Down the Stretch: Dead heat made meet for two trainers

With lightning flashing in the distance, lightning “struck” for the first time since 1874 when 2-1 f

With lightning flashing in the distance, lightning “struck” for the first time since 1874 when 2-1 favorite Alpha ($4.10) and 33-1 shot Golden Ticket ($26.80) dead-heated for the win in the Travers.

Ramon Dominguez rode Alpha for Kiaran McLaughlin, while David Cohen was up on Golden Ticket for Ken McPeek, who also finished fourth with Atigun.

Alpha sat a good outside stalking trip throughout, moved to leaders Speightscity and Stealcase around the far turn, stuck a head in front at the quarter-pole, then was forced to make up two lengths on Golden Ticket in the final furlong to get a piece of the win.

Golden Ticket sat a perfect inside, in-behind trip, got through inside of Speightscity turning for home, opened two lengths, then held on for his share.

Fast Falcon, like Alpha, coming out of the sloppy Jim Dandy, rallied solidly for third, beaten just a neck. Running time was 2:02.74.

Plenty of disappointments in the race, including 3-1 second choice Nonios (fifth), 9-2 third choice Neck ‘n Neck (a wide sixth) and Liaison (ninth), who was the only Grade I winner in the race. Street Life, the fourth-choice trained by Chad Brown, finished last and was subsequently vanned off with what appeared to be a soft tissue injury.

While McLaughlin hasn’t won as many races at the meet as he might like, the ones he has won — the Alabama, Coaching Club, Jim Dandy and Travers — are all of high quality.

McPeek’s meet has been quiet, but winning the Travers with a colt who hadn’t raced since May 5, and who was originally pointing to other races which didn’t fill, just made his meet.

With I’ll Have Another, Bod­emeister, Union Rags and probably Hansen all retired, there isn’t much left of this 3-year-old crop. If Paynter returns as sharp as he was prior to his illness, he’ll be the division leader. Things can change — young horses can improve dramatically. But at this point, these sophomores won’t likely be able to compete with their elders without significant improvement.

Clear and 81 degrees at post time of 11:35. Fast and firm, with no portable rails on the turf courses. Ramon Dominguez padded his lead by riding four winners. A 13-race card, with three stakes in addition to the Travers.

Eleventh Race

Rick Dutrow is in trouble with the authorities. He is currently appealing a 10-year suspension for num­erous violations, but there is no questioning his training abil­ities.

Case in point, Willy Beamin. Coming off an easy victory in last — in Wednesday’s Albany — Willy Beamin ($24.80) rallied late to win the Grade I King’s Bishop by a half-length under Alan Garcia.

Dutrow is incredibly adept at running sharp horses back off very short rest. While his peers shy away from such things, Dutrow is extremely confident that he can have a horse at its best wheeling it right back. While he doesn’t do it often, when he does, he’s dangerous.

The big disappointment in the race was Currency Swap, the 1.95-1 favorite for Spa native Terri Pompay. He sat an inside trip throughout, but never appeared comfortable while finishing sixth. Running time was 1:22.02.

Tenth Race

Contested ($4.00) showed her class in capturing the Grade I Test. In spite of appearing to lose her footing coming away from the gate, Contested comfortably sat off a very quick pace (:21.49, :44.09), moved to the leaders turning for home, took over at the eighth-pole and went on to a solid two-length score over a game Gypsy Robin. Beautiful But Blue, the New York-bred, finished a fine third. The only Grade I winner in the field, Contested atoned for her awful effort in the Mother Goose in last, where she ran last. Turning back to seven furlongs, which she prefers, Contested simply showed her super­iority. Second choice Book Review got slammed hard coming out of the gate and finished a non-threatening seventh. Running time was 1:22.47.

Ninth Race

The Grade II Ballston Spa had as many Grade I winners in it — three — as the Test, the King’s Bishop and the Travers put together. It also feat­ured a course-record performance as Zagora ($5.00) returned to top form in winning by 11⁄2 lengths. Hungry Island rebounded from a dreadful effort in the Diana to run big for second, but Zagora’s time of 1:39.07 — smashing the former mark of 1:39.92 — was too much to handle. Dominguez sat chilly on the Chad Brown-trained winner, allowing the long-absent Summer Soiree to set a quick pace. Dominguez set Zagora down in earnest around the final turn, struck the front in mid-stretch and had plenty left to hold off the late run from Hungry Island. It’s difficult for a deep closer like Hungry Island over a rock-hard turf course, and particularly difficult when the winner runs so fast.

Seventh Race

Questionable job by the starter who sent the field away despite Mad Bomber still on his hind legs after rearing in the gate about a second earlier.

Sixth Race

Pretty good education for 2-year-old firster Flashy Gal. Watch.

Third Race

Todd Pletcher’s meet has been almost totally defined by his success with 2-year-olds, particularly maidens. Pletcher scored his 20th win at the meet with a 2-year-old — the 19th with a maiden — when Slamarama ($13.00) went wire to wire under Rosie Napravnik. Those numbers are staggering. Considering this was his 29th total winner at the meet, you can see how the babies have “made” his meet. Sec­retive, a 19-1 firster from Shug McGaughey, did benefit from saving ground, but had to await room around the final turn and into upper stretch before finishing third. Watch.

Second Race

Eddie Kenneally is not having a Pletcher-like meet, but he’s quietly enjoying a solid one. Kenneally recorded his sixth win here when Honorable Dillon ($7.50), who delayed the start for several minutes while not wanting to load, scored by a handy 13⁄4 lengths. Despite bobbling shortly after the break, Honorable Dillon steadily moved up to engage leader Hot West after a quarter-mile, took over in upper stretch and went on to his maiden score. Delhomme, the 6-5 favorite, got away last before rallying for second. He drifted out very badly in the lane under a left-handed stick from John Velazquez. Howie’s Tiz, a firster from Bruce Levine, was steadied back after the start, then put in a solid run for third. Considering that Levine-trained runners are usually better in their second starts, he could be one to watch. In addition to his winners, Kenneally has had 10 runner-up finishes, meaning he is 51 percent first or second with all of his runners.

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