SARATOGA SPRINGS – He traveled 6,500 miles to run two races that were each less than a mile long.
He stayed home to run longer.
Having absorbed what turned out to be a not-so-taxing trip to Saudi Arabia and Dubai to start the 2022 season, Casa Creed got the perfect trip under jockey Luis Saez to win the Grade I Fourstardave at a mile on the inner turf course before an announced paid admission crowd of 38,629 at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Trainer Bill Mott and the owners will have to wrestle with whether to shoot for the Mile or the Turf Sprint at the Breeders’ Cup – the Fourstardave was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Mile. But for at least one day, the mile was right in the 6-year-old Casa Creed’s wheelhouse, as he extended his lead late to beat the 6-year-old mare Regal Glory by 1 1/2 lengths.
Casa Creed has done his best work at six and seven furlongs, has finished well off the board in two tries at the BC Mile and was third in the last two runnings of the Fourstardave. He came into Saturday’s race with just two wins from 13 starts at the distance.
“We’ve always thought he was capable of going a mile,” Mott said. “It’s a matter of getting his run timed properly and having the right trip, and he did it today.
“I mean, he’s run good races at a mile before and got good speed figures, and today he got his picture taken.”
Typical to form, Get Smokin took the early lead on the firm turf course and was able to get away with an opening quarter-mile in 24.01 and a half in 47.94.
He still led approaching the eighth pole, but the competition was closing in fast, including Casa Creed, who stormed down the middle of the track to hand Regal Glory her first defeat in four starts this year as she ran against males for the first time in her career.
“We tried to break and settle down right there and have one move with him,” Saez said. “He did it pretty great. He made a big move at the top of the stretch and came away with a victory.”
“We kind of thought he might be a little more close, but it looked like he was where he wanted to be [early],” Mott said. “I don’t think he put him there, I think it was the rhythm the horse wanted to be in, and he gradually picked up the pack as he went down the backside and got within striking range by the time he hit the half-mile pole.
“And he waited very patiently. He didn’t tip him out way wide, he waited until he got around the turn and then tipped him out so he didn’t lose all the ground.”
Regal Glory had been enjoying the best season of her career while chasing an Eclipse Award before being retired at the end of the year.
She finished the Fourstardave with good energy under Jose Ortiz, but it wasn’t nearly enough to threaten Casa Creed.
“She just looked like she was second-best today,” trainer Chad Brown said. “It was a bit of a wide trip, but, you know, that’s what it is, that’s the way she likes to run clear, though. Today, she just didn’t have what it took to win. She ran really well in defeat. She did run second.”
“It was a good trip,” Ortiz said. “The pace was a little slow the first part, but then it started developing and I was in a good position, and that horse beat me down the lane.”
Casa Creed was coming off a victory in the six-furlong Jaipur on Belmont Stakes Day June 11, his only start of the season after his cross-Atlantic to run on Saudi Cup Day in February and Dubai World Cup Day in March.
He won the $1.5 million Turf Sprint in Saudi Arabia and was fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse.
It’s a commonly held assumption that that trip can take something out of a horse and requires extra recovery time, but Mott said Casa Creed thrived after returning to the U.S.
“He’s run two pretty good Jaipurs, incredible races, but he’s put together four races back-to-back this year, boom, boom, boom,” Mott said. “He’s traveled and come back and still runs well.
“They either flourish and do well … which he did. He came back and looked great. His coat has been good, he didn’t really lose much weight from the trip, trained well. You wouldn’t make any more of it than a trip to California, the way it turned out.”
Saturday was a busy day for potential Travers runners to get on the track for serious workouts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Dwyer winner Charge It for a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.01 on the main track.
“Super work,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “Loved the way he did it, moving great and galloped out really strongly on a track that’s not real fast.”
Brown put half-mile breezes into Zandon (49.77), Preakness winner Early Voting (49.78) and Curlin winner Artorius (50.09).
Early Voting worked in company outside of Accretive, who is targeting the seven-furlong Grade I Allen Jerkens on Travers Day.
“I thought Early Voting was really moving over the track today,” Brown said. “He is very much in consideration for the Travers after this work today.
“These horses are different. He’s a big, heavy horse that eats and sleeps all day. That’s what he does.”
Haskell winner Cyberknife breezed five-eighths of a mile in 1:01.05 over the main track.
Iowa Derby winner Ain’t Life Grand, who arrived on Aug. 7 from Prairie Meadows, went four furlongs in 48.23.
Also, Nest, who will be a big favorite to win the Grade I Alabama next Saturday, breezed a half-mile in 50.60 in company with debut maiden winner Up to the Mark (50.02).
Nest had been in the conversation to run in the Travers.
“She seems to be holding her form,” Pletcher said. “We did talk about it [Travers], but we just felt like as long as she was ready to run back in the Alabama, a mile and a quarter was perfect for her. We felt like it was too good of a spot to pass up.”