Don Morehouse gave the photo to the placing judges after fifth race Aug. 5, but the image he handed over didn’t give them any wiggle room. Skipadate and Ninth Client hit the wire nostril-to-nostril with nothing in between – a dead heat.
The 2-year-olds can break the tie in today’s $80,000 With Anticipation, a 1 1/16-mile affair over the Mellon turf.
Skipadate came down from Woodbine with assistant trainer Norm Casse, who’s overseeing the Saratoga shedrow for his father, Mark, and earned the barn their second win of the Spa season.
“I don’t think it would have mattered whether I was in charge or not, just winning in Saratoga is something else,” Norm Casse said. “We’re having a good meet, we’re hoping for one more. It’s our last race of the meet; we don’t have anything left, we’ve just been waiting around on him. I hope to end it with a bang.”
Skipadate certainly started with a bang – notching the dead-heat victory in his career debut and collecting a check more than three times greater than his $7,000 purchase price. Owned by Mark Casse and Peter Rosbeck, the son of Skip Away swung five-wide that day, coming from off the pace under Shaun Bridgmohan to finish on even terms with front-runner Ninth Client.
“For him to win his first start, going two turns against horses that have already had starts, is pretty impressive,” Norm Casse said. “He’s done really well and I feel that it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t win. That’s the way I feel about it and I don’t usually get that confident. He probably had the toughest trip of anybody in the maiden race, and he still won. He’s done nothing but move forward since that start. You’ve got to think after that first effort that he’s going to improve. He’s doing as well as you could hope.”
Casse, who’s travelled with Skipadate since the colt entered training, and has had high hopes from the start.
“At Churchill, he was with me and I told Dad, ‘This horse is a pretty special horse’,” he said. “He never got outworked at Churchill. He then went up to Canada and worked really good there, so we decided we were going to run him here – you’ve got to think highly of your 2-year-olds if you’re going to run them here.”
His win and his works have kept fuelled Casse’s optimism.
“We breezed him on the turf the other day and you should have seen this breeze,” he said. “Super impressive. He needs a little encouragement, so Shaun Bridgmohan reached back and popped him once. You could see this horse really explode down the lane, and that was pretty exciting.”
Photo-finish mate Ninth Client breaks from the rail in the rematch, with Julien Leparoux aboard for the return call. Owned and bred by Marylou Whitney Stables, the son of Malibu Moon colt fought gamely last time, rallying to share the honors after briefly losing the lead in the stretch. Seventh in his debut on dirt at Belmont Park in July, the Wayne Lukas trainee responded to the sod at Saratoga with aplomb.
“That last race is a pretty good story line for this one. But we’ll try it, and see what happens,” Lukas said. “He ran a nice race and we don’t have many opportunities to run a stake this early on the grass. He’s going to have to improve but most of them are other-thans also.”
Morning-line favorite Bittel Road (John Velazquez) made the most of his lone start, wiring a 6-furlong turf sprint at Belmont to win going away. Owned by James Scatuorchio and John Iracane, the son of Stormy Atlantic headlines a trio Todd Pletcher juveniles in the With Anticipation.
Double Domino (Edgar Prado named to ride), an impressive debutante here July 30, stretches out after taking down a turf sprint. In his first start, Anstu Stable’s colt was forced to steady and travel three-wide yet still won with room to spare.
Completing the Pletcher triple is race’s lone filly, High Cry (Ramon Dominguez). The daughter of Street Cry took the field wire-to-wire traveling today’s distance, and takes on the boys for the first time in Friday’s stakes.
With four races under his girth, Uncle T Seven (Rudy Rodriguez) has an experience edge on most of the field and will try the lawn today in his first start since entering John Morrison’s barn. The son of Freud finished second by a nose going a mile in an off-the-turf affair Aug. 16 at Monmouth Park.
Herr Mozart (Rajiv Maragh) has been tuning up at Saratoga since May and makes his career debut for Bill Mott and Zayat Stables. The son of Mr. Greeley, purchased for $260,000 at Keeneland September, is out the Metfield mare Clincher.
Remarkable Storm (Channing Hill), the third Stormy Atlantic colt entered in the With Anticipation, comes off of a maiden-breaking score in the mud here Aug. 11. Trained by Jamie Sanders and owned by her husband, Donnie Kelly, he stretches out and takes to the turf for his fifth career start.