SARATOGA SPRINGS — Decisions, decisions.
Trainer Chad Brown drew up a gameplan for Rockemperor heading into the Grade II Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday. Jockey Flavien Prat executed it perfectly.
Trainer Brad Cox had one for his horse, Arklow, also.
And the way Arklow was flying at the end, he might’ve won this race, but jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., accepted some culpability for his judgment coming off the last of three turns, when Arklow was boxed in by Rockemperor and had to wait just long enough to get outside for running room that he fell a half-length short at the wire.
“He’s been working really well, he’s getting firm turf today and he got a really good trip,” Brown said. “Really pleased the way it worked out. Flavien did a great job. We had a plan, and it pretty much went exactly the way we thought.”
Asked about Arklow’s trip, Cox grinned, chuckled and said, “Uhh … it was OK.
“Yeah, I thought he was ready to run today and he came up a little bit short.”
Brown also had L’Imperator in the mile-and-three-eighths Bowling Green in a field of five after the scratch of long shot Cibolian, and L’Imperator and jockey Manny Franco led almost all the way before being passed by stablemate Rockemperor at the sixteenth pole.
By then, Arklow had found clear sailing on the outside after Rockemperor got out of his way by surging toward the front, but he ran out of racetrack before he could catch Rockemperor.
“Going into the first turn, everybody kind of went, so it worked out well and I got myself towards the inside, then I was traveling well all the way around,” Prat said. “I was pleased where I was, and when I tipped him out, he gave me a good kick.”
“I mean, he ran good,” said Ortiz, the meet-leading rider through the first 14 racing days. “I think we were unlucky, or I waited too long maybe — too long to get him out. That’s what I think.”
“It makes it very, very interesting if he’s got a clean run down the lane,” Cox said.
The 6-year-old Rockemperor passed a million dollars in earnings with the win.
Eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November, he hadn’t won since the Grade I Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park in September.
Rockemperor was second to Cross Border in last year’s Bowling Green.
“He’s getting up there in age, but he’s starting to round back into form,” Brown said. “The key is, when we get into the fall, the ground is going to be a little challenging. We’ll keep every option open and see where he takes us.
Despite the loss, Cox is looking forward to seeing Arklow pivot from the Bowling Green to the Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs.
The 8-year-old, who was back racing after an almost nine-month layoff, has won that race twice and finished second twice.
“Overall, this was a step toward Kentucky Downs, and hopefully we’ll be competitive for the race he always shows up for,” Cox said. “I’ll tell you, he’s never been a fantastic workhorse, steady enough, and he hasn’t lost a step. I thought it was a great race off the layoff.”