Horse Racing fans at Saratoga Racetrack, and throughout the country, were treated to quite a finish in Saturday’s 2012 Travers Stakes when 5/2 betting favorite Alpha and (almost) 34-1 shot Golden Ticket finished in a dead heat for the win. It was the first time in 138 years that happened in the 1 ¼ miles Grade: 1 race.
Before we “backtrack” the Travers, there were several other big races that were run this weekend with two resulting in major upsets.
Starting with Fridays Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga, Turbulent Descent, who was making her first for the trainer Todd Pletcher and new owners Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, came from behind early to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths.
“I thought she ran well,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes the hardest races to win are the ones you’re expected to. We were just hoping to stay out of trouble. We wanted to be patient and not move too soon”.
“(Jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) said she got a bit of a bump in the middle of the turn over there and she kind of grabbed him and took off a little sooner than he wanted to. She seems like the kind of filly that, once she makes the lead, tends to wait a little bit, which we anticipated, but we’re happy she got it done.”
On Saturday’s Travers undercard, top three year old filly Contested, who “lost her footing” at the break of the Test Stakes, laid just off the early pace before assuming command at the quarter pole and won the seven furlong event.
|“I think she runs better off the pace,” assistant to trainer Bob Baffert, Jim Barnes said. “They were going very fast. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been up with them. I said (to jockey) Rafael (Bejarano), ‘You got to play the break. If you catch a flyer, you can actually go. If you get away slowly, just put her in a comfortable, clean spot.’ And he did.”
“My horse broke a little slow, but I knew (Gypsy Robin) and the other horse (Ullapool) was going to go to the lead,” Bejarano added. “I just tried to figure it out and get my horse in good position. When we came to the stretch the race was done. I had plenty of horse and she showed me a big kick.
“She didn’t stumble; she just broke a little slow,” he added. “I didn’t try to rush; I just tried to get in good position. It actually benefited me because the horses on the lead were going very fast.”
The next race was the King’s Bishop Stakes where the top three finishers were 11-1, 14-1 and 11-1. Ridden by Alan Garcia, Willy Beamin charged home from sixth at mid-stretch to win the seven-furlong race by a half-length in 1:22 flat. Currency Swap, the 9/5 favorite in the field of 10, was sixth. Second betting choice Trinniberg, who I thought might be a force in the sprint division this year, also finished off the board in ninth after setting a quick pace and weakening in the stretch.
“Unbelievable,” yelled owner James Riccio about his horse, who won just three days prior to running on Saturday. “He started getting good, good, good. The other day [after theAlbany] he had a lot left in the tank, and he didn’t even really ask him to run.”
Willy Beamin is now 6-for-7 this year.
Sunday’s Grade: 1 Personal Ensign Stakes was quite eventful. 2011 three year old champion Royal Delta washed out in the moments before the start, second choice It’s Tricky, dwelted the start and stumbled badly when the gates opened and 10-1 Love and Pride pulled off the first of two major upsets this past weekend.
Love and Pride stalked the early leader (Brushed by a Star), took the lead on the turn for home and held off the on-coming Royal Delta late to post the ½ length win.
“The team atDelawaredid a great job with her, had her ready to go, and training over that deeper surface, I think, may have paid off today,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Michael Dilger, myDelawareassistant, and I had about a 10-second conversation, and we figured we had nothing to lose (by taking off the blinkers). We were just trying to get her to turn off a little bit.”
“She does not like the whip,” winning rider Johnny Velazquez said. “I was in front and I thought maybe I’ll just show it to her and keep her mind to running, and it was a mistake. I showed it to her and she went back to the left lead and she started waiting instead of completely going. I learned something new; don’t show it to her.”
“When Johnny showed her the stick the first time, she jumped to her left lead, and that’s kind of always been her, so he just kind of had to pick her up and hand ride her aggressively from there,” Pletcher added.
The other big upset this weekend happened at Del-Mar in the $1 million Pacific Classic where good looking three year old Dullahan ran down betting favorite and top Horse of the Year candidate Game on Dude in deep stretch for the win.
With Joel Rosario in the saddle, Dullahan defeated Game on Dude by a half-length in 1:59.3 which broke the track record of 2:00.3
“It (the way the race unfolded) worked out perfect,” saidRosario. “He’s a one-paced horse. He just goes and goes. When we went for home and I saw (Game On Dude) in front of me, I knew I had a big chance.
“My horse was coming and coming. He doesn’t stop. He’s a nice horse; a very nice horse.”
Jockey Chantal Sutherland dropped Game on Dude’s left rein in the stretch while transferring her whip from her right hand, She said after the race that the mistake did not cost Game On Dude the race.
“I was switching my stick to the left hand, I pushed my rein loose,” she said. “It was dangling at the end; it looked awful sloppy. I haven’t done something like that in 13 years. But I don’t think it affected anything. He was still doing what he could do. Just unfortunate.”
As I watched the race and later the replay, Dullahan is really running at the end. Here is the replay… note how strong the winner looked in the last 100 or so yards.
In the highlighted Travers Stakes, Alpha, followed early pacesetter Speightscity thru fractions of :23.2 for the first quarter mile and :48 for half, before taking aim on the leader around the turn for home after three-quarters in 1:12.3. But Golden Ticket found an opening on the rail (first) and “snuck thru” to grab the lead before Alpha could.
Following a mile in 1:37.1, Golden Ticket opened a two-length lead in mid-stretch with Alpha and Dominguez needing every inch of 1 1/4 miles to fight back, but he did so while drawing even with Golden Ticket just in time. The inseparable runners finished in a final time of 2:02.3.
“I was three wide throughout the whole race,” one of two winning riders Ramon Dominguez (Alpha) said afterwards. “Given that the other two horses were dueling for the lead, I really didn’t want to take my chances tucking behind them… I kept my options open, keeping him on the outside. David rode a great race and got through on the rail. I really think that made a difference for him to become a winner.”
“The horse ran great. We had two options; take the lead if they gave it to us, or try to sit back and find the pocket,” David Cohen said of Golden Ticket. “If the rail came available, great, or if we had to come out, just try to save our run until the very end. Wins like that you’re not even looking at the wire; you’re just trying to stay focused and keep riding hard.”
“It’s a dead-heat, but it goes in the ‘W’ column,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of Alpha’s tie with the Ken McPeek-trained Golden Ticket. “It doesn’t happen very often in a grade I, $1 million race, but we’re all happy it happened today for two guys fromLexington,Kentucky. We’re happy to win a grade I with this horse.”
“I thought we were beat at first, then I thought we won,” McPeek added. “I couldn’t tell. I’m thrilled we finished in a dead heat. It couldn’t work out better for the two of us. Kiaran is a great guy. We all work our tail off. It would have been a heartbreaker for either one of us to lose.”