When rain forces races off the turf, Barclay Tagg isn’t usually the type to keep his horses in the race, often electing to scratch and wait for another spot. The trainer considered such a move with Highland Sky Wednesday after morning downpours left the turf in a bog and forced the $100,000 John’s Call Stakes to the sloppy main track.
However, when three of the original seven entrants scratched, Tagg reconsidered.
“When it came off the turf, Mike (Lakow) called me up and said a lot of people are scratching and there’s only going to be three or four horses. I thought, we’ll stay in and have a good shot,” Tagg said of a conversation with NYRA’s racing secretary. “But you have to talk to the owners and get everybody’s OK on it, so there’s a lot that goes into it. There’s other races on the horizon that he could be saved for, but then you save for them and it comes up sloppy too sometimes. It’s a guessing game to a great extent.”
Tagg’s best guess was to stay in the field and owners Bonner Young, Gerald McManis and Jerrie Stewart McManis agreed. Highland Sky would start in the featured race, moved from 1 5/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles, alongside Redicean, Red Knight and main-track-only entrant Turco Bravo.
Highland Sky broke at the back of the foursome and got two smacks on his right shoulder from Manny Franco, aboard for his 11th consecutive start. Turco Bravo broke on top and led through the stretch the first time with 3-5 favorite Red Knight pressing the pace to his outside while Redicean dropped back to race alongside Highland Sky.
“I wasn’t too happy he was stuck down on the inside because that looked a little slower I thought watching the other races,” Tagg said.
Racing into the first turn, Highland Sky advanced to race just behind Turco Bravo and to the inside of Red Knight as Turco Bravo posted an opening quarter-mile of :23.81. Positions remained unchanged through a :48.46 half. Redicean put in a brief bid along the rail while his three rivals kept several paths to the outside, but dropped out of it entering the far turn.
To read the rest of the John's Call recap, download Thursday's digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.