SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trainer Steve Asmussen’s three horses in the Grade I Hopeful were separated by less than seven lengths.
He’d like to keep them separated on the race schedule in the future.
But for one day, Basin, Shoplifted and Gozilla produced an Asmussen trifecta in a six-horse field, led by a colt by Liam’s Map who broke his maiden impressively at Saratoga Race Course on July 21 and then romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the Hopeful under meet-leading jockey Jose Ortiz.
“Those are three talented horses, and hopefully that’s the last time that they’ll run against each other,” Asmussen said. “I’ve always been surprised with how much speed he [Basin] showed. Physically, and pedigree-wise, we were excited about him running long and we were surprised at how sharp he was the first time he ran.”
Basin bounced out of the starting gate first, but Ortiz dialed him back, then launched a bid at the front-runners from the outside as they got into the stretch.
He won in commanding fashion, as stablemate Shoplifted came from last to finish second, getting past stablemate Gozilla by a neck.
“Seven furlongs for the first time, for these babies, you’ve got to be a little careful, and I was,” Ortiz said. “I took my time. I could’ve moved a little earlier on the other horses, but I didn’t want to because they were fighting. And I gave my horse a really nice breather from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole. That was a big difference. I just made one move with him.”
Asmussen’s stable of 2-year-olds were successful throughout the meet, and it all came together with the 1-2-3 finish in the Hopeful.
“We felt great about them coming into the meet,” he said. “We thought we had some extremely talented 2-year-olds, and I think they’ve proved that.”
Green Light Go, the Saratoga Special winner who was the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Hopeful, was scratched in the morning.
Gozilla went off as the 6-5 betting favorite and led through a quarter-mile in 22.66 and the half in 45.84 accompanied by American Butterfly, who fell back to fourth at the finish.
Pick a turf course, any turf course.
It doesn’t matter to Qurbaan, at least when it comes to the Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga Race Course.
At the tail end of a rain-soaked day, the New York Racing Association decided at the last minute to switch the Bernard Baruch from the Mellon Turf Course to the Inner.
Qurbaan sneaked through on the rail turning for home and won by 2 1/2 lengths under Joel Rosario.
He won this race last year, when it was run on its traditional course, the Mellon, and either way, it was a gratifying win for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s stable.
“It was a great win,” McLaughlin said. “It’s been a little slow meet for us, but it’s nice, we won three stakes. And it was great for him, because he’s one of the barn favorites, and unlucky so many times, to be second or third, with little excuses. But today, everything went perfect.”
Qurbaan’s season has included two straight losses to Bricks and Mortar, and in his most recent start, he was a half-length behind Mr Havercamp in third in the Grade III Forbidden Apple on the second day of the meet.
McLaughlin said the course switch didn’t bother him, but he was still a little uncertain about how Qurbaan would handle the soft turf.
“I thought it [switch to Inner] was great, because I didn’t have time to worry about it,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t know until we were in the paddock.
“We knew he liked it here, yielding [last time], but you never know how slow it is or how deep it is or how they’re going to handle it. But we’re happy after the fact.”
Chad Brown had three horses in the six-horse field, but had to settle for second, with Sacred Life.
The 2019 Saratoga meet ended on a grim note when Borough Boy, ridden by Eric Cancel, broke down in the stretch during the last race of closing day and was euthanized on the track.
Cancel fell from the saddle and was on his back for a minute, but was able to get up and walk off by himself.
According to the New York State Gaming Commission Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database, it was the fifth equine death due to incidents that occurred on the track during racing since the July 11 opening day.
One of the deaths listed as “Racing” was Divine Miss Grey, who was injured during the De La Rose Stakes on Aug. 3 and was euthanized at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on Aug. 26 due to complications from fetlock surgery.
The Database lists a total of 13 equine deaths due to circumstances at the Saratoga main track and the Oklahoma Training Track, 10 of which happened since opening day. Five of those 13 occurred during training, and three were due to “Non-Racing” events. Those three included one horse who was put down due to post-operative gastro-intestinal complications; one who was unresponsive to pneumonia treatment; and one who was “found distressed in stall” in May and was put down at Rood & Riddle because of excessive blood loss.