Jockey Joel Rosario’s royal blue Godolphin silks shimmered in the evening sun after the race.
Bay of Plenty’s dark bay coat glistened.
Not a speck of dirt on them meant not a speck of trouble for Bay of Plenty to get to the lead and hold it all the way and win the nine-furlong $100,000 Alydar at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.
With the other proven pace-pusher, Matrooh, scratched out of the race, Bay of Plenty was able to carry the field through honest but reasonable fractions, and hold off a last-to-first attempt by the late-charging Mylute and win by 2 1⁄2 lengths in 1:48.92.
“He went to the lead and opened up and kept going,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “It was a fast time, and he was impressive today. He wants a clean face, so one way or other, we were going to be forwardly placed.”
Palace Malice, the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner who had raced just once in 2015 after finishing sixth in the Whitney last year, broke from the gate a half-step slow and gathered momentum from mid-pack on the second turn, but could do no better than fourth behind Bay of Plenty, Mylute and Neck ‘n Neck.
Considered the best older dirt male in the country last summer, Palace Malice could only muster the sixth in the Whitney to end his 2014 season and returned from a long layoff to finish third in the ungraded Diablo at Belmont Park in May.
Still, trainer Todd Pletcher was able to find some things to be encouraged about after Palace Malice experienced such a mystifying dropoff in form last year.
“It’s been a long time since he’s run a mile and an eighth,” Pletcher said. “We got some good breezes in him, but we were concerned that he might need this race to really move forward to get back to his best. Hopefully, this moves him forward.”
Golden Ticket, who hasn’t won a graded stakes in 23 starts since a dead-heat with Alpha to win the 2012 Travers, moved into second coming off the second turn, but faded in the stretch to finish seventh.
The Chad Brown-trained Matrooh, who has won three allowance optional claiming races this season, appeared to be a formidable pace factor, but Brown decided to scratch him because of the short run to the first turn out of the No. 12 post.
That’s was OK with McLaughlin, since it removed a horse who may have put more early pressure on Bay of Plenty.
“That was great that he scratched,” McLaughlin said. “He has a lot of pace, but the 12 hole, I think, was why they had to come out, but, yes, we were happy he came out.”
Left to his own devices from the No. 1 post, Bay of Plenty motored through the opening half-mile in 46.84, then got through three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.94, over a second slower than Liam’s Map ran to that point in Saturday’s Whitney Handicap at the same nine-furlong distance.
Bay of Plenty, a son of 2002 Jim Dandy and Travers winner Medaglia d’Oro, had a six-length cushion over Golden Ticket at the top of the stretch and held off Mylute without any difficulty.
“I thought I was going to have to lay off a bit, but right when we came towards the first turn, he was on the lead and going easy, so I just took it from there,” Rosario said.
“He got wiped out in his last race [a ninth in the Met Mile], so it was nice to see him have a nice, clean trip, and he ran a big race,” McLaughlin said. “He hopefully has a bright future back in graded stakes.”
McLaughling said the Woodward on closing weekend, when Bay of Plenty would be sure to meet some of the Whitney horses, would be a possible next start.