in earnings with $2,734,486.

            On the trainers’ side, the year of “women” continued just like RACHEL ALEXANDRA and ZENYATTA before her Linda Rice became the first woman to win the trainer’s title at Saratoga. She held on for a 20-19 win over second place finisher Todd Pletcher who ran 60 more horses but had more 24 second place finishers. Can’t wait until next year!

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