By Timothy Littau and Spencer Ripchik
Make it six wins in the Grade 3 Lake George Stakes for trainer Chad Brown. Friday’s feature at Saratoga Race Course for 3-year-old fillies was dominated by Brown, who sent out the 1-2 finishers in Dolce Zel and Eminent Victor.
The French-bred Dolce Zel won by a nose over her stablemate for owners Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Robert LaPenta. Dubb also co-owns the runner-up with The Elkstone Group, Louis Lazzinaro and Michael Caruso.
“Chad’s the quarterback and we just sign the checks and are happy with everything Chad does,” Dubb said. “All I really needed was a dead heat. We missed it by that much.
“I’m really happy for the partners of Dolce Zel, I’ve had so much success with Sol Kumin through the years. We’ve won so many big races with horses like Uni, Monomoy Girl as a team. However, the partners in Eminent Victor, Stu Grant of Elkstone Group, he’s been my partner for 20 years, too, so it’s a little bittersweet that he couldn’t be here (in the winner’s circle). That’s why I needed a dead heat.”
Dubb has also had horses in Brown’s care for two decades.
“I’m Chad’s longest client in the barn,” Dubb said. “I met Chad and have had horses with him since he was 28 years old. It was his first year as a trainer. We claimed horses together.”
Al Qahira set the pace after the break, leading Sister Lou Ann through the opening half-mile in :48.33 and just ahead of Dolce Zel and Eminent Victor. Al Qahira continued to lead around the far turn, by just a half-length through 6 furlongs in 1:12.30.
Dolce Zel came through on the inside of Al Qahira and the rail in the stretch while Eminent Victory attacked from the outside. Running side-by-side in deep stretch, Brown’s duo left the others behind. Dolce Zel got up in time to win in 1:35.64 under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“No, not too much room, honestly,” Ortiz said of the tight run through the inside. “She’s tiny and little so that helps a little bit because there was not too much room. I had no choice, I had to go through (the hole). She went through, and after she went through she picked her head up a little bit and got into a fight with the other one. It worked out good, honestly.”
Brown was pleased with the run from both fillies.
“Dolce Zel, although she had trouble, she had a ground-saving trip and reserved so much energy that when they reached for the wires, she just had a little bit more there,” he said. “Eminent Victor stumbled at the start, and then had a wide run at the final turn. It might have just taken a little bit of fuel out of her in that last seven yards. She couldn’t really accelerate past anybody. That was the difference.”
Dolce Zel joined Technical Analysis (2021), Selflessly (2020), Regal Glory (2019), Ancient Secret (2016) and Mrs McDougal (2015) as Brown’s Lake George winners.
“It’s a good race,” Brown said. “It’s always early in the meet. In this division of 3-year-old fillies, we have been so lucky to have so many of them through the years. This is one of many turf races that we really point toward and we have had the horses and the staff to get them ready. Both jockeys did their very best today. Through the years it has been a very rewarding race to win.”
Dolce Zel, the daughter of Zelzal, won for the third time in five starts and boosted her earnings to $307,155 in the Lake George. She also won this year’s Grade 3 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, finished second in the Grade 2 Appalachian at Keeneland and third in the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Eminent Victor added her Lake George placing to her victory last time out in the Wild Applause at Belmont Park.
Brown said there could be a rematch down the road for the two fillies.
“I believe Dolce Zel has always struck me as best at a mile,” Brown said. “Of course, she was effective at a mile and a sixteenth. Eminent Victor looks like as she develops, she’ll run a little bit further. Both of these horses could come back for the Lake Placid (Aug. 20). The spacing works. These fillies will be pointed there. We might even add another horse. We’ll see what happens.”
Brown has won the last three editions of the Lake George, including a dead-heat win in 2019.
“People have been asking me all day, ‘who do you like between them,’ the local friends around here,” Brown said. “I told them all the truth, ‘it’s close, very, very close.’ It proved to almost be a dead heat. In these situations, unfortunately there has to be a loser. I’ll get it one day. One of those dead heats here at Saratoga. You get two wins for that.”