Sunday at Saratoga: Ladies First

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The theme of ladies first carried over into Sunday as StarLadies Racing’s Orbolution took the opener, a 1 1/16-mile maiden on the grass for 2-year-old fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The victory capped an exciting weekend for StarLadies, owners of Schuylerville Stakes third Stainless and Firsthand Report, winner of Saturday’s Power By Far Stakes at Parx Racing.

“Everybody here?” trainer Todd Pletcher asked the large group of smartly dressed women gathered just before the Orb filly walked in the winner’s circle.

StarLadies purchased Orbolution for $370,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale from her breeder Hinkle Farms. The filly out of the Grade 3-placed Horse Chestnut mare My Rachel was third in each of her first two starts, first at Keeneland in April and a month later at Belmont in a race that was taken off the turf. She finally got her preferred surface Sunday.

“It’s funny you know, she had the worst luck in the gate,” StarLadies co-founder Laurie Wolf said. “At Keeneland, they smacked her in the face with a leather strap. Then that weird thing at Belmont where there was no electricity in the gate. I’m just like please, let’s just have a clean start, let her run her race.

“The other thing Todd was saying – Todd had her mother – was ‘she might be turf.’ We’re happy to see her coming along as a 2-year-old. I was nervous, you know when you’re on the rail, sometimes those holes just don’t open. I was a little worried about, obviously (Miss Mo Mentum), and then (Kitty Kat Kate) drew in, I just didn’t know. But, she’s like, ‘uh-uh, not today.’ ”
Ben Gowans

• Danny Gargan pulled one of the valets to the side as they prepared to saddle Phi Beta Express for the fourth.

“He’s treacherous,” Gargan said. “He kicked me last time I saddled him, knocked me down. Stay up front.”

The 3-year-old Afleet Express colt cocked his right leg as Gargan tightened the girth, but kept his composure in the paddock and later as he and Kendrick Carmouche won the 6 1/2-furlong starter allowance.

“It’s always good to win your first race, that’s the first one we’ve run,” Gargan said. “In the mornings he’s really sweet to train and everything, he’s relaxed and laidback, he just has a quick turn of foot. When you saddle him and stuff he just wakes up and kicks at you. He can be pretty tough to be around. He’s a big, nice horse.”

Owner Martin Cherry raced the colt’s dam, Phi Beta Diva, and grand dam, Dignified Diva. Phi Beta Express started his career in November with Steve Margolis, going winless in three starts. Gargan took over the colt’s training this spring, winning his first start at Belmont July 4 by 2 1/2 lengths.

“When I first got him, watching him train, he doesn’t look that impressive until you breeze him,” said Gargan. “After I breezed him the first time I called Mr. Cherry up because we had debated running this horse for a tag, and I said I think we should try running this horse a bit higher up and take a shot. I’ve got to give a lot of the credit to Mr. Cherry for letting me take the time and allowing me to do what was right. I’ve run probably seven or eight starts for him and he’s got like six wins. So we’ve done really well together.”
Shayna Tiller

• Dallas Stewart loves the big stage and he picked up a win at the country’s biggest meet when Charles Fipke’s homebred Seeking The Soul upset the fifth, a 1 1/8-mile allowance on the main track.

“It’s Saratoga, it feels great,” said Stewart, winning his first race of the meet with his third starter. “Great ride, great horse. He ran tough.”

After breaking his maiden Stewart at Churchill Downs last May, Seeking The Soul jumped into the deep end in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. He finished 12th of 13 and came into Sunday with just one win in his last eight starts.

“He’s a cool horse,” said Stewart. “He’s a fighter. He can be up close and laying back, and he kind of did that in the race; he went back, up, back, up.”

With Joel Rosario aboard, the son of Perfect Soul made a long and sustained run while wide to defeat Securitiz by a half-length. Thebigfundamental was another 1 1/4 lengths back as the 6-5 favorite.

The victory completed a double of sorts for Stewart, who trained the Grade 3 stakes-winning Seeking The Gold mare Seeking The Title for Fipke.

“I trained her, she was wonderful, Grade 1 placed,” said Stewart. “It’s good to be back.”
Shayna Tiller

• One can count on many things happening every year at Saratoga. One seems to be trainer George Weaver winning races in bunches, sometimes at double-digit odds, particularly early in the meet. He won two races, including the eighth with 20-1 longshot Somerset Sandy.

“You know what it’s so hard to win here and everybody else wants to win here, too,” Weaver said “I wish it was that simple, I don’t know why we’ve been lucky to have great meets. I hope we continue this year; we got two so far today. We just work hard to keep trying, it feels good to win up here and I don’t know if that’s something about it but I’m glad it’s happening.”

Weaver’s first winner Sunday came in the sixth when Thrice scored a three-quarter-length victory in a $50,000 claimer on the grass. Somerset Sandy’s victory was in a 1-mile turf allowance for New York-breds under Ricardo Santana Jr., who won three races Sunday. The 4-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy hadn’t been out since a 6-furlong turf allowance in late April at Belmont

“We’ve been a little unlucky, (another race she entered) got rained off the turf at Belmont,” Weaver said of Somerset Sandy. “I’ve always liked her at kind of a sprint distance, 6, 7 furlongs. She was second here at 5 1/2. Early on, we really didn’t think she could go a route of ground. We thought she might be limited that way. Now that she’s gotten older, we just think she’s more mature and I wanted to give her a chance not to have to rush so much early on. We chose the mile race today and you know she’s training well so luckily, she jumped up and delivered for us.”
Ben Gowans