Saratoga Race Course

Just Cindy gets past Summer Promise to win Schuylerville

Just Cindy and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., win the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga on Thursday.

Just Cindy and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., win the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga on Thursday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Justify never raced at Saratoga Race Course.

In fact, he never raced anywhere after the second Saturday in June of 2018, when he won the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown, then was retired.

As of Opening Day of the 154th Saratoga meet on Thursday, one of his daughters, out of Justify’s first crop, has raced here, though. Not only that, but she became a graded stakes winner by grinding past 6-5 betting favorite Summer Promise to take the Grade III Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths.

Summer Promise, ridden by Luis Saez, put herself in position to win inside the five-sixteenths pole, but Just Cindy and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., gathered momentum on the outside at the quarter pole, took a slight lead at the top of the stretch and finally gained some separation late.

“It was great, and I think she’s still a little green too, so I think there’s a lot of raw talent there,” said Kelly Wheeler, assistant to Just Cindy’s trainer Eddie Kenneally.

“She’s an exciting horse to have in the barn. She kind of got knocked around a little bit, and she stayed professional and ran on. It’s really all you can ask for in a second-time starter.”

Announced paid admission for Opening Day was 28,466, up from 27,760 last year, when fans were allowed back on the grounds after the 2020 meet was held without fans because of COVID-19.

Thursday’s card generated $21,764,922, down slightly from 2021 ($21,935,534).

Besides the Schuylerville, the New York Racing Association used Opening Day to unveil a new mile chute on the main dirt track with the Wilton Stakes.

Summer Promise gave legendary 87-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas a strong chance to add a seventh Schuylerville to his Hall of Fame resume, but he said Summer Promise looked like a filly who wasn’t quite fit enough to finish the job.

“I was a little disappointed in that I thought she was tighter than that,” Lukas said. “She had a chance to win it there at the sixteenth pole, and she came up a little short. I could tell from her stride and everything.

“Coming from Churchill, not having a work here and just dropping in on this race, I thought that her class would let her handle that, but in hindsight, I think I’d like to get her a little tighter.”

Yearlings out of the first crop of Justify were a hot commodity at the Keeneland September Sale, but Just Cindy wasn’t one of them.

Bred and consigned by Clarkland Farm, she did not meet her reserve and returned to Clarkland.

Wheeler said Just Cindy, who will ship back to Kenneally’s barn in Kentucky on Friday, should appreciate even more stretch-out in distance.

“I think she’ll go longer — I don’t think that will be an issue at all,” she said. “We kind of thought the added distance today wouldn’t be an issue at all, and it wasn’t.”

“She does everything right,” Ortiz said. “From the one post, she overcame everything and got there on time. When I asked her at the quarter pole, she did it.”

“She tried,” Saez said of Summer Promise. “She sat second in good position. She came to the top of the stretch and kind of waited a little for the other one. But she did good. She’s going to be better next time.”


The time for experimentation was over.

Some jockeys were given the opportunity to test the new Wilson Chute on Tuesday, but on Thursday it was the real deal, and the Cherie DeVaux-trained Tarabi lived up to her 6-5 favoritism in the betting by beating Goddess of Fire by three-quarters of a length.

There had been some uncertainty about how the horses would handle the gap to their left as they left the mile chute and ran a tangent to the inside rail on the clubhouse turn.

Perhaps DeVaux and jockey Javier Castellano were a little biased because they won the race, but new chute generally seemed to be well received.

“The chute is fine,” DeVaux said. “We run a lot at Ellis Park, and it’s similar to the chute at Ellis. So for my horses running — not Tarabi, necessarily — it’s not something that we’re not used to.

“On paper, some of the speed horses had scratched out of the race. We were trying to figure out what was best for her and her running style, because she had been on the chase from a bad break or hitting the gate, so it was nice to see her settle, she came with her run and she persevered to the wire.”

“It felt great,” Castellano said. “There was plenty of room. I liked the way my horse did it and fell into the race. Tuesday’s test run absolutely helped.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher had three horses, including Goddess of Fire, in the Wilton, which scratched down from nine to seven starters.

They were positioned in the seven outside stalls in the 12-stall starting gate.

“I thought the race went smoothly,” Pletcher said. ”It was interesting, the fractions seemed pretty slow and I’m wondering how accurate the time was. It seemed kind of slow for these type of fillies.

“But as far as the race, the way it unfolded, looked like a pretty fair race. I like mile-and-an-eighth races, so we’ve had a lot of success there. I’m not going to judge it this soon. I didn’t see a huge need for it, but maybe it’ll turn into a good thing, we’ll see. We’ll participate when our horses fit that category.”

Categories: At The Track, Sports

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