The most popular horse among the fans didn’t win.
The most popular horse among the bettors didn’t win, either.
In fact, the longest shot in the wagering won, and that was fine with trainer Barclay Tagg.
It’s not a popularity contest, after all.
Realm and jockey Junior Alvarado closed on the outside to nail Kurilov at the wire and win the $100,000 Alydar at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.
The 5-year-old gelding hadn’t run in a stakes race in 13 months and was sent off at odds of 12-1 against three horses who were coming out of Grade I’s and another who won two Grade III races last year.
But Realm was the best on this day — barely — in a race that could set him up for a shot at the Grade I Woodward on closing weekend.
“He’s talented,’ Tagg said. “There really was no other race that suited me. It was where it was. I didn’t know I’d have two Chads and two Todds in there, either. I said to [assistant trainer] Robin [Smullen], ‘If we win this, it’ll be great.’”
The “two Chads and two Todds” in question were Kurilov and Timeline trained by Chad Brown and Outplay and Patch trained by Todd Pletcher, the two powerhouse stables on the grounds.
Timeline was the betting favorite, and Patch was the fan favorite, by virtue of the fact that he races despite missing his left eye. In typical fashion, he came running hard at the end, but had to settle for third.
“We were expecting him to run good, even if he didn’t win,” Alvarado said. “He’d been working real good. I was talking to Barclay when I worked him last time, and I said, ‘The chance to win a stakes race is right now because he feels like he’s on top of his game.’
“We took a chance and tried to pick up a check, and we ended up in the winner’s circle.”
Sandy’z Slew won the $200,000 Grade III Troy Handicap turf sprint, but didn’t get his picture taken in the winner’s circle after jockey Jose Ortiz pulled him up on the backstretch during the gallop-out.
Sandy’z Slew walked on to an equine ambulance and was vanned off the track.
“He didn’t break down,” Ortiz said. “But I could feel it when I started jogging, so I pulled him up. He took a bad step near the quarter pole, it was probably there. But he kept going in the sttretch and showed a lot of heart.”
It was the third straight victory for Sandy’z Slew and 10th career victory in 42 starts.
Even-money betting favorite Disco Partner, who has won the Grade II Jaipur at Belmont Park the last two years, was in third place throughout the race and stayed there at the wire, as Blind Ambition got up for second.
The Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale runs Monday and Tuesday at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion on East Avenue, and the first crop of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will be represented in the auction ring.
Before scratches, there are eight colts and seven fillies sired by American Pharoah in the catalogue, out of 255 hip numbers.
The Fasig-Tipton sales are free and open to the public, and those who wish to get a look at some of American Pharoah’s babies should keep an eye out for hip Nos. 3, 9, 10, 26, 35, 62, 104, 155, 170, 171, 216, 224, 225, 231 and 240.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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