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Sep 06, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-CLOSING WEEKEND SARATOGA 2013

By: JOE GIRARDI


The final weekend at Saratoga saw four Grade I races, with two on Saturday and one each on Sunday and Monday. The weather which had been great all meeting didn’t cooperate for the final weekend and there was sloppy tracks each day.

               On Saturday, August 31st, there were two Grade I Races. The first Grade I was the seven furlong Forego, run over seven furlongs with a purse of $500,000. The odds-on favorite in the race was the entry of Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip. Run over a sloppy/sealed surface there was a field of eight horses that went postward. When the gates opened, Strapping Groom (15-1) and Fast Bullet (3-5) came out running for the lead. Those two horses battled head to head for the lead through fractions of 22:4, 45:1, with Justin Phillip just in behind those two getting a perfect trip in third while second choice, Sage Valley also sat a great trip in fourth. As they moved into the lane Strapping Groom put away Fast Bullet and held a clear lead to the 1/8th pole but now Jackson Bend was moving on him late. As they got to the wire Strapping Groom held on by a half-length, Jackson Bend finished second and Justin Phillip checked in third in a solid final time of 1:22:1. Strapping Groom was trained by David Jacobson and owned by David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stables; they claimed this horses back in May for $35k and won three stakes races since with purse totaling $700,000. This was a bittersweet moment for these connections who tragically lost their stable star and hard trying gelding Saginaw when he broke down the day before and subsequently had to be euthanized later that night. It is hard to lose a horse when he becomes like family to you and my heart goes out to Saginaw’s connections.

               The next race on August 31st was the Grade I Woodward, a race run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $750,000. There was just a field of five left in this race after two scratches, Paynter who was continuing his comeback was sent off as the 3-2 favorite with Flat Out going off as the 2-1 second choice. As the gates opened, Alpha, the longest shot in the race at 7-1 and adding blinkers again for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin broke very well and sent right to the lead while Paynter didn’t get off to the best of starts and had to track from third. As they moved into the backstretch, Alpha led through fractions of 24:2, 48:1, 1:11:2 over Flat Out who was second and Paynter tracked from third. Moving around the far turn and into the lane Alpha began to edge away a bit while Flat Out tried to go with him, the rest of the field while struggling well behind. Into the lane Alpha still held the lead with Flat Out bearing down late, as they got to the wire Alpha held on by a head over Flat Out, with more than six lengths back to Sucessful Dan in third, Ron The Greek was fourth and Paynter finished fifth and last in a final time over the sloppy track of 1:49:1.

               On Sunday, September 7th, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Spinaway, for two year old fillies, run over seven furlongs with a purse of $300,000. The slight favorite in the race was Sweet Whiskey who was an easy wire to wire winner in her debut for Todd Pletcher, the second choice was Sweet Reason a big debut winner from well back for trainer Leah Gyarmati. As the gates broke, a few horses went to the lead through fractions of 22:2, 45:3, 1:10:3, Sweet Whiskey had taken over the lead around the turn but was quickly collared by Sweet Reason. Sweet Reason and jockey Alex Solis took over in the lane and never looked back scoring by almost six lengths in a final time of 1:23:2. Well bred filly by Street Sense looks like she has a bright future. Congratulations to Leah Gyarmati and her staff for getting her first Grade I score.

               On closing day the boys got their chance in the Hopeful Stakes. A race for two year olds, run over seven furlongs with a purse of $300,000. Run over a muddy/sealed track there was a field of 10 that went postward with Corfu, the winner of the Saratoga Special going off as the lukewarm favorite at 7-2 and Wired Bryan, the second place finisher in that race going off as the 4-1 second choice. As the gates broke, Corfu and Wired Bryan led the way while Strong Mandate, who broke well sat just outside them in third. After fractions of 22:2, 45 flat, Strong Mandate engaged Corfu around the turn and took over the lead into the lane. As they moved through the lane Strong Mandate under jockey Jose Ortiz drew away to score by almost 10 lengths while being geared down late at 7-1 in a final time of 1:23:2. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Strong Mandate made it two in a row and stamped himself as the two year old to watch going forward off that huge win. Casiguapo, a 30-1 longshot finished second and Lunarwarfare checked in third.

               The final standings of the Saratoga meeting, Javier Castellano, won the jockeys title with 66 wins, Todd Pletcher won the trainers title with 36 wins and Ken Ramsey won the owners title with 22 winners.



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