It’s a bittersweet time in the racing year.
Saratoga and the Triple Crown season are both in the rear view mirror.
The year, however, is far from over as we approach the quarter pole of the 2017 racing season. The News’ next stops will be first to Woodbine next weekend for the Mile and then onto the Breeders’ Cup in San Diego in early November to cover the Classic.
In between we’ll follow the Pennsylvania Derby as the last restricted 3-year-old race of the season. A Super Saturday at Belmont Park and a potentially intriguing Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Awesome Again awaits at Santa Anita Park for the West Coast horses.
So here’s what we’re thinking about after the end of another successful meeting at Saratoga….
- The weather was the big star at Saratoga, with only a handful of days that washed races off the turf at the old Spa. You couldn’t have dialed up better weather for the oldest sporting venue in North America.
- The equine star of the meet was Gun Runner, who pulled off the first Whitney/Woodward double since Lawyer Ron in 2007 during his 4-year-old season. He is in the best form of any horse in the country, but a mile-and-a-quarter looms at Del Mar, a track he’s never run over.
- With a couple slip-ups by Arrogate where the Turf meets the Surf in San Diego, Gun Runner has emerged as the likely favorite in the Classic. But it will be hard to count out the son of Unbridled’s Song, who went on one of the most dominant four-race runs in racing in recent memory.
- The human star of the Saratoga meet was Jose Ortiz, who garnered his second straight riding title at the Spa. He dominated the inner turf course and 6-furlong sprints throughout the meet and you always had to be aware of his mounts on a daily basis while handicapping.
- The “under the radar” award should go to Manny Franco, who finished fourth in the jockey standings and is starting to earn some respect on the NYRA circuit.
- Two of the trainers that shined in the top 10 in wins were George Weaver ($3.53 ROI) and Jason Servis (31% win percentage, $3.28 ROI). In comparison the top two trainers (who also had the most starts), were at $1.71 (Pletcher) and $1.42 (Brown). Brown’s low ROI compared to Pletcher’s really shows that the public was betting down his mounts during the meet. Pletcher had a few improbable winners at decent odds which likely drove his closer to break-even.
- Most impressive win on my dance card was Forever Unbridled over Songbird in the Personal Ensign. Joel Rosario’s ride keeping the winner in the center of the track out of the sight of the two-time champion was a brilliant move. Seeing nice guy Dallas Stewart pull the upset only enhanced the performance.
- If you like watching or betting on turf racing, the boutique Kentucky Downs meet is underway in Franklin, Ky., north of Nashville. Kentucky Downs’ showcase five-date meet has three remaining dates, Saturday Sept. 9, Sunday Sept. 10, and Thursday Sept. 14. First post is 1:25 p.m. Central each day.
Here are the current probable entries for next Saturday’s Woodbine Mile, which looks to be a stellar field for one of Woodbine’s signature races (courtesy Woodbine Press Office):
EARLY LOOK AT THE GRADE 1 RICOH WOODBINE MILE (12)
Arod (IRE) / Qatar Racing Limited / David Simcock
Conquest Panthera / Gary Barber / Mark Casse
Deauville (IRE) / Mrs. Fitri Hay, Mrs. John Magnier, Mr. Michael Tabor and Mr. Derrick Smith / Aidan O’Brien
Disco Partner / Mrs. Patricia A. Generazio / Christophe Clement
Dragon Bay / Brent McLellan, Russell McLellan and Stuart C. Simon / Stuart Simon
Dutch Connection (GB) / Godolphin / Charlie Hills
Glenville Gardens / Janice Attard / Sid Attard
Lancaster Bomber / Mr. Michael B. Tabor, Mr. Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier / Aidan O'Brien
Long on Value / Wachtel Stable, Kerr, George J. and Barber, Gary / William I. Mott
Mondialiste / Geoff and Sandra Turnbull / David O'Meara
Tower of Texas / Thomas F. Van Meter II and Scott Dilworth / Roger Attfield
World Approval / Live Oak Plantation / Mark Casse
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.