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Aug 05, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The first week at Saratoga was not without problems. Opening day July 27th, was very hot and humid but the new mutuel machines could not hold up to the heat and then went down for a few races. There were many customers that were shut out of their wagers and it just made for a very difficult day. Another problem was the huge television screens that would be at the top of the stretch and in the backyard were not up and operating. This made it difficult to watch the races if you wanted to watch them outside. The biggest problem was the new detention barns that were set-up. One barn was a regular barn while the other barn was a temporary tent that didn’t have enough electricity and the conditions for the horses and their handlers were not very good at all. A lot of trainers were up in arms about this and it caused a few horses to be scratched late before they even got to the paddock because of their reactions to the tents. However, over the next few days most of these problems had been resolved. The machines seemed to be in working order, the televisions screens were up and there had been improvements to the tents and the trainers are content with the conditions for now. They are bearable until the end of meeting and they will have to be addressed next year if the detention barns are still in existence.

            In the first week there were many quality horses and many who will impact the Breeders’ Cup in October. On Day two July 28th, the Grade II Saratoga Special was run at six furlongs for two year olds. After breaking well from post 3 HENNY HUGHES remained undefeated scoring wire to wire by a geared down 3 and ¾ lengths as the 4-5 favorite. After winning his second start, HENNY HUGHES was sold for a reported $4.3 million dollars, a huge jump from his sale price of $180,000. This horse is special but it still remains how far he can go because his pedigree may catch up to him next year as the distances get longer. However, he is a special horse and should be very exciting to watch the rest of the year.

            On Saturday Saratoga hosted two graded races, the Grade I Diana Handicap and the Grade II Jim Dandy a prep for the Travers. In the Diana SAND SPRINGS grabbed the lead early, set moderate fractions and was able to pull away late scoring by more than two lengths as the slight favorite. She will be one to watch for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. In the Jim Dandy, there were only five horses to go as NOBLE CAUSEWAY was a late scratch at the gate and the favorite didn’t disappoint. FLOWER ALLEY, who was sent off at 1-2 stalked the early leader, took over and never looked back scoring by more than five lengths. He will be pointed towards the Travers and will be tough in there with the injury to AFLEET ALEX who will not be racing.

            On Sunday, July 31st in the Grade I Go For Wand Handicap it was again Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez teaming up again with ASHADO. She stalked the early leader, took over entering the stretch and drew off for a nine and a half length win. She has regained her championship form of last year and will be tough in the Breeders’ Cup if she continues to run the way she did in the Go For Wand.

            With only a week in the books and the bigger races at the end of the meeting still to come this promises to be another stellar year at the Spa.



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