Jimmy Jerkens beamed as he walked into the winner’s circle with his wife Shirley to meet Chester and Mary Broman and Can You Diggit Monday at Saratoga Race Course.
The walk was something Jerkens wasn’t sure he’d be able to do less than two months ago, after undergoing unexpected heart surgery that involved two stents being inserted to clear blocked arteries. It also came after the Broman’s homebred Tiznow colt won the $97,000 Evan Shipman Stakes for New York-breds
“It got beating there for sure,” Jerkens said after Can You Diggit won by a neck over Pat On The Back. “I’m doing good, we’re on schedule with everything. I’m doing pretty much what I was doing before.”
Junior Alvarado rode Can You Diggit for the fourth consecutive start and the pair raced behind Control Group, Wine Not and Pat On The Back early through splits of :23.95, :48.44 and 1:12.48. Can You Diggit swung wide at the top of the lane, passed Control Group outside the sixteenth pole and won under Alvarado’s hand ride. They won in 1:49.93.
“He’ll make a little run and then spit the bit, give himself a little breather and then he comes again,” said Jerkens. “He kind of looked in a little bit and had a little bump there, maybe Junior was doing it on purpose to try to get him a little more competitive. He was getting a little complacent. He does that. He makes that run and then he’s like, ‘well?’ He’s always making forward motion at the end. I could tell by the momentum he had that he was going to wear them down.”
Can You Diggit finished fourth behind eventual Whitney winner Diversify and Pat On The Back in the Commentator Stakes at Belmont Park in May and then finished third in an allowance on a sloppy sealed track May 28. Can You Diggit’s final prep for the Evan Shipman came at Saratoga Aug. 3, when he finished third in an open-company allowance going 1 1/8 miles.
“I thought this would be his best shot,” said Jerkens. “He had that decent race in open company under his belt at the beginning of the meet and he’s done very well since then. That’s the key. If it knocks them out, that’s one thing and they’re not going to run as good. He seemed to really get his act together and act a little sharper after that race, which they do up here. In Saratoga, if horses like it, they can improve in leaps and bounds.”
Can You Diggit improved to 4-for-19 and $373,555 in earnings for his owners and breeders. Can You Diggit’s dam, the Mineshaft mare Mineralogist, was a multiple stakes winner for the Bromans who earned $270,550. She won five of 15 starts, including the 2011 Saratoga Dew at Saratoga.
“I remember his mother when John Kimmel had her for Mr. Broman,” Jerkens said. “She developed over time like he is and he’s by Tiznow and they also take a while. We knew as long as we could keep him sound that eventually he would move up. He keeps getting a little better in increments.
“(Chester Broman’s) been so great for the game for so long. He’s winding down now a little bit, he’s selling the young horses and it looks like he’s going to slowly get out but he’s been terrific. Owners like that are just a dream to train for and whenever you can win for them it’s just an extra bonus.” – Shayna Tiller
• The last race of the fifth week at Saratoga was full of firsts. Making his 12th start, Won’t Be Missed broke his maiden at 48-1 to give 18-year-old jockey Romero Maragh his first win at Saratoga and trainer Jimmy Ferraro his first win of the meet.
Riding his first race at Saratoga, Maragh found a spot on the rail going down the backstretch just a few lengths off the lead. Won’t Be Missed and Maragh took the lead at the eighth pole and held off a late challenge from second-place finisher Run For Boston. They prevailed by a half-length in the ninth going at 9 furlongs on the inner turf.
Maragh is the cousin of fellow jockey Rajiv Maragh. The young apprentice rode in his first race April 15 at Gulfstream Park and has been riding there for the summer. He won two races Sunday in South Florida.
“I rode yesterday, and I flew up last night,” Maragh said after having to deny a fan his goggles because they actually belong to his cousin. “I came up last week on Monday and my horse got scratched the moment I landed in Albany. There’s been a couple mornings where I was supposed to breeze a couple here but that didn’t happen because of the inclement weather.”
Maragh had more success on his second trip to Saratoga.
“Both Rajiv and I were talking about it,” he said regarding a short trip to Saratoga. “Every night after the races, he calls and gives me feedback. I wanted to come up here and see how it felt to ride against the best jockey colony in the world.”
Ferraro complimented Maragh’s ride after the race.
“He rode excellent, look at him,” he said as he pointed at the replay. “The kid was controlled and calm.”
Won’t Be Missed was making his third start of the meet Monday. He was beaten 22 3/4 lengths in his prior two efforts and only had one top three finish to his credit before the win.
“He’s been a little frustrating,” Ferraro said. “He’s had some bad luck and he’s really never gotten his mind on his work. He’s like a big kid. He’s been really feeling good, he likes it up here.” – Ben Gowans with additional reporting by Shayna Tiller
• Concrete Rose flourished in her first start, breaking her maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf to provide trainer Rusty Arnold with his first win of the meet.
“I’ve had her for about two months,” Arnold said after the 2-year-old Twirling Candy filly won by 1 3/4 lengths. “She was at Churchill, they called me and told me that she was doing great, so I had them send her to me. She had a great month up here.
“This looked like a tough maiden race, you never know. We thought she might need a little more ground than this, but there was a lot of pace and she was running.”
Concrete Rose is owned by Ashbrook Farm and sold for $61,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale.
Arnold said he was relieved to get that first win this meet from his 15th start.
“It feels really good not to get locked out,” he said. “Everyone’s got their pride and don’t want to not win a race here. Our horses have ran well, we just didn’t win any.” – David Woods