Monday at Saratoga: Charming opener

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Anne McMahon held tight to True Charm’s lead as she strutted the filly into the winner’s circle following the first race Monday at Saratoga Race Course.

Co-bred by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, the famed birthplace of Funny Cide just seven miles from the historic racetrack, the filly was right at home in the win photo alongside a crowd of family and farmworkers who had known her since she was a foal.

“It’s terrific,” said Joe McMahon, grinning with his wife Anne in the winner’s circle. “That’s our son’s horse (Pray For Bourbon, finishing second). I’d say the McMahons are really happy today. We’ve gotten started off right for the meet. We had a horse we bred the first day that won, and it’s looking like a great summer.”

Trained by Jimmy Ferraro, this victory makes the Langfuhr filly 3-for-4 at Saratoga after breaking her maiden and winning an allowance here last summer.

“It’s great,” said Ferraro. “It’s our first win of the year; it’s been a long, slow year.

“At Aqueduct they don’t have any turf sprints so we tried her long and she didn’t like the distance, we tried her on the inner track and she didn’t like that either. She’s kind of peculiar.”

After making three unsuccessful starts at Aqueduct in the fall, True Charm was given the winter off to regroup. In her most recent start at Belmont July 13, she finished sixth in a 6-furlong dirt race.

“This is what she really likes,” said McMahon. “She doesn’t like the dirt. We ran her on the dirt a couple times last fall at Belmont and Aqueduct and she really doesn’t like it. We gave her the winter off so we could have her fresh for Saratoga and it worked.”

With Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, True Charm broke sharply to the front of the pack and easily held the lead until the 3/16-marker as the rest of the pack began to close in. With one hard crack of his whip, Santana launched the filly into a new gear and remained victorious by a neck over Pray For Bourbon in 1:01.99.

“She doesn’t know she’s small,” said McMahon. “I always thought Langfuhr was just an underrated horse. Just a really good horse. With Truly Charming, all her other foals wanted to go long and didn’t have enough gas so we gave her a shot with a good sprinter.”

Owned by the McMahon’s, Bartholomew Forlano and Gloria Dalton, the 4-year-old might be one to watch for near the end of the meet.

“It’s early,” said McMahon. “We’d love to find a little stake for her.”

Shayna Tiller


• Angel Arroyo wore the wrong silks in the seventh race, coming to the paddock with the colors for his mount in the eighth. None of that seemed to bother Winston’s Chance as he won with the state-bred allowance under front-running ride.

The Finger Lakes shipper came into the 1 1/8 allowance off two consecutive victories at his home track, his first starts longer than 6 furlongs. The 4-year-old Roaring Fever gelding was away well and ticked off fractions of :24.72 and :49.44 comfortably while leading by a length. Winston’s Chance turned for home in front and held off the challenge of Minsky Moment to score by three-quarters of a length in 1:51.28.

“It’s always great coming to Saratoga and winning,” winning trainer Debra Breed said. “Even hitting the board is great. We’ve been here a few times, we’ve won a couple of times in Belmont and Aqueduct. But Saratoga is … . We’re very, very happy.”

The husband and wife team of Ronald and Debra Breed has been training at Finger Lakes since the 1980s. Breed had one starter earlier this meet, the first time she’s run a horse at Saratoga since 2014.

“A lot of times we don’t come unless we think something is going to occur, and we were hoping he’d run the way he ran,” she said.

Madison Scott


• The gates sprang for the third race and five horses rushed out – one ahead of the others. Smile Big bounded out and to her right, cutting across Blenheim Palace to her inside and triggering a chain reaction through the field.

“It was a tense moment,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “She kind of beat the gate and Irad (Ortiz) said she even hit his boot coming outside. If they took her down it’s a shame because out of the gate nobody got control. Most of the jockeys got their reins loose and let their horses break. She kind of broke before the gate opened and went out. We got lucky this time, it could have gone either way, but thank God it went our way.”

After a jumbled beginning, Smile Big led throughout the 1 1/8-mile allowance. Despite altering course through stretch, the 4-year-old Big Drama filly won by 4 lengths. The stewards posted the inquiry and looked at the start, but allowed the result to stand. It was Big Smile’s second win since being claimed by Rodriguez for $40,000 for longtime owner Vincent Scuderi in December.

“He’s one of the first clients we’ve had since the beginning. He supports us all the time and is one of the best clients we have. He’s got maybe three or four – he always keeps three or four. He doesn’t keep much. He was our first Grade 1, too,” Rodriguez said, referring to two-time Carter Handicap winner Dad’s Caps. “To win for him is special since they’ve been with you since day one.”

Madison Scott