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Sep 05, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-CLOSING WEEKEND SARATOGA

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Saratoga 2014 has come and gone and the closing weekend had some solid stakes races to close out the meeting as well as legendary track announcer Tom Durkin retiring the day before the meeting ends.

               On Saturday August 30th Saratoga hosted four graded stakes races, two Grade II’s and two Grade I’s. The Grade II Bernard Baruch saw the return of two time Horse of the Year Wise Dan who hadn’t run since May 3rd. Five Iron came out running for the lead and set a solid pace of 23:1, 46:1, 1:09:3 while Wise Dan tucked in behind the leaders racing in fourth. As they moved into the lane Wise Dan moved outside and began to gain on the leaders. Wise Dan got to the lead late in the lane and just held on by a nose over 29-1 shot Optimizer in a quick final time of 1:39 flat. Wise Dan ran his 2014 record to 3 for 3 and he will have a shot to win Horse of the Year again if he can run the table.

               In the Grade II Prioress, a race for three year old fillies run over six furlongs with a purse of $300,000. There was a field of eight that went postward with Miss Behaviour going off as the 2-1 favorite. When the gates opened, Stonetastic came out running for the lead under Paco Lopez, he set the sharp pace of 22:1, 44:3, 56:2 and he opened up into the lane and drew away to score by more than eight lengths in a solid final time of 1:08:4 with Miss Behaviour just holding second over Southern Honey who ran third. This three year old filly by Mizzen Mast is an improving runner who could make noise as the year goes on.

               In the Grade I Forego Stakes for three year olds and upward run over seven furlongs with a purse of $500,000 the odds-on favorite in the race was Clearly Now who was coming off a big win at Belmont back on July 5th. As the gates broke, Zee Bros and Weekend Hideaway went to the lead with the second choice Palace sitting just in behind the leaders. The fractions of the race were fast but not overly fast in 22:2, 45:1, 1:09, they continued that way around the turn and into the lane. Palace moved up the inside, took over and drew away to score by more than three lengths, Big Business closed to finish second at 20-1 completing the New York bred exacta in a Grade I race and Vyjack checked in third. Clearly Now loomed wide on the turn but had no finish checking in 8th in a solid final time of 1:21:4.

               In the Grade I Woodward, for three year olds and upward run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $600,000 the top two finishers from the Whitney returning and they went off co-favorites at 5-2 with, Moreno the slight favorite. Moreno was sent right to the lead but Itsmyluckyday was not that far off that leader through fractions of 24, 47:2, 1:10:4, 1:35:2. As they moved into the lane those two runners battled the whole stretch with Itsmyluckday and Paco Lopez edging out Moreno for the win in a final time of 1:48:4. There was an inquiry and objection against the winner but the results stood, Prayer For Relief checked in third.               

               On August 31st, the Grade I Spinaway for two year olds fillies was run with a field of eight going postward. Angela Renee was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over a very sloppy track. This race also marked Tom Durkin’s last call as he would be retiring after the race. Condo Commando who broke her maiden by 12 lengths against maiden $75k claimers at Saratoga, broke slow from the rail, rushed up, took over the lead and led through fractions of 22:2, 45:4, 1:10:3 while drawing away to score by more than 13 lengths and as the great Tome Durkin put it, she was “splashtastic” in a final time of 1:24:3. That is two starts by more than 25 lengths, this filly by Tiz Wonderful could be one to watch at the upcoming fall Championship meeting at Belmont.

               On closing day, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Hopeful, a race for two year olds run over seven furlongs with a purse of $350,000. This race featured the highly touted Competitive Edge who was a huge winner in his debut for Todd Pletcher and the undefeated I Spent It who won the Saratoga Special earlier in the meeting for Anthony Dutrow. As they broke from the gate Signature Cat, I Spent It and Competitive Edge were all battling for the lead through solid fractions of 22:3, 44:4, 1:10:1. As they moved around the turn, Signature Cat began to back up as I Spent It and Competitive Edge went on with it. Into the lane Competitive Edge, began to draw away scoring by more than five lengths in a final time of 1:24 flat, a little on the slow side but they did put up a 22:1 second ¼ mile and Competitive Edge was wide while doing it. I Spent It suffered his first defeat but was nine lengths clear of the show horse Sharm. Look for both of these two year olds to make noise this fall.

 



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