Even though Luis Saez has a solid lead in the chase for the Saratoga Race Course riding title, it’s still coming down to closing day on Monday.
The same can’t be said for the training championship.
Chad Brown closed the books on that well before the final card, giving him his fourth Allen Jerkens championship since 2016.
With 12 races remaining on Monday, Brown has won 40 races after going on a tear over the last two weeks. Todd Pletcher is next, with 30, and has eight horses entered in six races on Monday.
Everyone was chasing Michael Maker for much of the meet, but the turning point came for Brown during Travers Week, when he won five races on Wednesday, Aug. 25 and three more on Thursday, Aug. 26.
He was down 23-22 heading into that surge and came out of it with a 30-24 lead over Maker.
“It’s one of the most gratifying meets we’ve had, given that we started out really slow with a lot of seconds and a ton of rain,” Brown said Sunday morning. “It just really put a damper on everything. For the horses and my team to persevere and battle back, it’s been one of the most gratifying meets.”
Brown failed to win a Grade I race, including the Diana on opening weekend, which stopped a streak of five straight years winning Saratoga’s most prestigious turf route for fillies and mares.
But he was strong in just about every other area and did win 11 stakes through the first 39 days of the meet, with L’Imperator scheduled to run in the Grade II Bernard Baruch on Monday off an allowance win at Saratoga on Aug. 4.
He had three stakes winners double up at the meet, two of which won a pair of graded stakes.
Technical Analysis won the two graded turf stakes designated for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade III Lake George and Grade II Lake Placid, and Public Sector took the comparable pair of races not restricted by gender, the Grade II National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and the Grade III Saranac on Saturday.
“He continues to develop,” Brown said. “To win two stakes at the meet as a 3-year-old is pretty impressive, so I’m very pleased with how this horse has come along this year.
“Those two horses, to win two stakes at Saratoga is hard to do, and these two horses have developed as well as they could.”
The third stakes winner, Sifting Sands, not only stands out for having won the ungraded Better Talk Now on Aug. 29, but he also won an allowance at whopping odds of 28-1 on July 24 and paid $58 on a $2 win ticket.
Brown also has a little extra degree of affection for Federalist Papers, who won the last race of the day on Friday and paid $21.60.
For a Mechanicville native who not only has plenty of family on the grounds on any given day, but is also recognized by fans for his local roots, the Federalist Papers payoff was a popular one throughout the backyard picnic tables.
“When one of our horses can win at odds like that in the last race of the day, the loyal fan base, we get ’em even for the day. We get ’em out,” Brown said with a laugh. “That’s when you walk through the picnic area and you’re the real hero. Not winning the Travers, not winning a stakes race, none of that.
“When you win and have a $20 horse, a Chad Brown horse, on the last race of the day … I heard it everywhere. You have to do your victory lap, walking around there, because there’s so many happy faces. All ages. It’s ‘Thank you … Got even today … Made money today.’ That’s a really good feeling.”
Brown’s other graded stakes winners were Royal Flag in the Shuvee and Viadera in the Ballston Spa.
He also won the Lure with Flavius, the Riskaverse with Rastafara and the John’s Call with Serve the King.
Another personal highlight for Brown was earning his 2,000th career victory as a head trainer. He hit that milestone when Digital Software won the 10th and final race of the Aug. 6 card.
He’s still chasing a victory in the biggest race of the meet, though, the Travers.
Brown had saddled 11 horses in the race since 2011 without hitting the board.
Miles D finished third behind Essential Quality on Aug. 28.
“We’re getting a little closer,” he said. “We had a horse who hit the board this year and ran as good as he could run. It’s just coming up with the right horse at this point. When you’re dealing with 3-year-old dirt horses and there’s just one crack at the crop, you’ve got to end up having the horse. He looked like he had all the tools to get to the Travers [as a 2-year-old last year], and he did. He just wasn’t good enough. But I’m proud of him, he’s a nice horse to have.
“It’s been a great summer. We may not have hit some of those Grade I’s that we wanted to. It was a very different meet for us, to win this many races, but a different kind of workman-like meet.
“We may not have won some of those Grade I’s that we were well-meant or favored in, races like the Sword Dancer or the Test or Diana, the Travers. But I’m so proud of my team and my horses, from where we were to now, to roll our sleeves up and put together a real strong meet, race by race, horse by horse. And with all sorts of horses. You’re talking between six furlongs on the dirt or a mile and five-eighths in the John’s Call and everything in between.
AROUND THE TRACK
The 2-year-old colt Galt, a full brother to two-time Eclipse Award winner Songbird, made his career debut in the seventh race on Saturday’s card, finishing sixth of eight.
Trained by Bill Mott, Galt was purchased for $400,000 by Larry Best of OXO Equine at the Keeneland November Mixed Sale.
Among Songbird’s victories during her 2016 Eclipse Award-winning season as a 3-year-old filly were the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga. She finished her career with a second to Unbridled Forever in the 2017 Personal Ensign. …
Baby Yoda, who won Saturday’s 10th race by 4 1/4 lengths over stablemate Olympiad, earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:14.33. The track record of 1:13.74 was set by Quality Road in 2009.
The 114 is the highest posted in North America so far this year at any distance or surface.
“I was pretty amazed, really,” Mott told the New York Racing Association. “I was pretty impressed with his effort. I can honestly say, I didn’t expect that, but I was pleased to see it. It was exciting, actually, because I thought there was a pretty good horse in there that he beat that ran second.”
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