Saratoga Roundup: A Thread of Blue wins Saratoga Derby Invitational

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Leonard C. Green’s A Thread of Blue wasn’t able to participate in the first leg of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Triple series, but made up for lost time in a big way, leading an 11-horse field of sophomores gate-to-wire to win the inaugural $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had to keep A Thread of Blue out of the the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 6 at Belmont Park after he spiked a temperature two weeks before the Turf Triple Series’ opener. But the extra rest, and a stretch out to 1 3/16 miles, worked to his advantage in the middle jewel, as the Hard Spun colt was placed up front by jockey Luis Saez, posting fractions of 23.62 seconds for the opening-quarter mile with the half in 48.54 on the firm Mellon turf course.

A Thread of Blue, who went off at 13-1, kept the advantage out of the final turn, with Saez keeping him near the inside as Digital Age made a bid from the outside. But Saez kept his charge under a hard drive, hitting the wire in 1:52.02 to outkick Digital Age by a length.

“We talked about three different races in eight days: the [Grade 2] Hall of Fame, the [Grade 1] Secretariat [on August 10 at Arlington], and this race,” McLaughin said about his options. “We just kept landing back on this race, after talking to Green and his son, Jonathan. We didn’t have to go anywhere and we might get an easier lead going further. Going a mile they are going to be pressing more, so it just worked out great.”

A Thread of Blue was making his first start since running fourth in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1 at Penn National. Before stretching out in distance on Sunday, he logged two victories and a runner-up effort in three starts at 1 1/16 miles on firm turf since December, winning against allowance company at Gulfstream Park to cap his juvenile campaign and taking the Grade 3 Palm Beach at the same track on March 2. A Thread of Blue ran second to Digital Age in the Grade 2 American Turf on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

In facing Digital Age again, A Thread of Blue extracted a measure of revenge en route to returning $28.40 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career bankroll to $879,290 thanks to the winner’s share of $535,000.

“[An] uncontested lead is big, and he’s a very talented horse,” McLaughlin said. “He likes it firm, obviously, winning three in Florida. He doesn’t like to ship that well, but he ran great at Churchill. [The] Penn [Mile] just didn’t go well. We gave him a little more time going into this, but he’s been training unbelievable and it just worked out great.”

Saez notched his seventh stakes win of the Saratoga summer meet, which leads all riders.

“In a big race, you never know, but we were lucky that it was pretty easy up front,” Saez said. “When we came into the stretch, I knew I had plenty of horse. I saw them coming, but he responded pretty well. It was easy for him today. The other day I had to put him into the race because there was a little more speed.”

Digital Age, one of two entrants for trainer Chad Brown, improved on a fourth-place effort in the Belmont Derby, finishing 1 ¼-lengths clear of the Aidan O’Brien-condtioned Irish import Cape of Good Hope for second.

“They slowed down on the backside, in the second part of the race, and when they slowed down, I think that was when I got beat. [But] he was coming,” said Digital Age rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. 

Rounding out the field was Social Paranoia, Belmont Derby-winner Henley’s Joy, 5-2 favorite Rockemperor, Kadar, Mohawk, Flyings Scotman, Seismic Wave and Eons.

The Turf Trinity series will conclude on September 7 at Belmont, with the $1 million, 1 ½-mile Jockey Club Derby Invitational, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders‘ Cup Turf, while the Turf Tiara for 3-year-old fillies will conclude with the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational.

“[The 1 3/16-mile distance] was a concern, but not really. He’s a very talented horse and we thought he could get the distance,” McLaughin said. “Now the next one [the Jockey Club Derby], we might have to talk about a mile and a half, but we got this one. We’re happy with this.”

Live racing will resume Wednesday with a 10-race card that features the $100,000 Evan Shipman for 3-year-old state-breds in Race 9. The first post is set for 12:50 p.m.

Adirondack Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Tracy Farmer’s Perfect Alibi found racing room late in the lane and surged to a half-length score in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack, a 6 ½-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Mark Casse, the dark bay daughter of Sky Mesa arrived at the Adirondack from a narrow three-quarter length defeat to Maryanorginger in the Astoria on June 6 at Belmont Park.

Sent to post as the third choice in the Adirondack at 6-1, Perfect Alibi settled in fifth position under Irad Ortiz, Jr. as Integral cut out the opening quarter-mile in 22.06 seconds and the half-mile in 45.84 on the fast main track.

The 2-1 second choice Magic Dance, undefeated in two starts for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, stumbled out of the gate and was positioned sixth outside of rivals at the half-mile call, while the 3-5 mutuel favorite, Frank’s Rockette, tracked along the rail in third under Julien Leparoux.

Magic Dance, with Ricardo Santana, Jr. up, rallied into contention late in the turn to own a 1 ½-length lead at the stretch call, with Perfect Alibi and Frank’s Rockette launching inside runs.

Perfect Alibi, full of run, angled between Frank’s Rockette and Magic Dance in the final eighth of a mile and surged clear to secure her first stakes win in a final time of 1:18.39.

“I had a good trip. I broke running because she’s that kind of filly,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She has a nice stride. I got a good position on the turn and I just had my hands down and relaxed. Turning for home, Asmussen’s filly was on the outside, so I didn’t want to make a premature move and try to get through because it looked like Santana had a lot of horse, so I just waited. They didn’t keep a straight [path], so I got through in between the horses and she responded really well.”

Casse and Farmer, who teamed up to win the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets with Sir Winston, enjoyed their first Saratoga stakes score together in the Adirondack.

The Canadian Hall of Fame conditioner credited Farmer for taking a chance in the Adirondack.

“This filly is funny because in the morning when she breezes, you wouldn’t know she’s anything. She’ll go a half [mile] in 50 [seconds] and it’s like she’s giving you everything,” said Casse. “I was a little surprised she broke her maiden the way she did so easy. I told Mr. Farmer, ‘I can’t tell you not to run her, I can’t tell you to run her.’

“She’s a little bit like Sir Winston,” added Casse. “When he gallops out, he shows you something. Good thing about Mr. Farmer is he’s not afraid to lose. Sometimes, you have to run them. This is why you run them, because if you watched her train the past couple of weeks, you would think she wouldn’t be any good.”

Frank’s Rockette completed the exacta, 1 ¼-lengths ahead of Magic Dance. Rounding out the order of finish were Miss Peppina, Big Q, Mylastfirstkiss, Integral and Just Fly.

Leparoux said traffic trouble down the lane may have cost Frank’s Rockette lengths.

“The plan was to sit behind the speed, and we got that the first part,” said Leparoux. “Even though I was inside, I could move anytime. Coming to the quarter pole, [No. 7 Just Fly] came out and I had plenty of room, so I just tried to go in there and it just closed on me and we got bumped. She ran a great race. If that doesn’t happen, she probably wins.”

Perfect Alibi, a 9 ½-length winner in her May 16 debut at Churchill Downs, was a $220,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.

Bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud, Perfect Alibi banked $110,000 in victory while improving her record to two wins and one second from three starts. She paid $15.40 for a $2 win ticket.

Fasig-Tipton Waya

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Overshadowed heading into Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya by her multiple graded-stakes winning stablemate and betting favorite Santa Monica, Wise Racing’s Fools Gold proved to be a smart three-quarter-length winner of Saratoga Race Course’s 1 ½-mile turf marathon.

The 16th running of the Waya for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up was the second of four stakes worth $1.5 million in purses on an 11-race program to close the three-day Fasig-Tipton Racing Festival.

In earning her first career stakes victory in her fifth try and first against graded company, Fools Gold gave trainer Chad Brown his third win in the Waya and first since Guapaza in 2016. Saratoga’s meet-leading trainer also won in 2015 with Goldy Espony. It was the first-ever stakes win for owner Allen Wise.

Sky Full of Stars, a Group 2 winner in Germany making her third North American start and just her second this year, was eager for the lead from post position 5 in the six-horse field and quickly opened up on her rivals through a quarter-mile in 24.60 seconds and a half in 49.87. Fools Gold tracked Sky Full of Stars in second, chased by Grade 3-placed Theodora B. on the outside and 6-5 favorite Santa Monica tucked in along the rail.

Still in front after a mile in 1:40.45, Sky Full of Stars and jockey Joel Rosario were collared by Fools Gold approaching the top of the stretch and unable to resist the challenge, as Hall of Famer Javier Castellano urged his filly to the lead and set down for a drive to the wire. The winning time was 2:27.21 over a firm inner turf course.

“She really ran great. She’s been an improving horse. I’m really proud of the way she’s come along. I told Javier if she breaks out of there good, we’re happy to go to the lead,” Brown said. “I didn’t see a lot of speed in the race, but if somebody was fully intent on making the fractions just to lay second; that’s what he did. He decided to back off when Joel took the initiative, and he just timed it perfectly.”

Get Explicit, a 23-1 long shot based at Woodbine that had placed in a pair of previous graded-stakes attempts, emerged from a tightly packed group behind the winner for second, a neck ahead of Santa Monica, who appeared to encounter some traffic trouble leaving the backstretch and had to swing to the far outside in the stretch to mount her bid.

Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial winner Gentle Ruler was another neck back in fourth to snap her four-race win streak. Sky Full of Stars and Theodora B. completed the order of finish.

Fools Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro that fetched $425,000 as a 2-year-old in training in March 2017, had run second or third in three consecutive stakes this spring and summer. She entered the Waya having finished second by less than two lengths to Semper Sententiae in the 1 ½-mile River Memories July 5 at Belmont Park.

Sent off at 3-1, Fools Gold returned $8.40 for a $2 win bet.

“The filly put up a great performance going a mile and a half last time at Belmont,” Castellano said. “I think the mile and a half adjustment helped her out today. Mr. Brown did a great job with the horse, bringing her to Saratoga to win the race.”

The Waya is named for the champion mare who distinguished herself both in her native France and in the United States. In 1978, after having won multiple stakes in Europe, she came to America and won six of nine starts including victories over males in the Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 Turf Classic. In 1979 she won four straight stakes in New York and California and was voted champion older female.

John Morrissey

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Zilla Racing Stables’ Celtic Chaos made a sweeping move at the top of the stretch and got his nose on the wire in time to best Build to Suit in Sunday’s $100,000 John Morrissey for New York-breds going 6 ½ furlongs over the Saratoga Race Course main track.

Celtic Chaos sat off the pace while Gold for the King led the six-horse field in an opening quarter-mile of 22.79 seconds and a half-mile in 45.70.

Jockey Dylan Davis angled Celtic Chaos four wide and made his bid at the top of the stretch, taking command at the eighth-pole. A surging Build to Suit, rallying from last of six under Manny Franco, ranged menacingly inside his rival as the two battled out the final jumps, with Celtic Chaos taking the photo finish by a nose. Celtic Chaos stopped the clock in 1:15.45. 

Gold for the King, T Loves a Fight, Eye Luv Lulu and Saratoga Giro rounded out the order of finish. Vincento was scratched.

The 6-year-old chestnut son of Dublin built off of a victory against open company on May 31 at Belmont Park, where he registered a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for trainer Brad Cox.

The win was a fourth stakes victory this summer at Saratoga for Cox, who is now tied with Chad Brown for most stakes wins at the meet. Cox has been synonymous with winning photo finishes in stakes races this weekend. On Saturday, he sent Beau Recall to Del Mar for the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon, who also won her race by a nose.

“I honestly didn’t think he got there, but the with a photo, you’ve got a shot, and then they put his number up,” Cox said. “It was good. Dylan did a great job riding him. He put him in a great position. He’s put him up in the race a little closer the last couple races and it’s worked out really well. I’m very proud of him.”

Davis said he didn’t think Celtic Chaos had won the photo but was delighted when the horse’s number was put up.

“He broke a lot sharper than usual and I just wanted to get him in good rhythm,” Davis said. “He wanted to get running, so I took a shot going outside and he got it done. He dug in when Franco came up on the inside and he really fought to the wire. I thought I was on the losing side, but he got the head bob.”

Celtic Chaos won the 2017 renewal of the Morrissey while under the care of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He was third in last year’s Morrissey behind Weekend Hideaway.

Returning $13.20 for a $2 win bet, Celtic Chaos took home the winner’s share of $55,000 from the win. His career bankroll improved to $659,947.

The Morrissey was the third career stakes win for Celtic Chaos, bred by Spendthrift Farm, who also captured the Affirmed Success at Belmont Park in 2017. A veteran of 35 starts, his record now stands at 9-5-8.

By Paul Wager

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