SARATOGA SPRINGS — Naughty Gal had never set foot on the Saratoga Race Course main track until the Adirondack on Sunday.
She got her money’s worth out of the first tour.
Fanning 10 paths away from the inside rail coming off the turn, she and jockey Luis Saez ran over ground that seldom sees footfall during a race, but she was still plenty good enough to overcome that super-wide move to win the $200,000 Grade III race for 2-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths.
It was the seventh Adirondack win for 86-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who first won this race in 1985 to kick off a four-year stretch of Adirondack victories. Before Sunday, he last won this race in 2005.
“It means that seven times I outlasted the other guys. It means I’m old and I’m outlasting them,” said the grinning Lukas, whose 87th birthday is Sept. 2.
Lukas had trained Naughty Gal exclusively on the Oklahoma Training Track.
In the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack, she and Saez took charge early, establishing the lead through the first quarter-mile in 22.46 and the half in 46.15.
She was six wide at the quarter pole as they were nearly finished with the turn, then ran a tangent way out to the middle of the homestretch without cutting the corner.
So Saez simply held that line all the way to the wire, and the Mark Casse-trained Janis Joplin, ridden by Flavien Prat, couldn’t catch her, but held on to second place by a head over Sabra Tuff.
“She was a little green,” Saez said. “At the three-eighths, her ear was back-and-forth looking at something and got a little lost, but she kept running and going. She gave me another gear and ran good.”
“I think what happened was he didn’t want to be down on the inside or on the rail,” Lukas said. “He said the rail was not the place to be. Looking at it, and thinking about it, I think what happened was he came off the turn and decided to go wide, and suddenly figured that he was a lot wider than he wanted to be. Probably made it look worse than it was.
“Oh, she’s talented. She was able to overcome that, and that’s the biggest thing.”
“I thought we had a good shot, and then coming down [the stretch], I couldn’t tell whether we were in front or who was in front,” said Casse, Lukas’ fellow Hall of Famer. “We were watching from the wire, and when they got up close, I was like, ‘Oh well, second.’ I’m happy for Wayne. If we’re not going to win, I want Wayne.”
Coming into the meet, Lukas had hopes for two of his 2-year-old fillies, Naughty Gal and Summer Promise, who was second in the Schuylerville and is pointing toward the Spinaway on closing weekend.
“I thought I did a poor job with Summer Promise,” Lukas said. “I didn’t have her tight enough, and underestimated how this track is here. And I think I got her beat. But we’ll try to correct that in the Spinaway.
“This one here [Naughty Gal], we pointed her for this and got a little smarter about what we were going do, put a couple five-eighths [workouts] in her, and it paid off.
SARATOGA OAKS INVITATIONAL
Trainer Charlie Appleby made a clean sweep of the second leg of the New York Racing Association’s three-part series of turf stakes for 3-year-olds when With The Moonlight and jockey William Buick won the $700,000 Grade III Saratoga Oaks Invitational.
The Appleby-trained Nations Pride, like With The Moonlight a Godolphin home-bred, won the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational on Saturday.
With The Moonlight was second in the Belmont Oaks Invitational to the Chad Brown-trained McKulick on July 9, and Appleby said the shorter distance of the Saratoga Oaks worked his filly’s favor.
“You could almost bring her back to a mile,” he said. “The more races she’s got, the more experience she’s got. She’s learning how to do it. It was a good performance today.
“I felt comfortable coming into today. We respected Chad’s, but we were confident we’d be running her a bit closer this time.”
“There really wasn’t any pace in the race today,” Brown said. “It was a totally different setup [from the Belmont Oaks]. The winner ran very well. She was positioned in front of us and really outkicked us. We weren’t too far behind her. She outkicked us today off that pace, so hats off to her.”
This weekend’s double came during Appleby’s first trip to Saratoga.
“Obviously, it’s great to have the winners, but it’s my first time here and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s an amazing place and I can see why there’s been a lot of history and a lot of fun had here.”
DE LA ROSE
Casse benefitted from a wide trip with one of his own horses, Our Flash Drive, later in the card, and the result was a win in the De La Rose for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.
Ridden by Dylan Davis, Our Flash Drive was wide around both turns while stalking the pace, then closed well to finish a length ahead of Plum Ali.
“I wasn’t comfortable [being wide], but there wasn’t much I could do about it at that point in time,” Casse said with a laugh. “You always want to save ground, but I did tell him [Davis], ‘I think she’s the best horse in the race — ride her that way.’ And he did.
“We all know how tough this turf course is to win when you don’t save ground. I think she broke OK, and then she took off with him a little. She’s been a project. She’s not an easy horse.”