It was a familiar sight.
Well, if you’ve been hanging around Kentucky since early spring.
The triumvirate of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Mike Maker and jockey Joel Rosario, coming off record-setting meets at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, stamped their footprint on Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, winning the Grade II Lake George with Kitten’s Dumplings.
After Ramsey broke the Churchill spring record with 32 victories, he vowed, “You can tell them to look out at Saratoga. It’s the 150th anniversary, and I’m bringing enough horses up there to win the owners’ title.”
Ramsey won the Saratoga title in 2008 and 2009, but New York native Mike Repole is the three-time defending champion.
Rosario, the leading rider in North America in victories and earnings, swung Kitten’s Dumplings off the rail to go five-wide coming off the grandstand turn and just got up to beat Watsdachances, trained by Mechanicville’s Chad Brown, by a half-length.
So the familiar white silks with the big red block “R”, the bespectacled, voluble owner grinning ear-to-ear while holding his filly’s lead shank and the quiet and reserved Maker met at the winner’s circle, certainly not for the last time at this meet.
Ramsey-Maker-Rosario broke records in their respective classifications at Keeneland in April, then it transferred to Churchill, where Maker tied Steve Asmussen for the title and Rosario finished second to Shaun Bridgmohan, frequently with Ramsey’s ubiquitous “Kitten” homebreds sired by the Ramseys’ Kitten’s Joy.
“It’s going to be a nice little shootout,” Ramsey said. “We’ve got a few more bullets in the holster.”
“We’ve been unlucky to lose a couple at this meet,” Maker said. “Obviously, it’s a lot deeper waters up here. At least we got one today. We’ll be grateful for every one we get.”
Kitten’s Dumplings’ running style is such that her connections are a little extra grateful every time she wins, which is now five of 10 races, including her career debut at Saratoga last year and three straight stakes, the Lake George and Grade III Regret and Edgewood at Churchill.
She comes from well off the pace, and did so again in the Lake George on an inner turf course that was listed as good.
Rosario saved ground around the first turn and down the backstretch while Midnight Watch opened up a big lead, with Tapicat alone in second.
He and Kitten’s Dumplings moved off the temporary rail to gain running room as they came off the second turn, and took the lead inside the sixteenth pole as Watsdachances, who won the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga last year, ran a similar trip and closed well for second.
“I was a little far behind, but that’s how she likes to run,” Rosario said. “She has a really nice kick, but she can hang a little bit, so I’m always careful trying to time it. She was able to handle it.”
“As long as I saw that white with the red ‘R’ at the quarter pole, I was happy,” Maker said. “That’s the tactic that worked the last couple times, and we weren’t going to change today. She got a little wide around the turn, but finished strong, as always. On paper, it looked like there was plenty of pace, so whatever it was, you can’t change your running style. It worked out well.”
Tapicat was able to hang on for third, a neck behind Watsdachances, ridden by Javier Castellano, as Midnight Watch fell back to fourth.
“I thought she ran well,” Brown said of Watsdachances. “She was second best. I thought Javier gave me a beautiful trip. The winner was just better today.”
“When I saw Kiaran McLaughlin’s horse [Midnight Watch] put up a good pace, it’s an advantage for the horses coming from behind,” Castellano said. “She gave me a good kick. I’m happy. She was second best today.
“We hooked up at about the quarter pole. We got together, and I tried to go and get the jump, but when I saw that horse come with so powerful a move, I said, ‘I’m running for second place.’ ”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 395-3146 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter at @Mike_MacAdam.