Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was thrilled to see favored Souper Speedy pushing hot fractions in the Grade III $100,000 James Marvin on a sweltering opening day at Saratoga Race Course on Friday.
That’s because Souper Speedy was not his horse.
Sage Valley was his pupil, and under Cornelio Velasquez, he was wound up and let loose to chase wide around the turn of the seven-furlong dirt sprint for horses 3 and up. He caught the tiring leaders around the eighth pole, and got clear for a one-length win.
“You always want to see those kind of fractions when you’re coming from behind,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very classy horse.”
Souper Speedy covered the first quarter mile in 22.38, the next in 22.04, but tired to fourth. Politicallycorrect was second, a half-length in front of Hello Lover.
“I broke well and had a good trip,” Velasquez said. “There was a lot of speed. I came into the stretch, and I had a lot of horse. He’s a nice horse.”
“Perfectly. Cornelio gave him a perfect ride,” Rodriguez said. “He’s one of the best riders in the country, so I’m always happy to have him on the horses.”
The fourth race on the card, the $100,000 On The Bus over 1 1/16 miles on dirt, saw the first inquiry of the meet.
As favored Hessonite and Inimitable Romanee rallied on the outside, traffic inside became a little congested. The worst of it was taken by Shakeira, a Chad Brown mare who finished sixth after jockey
Rajiv Maragh bumped several times with Wholelottashakin, owned by Saratoga-based Parting Glass Racing, with a furlong to go.
Nothing came of the inquiry, and the top two were nowhere near the start of the trouble, so the finish stood with Hessonite ahead of Inimitable Romanee by 11⁄4 lengths. Dreaming of Cara was another
2 3⁄4 lengths back in third, edging Mystic City by a neck.
Ideally, she’s supposed to run well here,” winning trainer David Donk said of the mare who is 4-for-5 at Saratoga. “It’s good to get back here, and it’s great to win on opening day. It’s going to take a lot of pressure off of me.”
Hessonite and Inimitable Romanee both settled briefly at the back of the pack in the early going as Mystic City and Dreaming of Cara went out ahead in the field of six. The leaders backed up a bit through a first half mile in 50.34, and the rest of the field joined them on the backstretch. Then Hessonite and Inimitable Romanee came around and ahead, clear of the trouble that was brewing inside.
“Broke out of the gate a little slow, but I was expecting that,” said winning jockey John Velasquez. “I wanted to be back and try to get to the outside instead of being inside and stuck in there.”
Donk said Hessonite could point toward any of several races for her next start, including the $150,000 Yaddo on Aug. 16 and the Grade II $250,000 Ballston Spa on Travers Day, Aug. 24.
“It’s great to get her back on the right track [firm, after finishes of sixth and fourth over soft and yielding turf in her last two],” he said. “I think it’s a big confidence builder today, maybe more for me than her. She’s won nine stakes now. We don’t have to do a lot more with her, but at the same time, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
The third race was the first run both for maidens and for 2-year-olds at the meet, and its $80,000 purse attracted a bit of juvenile star power.
The highly regarded Stopchargingmaria, trained by Todd Pletcher, owned by Mike Repole and ridden by Velazquez, went off as the favorite at 1-2 in the field of six fillies, and she didn’t disappoint.
Stopchargingmaria immediately went to the lead from the four post and held the lead throughout. She covered the 51⁄2 furlongs over the main track in 1:04.69.
“We thought she was pretty straightforward, very professional,” Pletcher said. “It looked like she did everything the same as she had in the mornings. She was good in the gate, broke alertly, showed some speed. Looked like she finished with a little something left.”
It was the first win of the meet for the defending track champion trainer (three-time) and owner.
Ireland, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has a full-brother (Dublin) and a sire (Afleet Alex) who both won the Hopeful. Lukas also trained Dublin, the winner of the 2009 Hopeful. Afleet Alex won it in 2004.
The first time out, Ireland was fifth of six horses.
Dublin, though, didn’t win his first time out, either. He was fourth, then won his next two, including the Hopeful. Afleet Alex won his first four along with eight of his 12 career races.
Long shot runner J. Quirk (22-1) was second throughout to Stopchargingmaria and finished back 5 1⁄2 lengths, and Predicate finished third by another 7 1⁄2 lengths.
Pletcher was reserved when speaking about the filly’s next start, though the Grade I $300,000 Spinaway on Sept. 1 might be a good fit at seven furlongs.
“We’ll see how she comes out of it,” he said. “I think a stake will be in order, it’s just a matter of which one.”
The horse owned in part by Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, Titletown Five, who was ninth in the Preakness this year, dueled with Googleado on the lead through the first six furlongs of the seventh race before yielding to a late-charging pack led by New Line.
HERE AND THERE
A pair of trainers have thrown their hats into the ring for the Grade II $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 27.
Tom Albertrani said Freedom Child, winner of the Grade II Peter Pan by 13 1⁄4 lengths, is pointing toward the traditional prep race for the Travers. Also, John Kimmel said he will run Bad Hombre in
either the Jim Dandy or the Curlin, a $100,000 stakes on July 26. Bad Hombre won in his last start by 2 1⁄4 lengths at a mile-long first-level allowance.
Both the Jim Dandy and Curlin are for 3-year-olds covering 1 1⁄8 miles. . . .
Velazquez won on three straight mounts (Stopchargingmaria in the third race, Hessonite in the fourth and New Line in the seventh) to climb to 688 in his career at Saratoga, within five wins of Jerry Bailey’s record of 693.