What a spectacular night of racing we were fortunate enough to witness at Saratoga on Saturday. With six grade 1s and numerous other high quality and valuable races on a 13 race card, no-one could have complained that they didn’t get value for money from their entry fee. Let’s look at the six grade 1 races in racecard order.
Race 6 – The Personal Ensign Stakes
Only five runners in the Personal Ensign but a quality renewal of the race just the same. Cavorting has been improving with age and she took another step up the rankings with a fine win, coming from last to first with a storming run inside the last furlong, beating market rival Curalina by a pretty comfortable ½ a length.
She actually went off at a pretty generous 5/2, which probably reflected the punters’ concerns about the two turn mile and an eighth trip. Well the doubters were well and truly wrong and the form of her win in the Ogden Phipps was well and truly upheld.
Race 7 – The Ballerina Stakes
The Ballerina went to 10/1 outsider Haveyougoneaway, although it could be argued that her price of 10/1 was unkind as she was a grade 2 winner and has been extremely consistent at a high level. John Velazquez took the ride for this first grade 1 attempt and he gave her a great ride, tracking the pace in fourth allowing evens favourite Carina Mia and Paulassilverlining to take each other on. He started the attack coming into the straight and passed the front runners with a four wide move about ½ a furlong out to win by ½ a length.
This was trainer Tom Morley’s first grade 1 success and thoughts will now inevitably turn toward the Breeders’ Cup as Haveyougoneaway’s win has earned her a free entry to the Fillies and Mares Sprint.
Race 8 – The Kings Bishop Stakes
This had looked an open race before the off but the improving Drefong, highlighted in our preview, simply routed the opposition. Quickly away from his outside draw he was soon controlling the race from the front and was never headed, drawing away to win by an easy 3 ¼ lengths. Connections had been aiming him for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and must be delighted that his win here has earned him a free entry in this prestigious race.
The saddest sight of the evening was to see the once mighty Mohaymen drift back to virtually last and he had to be vanned off. The decision to enter him in this race was strange given the distance was short of his best and the fast track was against him, particularly over this trip. In truth, he never looked to be travelling. I wonder if this was the last time we shall see this champion two year old on the race track. A very sad end if so.
Race 9 – The Forego Stakes
Following the late scratching of Marking, AP Indian was sent off a short priced (evens) favourite for the Forego and didn’t let his supporters down. Breaking well from his outside draw he was able to attend the early pace of Chief Lion for the first half mile before taking the lead entering the straight and won comfortably under a mild drive by 2 ½ lengths.
The three 7 furlong races on the main track allow comparisons to be made and, interestingly AP Indian’s time was the fastest at 1 minute 20.99 seconds, ahead of Drefong’s 1 minute 21.25 and Haveyougoneaway’s 1 minute 21.63.
AP Indian just seems to be improving with every race and must now be seen as one of the best sprinters in the country and let’s hope he is in the same vein of form when he takes up his free entry to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November.
Race 10 – The Sword Dancer Stakes
The Sword Dancer looked a race for the taking by Flintshire and so it proved although the running of the race was somewhat controversial.
Given Flintshire’s ability advantage over the opposition (reflected in his odds of 1/5), I was surprised at the risk jockey Castellano appeared to be taking by riding such a rail-hugging trip. Indeed, when the field came into the straight, Flintshire was travelling powerfully but with nowhere to go as he was locked in a pocket against the hedge. Then, miracle of miracles, stablemate Inordinate moved off the inside allowing a seam, which Flintshire powered through and the race was over.
There are some racing jurisdictions in the world that would take a very dim view of these “team tactics” and it was indeed fortunate that the move by Inordinate didn’t cause any interference as a subsequent stewards’ enquiry could have become very messy and complicated. Let’s just leave it by saying, whatever the tactics, the best horse won.
Race 11 – The Travers Stakes
This race was supposed to be ultra-competitive with one of the strongest (and largest) fields for many a year. However, Arrogate, 8th favourite at 12/1 destroyed all those assumptions with a withering devastation of the field, eventually crossing the finish line some 13 ½ lengths ahead of his rivals.
You just don’t get results like that in these races but you can’t ignore the evidence of your eyes. Arrogate broke well from his inside post and lead all the way drawing clear in the straight to win by those 13 ½ lengths in a track record time of 1 minute 59.36 seconds.
So what are we now to make of this year’s 3 year old male crop? The form of classic winners in the Travers has never been anything other than mediocre and the runs of Exaggerator and Creator certainly won’t improve those statistics. There were certainly excuses for Exaggerator as he got a poor trip and the speed of the track would not have played to his strengths but, in truth, the best horses should not be going dependent.
One performance does not make a superstar or even the leading colt of his generation so we will need more evidence before we make a determination as to the ultimate ability of Arrogate. We also, more importantly, need to see him run against the principal absentee from the Travers, Nyquist. Given the normal tactics adopted on Nyquist, ie full speed ahead from the start, the duel between the two (particularly on a fast track) would be something to behold!