Saratoga and the Triple Crown season is behind us and it’s time to start focusing in on the Breeders’ Cup.
As we approach the quarter pole of the 2017 racing season, The News’ next stops will be first to Toronto next weekend for the Woodbine Mile and then onto the Breeders’ Cup in Louisville at Churchill Downs 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 featuring the Jockey Club Gold Cup (run at the classic 1 ¼-mile distance), 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….
- Last year the weather was the big star at Saratoga, with only a handful of days that washed races off the turf at the old Spa. This year 50 races were taken off the turf causing havoc with trying to get horses into the gate and trying to handicap off track races more often than not.
- It’s hard to say who was the equine star of the meet, but on the human side, Chad Brown was the story. Setting a record for trainer wins with 46, he dominated the meet, bashing perennial trainer champ Todd Pletcher by an astounding 27 wins. Holy moly.
- This week’s NTRA Top 10 Thoroughbred Poll currently has six horses that ran at Saratoga, five of which claimed Grade 1 victories. Only Mind Your Biscuits, finished second in the Whitney, his only appearance at the Spa.
- Speaking of MYB, his connections are pointing him to the Lukas Classic at 1 1/8-miles at Churchill Downs on Sept. 28. It seems to be the perfect spot as they can decide whether to cut back in distance in the Sprint or Dirt Mile or move forward to the Classic based on the results. Seems like a logical move instead of running in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the classic distance at Belmont where rival Diversify will likely end up.
- The top jockey of the Saratoga meet was Irad Ortiz, Jr., who took the crown from brother Jose who had garnered the last two riding titles at the Spa. He won 52 races besting Javier Castellano and his brother by 9 and 10 wins, respectively.
- Last year’s winner Jose Ortiz was ice-cold at the start of the meet, but rebounded to have a solid meet with 42 victories.
- Manny Franco, who finished fourth in the jockey standings for a second straight year continues to ride well at the Spa, especially on the turf.
- Best race of the meet was the Personal Ensign where Abel Tasman held off a game Elate in a carbon copy of last year’s Coaching Club American Oaks.
- Turf to dirt made a big move late in the meeting with Catholic Boy and Yoshida, winning the Travers and Woodward, respectively, earning Grade 1 victories on the main track for the first time.
- 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 meet has three remaining dates, Saturday Sept. 8, Sunday Sept. 9, and Thursday Sept. 13. First post is 1:25 p.m. Central Time 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 (9)
Delta Prince / Stronach Stables / James Jerkens / Javier Castellano
Divisidero / Gunpowder Farms LLC / Kelly Rubley / Jevian Toledo
Good Samaritan / WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International,SF Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC / Bill Mott / Joel Rosario
Irish War Cry / Isabelle de Tomaso / Graham Motion / Jose Ortiz
La Sardane / Team Valor International / Neil Drysdale / Rafael Bejerano
Lord Glitters / Geoff & Sandra Turnbull / David O'Meara / Jamie Spencer
Mr Havercamp / Sean & Dorothy Fitzhenry / Catherine Day Phillips / Eurico da Silva
Stormy Antarctic / Mr. P K Siu / E.C.D Walker / TBD
Vanish / Eight Star Racing Stables Inc. / Vito Armata / Ademar Santos
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.