Adirondack Do Over

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The petite bay filly stands quietly just inside the entry of her stall, dozing in and out on a quiet Thursday morning in Rick Violette’s barn. The main track has just begun its break, and the backside of Saratoga Race Course seems to slow down for a moment. Her ears prick as a visitor looms in the entrance, and she spins around, eager to accept a pat on the head. A golf cart whizzes by the corner stall and her ears flash right, seeming to notice the hay hanging for the first time and begins to nibble. 

After being scratched from the race’s original date Aug. 13, Olive Branch is healthy, relaxed and ready to tackle today’s rescheduled Adirondack Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. 

Due to torrential downpours and an unsafe track six days ago, all races were canceled following the fifth, and the Grade 2 Adirondack rescheduled for today. Olive Branch was scratched before the 6 1/2-furlong race, however.

“She went on a hunger strike on me for a few days,” said Violette. “She was coming back on short rest and things need to be really perfect when they’re coming back on short rest. They weren’t perfect, so we scratched.”

Violette breezed the Speightstown filly 3 furlongs Monday morning, as track conditions returned to normal.

 “Just a maintenance work,” said the trainer.  “A little half-mile well within herself. Kind of wanted to spur her appetite, but not do too much to put her over the top. We got it done. (The delay) gave us an extra week. Her appetite’s better and she’s doing great so we’ll take a shot.”

Ralph Evans’ Olive Branch broke her maiden at Belmont in May and finished fifth in the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga July 22, with wayward behavior in the paddock that impacted her trip.

“She was an idiot in the paddock, tore off a shoe,” said Violette. “We’ve schooled her multiple times, we schooled her yesterday and you could have given pony rides on her. But she’s done that all along and when race day comes the devil comes out a little bit, so we hope we have it under control.

“It’s a tough race, it’s a bunch of maiden winners but there’s some nice fillies in the race. It’s certainly no layup.”

Bred in Kentucky by Stonehaven Steadings, Olive Branch cost $185,000 at the OBS March sale and gets a chance to live up to it in the $200,000 Adirondack, race 10 of 11. Jose Ortiz gets aboard from post three in a field of seven.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas looks forward to putting Churchill Downs Racing Club’s Dial Me in the rain-checked Adirondack today.

“(The delay) might have been a plus,” said Lukas, aboard his pony Starbuck between sets Thursday morning. “We shipped her up here and got a little work into her and now because of the delay we got another work on the racetrack. So it didn’t hurt us for sure, and it might even have helped us a little bit.”

To read the rest of the Adirondack preview, download Friday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Keeneland Sales.