Sunday at Saratoga: Cat Man

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“Thank you Johnny, I love ya,” Wayne Catalano shouted as John Velazquez hopped off Dunk A Din in the winner’s circle after the third race Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.

Catalano’s win in the 1 1/8-mile claimer marked his first of the meet, after saddling his first starter Wednesday.

“I’m feeling great,” said Catalano. “It’s always good in the winner’s circle at Saratoga especially with a beautiful blonde interviewing me. How’s it going to get better than that?”

Dunk A Din was a $20,000 claim by Michael Stiegel for Catalano from Maggi Moss and Tom Amoss at the Fair Grounds in March. The 4-year-old gelding ran for a $14,000 tag in the third, and departed the winner’s circle for Danny Gargan’s barn after being claimed by Midwest Thoroughbreds.

“He got claimed, we figured that when we entered we knew what was going to happen,” said Catalano. “We just brought a handful of horses here. We’re based in Chicago and Kentucky mostly. I brought a couple young fillies and a couple of runners, we’ve got one in the next race.”

Catalano saddled Six Schillings in the starter allowance following his victory, and finished as runner-up just a length behind the winner. Following a 2015 Saratoga meet where his 10 starters finished in the top three at an 80-percent clip, Catalano was off the board last summer with only one starter.

“We’re very happy to be back up here, but we’ve been blessed,” said Catalano. “We’re just hoping to win a few races and have a promising showing for some of the 2-year-old fillies.”

Shayna Tiller


• Charlton Baker strolled into the paddock before the eighth with a shirt that was unbuttoned to show some skin and a collar popped on the sides.

Baker dropped and popped with Rectify in the eighth to pick up his first win of the meet. Baker claimed the 5-year-old on New Year’s Eve and made $115,546 with him plus the $40,000 Rectify was claimed for Sunday.

“That’s okay, took him for 25. It’s Saratoga, I knew going in there we were going to get claimed,” the always jovial Baker said.

Officially racing for Baker and JANYMA Racing Stable, Rectify went gate-to-wire under Jose Ortiz in the 6-furlong New York-bred allowance. Rectify gained a significant tactical advantage when even-money favorite and usual speedster Syndergaard blew the break.

“Once he gets to the lead he’s great,” Baker said. “He’s an honest horse when you get him right.”

The son of More Than Ready stayed clear of his competition and was never challenged, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

“He was training great here,” Baker said. “Last race he just didn’t fire. He got a little break and I think I took it a little too easy on him. He just never really was himself. Today he came into the race doing super.

“Even when I ran him in the (last race), I knew I was going to run him for 40 at Saratoga because the a-other-than’s here are monster races. I knew we were going to lose him, but this is where we’re going to go. This is a place where you got to take that kind of chance if you want to win.”

The trainer who won 10 of 29 starts at the meet last year made another successful move Sunday.

Ben Gowans


• Dave Cannizzo’s instructions to Jose Lezcano before the ninth race were pretty simple.

“Let him run off,” Cannizzo said of Black Tide. “Ride him like a bug boy. Just let him go.”

The plan worked. Black Tide shot to the lead in the 1 mile allowance on the grass, streaking to a 11 1/2 lead by the half. Despite slightly blowing the first turn, the Hold Me Back gelding maintained his advantage through the race, winning by 1 1/4 lengths.

“There’s not really too much strategy,” Lezcano said after the race. “He’s kind of one speed. He broke, and you have to let him go and he kept going faster and faster. He ran his race and won. He started picking up the pace on the first turn, going faster and faster.”

Black Tide has reeled off four front-running victories from six starts since being claimed back by Cannizzo from David Jacobson for $25,000 in February.

“He’s a very handy horse in the morning,” Cannizzo said after getting his first win of the meet in his seventh start. “The more you let him do, the more he just keeps going and going and going. I watched his replays – every time he’d make a move he’d hang, hang, get beat, hang, be third, hang. And I said ‘You know what? You gotta put him on the lead.’

“And when I first started training, I said ‘Man, he’s not really that quick to make the lead going short.’ So let’s stretch him out and let him do it. I two-minute-licked him a mile on the training track at Belmont in the winter and he just didn’t stop. He kept going. And I thought this is the key. I ran him on the dirt, David Jacobson claimed him, and I was like ‘Wow, we’re dead.’ Waited, got him back cheaper than I lost him for, and the rest is history.”

Black Tide blowing the first turn didn’t faze Cannizzo.

“Doesn’t matter. Let him go as fast as he physically can. He’s the new Presious Passion.”

Madison Scott