Somewhere downstate, trainer Rick Dutrow is laughing.
All the way to the bank.
Earlier Saturday afternoon, before his 3-year-old gelding Willy Beamin ran three days after his last race to win the Grade I $500,000 King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course, many may have thought any laughter coming from his direction would be the maniacal kind. After all, early in the week he had talked about running Willy Beamin in the Travers if he won the Albany — a state-bred stakes — on Wednesday.
Now, Dutrow has had some success running horses back on less than a week’s rest before, but the $1 million Travers is a pretty big step up from a state-bred race worth $150,000.
Wednesday morning, it was announced Willy Beamin was entered instead in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop against some of the nation’s top sprinters.
“Unbelievable,” admitted owner James Riccio after Saturday’s win. “He started getting good, good, good. The other day, he had a lot left in the tank, and he didn’t even really ask him to run [in the Albany]. Dutrow is great at that. They run better the second time.”
Riccio claimed Willy Beamin at Aqueduct in March for $25,000. With this win alone, the horse returned more than a 10-fold profit with a $300,000 check.
Riccio said Dutrow was not on hand because he had a lot of horses to work at Aqueduct.
Jockey Alan Garcia was on hand, though, and he said even he was a little surprised how much horse he had left after riding him to a win just three days ago.
“I thought he would run a good race,” Garcia said. “I said, ‘OK, let me get in the money this day.’ But I wasn’t expecting to run that big. Dutrow knows what he’s doing.”
Garcia did, too.
Three days after wiring the field in the Albany through 11⁄8 miles, he kept Willy Beamin back off the pace to let Doctor Chit and Trinniberg fly through a 22.28 first quarter and 45.13 half mile. Entering the stretch, he started making his move, but he didn’t really kick in until about the last 70 yards when he sped past Fort Loudon, Unbridled’s Note and Doctor Chit, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively behind him.
Willy Beamin hit the wire a half length in front of Fort Loudon, who got a nose out in front of Unbridled’s Note.
“It was a pretty good race,” Garcia said. “The speed went on and my horse was comfortable the way he was going. I was turning for home looking for room, angled out and he did it.”
Favorite Currency Swap, trained by Saratoga Central Catholic graduate Teresa Pompay, was sixth and not a factor. He got stuck inside of horses, and jockey Rajiv Maragh was given no window to climb through.
“I think he just wasn’t very comfortable in on the rail,” Pompay said. “He’s better when he can get out and make a big run. I think he, down in on the rail, he’s such a big, wide horse, I just think he’s not as comfortable.
“When they turned for home and he still wasn’t able to get him out, and I knew it was going to be tough. He tried to make one run to come up through, and he just doesn’t get real comfortable that way. He wants to be able to get out and make a run that way.”
He tried to rally along the rail in the final furlong, but couldn’t keep up the necessary kick.
Runner-up Fort Loudon was put to the whip at the quarter pole and worked to get his nose ahead of Unbridled’s Note.
“He broke good,” said jockey Junior Alvarado. “He has the tendency to be lazy in the race, but he picked up the bridle really good. I had my chance to go outside with him. We waited in our position until we turned for home.
“Turning for home, you have to ride him hard. He won’t give you anything unless you get into him. We just got beat at the wire. He was trying.”
Hall of Famer Nick Zito saddled Fort Loudon, who had won three straight before finishing fifth in the Amsterdam here July 29, a race Currency Swap won by 13⁄4 lengths over Doctor Chit.
“The horse ran great,” Zito said. “He tried his heart out. It’s hard to figure out this business. The horse [Willy Beamin] ran three days ago. What can you do? That’s the way it goes. There’s one thing about racing — you can never figure it out. I’m just happy my horse ran well. I thought we had it won. I was waiting for the wire. Still, when they’re running great, you have to be happy.”
Pompay echoed Zito’s astonishment at Willy Beamin’s win when asked if she thought the horse had it in him to win this Travers Day Grade I just three days after winning his biggest race in a listed state-bred stakes.
“No! It’s crazy, right?,” Pompay said. “You never know.”
You never know.
Even Riccio isn’t quite sure.
Thinking about where Willy Beamin might start his next race, Riccio joked — though it may be a mistake to assume it was a joke — about the possibility of an entry just around the corner.
“I would say he’s going to get a couple months off,” Riccio said. “We’ll figure it out. We didn’t look that far down the road, but you never know. Rick might have something up his sleeve. What’s today, Saturday? There’s something Thursday, but they drew already.”