Union Avenue recap: Crosstown Traffic

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Edgar Prado crossed the scales and walked halfway across the winner’s circle after Monday’s featured Union Avenue before stopping and taking a deep breath.

“Whew,” Prado said, as he watched the stewards’ views of the $84,150 stakes.

Whew was right, after the seven-horse field of New York-bred distaffers played scatter march around the far turn.

On the outside, Just Zip It and jockey Jose Espinoza tightened it up on Light Tactic and Javier Castellano, who forced Summer Palace and John Velazquez to check sharply along the rail. Just behind the trio, Ramon Dominguez yanked Salt Water Reign to the right to avoid Summer Palace’s heels. Prado, moving forwardly on By The Light, had to veer around Salt Water Reign and into Eibar Coa on Street Sass.

It looked like boardwalk bumper cars.

“Sitting there and all of a sudden, I have another horse in front of me. That’s one of the closest ones in a long time,” Velazquez said. “You know when you check like that somebody has to be behind you. You know somebody’s in danger behind you. If I go, I’m pretty sure two or three others are going to go too.”

Coa felt like he was cruising on Street Sass, then all of a sudden had company.

“I didn’t know anything had happened,” Coa said. “I was trying to keep Edgar in there and the next thing I know, we saw a horse right in front of us. Edgar tried to avoid it, and pushed me out. It stopped my motion and she couldn’t come back after that. Up to that point, I thought I was going to win the race. It happened quick, snap, snap, snap.”

Prado eventually righted favorite By The Light, who came running despite the melee.

“It was a chain reaction. Close. Very close,” Prado said. “I knew (the inquiry) wasn’t against me, I was innocent, I’m glad nobody got hurt.”

The once-defeated By The Light closed resolutely to nail Light Tactic and Just Zip It. The daughter of Malibu Moon won by a half-length over Light Tactic, who had a neck on Just Zip It. By The Light finished the 6 furlongs in 1:10.58.

“I looked good leaving the backside, those other horses were running in front of me, I thought if something opened up I’d shoot through, then they started backing up all at the same time so I thought I better get out of the way and I began easing out,” Prado said. “Then I saw Johnny check real hard and stop right in front of me, big time. I had to come out and bump Coa a little bit. My filly was brave, she broke slow, took a lot of dirt and overcome it all, she was very nice.”

Owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., By The Light has been very nice, compiling a 6-for-7 career mark, with her only defeat delivered by juvenile champion Indian Blessing in the Grade I Prioress July 5.

The Union Avenue, a stakes restricted to New York-bred fillies and mares which had not won a graded sweepstakes in 2008, proved to be a decidedly easier spot.

A $190,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Timonium in September 2006, the Paul Rothfuss-bred filly made her debut at Belmont Park last July. She took that by 6 1/4 lengths, then won the Lady Fingers (a state-bred stakes) at Finger Lakes in September. She handled the boys in the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes in October. In December, she won her open debut, taking the Delta Princess at Delta Downs. This year, she made her 3-year-old debut in the Pearl City at Belmont, taking that easily. After playing bridesmaid to Indian Blessing, she came to Saratoga having already earned $547,565.

“She knows the wire,” Prado said. “The time before she did the same thing, got left at the gate, stuck in the back of the pack, made one run and that filly was a little bit better than today, she kept on going. Look who beat her the last time.”

There were no Indian Blessings in the Union Avenue.

“Definitely not,” Prado said. “Definitely not.”