SARATOGA SPRINGS — Coinage put it all together at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday.
With three dirt sprints under his belt, including a third in the Rick Violette for New York-breds earlier in the meet, the chestnut colt tried the turf, around two turns, and against open company in a graded stakes in the Grade III With Anticipation for 2-year-olds — all first-time experiences for him — and found his comfort zone to win by two lengths under Junior Alvarado.
He has a pedigree for dirt, but Coinage had worked well on the grass, so trainer Mark Casse gave it a shot in the With Anticipation and finally found the right combination.
“You’ve heard me say it a million times, training horses is like putting a puzzle together,” Casse said. “You have to keep trying the pieces until you figure out where they fit. We figured it out today. He’s a serious horse.”
“He moves good on the dirt, but the way he moves on the turf is a hundred times better, for sure,” Alvarado said.
Bred and co-owned by Chester and Mary Broman, Coinage had stuck to races restricted to state-breds for his first three starts, including a win by 7 3/4 lengths in a maiden race at Belmont Park on June 17.
But his performance gnawed at Casse, who gave Coinage two breeze workouts on the turf course at the Oklahoma Training Track in August that convinced him to try the With Anticipation.
This despite a pedigree that appeared to favor dirt. For one thing, Coinage’s mare, Bar of Gold, won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2017.
“I had been disappointed in him,” Casse said. “I thought he was an underachiever. I told Mr. Broman, ‘I think this horse is something.’ And I told him that four or five months ago. Then he got up here and he won, but he never showed me what I’d seen before. And looking at his pedigree, he’s by Tapit out of a Medaglia [d’Oro] mare, I know his mother won the Breeders’ Cup on the dirt, but I said, ‘This has got to be grass.'”
The Inner Turf at Saratoga was softened by a light, but steady rain Wednesday afternoon.
Alvarado had instructions to get him out of the gate and go to the lead, and not only did he achieve that, but Coinage was allowed to get through a slow half-mile in 50.65 seconds and three-quarters of a mile in 1:15.57.
The Chad Brown-trained Portfolio Company followed Coinage all the way around the track, but didn’t pose a threat down the homestretch.
“I said, ‘Let’s see if they can catch him,'” Casse said. “I seldom say this, but I told Junior, ‘Take no prisoners, and go. This horses is a good horse, and he’s got a really high cruising speed.’ We breezed him a couple times over the turf, as we like to do, and I gave him ‘A’ works.
“My only concern with the rain was that they were going to take it off the grass.”
“I was looking at the 2 [long shot Silipo], because I thought he might try to put him on the lead, try to get something out of there, but when he broke out of there that sharp, I just helped him out of there a little bit and he was so comfortable on the turf for the first time that he took it all the way,” Alvarado said.
“Turning for home, as soon as I asked him, he started moving those legs all over the place very quick, so I thought, ‘Wow, man, at this point I don’t think anybody can go by me.’ That would be something freak if they did, because the way he was coming home from the quarter pole to the wire, I was pretty confident what I had at that point. After the first quarter, I was where I wanted to be, pace-wise, and the only thing I was worried about was maybe the grass was a little soft. It wasn’t totally yielding, but there was a little bit of give in the ground, and sometimes when it’s the first time on the grass with a horse, there’s a question mark. But he handled it fine.”
The popular 8-year-old gelding Whitmore, who won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Eclipse Award as top male sprinter last year, has been retired following his fifth-place finish in the Grade I Forego at Saratoga.
Jockey Joel Rosario pulled him up during the gallop-out past the wire because something felt amiss, and Whitmore was vanned off the track.
X-rays showed a minor fracture in his left foreleg that was not career-ending, but trainer Ron Moquett decided to retire Whitmore instead of rehabbing him back from the injury and bringing him back to the track.
Whitmore retired with over $4.5 million in purse earnings and a record of 15-13-5 from 43 starts.
His seven graded stakes victories included the 2018 Forego.
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