Sunday at Saratoga: Local Win

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Matt Skelly got introduced to Little Red Feather Racing through word of mouth.

“A friend of mine is on another horse that they have that raced here recently,” Skelly said Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. “He introduced me to the partnership, he had a friend who introduced him. I got involved at the start of the year and it’s been great since then.”

The word was out that My Boy Tate was ready to fire in the fifth race, a 6-furlong New York-bred maiden special weight. Sent off at 3-2, the 3-year-old gelding cruised home under Manny Franco to win by 4 3/4 lengths.

The son of Boys At Toscanova was bred by trainer Michelle Nevin, who sent out the gelding to victory Sunday. Little Red Feather bought into the winner after his second-start in February at Aqueduct, where he was beaten only a nose.

“Tate here, he got a little sick in the spring and lost about 50 or 75 pounds,” Skelly said. “He got healthy afterwards and he just fired a bullet on Friday, so he’s been ready and we’ve just been waiting for the right race.”

Racing around one turn and at a sprint distance for the first time, My Boy Tate showed early speed and battled for the lead. After putting away his pacesetting foe on the turn, he drew clear of the field at the top of stretch and was never challenged, stopping the clock in 1:10.24.

“This is my first start at Saratoga,” Skelly said. “I’m from here, I went to high school here, so I’m just happy to get my first win in Saratoga.

“I’ve been in multiple partnerships, I’m in multiple partnerships right now. But I’m obviously really enjoying the Little Red Feather experience. Saratoga is where you want to win as an owner so I couldn’t be happier.”

Ben Gowans


• Jockey Oscar Gomez and trainer Michael Sabine, two names fairly unfamiliar to Saratoga racing fans, made themselves familiar with the winner’s circle Sunday.

“First win here, first time racing here,” Sabine said after leaving the winner’s circle after the sixth. “I’ve been here before, I saw Affirmed and Alydar here. Just walking over I’m like, ‘just keep it together.’

“I was a construction worker that got into racing Arabians. Had my first Arabian claimed off me and I claimed a Thoroughbred.”

The rider and trainer from Finger Lakes shipped in for the day with Victorias Fire to take the 5 1/2-furlong New York-bred allowance moved to the dirt from the turf.

“My first winner here, I try and try,” Gomez said. “I know one day it was coming. Today’s the day.”

Sabine acquired Victorias Fire in May 2016 and could have never imagined the journey the Noonmark filly would end up taking him on.

“I claimed her for ($5,000) at Finger Lakes,” he said. “I thought she was a $5,000 horse, that’s all. You know, she might go through her conditions at 5, but she went through her conditions in allowances and just kept getting better and better.”

The speedy Victorias Fire has indeed gotten very good for Sabine. His highest earner with a bankroll of $145,921 after the win, she won six races in a row last year at Finger Lakes, from Aug. 4 to Nov. 8, and brought a two-race win streak into the race Sunday.

Sabine didn’t exactly have a trip to Saratoga circled on the calendar.

“Couldn’t get her in anywhere, that’s how it happened,” he said. “I ran her at Presque Isle and the next time I entered her, there wasn’t enough horses that had been entered at Finger Lakes. I don’t like to ship much. This came up and I said, ‘give her a shot cause she’s hot, ready to go.’ ”

Ben Gowans


• Gary Contessa dashed from the winner’s circle to the paddock. Still celebrating Oldfashioned Style’s victory in the second, Contessa draped a white saddlecloth and saddle over Kelsocait for the third.

He was back in the winner’s circle less than a half-hour later, this time celebrating Kelsocait as she captured the 7-furlong claimer.

“I’m going home after this, that’s it,” said Contessa. “I’m not screwing up this day.”

Leonard Green’s D. J. Stable purchased Oldfashioned Style at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of selected yearlings for $27,000. Green founded D. J. Stable in the early 1980s. The “D” is for one of his daughters, Debbie, and the “J” is for his son Jonathan, who manages the racing stable.

“It’s funny. In July as a yearling I loved her, she’s my No. 1 pick of the sale,” said Contessa. “The guy I’m down there to buy for I say, ‘I love this Old Fashioned filly.’ He says, ‘I don’t want no Old Fashioneds I don’t like that sire.’

“I run into Jonathan Green and he goes, ‘Gary who do you like in this sale?’ I told him about the Old Fashioned filly over there that I love, my No. 1 pick of the sale. He says, ‘I just bought her, you can have her’ and hands me the ticket.”

Contessa has trained with the Greens since their early days at Monmouth Park. The daughter of Old Fashioned made her first start with Contessa at Belmont June 28, finishing sixth in the 5 1/2-furlong maiden special.

“I loved her first time out,” said Contessa. “If the owners were here they would tell you I was so disappointed.

“Sometimes you run them first time out and they just don’t get it. Then she came up here and she trained brilliantly. I said to (Luis) Saez, ‘Just go to the lead and see what happens. If you can’t make the lead then it’s in your hands.’ ”

With the Mellon Turf Course waterlogged, the original 1 1/16-mile maiden was switched to the main track and run at 7 furlongs.

Saez took the mount and did exactly as Contessa said. Pushing the filly to the front of the pack at the break, Saez chased just behind the pace in second as they went through early fractions of :22.80 and :46.75. With five-sixteenths to go, the pair took the lead and drew away to win by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:24.47.

“That helps,” said Contessa of the switch to dirt. “I worked her seven-eighths the other day (on the turf) and she came home the last quarter in :24 flat, so she might be a turf horse. There’s a lot of turf in her pedigree with Smarty Jones and Unbridled Song. I’d like to continue to stretch her out.

“Today was the perfect stalking trip, she laid off the speed. She’s a very professional filly, she looks like a big 3-year-old and acts like one. She’s got a great mind and makes it very easy to train her because she does everything right. She trains like that, she’ll work a half in :48, :49 and gallops out really strong so I always thought she’d be a two-turn horse. She looks like that, a big typey, two-turn horse.”

Green partnered with Sean Shay on Kelsocait in the third. The filly blew through the claimer to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

“He owns half of this horse, two wins for Leonard Green,” said Contessa. “We’ve been really knocking on the door, we’ve had a lot of seconds and thirds so it’s starting to come back to us.

“I have a bunch of really nice 2-year-olds, New York-breds and open, that I’ve been waiting to run so we’re finally getting our time and are getting ready. I’m excited by the whole stable; it’s pretty decent.”

Contessa closed the day with a third, bringing his Saratoga record to four wins, four seconds and eight thirds from 42 starts.

Shayna Tiller