There’s no better measure of the kind of Saratoga Race Course meet that Godolphin Racing and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin are having than the fact that he moved into second place in purses won on Saturday, despite just eight victories.
Chad Brown has 27 winners and will finish second to Todd Pletcher for the second year in a row, but in the meantime, McLaughlin moved past Brown in earnings after Emcee won the Shackleford-less Grade I Forego.
Met Mile winner Shackleford, the 2-1 morning-line second choice behind Mucho Macho Man, had a cough Saturday morning and was scratched “to play it safe,” trainer Dale Romans said.
That left just James Marvin winner Pacific Ocean for Emcee to stalk, and although Jersey Town snuck through on the rail to briefly take the lead off the turn, Emcee caught Jersey Town just inside the eighth pole and drew off at the sixteenth pole to win by 41⁄2 lengths over Hamazing Destiny.
That gave McLaughlin and
Godolphin their fourth Grade I win of the meet.
“It’s an unbelievable meet, it’s just huge,” McLaughlin said. “It’s an honor to train for Godolphin and have such quality horses. It makes my job easier, but I have a great team behind me, and we’ve had an unbelievable meet. It’ll take some time to sink in.”
Questing swept the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama for Godolphin and McLaughlin, and Alpha dead-heated with Golden Ticket in the Travers.
The connections probably should have had another Grade I, but It’s Tricky nearly collapsed on her face coming out of the gate in the Personal Ensign last Sunday before recovering well enough to finish a hard-charging third, just a length behind long shot Love and Pride.
The Forego marked the first race for last year’s winner, Jackson Bend, since he was crashed into by Little Nick during a routine gallop on the Oklahoma training track on Aug. 18.
All indications were that Jackson Bend was physically up to racing in the Forego, despite having to recover from shock in the accident, but trainer Nick Zito said during the week that he didn’t know if his star colt was psychologically over it.
The Forego result — Jackson Bend finished last of seven — showed that he wasn’t, Zito said, and it’s likely that he’ll be sent to the farm for a long rest before Zito and owners Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei decide what to do next.
“Junior [Alvarado] said he was flat. He was calm in the paddock,” Zito said of his feisty horse. “Act-ually, he did that in the Carter [victory]. He broke, he made a little run, but he flattened out.
“All the tests could be good, but mentally ...” Zito said, pointing at his head.
With Jackson Bend a non-
factor in the Forego and Shackleford
scratched, Emcee had one less horse to hold off in the stretch, and one less to chase out of the gate.
Pacific Ocean took it out in 22.64 for the quarter-mile and 45.38 for the half, with Emcee, who had never won a stakes race but was just a half-length back in the Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt on Aug. 5, tracking comfortably.
Emcee, 9-2 on the morning line, actually went off as the 3-2 favorite and was much the best.
He came outside of the tiring Pacific Ocean at the top of the stretch and gradually hauled in Jersey Town, who was caught by a neck by 17-1 Hamazing Destiny for second.
“We talked about it this morning and felt like Shackleford might be there ahead of us with Pacific Ocean, and we would lay third, but we laid second,” McLaughlin said. “But it helps that we didn’t have to run against him, he's a very nice horse. I’m sorry that they had to scratch him.
“When the horse cut up the rail, I was a little nervous for a moment. But he hadn’t asked our horse yet, and when he asked him, he was fine and he was very impressive.”
Dominus made his career turf debut a winning one as he got to the lead early and held on with
authority to win the Grade II Bernard
Baruch by a length and a quarter over even-money favorite Data Link for Pletcher and owner
“He’s still obviously a very nice dirt horse,” Pletcher said. “It puts us in a position to pursue a lot of options.”