Saratoga Race Course

Maple Leaf Mel wins Seeking the Ante for owner Bill Parcells

The Bill Parcells-owned Maple Leaf Mel wins the Seeking the Ante at Saratoga on Friday.

The Bill Parcells-owned Maple Leaf Mel wins the Seeking the Ante at Saratoga on Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Unless you know who’s behind the name, August Dawn Farm won’t ring any bells.

Some clues do lie in the names of the horses who have run under the owner’s “Pale Yellow, Hunter Green” silks — Let’s Go Big Blue, Three Technique, Triple Option, Once a Giant, Play Action Pass.

But you get no help from Bill Parcells’ 2-year-old filly Maple Leaf Mel, who won the $200,000 Seeking the Ante to kick off the stakes parade during New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course on Friday.

No, the story behind her name has nothing to do with football or Parcells’ Pro Football Hall of Fame career, much of which was as head coach of the New York Giants.

Maple Leaf Mel was named after trainer Jeremiah Englehart’s assistant Melanie Giddings, a native Canadian who has had a strong influence on Englehart’s barn, while having survived Stage 4 endocervical and ovarian cancer a few years ago.

Parcells and Englehart decided to name their nice filly after Giddings, and Maple Leaf Mel has rewarded them twice at this meet, also breaking her maiden in her career debut on Aug. 10.

“Jeremiah’s assistant is from Canada, her name is Melanie, so we named the horse Maple Leaf Mel,” Parcells said. “And she preens every time the horse wins. She hasn’t dropped a feather in three weeks.”

Maple Leaf Mel and jockey Joel Rosario found themselves in a duel in the Seeking the Ante, the first of six stakes restricted to New York-breds.

But the 3-5 betting favorite shook off a challenge from Lady Mine, and Rosario was able to dial down on his filly inside the sixteenth pole and still win by 3 1/2 lengths.

“We knew she was a talented filly,” Englehart said. “She handled another test coming back on short notice and short rest, handled the off track and did everything well. I thought Joel put her in a super spot. When you ask her, she goes. I think that was his plan, to get her away.

“I didn’t really have a game plan, I just wanted to win. And then Mel, before she was giving a leg up [to Rosario], said, ‘Hey, keep the silks clean,’ and then I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no, is that going to mean something?’ I don’t need him to be on the lead if he doesn’t want to be. But it’s over now, so I can take a deep breath.”

“I know Joel pretty well,” Parcells said. “That’s really not a smart statement, but I’ve seen what he does, how he behaves. He’s worked the horse and has been on the horse, so I knew we had horse left.

”Jeremiah and I talked about this – the first race wasn’t contested. They wanted her to be in a little better scuffle. We’ll talk about the next one next time.”

This was the third win of the meet for Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, including the two by Maple Leaf Mel.

Her victories bookended a win by another New York-bred 2-year-old, Let’s Go Big Blue, who made his career debut on Aug. 19, three days before Parcells’ 81st birthday on Monday.

Englehart, trainer George Weaver and Parcells picked Maple Leaf Mel out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in Timonium, Maryland, in late May, for which Parcells paid $150,000.

Englehart joked that he liked her so much that he suggested naming the filly after Melanie Giddings for selfish reasons.

“Before she got home I probably said, ‘We should name this horse after Mel,’ because that would help get the horse in my barn, too, if we named the horse after my assistant,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m very blessed.”


A heavy rainstorm 90 minutes before the 1:05 p.m. first post for Friday’s card wiped out turf racing, as all of those races were moved to the muddy main track, including two of the New York Showcase stakes, the Yaddo and West Point.

Bossmakinbossmoves (6-1), the longest shot on the board of four horses in the $250,000 Albany for 3-year-olds, spotted the field at least two lengths with a bad start out of the gate, but rallied from last place under Irad Ortiz, Jr., to win by three lengths over New York Derby winner Barese.

“It didn’t bother me, because he landed balanced,” trainer Rick Schosberg said. “He was throwing his head, and he leapt out of there, but Irad had him in stride and it didn’t bother me because that’s the way he’s going to run.

“Honestly, he was a little closer than I thought he would’ve been. This horse is usually eight or nine [lengths] back, but he engaged early, maybe because he came out of the gate and got shook up.”

“They told me he liked the slop, so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem,” Ortiz said. “They were right.”

In the comparable filly version of the nine-furlong Albany for 3-year-olds, Fingal’s Cave remained undefeated from four starts by winning the Fleet Indian by a half-length over Let Her Inspire U as the 4-5 betting favorite.

Fingal’s Cave also won an allowance at this meet on July 29.

“Her class prevailed,” trainer Dave Donk said. “I’ve had some nice ones, but nobody’s gone 4-for-4 to start off their career.”

In the Funny Cide for 2-year-olds, Andiamo a Firenze enjoyed the drop back into New York-bred company by easily winning as the 3-5 favorite by 5 1/2 lengths over Donegal Surges.

Andiamo a Firenze was third to Mo Strike in the Grade III Sanford on opening weekend.

After the Funny Cide, trainer Kelly Breen and owner Ron Lombardi of Amore Stable might look at getting back to open company, and in a big way, in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park.

“He ran a great race last time, and he’s a very smart horse, but he also has to learn,” Breen said. “As fast as he is, he wants to run as fast and as hard as he can, and we’’re trying to get him to learn that the races are getting longer. If he listens to us, I think as a 2-year-old he can get a mile.”

In the two turf stakes moved to the muddy main track, there were more scratched horses than those that remained to run.

Make Mischief went off at 3-5 in the Yaddo and won by 8 1/2 lengths against four rivals, and Somelikeithotbrown was even more lonely, running against just two in the West Point.

Seven horses scratched out of that race, and Somelikeithotbrown won by six lengths.

Categories: At The Track, Sports, Sports

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