SARATOGA SPRINGS — The quantity hasn’t been there for the Chad Brown barn so far at the 2021 Saratoga Race Course meet, with just two winners in the first five days of the meet.
At least he got some quality on Friday, with a 1-2 finish, respectively, from Technical Analysis and Fluffy Socks in the Grade III Lake George.
The Mechanicville native has won the Saratoga training title for most victories at the meet three times since 2016, but has been off to a slow start, and also had a five-year winning streak in the Grade I Diana stopped last weekend.
He had four of nine horses in the Lake George starting gate, but not the betting favorite. Technical Analysis went off at almost 8-1 and won by a length and a quarter over her stablemate with Jose Ortiz in the saddle.
“I was surprised [at Technical Analysis’ odds],” Brown said. “Going into this race, these four horses — people asked me all day — I thought they were really even, I couldn’t pick between them, and I thought they should be equal odds. She was, like, 9-1 when they loaded in the gate.
“I hoped that some of my loyal fans here — that I’ve been losing the first week — got some money back,” he added with a laugh.
Brown credited Ortiz’s ride and believes cutting back in distance to a mile was beneficial to Technical Analysis, who hadn’t run shorter than a mile and a sixteenth in four career starts coming in.
Ortiz said the Inner Turf still had some give in it despite being rated “firm,” but that wasn’t an issue for Technical Analysis, Brown said. She’s performed well on turf courses that have been on the softer side.
“This cutback, you know you’re going to get more pace, and that’s what she needed to get her off the bridle on the backside, a pace to run at,” Brown said. “She’ll pull on a slow pace, and that was part of the thinking on the cutback.
“It looks firm, and as the day’s gone on, the jockeys are telling me there’s a little give, but not much. It’s more of a distance thing with her. I don’t think I’d be venturing too far past a mile. I might be forced to do a mile and a sixteenth at some point, but I’m not interested in doing anything more than that with her.”
“I think she always wanted to do this, run a mile,” Ortiz said. “We were trying to stretch her out being a 3-year-old for the Belmont Oaks. I told Chad, and he agreed with me, at this time it’s probably not her thing and we need to cut her back. She’s too antsy early and pulls a lot.”
Besides Technical Analysis and Fluffy Socks, Brown’s other two, Minaun and Amy C, finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
“It looked like some of my horses in the rear might not be firing, so it was really up to her at that point,” he said. “And Jose gave her an outstanding ride, from the first turn, when she was pulling a little bit, he let her have her head, to exiting the first turn.
“When he dropped in, he looked behind him and got a nice spot covered up. Then finally, we had horse on our outside, and he just waited for that horse to get fatigued before he moved outside, cleanly, without fouling a horse. That was a real smart move there.”
ASMUSSEN APPROACHING RECORD
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen needs 12 more victories to pass the late Dale Baird for most-ever by a head trainer in North America.
Baird, who died in 2007, accumulated 9,445 victories. Asmussen did not have a winner with horses entered at Saratoga and Ellis Park in Kentucky on Friday to remain at 9,434.
“We have some good chances the rest of the week throughout the country. But with 11 to go, it’s getting pretty exciting,” Asmussen told Jennie Rees of the Ellis Park media office Friday morning.
He has 12 horses entered on Saturday at tracks around the country, including Clairiere in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, and eight more on Sunday.
“We’re blessed with opportunity,” Asmussen said. “We train for the greatest owners in the country, and we have a lot of chances to win races. I’m not surprised by the races we win; I’m kind of surprised by the races we get beat in. I think getting to a significant milestone like this allows you an opportunity to look back and reflect on the ground you have covered.”
Among the top horses Asmussen has trained are two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, who was named 2009 Horse of the Year with a resume that included beating males in the Woodward at Saratoga as a 3-year-old filly.
MIDNIGHT BOURBON UPDATE
Asmussen said Midnight Bourbon, who clipped heels with Hot Rod Charlie in the Haskell last weekend and stumbled to the ground, unseating jockey Paco Lopez, is back to light jogging.
“Well, I don’t know about the word ‘unscathed,'” he said. “[You don’t know] what it did to his head and stuff like that. His energy level is good. He looks good under tack. He’s got a few abrasions and nicks that need attention, and we’ll doctor those and keep him moving for the time being. But his energy level is very high.”
There are two stakes next weekend for horses who could take the next step to the Aug. 28 Travers, the Curlin on Friday and Jim Dandy on Saturday.
Horses pointing toward the Jim Dandy include Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, Dr Jack, Keepmeinmind, Masqueparade, Risk Taking and Weyburn.
Collaborate, Dynamic One, First Captain, Miles D and The Reds are expected for the Curlin.
Beren, who is riding a three-race winning streak, all ungraded stakes, had been considered for the nine-furlong Curlin, but will point toward the Grade II Amsterdam on Sunday, Aug. 1.
He breezed a half-mile in a sharp 46.60 on Friday, which prompted trainer Butch Reid to shift gears to the shorter distance of the Amsterdam. Beren has run longer than seven furlongs just once.
“It’s hard to think about coming back at a mile and an eighth for the Curlin, when there’s the Amsterdam there,” Reid told NYRA. “Plus, two more days might be very helpful for him.”
Horses targeting the Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt include 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Eclipse Award winner Whitmore, Firenze Fire, Lexitonian, Miles Ahead, Mischevious Alex, Strike Power, Three Technique and Chance It.
Whitmore, the popular 8-year-old gelding who won the Forego at Saratoga in 2018 and was second in the Vanderbilt last year, breezed a half-mile in 48.78 on the main track Friday.
“I told the rider I wanted 48 or 49, and he did it, and did it the right way, so I’m very pleased,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “He likes the surface at Saratoga.”
Also on the Vanderbilt/Jim Dandy card, Breakpoint, Channel Cat, Channel Maker, Colonel Liam, Rockemperor and Tide of the Sea are probable for the Grade II Bowling Green on the turf.
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