SARATOGA SPRINGS — The fourth time was the charm for Offering Plan.
In his fourth shot at the $150,000 West Point, one of six featured stakes on New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course, the 7-year-old horse won by a neck over Dot Matrix.
The narrow margin was typical of Offering Plan’s experience in the West Point, but for the first time he was on the winning end of it.
He was third by less than a length in 2016 and a half-length back in second the last two years.
“It’s definitely his last year of racing, but we’ll try to run him some more at the end of the year,” trainer Chad Brown told the New York Racing Association. “But it’s definitely his last year, I can tell you that. He’s done a lot for us. We want to make sure he has a proper retirement.”
Sent off as a slight favorite over Dot Matrix at 2-1, Offering Plan and Javier Castellano squeezed through traffic in the stretch to outduel Dot Matrix, as both got past front-runners Everyonelovesjames and Mo Maverick inside the sixteenth pole.
“He’s an old horse, and he always tries really hard,” Castellano said. “I’ve falllen in love with this horse. I’ve been riding him for so many years and have been on him for his last 12 races. He always shows up.”
Running longer than a mile for the first time in his career, Funny Guy and Rajiv Maragh took the lead a mile into the Albany, then barely held off Bankit at the wire to win the $250,000 race for 3-year-olds at a mile and an eighth on the main track.
Funny Guy has finished no worse than second in his last six starts, with wins in the Albany and one of the races in the New York Stallion Series at Aqueduct in April.
Bankit ran in all three legs of what used to be called the Big Apple Triple, finishing third in the Mike Lee at Belmont Park and first in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes.
Trainer Linda Rice said she’s been “trying to take baby steps” with Newly Minted’s racing progression.
The 3-year-old filly took a big step toward more ambitious challenges when she won the mile-and-an-eighth Fleet Indian on the main track by a whopping nine lengths as the even-money favorite.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Newly Minted took the lead with three furlongs and actually could have won by a wider margin, if not for being geared down by Lezcano in the final sixteenth of a mile with the race well in hand.
Now Rice will consider moving Newly Minted out of restricted and state-bred company, with the hope of maybe getting into graded stakes next year.
“This absolutely opens up more doors for me with her,” she said. “Both of us were pretty confident about the distance, but I really left it up to Jose. Jose did a beautiful job of getting her in position in the first turn, and I was happy with what they did there despite the fractions.”
Owner Anthony McCarthy, who grew up two blocks from Saratoga Race Course, named a horse Spring to the Sky after his father, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.
That turf sprinter gave McCarthy a victory on his home track in 2014, and in the Yaddo on Friday, the 5-year-old mare Belle of the Spa, named for his mother, won the Yaddo by a neck at odds of 31-1.
“This filly is named after his mother, who passed recently, so it couldn’t mean more,” trainer Bruce Brown said. “We’ve been kind of pointing to this race all winter knowing and thinking what kind of horse she was. We were a little worried about the condition of the turf, but she’s just so game.”
Belle of the Spa was making her stakes debut in the Yaddo and led all the way, holding off 8-5 favorite Munchkin Money by a neck at the wire.
In the stakes for juveniles on the card, City Man made it 2-for-2 for the meet and 2-for-2 for his career by winning the Funny Cide by 4 3/4 lengths as the 2-1 favorite, and Fierce Lady got past Time Limit by a neck in the Seeking the Ante for fillies.
City Man used an opposite approach from his July 18 win at Saratoga, breaking sharply under Joel Rosario and winning from a close stalking position.
In the Seeking the Ante, Fierce Lady overcame a bump at the start, went outside and outdueled Time Limit under Javier Castellano.
She’s a loss-by-a-nose in the Stillwater away from being undefeated in three starts.
“I didn’t have the best start out of the gate, and I like the way she relaxed today,” Castellano said.
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