The FIFA World Cup is over, the second edition of the LeBron James soap opera is done, Major League Baseball is halfway through its season and the spring-summer meeting at Belmont Park is in the books. All that means one thing and one thing only: Saratoga is right around the corner.
The 2014 Saratoga Race Course meeting opens Friday, the 146th season of racing at the place people call the Spa. Don’t get confused, last year marked the 150th anniversary of racing in Saratoga. There were a few years when there wasn’t any racing – wow, restaurateurs and behemoth building makers would self destruct if it happened today – so that’s where we get to 146. Or so we’re told.
Del Mar opens its season this week, too, a day before Saratoga kicks off. This is Del Mar’s 75th season and racing runs from Thursday to Wednesday, September 3 – five days a week, Wednesdays to Sundays.
Novel concept, less is indeed more, maybe especially so when the horse population is on the low side, not to mention attention spans and wallet girths of vacationers. Are we talking about Del Mar or Saratoga? Take your pick.
Back to Saratoga. The annual open house went down for the 34th time Sunday, a local community event that benefits nonprofit organizations and serves as a good platform for other local musicians and crafters. Still no jump racing on the main track, but some trial races were run on the Oklahoma Training Track.
Saratoga’s opening-day card wasn’t drawn over the weekend, so no early homework to be done as the week gets started. Del Mar’s first two cards are up and amazingly – well, maybe not so amazingly considering the above mentioned shortage in horses – the opening Oceanside Stakes was not split.
Folks around Saratoga are gearing up for the meet and the town and stable area is starting to fill up. People want to know, “who’s going to be the hot jockey and hot trainer this year?”
Probably pretty much the same as last year. Todd Pletcher won another training title at Belmont with 28 wins, four more than Chad Brown. Javier Castellano, Saratoga’s leading rider last year, tied for the Belmont title with Irad Ortiz Jr. with 51 victories.
Belmont’s closing weekend was highlighted by another victory in a graded stakes by a New York-bred, this time Hangover Kid taking the Grade 2 Bowling Green on the turf.
Hangover Kid is no stranger to graded stakes company, he’d placed in three graded stakes the last two years and won the West Point at Saratoga last year. The Bowling Green was his first graded score, for owner and breeder Steve Taglienti’s Four Tags Stable and trainer Jason Servis.
The 6-year-old by Lemon Drop Kid is as consistent as they come, with seven wins, seven seconds and three thirds in 24 starts. Servis mentioned the Breeders’ Cup as a long-range goal for Hangover Kid and don’t be surprised if they use Saratoga again to try and get there.
Watch Hangover Kid win the Bowling Green. …
Belle Gallantey posted the biggest upset of the weekend when she toppled Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap.
Fifth of six in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Belle Gallantey used new tactics to pull off this coup, going right to the front under Jose Ortiz to spring the upset. Princess of Sylmar, 1-to-2 off a strong second to Close Hatches in the Phipps, put in her usual late run but wasn’t good enough to run down the winner and settled for second. Princess of Sylmar carried 123 pounds and gave the winner eight pounds.
Belle Gallantey’s win was part of a big weekend for Michael Dubb. He was recognized as the leading owner at the Belmont spring-summer meeting with 11 wins and co-owns the Delaware Handicap winner with frequent partners Bethlehem Stable and Gary Aisquith.
Check out the chart of the Delaware Handicap….
The ageless Ben’s Cat pushed his career bankroll over $2 million with his third consecutive victory in the Grade 3 Parx Dash Handicap Saturday. Fourth last time in the Grade 3 Jaipur on Belmont Stakes Day, the 8-year-old was happy to be back home in the Mid-Atlantic and won a thriller over quality turf sprinters Tightend Touchdown and Marchman.
Ben’s Cat picked up $120,000 for his nose win, pushing his bankroll to $2,105,990 for owner, breeder and trainer King Leatherbury, who races the Maryland-bred in his The Jim Stable.
Check out the chart of the Parx Dash.
Editor’s note: Monday Morning Trainer will be on hiatus until September 8 while we crank out The Saratoga Special. Make sure you check out thisishorseracing.com daily to download the digital edition of The Saratoga Special and drop Tom Law an email at [email protected] if you want to get on ST Publishing’s email list to receive a link to the paper the night before it hits the streets of Saratoga.