Saratoga was the place to be last week with many big events both on and off the track. Catch all the excitement here with this week's Weekend Wrap video.
As has been the case for much of the summer, Saratoga Race Course was the place to be this weekend with the reigning Horse of the Year running on Saturday and the 2-year-olds having their day on Sunday.
Wise Dan carried a hefty 129 pounds in the Fourstardave Handicap on Saturday night, giving up 11 to 14 pounds to his competitors. While some may question why he was giving so much weight to his competitors with the next highest weight assignment being a 118 carried by Skyring, that answer is fairly obvious.
Wise Dan has now won eight in a row, a streak that began in last year’s edition of this race. The freak of a gelding was boxed in for part of the race and made the effort he put into the win look deceptively hard but he still won by 1 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:34 and had plenty of energy after the race. Oh, and it should be mentioned that this was on a track that only had the label of “good.”
The champion clearly outclassed his competition here and the weight was more than fair. It is a bit disappointing to hear that he will have an easier campaign the rest of the year with only one more start before the Breeders’ Cup coming in the Woodbine Mile in Canada or the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. The end goal is another run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November and right now it really doesn’t look like anyone can touch him in that race.
While many, including myself, wish that he would take on a more ambitious campaign for his fall run, kudos have to be given to the connections for running the horse where he can win. At the end of the day, winning is the goal for every race and they have achieved that goal for a year now.
Trainer Charlie LoPresti says that Wise Dan came out of the race in good shape and was fine Sunday morning.
“From everything I can see, he looks great this morning,” LoPresti said. “I came back and checked him at nine last night and he ate all his feed and walked around the stall good. We had him out early this morning and bathed him, walked him and grazed him, and it doesn't look like it took a whole lot out of him. It was a pretty easy race for him."
While Wise Dan was the star of the day, second-place finisher King Kreesa deserves credit as well. He fought to keep the lead after running some quick fractions. He didn’t lose much in defeat and actually gets more credit from me due to the race he ran. The gelding is a workmanlike horse, winning his last two races, but really stepped up to take on one of the top horses training in America.
Notacatbutallama isn’t a cat or a llama but he is now a winner on dirt.
The Harlan’s Holiday son registered his first dirt win in three tries on the surface in Friday’s National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes. To be fair, the race was taken off the turf so that made it a bit easier for “Llama”, but he had won two in a row on turf before the Hall of Fame, so he had a strong chance on the sod as well.
NOTACATBUTALLAMA IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE AFTER HIS VICTORY
Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire
Notacatbutallama sat around the fourth position for most of the muddy race, at one point 5 ½ lengths behind the pace, but he was never in much danger of not winning. While it took him a bit to get past second-place finisher North Slope, his three-quarter-length margin may be a bit deceiving as to how hard it was for him to win. He showed a bit of immaturity by playing around a bit, another factor into the smaller margin.
I don’t know if I would consider Notacatbutallama to be too big of a threat to the overall turf division yet but he could definitely move into that category later this year. Notacatbutallama caught my attention when he won his second start last year at Saratoga, so from a fan’s standpoint I would love him to really step it up and become one of the top turf horses in the next few years. He has improved leaps and bounds over the past year, a fact trainer Todd Pletcher noted after the victory.
"He tended to wait on the lead a little bit. He's gotten more professional. He's not real big and he thinks he's big. He'll be bouncing in two days, ready to go again,” Pletcher said.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning connections teamed up on Wednesday to kick off this week’s 2-year-old races with a win in the Sorrento Stakes.
Mario Gutierrez was aboard Concave, a 2-year-old filly by 2008 Travers winner Colonel John, for Doug O’Neill and Reddam Racing. Going for her second win in as many starts, Concave sat around third for the early part of the 6 ½-furlong race and took on She’s a Tiger in the stretch before taking the lead near the eighth pole. Gutierrez had to urge the filly a little bit when she got the lead but she was a game half-length winner of the race.
"She's a nice filly and she ran nicely today," said Gutierrez. "I think she'll go on, too. The way she trains and the way she runs says she should have no problem going further. I am so happy [to] win a race for Mr. Reddam and Doug. They were the ones who got me started down here. But you have to know I'm happy anytime I win a race here. This is a special place and I want to be one of the leading riders here. So anytime I win a race, it is special. It all feels good."
CONCAVE IMPRESSED IN HER DEL MAR STAKES VICTORY
Photo courtesy Benoit & Associates
What really caught my attention about Concave is that Gutierrez looked extremely relaxed on the filly for much of the race. He looked like he had a ton of horse under him in the early stages and she didn’t look like she was trying too hard to win over stakes winner She’s a Tiger, which tells me that longer distances should not be a problem. It is still early in the season and other impressive 2-year-olds will definitely show up on the left coast, but I am excited to watch this filly progress. One downfall is that she hasn’t yet tried dirt but her parents were both stakes winners on the surface, so that should be no problem.
Perhaps drama best described the action in Sunday’s Adirondack Stakes for 2-year-old fillies when Who’s In Town crossed the line first but wasn’t named the winner.
Who’s In Town put Fiftyshadesofgold between a rail and a hard place when she drifted in as Fiftyshadesofgold was trying to run through the hole to her inside. It caused Fiftyshadesofgold to bounce off the rail before fading back to fourth. As a result of the incident, Fiftyshadesofgold was moved up to third and Who’s In Town was demoted to fourth due to the interference. Designer Legs, who had lost by a head bob, was given the win to stay undefeated in three career starts. Thank You Marylou, who has gotten a lot of attention over the past few weeks due to an impressive stakes victory in her debut, finished second after Who’s In Town was taken down.
On a sad note, the Adirondack was marred by the fatal breakdown of Charmed Hour, a promising filly who had won her debut at Ellis Park last month.
The Saratoga Special brought together a promising group of 2-year-old males. Corfu, who was bought for $675,000 by Coolmore in March, lit up the track by going 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.57. The win was his first stakes victory and kept him undefeated as he won his debut 2 ½ weeks ago. Corfu was impressive to me because not only did he blitz around the track from the second he came out the gate, but he also showed guts in the final furlong to hold off Sanford Stakes winner Wired Bryan.
Some horses will give up when challenged, especially after running as fast as he did, but Corfu fought back and squeaked out a victory by a nose. The fact that he did so in only his second start has me interested in watching him progress in his fall campaign and, if all goes well, as a 3-year-old.
CORFU FOUGHT HARD TO WIN THE SARATOGA SPECIAL
Photo courtesy NYRA/Adam Coglinese
When I first watched the Saratoga Special, I was a bit worried that Corfu wouldn’t be able to go much farther, but after looking at his pedigree I’m not as worried anymore.
Corfu is by Kentucky Derby winner Orb’s sire, Malibu Moon, and is out of a half-sister to Haskell Stakes winner Peace Rules. He should be able to go the longer distances this fall and next year with no problem. It is extremely early to start ranking the 2-year-olds but as far as the Breeders’ Cup goes, he may be my pick if he continues to improve as we get to November.
Another colt to watch coming out of the race could be Danza, who was closing late to get up for third. For a second, I thought the wire wouldn’t come soon enough for the top two as he was really motoring, but luckily for both Corfu and Wired Bryan, who also put in a heck of a race, they hit the wire before Danza could catch them. It’s interesting to note that the top four horses (Lunarwarfare was fourth) all were within about two lengths of each other, with everyone else eight lengths behind them.
In the last graded stakes race of the weekend, the field tried to beat Tiz Flirtatious with an extremely slow pace but it didn't work. After a three month layoff, Tiz Flirtatious came back in the John C. Mabee to easily win over Lady of Shamrock and My Gi Gi.
Tiz Flirtatious is three-for-four this year with her only misstep being a second last time out. She's headed to the Rodeo Drive and it's hard to believe that we won't see her at the Breeders' Cup if all goes well there. With the championship weekend held in California, Tiz Flirtatious will definitely be a threat on her home soil.