Saratoga Springs

Sombeyay gives Lucarelli another Saratoga thrill

Schenectady native has won five graded stakes for 2-year-olds at Saratoga as a co-owner since 2006
Sombeyay, left, and jockey Javier Castellano catch Strike Silver to win the Grade III Sanford Stakes
Sombeyay, left, and jockey Javier Castellano catch Strike Silver to win the Grade III Sanford Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Don Lucarelli’s 3-year-old granddaughter Gabriella clutched a racing program in her little fists as she was asked the quintessential racetrack question: “Who ya like?”

“The 1.”

OK, there was some coaching.

But the entire Lucarelli family was on hand as the horse with the No. 1 saddlecloth, Sombeyay, proved to be the No. 1 horse in the race by catching Strike Silver in the final strides for a thrilling 104th running of the Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.

Don Lucarelli, a 1970 Mont Pleasant and 1975 Siena College graduate, had been a co-managing partner in the ownership group Starlight Racing with partner Jack Wolf since 2004. Citing a desire to spend more time with his grandkids and his off-track business, the construction supply company Bellevue Builders, he divested himself of Starlight management responsibilities in June and won’t be buying any more horses.

He still co-owns a few dozen from previous year’s sales, though, including the 2-year-old son of Into Mischief who gave a crowd of 33,326 a great show.

Sombeyay and jockey Javier Castellano settled into third place down the backstretch before being steadied in traffic as they approached the half-mile pole, but overcame that with an outside trip to get up by a neck at the wire.

That set off a joyous celebration for Starlight, in particular the Lucarelli family.

“It isn’t over yet. The fat lady hasn’t sung,” Lucarelli said. “I’ve got another year or two. I’ve still got quite a few races ahead of me. This is what it’s all about right here, the whole family. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Since 2006, Starlight has had most of its success at Saratoga in the graded stakes for babies, including the Sanford, which the owners won with Uncle Vinny in 2015.

Octave won the Adirondack in 2006 to give the Schenectady native Lucarelli his first win of any kind at his hometown track, and Starlight’s Position Limit won the Adirondack in 2010.

The owners also have a win in the Hopeful with Shanghai Bobby in 2012, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old males.

For good measure, they owned a small piece of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.

Lucarelli will let the horses he still owns play out the string of their careers in the next few years, but a win in a race like the Sanford by a 2-year-old always suggest the potential for big things to come.

“I think the Hopeful would be the next logical step, with three starts under his belt,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “If he’s tearing the barn down, we’ll see.”

“The babies, and the 2-year-olds and the excitement … the dream’s still alive. Maybe the Hopeful is the next stop. Whatever Todd thinks is right is the right decision by me as far as I’m concerned.”

Even before little Gabriella’s prognostication, Lucarelli said he had a good feeling about Sombeyay.

“Actually, I did,” he said, “and I backed it up at the [betting] window.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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