Sep 07, 2012
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-END OF SARATOGA
By: JOE GIRARDI
The Saratoga meeting came to an end on Labor Day, September 3rd, a total of 40 days. Ramon Dominguez had a record setting meeting scoring with 68 winners from 288 mounts for a total win percentage of 24%. He was 17 wins ahead of Javier Castellano who finished with 51, Jose Lezacano had a very good meeting finishing third with 35 wins and John Velazquez checked in fourth with 30 wins after getting off to a late start because of an injury he suffered back in June. His win percentage of 20% was solid as he only 153 total mounts.
On the trainer’s side of things Todd Pletcher got the job done again with 36 winners from 149 starters for a solid win percentage of 24%. He was 7 wins ahead of Chad Brown who had 29 winners but had a great winning percentage of 31%. After the top two there was a huge break of 17 wins back to Steven Asmussen who had 12 wins, followed by four trainers who were tied for fourth with 11 wins. Moving back to Belmont on September 8th it looks like both Dominguez and Pletcher will be considered the favorites to take down their respective titles.
Some highlights of the Saratoga meeting on the racetrack came in some of the biggest races of the meeting. A three year old filly named QUESTING used Saratoga as her coming out party. On the first weekend of the meeting, in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks, QUESTING was sent to the lead, set the pace through decent splits and then drew away to score by more than four impressive lengths despite drifting out badly late. Her next start came in the Grade I Alabama, race that was run over 1 and ¼ miles for three year old fillies and she didn’t disappoint, going right to the lead again setting unbelievably fast fractions, opened up on the turn and continued to open up in the lane to score by a very impressive nine lengths while drifting out some again late in the lane. She is now 3 for 4 over a dirt track with her only loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year at Churchill Downs. This well bred runner by Hard Spun out of a Seeking the Gold mare has a hold on the three year old filly division and I can’t wait to see her again this year.
In the biggest race of the Saratoga meeting, the Grade I Travers stakes, the ”Midsummer” Derby we saw something that we haven’t seen in well over a 100 years. Eleven horses went postward in the 143rd Travers Stakes with ALPHA going off as the 2-1 favorite. The longest shot in the race SPEIGHTSCITY held the lead early on through moderate splits with ALPHA not that far behind in third. As the race progressed to the far turn, jockey David Cohen aboard 33-1 longshot GOLDEN TICKET, moved up the inside to take over the lead into the lane, held that clear lead until late in the stretch when ALPHA surged again to finish in a dead heat. The first dead heat in the Travers since 1874. That’s right 1874. Although we don’t expect to see the three year old champion coming out of this race it did make for an exciting Travers despite the lack of the top three year talent.
We move now to the Belmont Fall meeting, starting on September 8th and running through October 28th. There will be 21 graded stakes races with nine Grade I races as this meeting will have a big impact on who will on to the Breeders’ Cup to contend for year-end awards. At last year’s Fall Meeting we saw a surprise in the trainer standings, David Jacobson was the winner with 15 wins, two more than Rudy Rodriguez. Jacobson is very active in the claiming game and should be watched heading into this meeting but it would be surprising to see him win it again.
The jockey’s title went to Javier Castellano who just edged Dominguez 42-40 with John Velazquez back in third. It should be another fight to the finish at this meeting but with the Keeneland meeting starting at the beginning of October some of the top jockeys will be out of town certain weekends to ride in stakes races.
The weather will start to cool off and Belmont is a beautiful track to go to, it would pay to go out to the races if you get a chance and free admission is being offered on the first weekend. Good luck!
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