SARATOGA SPRINGS — The rainbow was missing a color, specifically orange.
Any track TV feed will have a graphic display of the saddlecloth colors in a race at the bottom of the screen, to help viewers track the position of horses throughout.
Win Win Win — carrying orange as designated by his No. 7 post position — was so far out of the Grade I Forego on Saturday that not only was the horse off-screen, but his little orange graphic was gone, goodbye, too.
Sent to the Saratoga Race Course starting gate five minutes early because of a tornado warning, the field for the Forego slogged through heavy rain and mud, and from out of the clouds down the middle of the track came Win Win Win to win by a half-length over front-runner Complexity.
Naturally, a real rainbow in full bloom came and went just as fast as Win Win Win arrived back at the winner’s circle.
“I thought it was absolutely hopeless, to be honest,” trainer Michael Trombetta said. “When I looked across the infield, I could see nothing. He was completely off the screen, his little square box was completely off the screen and I just honestly didn’t know what was going on.
“Then … he re-appeared. And once I figured out who was who, it was nice to see him running so hard through the stretch.”
“What an amazing horse,” jockey Javier Castellano said. “He was very far back and made a huge run to win the race. Not too many horses can do that. He did it and in a nice way.”
In an 11-horse field going seven furlongs, Win Win Win was still in last place well inside the quarter-mile pole.
He spun way wide off the turn but began gobbling up the competition as he straightened for home.
Near the rail, Complexity and jockey Jose Ortiz were working to fight off Lexitonian, Funny Guy and True Timber, but two strides from the wire Win Win Win roared on by.
“He’s the type of horse that doesn’t break out of the gate great, but I didn’t have a lot of concern because there’s a lot of speed in this field,” Castellano said. “I knew he was going to come from behind.
“I got a little concerned when I got to the eighth pole. I didn’t have any contact with the field. I was way too far back. I had to start riding because I felt like I wasn’t going to get there, but the horse put in a lot of effort from the quarter-pole to the wire. He made me look good.”
“It was a very tough beat,” Ortiz said. “My horse tried very hard. He ran his race, he just got beat. The track was very messy.”
“After his last race, it looked like he was rounding into form, and we all like that third-race-off-the-layoff situation,” Trombetta said. “We targeted this one, and we’ve been working all summer to get here.
“I have no idea [on Win Win Win’s next start], to be honest. This was just too cool.”
As a 2-year-old last year, Yaupon was too fast for his own good.
On Saturday, he was too fast for the competition in the Grade III Amsterdam.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, the son of Uncle Mo went to the front and never looked back in winning the Amsterdam by two lengths over Basin.
His meteoric 2020 campaign amounts to just three starts since June 20, but Yaupon is undefeated, and earning comparisons to sprinters Mitole and Volatile, at least based on his potential and early career path.
“He’s extremely fast. He’s got an elite amount of speed,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Yaupon and Volatile and guided Mitole to an Eclipse Award season as champion male sprinter last year.
“It’s very important that a horse with his physical [make-up], and as fast as he is, is a graded stakes winner here at Saratoga. I think we can sit down and map out a serious future for him from here.”
Mitole won the Grade I Forego at Saratoga last year on his way to the championship, and Volatile, also 3-for-3 this season, including the A.G. Vanderbilt, could be headed that way this year.
Yaupon was unraced as a 2-year-old last year while growing into his sprinter-type frame, and did not race for the first half of his 3-year-old season, but is making up for lost time in a hurry.
“He’s a 2-year-old that worked 20.3 [for a quarter-mile] at Gulfstream for the 2-year-old-in training sale,” Asmussen said. “He had very minor issues, but it was just the physics of it when you’re capable of going that fast. We wanted to give him all the maturity we could.
“We were trying to follow a similar plan with him as we were with Mitole for the Heiligbrodts [owners]. They had expected to run him over the winter at the Fair Grounds, but he had another minor issue, so we erred on the side of caution as far as waiting and letting him get to 100%.”
In the Amsterdam, Yaupon and jockey Joel Rosario cranked through the quarter-mile in 21.93 and the half in 44.68 while unchallenged by anyone for the lead.
Yaupon’s lead was big enough in the stretch that Rosario was able to back off and let him coast to the wire, as Basin won the race for second place by two lengths over Premier Star.
On a muddy, sealed track, the winning time of 1:08.50 was .58 off the track record for six furlongs set by Imperial Hint last year in the Vanderbilt.
“He broke out of there well,” Rosario said. “I was trying to get a forward position and he put himself on the lead. He went on well. He’s a very talented horse.”
“The winner was very good,” said Basin’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. “We were hoping for a bit of a speed duel, but it never really developed. We were pleased with the effort though.”
While Volatile is considered the best sprinter in North America, Asmussen wouldn’t rule out throwing his 3-year-old Yaupon into the fire of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“It’s maybe why there are different people [jockeys] on them to begin with,” he said. “He’s just that level. We’re very fortunate that they’re both doing so well.”
Beaten by a combined 33 3/4 lengths in his last three starts, Bye Bye Melvin beat them all in the Grade III Saranac for 3-year-olds at a mile on the Mellon turf course.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Bye Bye Melvin stalked pacesetter Don Juan Kitten and passed him just before the wire on a turf course listed as “soft.”
“He’s a late developer,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He’s been a little bit of a project in that way, but I’m not surprised with the way he ran. He slugs it out and he obviously handled the soft turf better than most.”
“It’s very soft and heavy out there,” Velazquez said. “Even though they rolled it, it feels like you’re going very deep in the ground. We were running right on top of the rain, so it’s deep and slick at the same time, but he came running anyway.”
In the 11th and last race on the card, Pot of Hunny broke down shortly after leaving the starting gate, sending jockey Eric Cancel tumbling to the muddy main track.
Cancel was able to walk it off, but Pot of Hunny was euthanized on the backstretch of the main track with a broken left radial bone, per director of NYRA veterinarians Dr. Anthony Verderosa. Cancel was cleared by first aid and will ride on Sunday.
It was the third equine death from a racing incident at the meet, and the first in which the horse was put down on the track because of the severity of the injury.
Lady C (Aug. 16) and First Appeal (Aug. 20) both were vanned off with injuries and euthanized later.
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