SARATOGA SPRINGS — With better performance in the spring, who knows, maybe Chestertown could have been running in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
West Point Thoroughbreds had high hopes for him no matter what the future held, after having shelled out $2 million in March of last year for the son of Tapit at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale.
His trip down the Derby trail never materialized, but Chestertown followed through on some of his promise on Friday by winning the Albany for 3-year-olds going a mile and an eighth as part of New York Showcase Day, six stakes each carrying a purse of $150,000 and restricted to New York-breds.
Chestertown and jockey Jose Ortiz got to the lead in the stretch and answered a surge to his shoulder from City Man at the eighth pole by outdueling him and win by three-quarters of a length.
“This horse is highly touted and obviously has high expectations being a sales-topper at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale, but Terry Finley [West Point CEO] never lost confidence,” West Point COO Tom Bellhouse said. “[Assistant trainer] Scott Blasi said to Jose in the paddock that hopefully he will show up, because no one is training better in the barn than him.
“He’s a horse we’ve always loved and it’s great to see him win the Albany against New York-breds, and hopefully have it be the steppingstone as he gets to 4 and 5 years old to be a horse who can go in open company.”
As Sky of Hook and jockey Kendrick Carmouche moved toward the lead in the early stages, Ortiz kept Chestertown back, which gave him an opportunity to keep City Man, the 4-5 betting favorite, pinned inside.
Ortiz said he knew Joel Rosario would try to maneuver City Man outside for running room at the quarter pole, so he kept Chestertown where he was as long as he could before making the decisive move.
“When he wanted to go around the three-eighths pole, he wanted to go by himself, but I didn’t want to let him go,” Ortiz said. “I had the favorite inside of me and the guy in front, I knew I got him. I took it away from him at that point.
“It took him awhile to get going but when he felt that horse outside of him coming, he re-broke and made another run. I think he’s learning still. He’s got a lot of races under his belt but he’s a typical Tapit. He will be better as a 4-year-old. He’s figured it out now with the blinkers on. I think he’s coming along really nicely.”
Hot trainer, hot jockey … hot horse.
Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown may be duking it out for the Saratoga training title, but no trainer has been winning at a percentage like Jimmy Bond.
He got another one on Friday, and it was a big one, as Rinaldi won the West Point with a front-running victory under Luis Saez on the inner turf course.
That’s two straight four-win Fridays for the jockey, who is in fourth place in the rider standings despite having missed the first seven days of the meet while in COVID-19 quarantine.
It was the second straight victory at the meet for Rinaldi, who won on July 30 and was making his first stakes start of the year in the West Point.
Bond and his wife Tina run their Song Hill Farm in Mechanicville year-round. He has 12 wins from 38 starts at the meet for a 32% strike rate, best among trainers who are averaging at least one start per racing day.
“It means everything,” Bond said. “My wife and I spend a lot of time and money to build up a nice operation, a farm. We have our own racing barn. To have this happen in these tough times for a lot of people is the icing on the cake today for us.”
“Rinaldi came out of there and showed what he’s got, and when he came to the stretch, he took off like always,” Saez said. “He’s a very nice horse, and I’m glad to be on him.
“When the gate opens, he comes out right away and controls the pace. The turf was soft, and the rail was pretty wide and the turn was tight, so you could see the horses go out. But he has a lot of ability and he came into the stretch and kept running.”
Makingcents didn’t get the lead last time out at Saratoga while going a mile and an eighth in an allowance at Saratoga on Aug. 9, and lost.
She and jockey Luis Saez banged their way out of the gate on Friday, got to the front and never gave up the lead to win the Fleet Indian by a neck over Ice Princess while running the same distance at the Aug. 9 race.
Breaking out of the No. 1 post, Makingcents took a misstep that carried her into Ice Princess, and after some hard contact, Saez was able to get her straightened out and on her way.
“It seems like she gets aggressive when she gets the lead,” trainer Jeremiah Englehart said. “I wasn’t sure what a couple horses were going to do in the race, so I told Luis to warm her up good and ask her away and play the break. If she goes out and you’re comfortable that’s fine. If not, then at some point try to get to the front. She gets game when she’s on the lead.”
“When we came to the stretch, she was a fighter, fought off the other ones and kept going,” Saez said.
Thin White Duke broke his maiden in his fifth start, and used a stake race to do it, coming from the back of the pack to win the Fleet Indian for 2-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track by a half-length over 5-2 betting favorite Eagle Orb.
“He thrives on racing,” trainer Phil Gleaves said. “In May, he wasn’t filled out to where he could be. Now, he’s getting there. He’s a much better physical looking horse. He loves his work, and he’s just a handy horse [on both] turf and dirt.
“The only stakes in the fall for 2-year-old New York-breds are on the dirt — two at Finger Lakes and two at Belmont. So, we needed to find out if he belonged with these types of horses. We scratched out of a maiden race to purposely run in this race to see where he stacked up. We felt like he would stack up and he showed it today.”
Myhartblongstodady made it 2-for-2 at the meet with another front-running victory in the Yaddo for fillies and mares going a mile and a sixteenth on the inner turf.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Myhartblongstodady backed up her July 30 victory at the same distance by leading them every step of the way in the Yaddo and holding off Wegetsdamunnys by a length at betting odds of 7-5.
She had previously been trained by Chad Brown.
“Since she’s come to me, she was training pretty forwardly,” trainer Jorge Abreu said. “Chad told me she was a nice horse, and Jose tends to get along with her pretty good. I didn’t give him any instructions. I said ‘Just play the break and do your thing.'”
“At the five-sixteenths pole, I let her open up because I knew the other filly would be coming at the end,” Lezcano said. “My filly put in a very good race and improved from the last race to this one.”
SEEKING THE ANTE
New York Showcase Day started on a grim note in the first race on the card, the Seeking the Ante, when winner Samborella was pulled up with an injury just past the wire and was later euthanized at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.
The 2-year-old filly trained by Jeremiah Englehart won by 2 1/4 lengths, but jockey Luis Saez hopped off and Samborella was vanned off with an injury to her left front leg.
“I feel bad for everyone that had the chance to work with her because she was a really nice filly,” Englehart said. “She was special.”
After starting the meet with no horse deaths from racing in the first 23 racing days at Saratoga, there have been five in the last 14 racing days.