SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trainer Jim Bond didn’t mind this phone call.
“Kiaran McLaughlin [jockey Luis Saez’s agent] called me and said, ‘We’ve got a big scratch,'” Bond said on Friday.
The big scratch made Bond’s horse tough to catch, as Saez got Rinaldi to the front and held off a hard charge from several horses to win the Grade III Forbidden Apple by a half-length over Value Proposition at Saratoga Race Course.
On paper, Flying Scotsman appeared to be the only other speed horse with the potential to tax Rinaldi early in the race, but Flying Scotsman was scratched by trainer Jack Sisterson in the morning, leaving it up to Saez to measure Rinaldi’s speed on the front end without any serious pressure.
Saez did so to perfection for his third win of the day and sixth after two days of the meet.
Rinaldi got through the first half-mile of the one-mile Forbidden Apple on the Inner Turf in a comfortable 48.83 seconds and had plenty left to hold off Value Proposition.
“The turf is fresh, he’s the lone speed, which is dangerous anytime, anywhere. And he’s a good horse,” Bond said. “He’s a better two-turn horse. We got rained off on the New York-bred day, I said, ‘Let’s regroup, get him ready and see what happens, see if we can get two starts here.’
“With Luis, I don’t have to say anything. He puts the horse where he needs to be, hopefully I did my job and the horse is just all heart. He’s a cool horse.”
“We tried to have a good break and control the pace, and everything went to plan,” Saez said. “He likes this track. This is like his backyard.”
Indeed, four of Rinaldi’s five victories from 11 career starts have come at Saratoga, including the West Point last year.
STRONG MOMENT EUTHANIZED
In the 10th and last race on the card, Strong Moment suffered a fatal injury when she broke down inside the eighth pole on the Mellon Turf Course, pitching jockey Luis Cardenas forward onto the turf, where he landed on his face and chest.
There were no trailing horses, and Strong Moment rolled toward Cardenas and stopped with his head and neck over the jockey.
Cardenas was awake and alert when he was placed on a backboard and taken to Albany Medical Center, and Strong Moment, a 3-year-old filly making her fourth start, was euthanized with catastrophic injuries.
Per NYRA Director of Veterinarians Dr. Anthony Verderosa, Strong Moment suffered a fractured left front leg in the stretch.
It was the first racing-related equine death of the meet.
Mister Bobby, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Bond, collapsed and died after having finished a gallop during training hours on the main track on May 13, according to the New York State Gaming Commission’s Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database.
The Saratoga-based steppingstones to the Aug. 28 Travers aren’t scheduled for another two weeks, but the Travers picture should begin to take clearer shape on Saturday when Monmouth Park hosts the $1 million Haskell Invitational.
Hot Rod Charlie, who finished a close second after a fierce stretch duel with Essential Quality in the Belmont Stakes, is the 6-5 morning-line favorite for the Haskell against six rivals that include Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun.
In fact, the runners-up of all three Triple Crown races are in the field. Midnight Bourbon, who was 3 1/2 lengths behind Rombauer in the Preakness, is the 9-2 fourth choice for the Haskell.
Besides the second in the Belmont, Hot Rod Charlie was a close third behind Medina Spirit and Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby.
In an equipment change, Hot Rod Charlie will run without blinkers in the Haskell, which trainer Doug O’Neill called “a chancy thing,” since the colt has been running well despite not getting to the winner’s circle since the Louisiana Derby.
“We’ve been breezing him without blinkers, and [jockey] Flavien [Prat] is real excited about what we could see without them,” O’Neill told the Monmouth media office. “He’s got that third, and then the second, and hopefully, a win is right around the corner.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher is giving Following Sea a big class jump, after a maiden win and a convincing allowance win by 6 1/2 lengths at Belmont on June 3. Besides making his stakes debut, he’ll be racing longer than 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the mile-and-an-eighth Haskell.
“The rail horse [Following Sea] is a huge ‘X’ factor,” O’Neill said. “He’s been brilliant in his wins, and he’s got Joel [Rosario], who is a brilliant rider. I would think he’ll make the pace and then it will be up to Flavien to judge where he wants to have Charlie.
“Midnight Bourbon is kind of an ‘X’ factor, too, with Paco [Lopez] on him. I assume he’ll be sent pretty hard, too. Even though it’s a short field, it’s an interesting jockey race.”
MAXFIELD WORKS FOR WHITNEY
Maxfield, whose only career defeat is a third in the Santa Anita Handicap, breezed a half-mile in 49.09 seconds on the Oklahoma Training Track in company with the filly Longpants Required in preparation for the Aug. 7 Whitney.
“I just wanted them to start out nice and easy and pick it up as they went,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “It was a good work. I just wanted to get him back in the swing of things again. He looks like he’s doing great. I was delighted with him yesterday [Thursday] when I got up here. He looked as good if not better than ever.”
PICK SIX ERROR
According to NYRA, a tote error in Thursday’s $1 Pick 6 caused a number of bets to be placed at an incorrect base amount of $0.20.
Those bets were canceled, and the affected customers were refunded. The refunded wagers totaling $41,793 were seeded back into the pool. As a result, the total Pick 6 pool size of $275,690 was unchanged.
The reconciliation of this error caused the delay in the reporting of Thursday’s Pick 6 payoff.
The $1 Pick 6 sequence, which kicked off in Race 5, returned $87,742.
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