Saratoga: Death casts pall over long shot’s victory

It was with mixed emotions that long shot Portrade was greeted in the winner’s circle after wiring t
Portrade (right), ridden by Gustav Dahl, clears a fence on his way to victory in the New York Turf Writers Cup Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.
Portrade (right), ridden by Gustav Dahl, clears a fence on his way to victory in the New York Turf Writers Cup Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.

It was with mixed emotions that long shot Portrade was greeted in the winner’s circle after wiring the field in the Grade I New York Turf Writers Cup steeplechase at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday.

Owned by The Fields Stable and trained by Elizabeth Voss, Portrade and jockey Gustav Dahl won for the first time since coming to North America from Ireland in 2015.

The victory was dampened by an injury to his stablemate, Bob Le Beau, who went off as the 3-5 favorite following his victory in the Grade I A.P. Smithwick on Aug. 4.

Also owned by The Fields Stable, Bob Le Beau, the 2015 New York Turf Writers Cup winner, broke the pastern in his right hind leg after jumping the third of nine fences and was pulled up on the backstretch by jockey Jack Doyle. He was vanned off and later euthanized, the sixth equine racing death of the meet.

It was also the third year in a row that a horse died from injuries sustained in the New York Turf Writers Cup.

Makari, trained by Voss, died in 2014, and 2013 champion Divine Fortune was euthanized last year after being vanned off from a fall over the final fence.

After the death of Bob Le Beau in the first race, the day ended on an equally sour note when Ring of Truth had to be euthanized after falling at the top of the stretch of the 10th race, a turf sprint.

As the field came out of the turn, Ellenvelyn and jockey Florent Geroux veered out and interfered with Ring of Truth and jockey Junior Alavarado. Ring of Truth collapsed to the ground as Alvarado was sent into a sideways roll. The jockey was OK, but his filly was euthanized on the track.

Ellenvelyn finished fourth but was disqualified and declared unplaced because of the interference.

Portrade, a 12-1 long shot, and Dahl went to the front right away in the New York Turf Writers Cup and had enough energy left to get to the wire a length ahead of Andi’amu.

“The idea was to have an easy pace,” Dahl said. “He likes to be on the front end and settles away once he can’t hear the pressure behind him. That’s why he wears the hood, as well, to dampen some of that noise. But he’s there when you ask him. He jumps well, and he just kept his forward momentum going, stay on and dug in.”

Connor Hankin finished third aboard Scorpiancer.

The New York Turf Writers Cup was the last race for the 22-year-old jockey from Maryland before he joins the Marine Corps on Sept. 10.


Trainer Bob Baffert’s Travers horses, Haskell runner-up American Freedom and Arrogate, arrived on the Saratoga grounds from California on Wednesday evening with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.

Baffert, who was scheduled to be on the backstretch this morning, hasn’t had any success in the Travers since Point Given won it in 2001.

Roman Ruler was third in 2005, Coil (2011) and Bayern (2014) both finished 10th, Liaison was 12th in 2012 and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was second to Keen Ice last year.

“We came in with two very good horses,” Barnes said. “It looks like we’re going to be OK weather-wise, and that’s always good. Exaggerator is a good horse.You can’t take anything away from him. He ran well in all three Triple Crown races. You can’t dodge anybody at this stage of the game.”

Preakness and Haskell winner Exaggerator is the 3-1 morning-line favorite.

Jim Dandy runner-up Governor Malibu galloped a mile and a quarter on the Oklahoma training track for trainer Christophe Clement.

“With a field of this size, you just have to hope for a bit of racing luck,” he said. “You just hope you get a clean trip and things work out.”

For the first time since 1977, a full field of 14 will run in the Travers.


Today’s Travers eve card features six stakes restricted to New York-breds for a total of $1.15 million in purses, led by the $250,000 Albany for 3-year-olds.

Former NFL coach Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm has the 8-5 morning-line favorite, Hit It Once More, who won the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 23 and had been nominated to the Travers.

Extinct Charm, the 5-2 second choice, will take another swing at Hit It Once More after finishing second by 61⁄2 lengths in the New York Derby.

Parcells and trainer Gary Sciacca will also run Jet Black, who is making his stakes debut in the Albany.

In the Funny Cide for 2-year-olds, Syndergaard, named after New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, is the 6-5 favorite off his nice career debut at Saratoga on Aug. 8, when he won by three lengths.

After finishing fourth to Tourist in the Fourstardave last Saturday, King Kreesa will wheel right back against many of his old buddies in the West Point at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf.

The 10-horse field includes Lubash, who beat King Kreesa by a length in the West Point last year and will be making the 50th start of his career. Graded stakes winner Notacatbutallama, third in the West Point last year, is also in the field, as well as turf veteran Kharafa.

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