It was as ugly as it can get.
One filly broke down before the field was even out of the turn, then rough riding resulted in the first filly across the line being disqualified.
About the only ones smiling after the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday were the connections of Designer Legs, who finished second under Shaun Bridgmohan, then was placed first when the stewards took down Who’s in Town and jockey Joel Rosario for blocking heavy favorite Fiftyshadesofgold along the rail.
“It was game. She fought back and forth with that horse [Who’s in Town]. Fortunately for us, it came up the right way,” trainer Dallas Stewart said.
Designer Legs, improbably winning a juvenile graded stakes race at Saratoga after beginning her career at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota and Prairie Meadows in Iowa, went off at 16-1 and battled Who’s in Town on the outside.
The action resulting in the disqualification occurred on the inside of Who’s in Town, where Fiftyshadesofgold and Corey Lanerie twice tried to get through a tight gap, only to be bothered by Who’s in Town.
The second incident actually put Who’s in Town sideways a bit, but Rosario continued to urge her to the wire, while Designer Legs battled to within a neck.
After the race, Lanerie stood with his hands on his hips next to trainer Bret Calhoun while Rosario stood with his hands on his hips next to Who’s in Town’s trainer Michael Matz, everyone watching the replay on the infield screen.
When it was official and Designer Legs moved up to first, they turned in resignation and left the track, Rosario telling Matz, “I’m trying to win.”
“What can I do?” Matz said to the media. “I was real pleased with the way my filly ran. She was game. I didn’t think she’d be on the lead, but there was a hole there and it was only open for a little bit. As long as she comes out of it OK, you have to go on from there.”
Fiftyshadesofgold came into the Adirondack having won two starts by a combined 18 lengths and was bet down from 7-5 on the morning line to 1-5 at post time.
Lanerie and Calhoun said nothing about the result could convince them that they didn’t have, by far, the best filly in the race.
“I was sitting behind the leaders trying to find a spot to go,” Lanerie said. “I saw [Rosario] go to the left-handed stick, so I committed to the rail. He came off, and I had nothing but room there. I came in there, and he just shut me off.”
“It’s very disappointing,” Calhoun said. “I thought we had the best horse. It looked like we were coming through and going to win. There was a pretty good-sized hole there. We were there.
“She looks like she’s all right now.”
Designer Legs’ improbable route to the Adirondack was spurred by the confidence of owner Murray Valene of Valene Racing.
The chestnut daughter of Graeme Hall, purchased for all of $10,000 at the September 2012 Breeders Sale Company of Louisiana auction, was in Stewart’s barn temporarily before being sent to trainer Gary Scherer and broke her maiden at Canterbury in June.
Then she won a $75,000 stakes at Prairie Meadows, at which point Valene suggested to Stewart that she be sent back east.
Unconvinced, Stewart tried to talk him out of it.
“I said, ‘Well . . .’, and he said, ‘No, she’s the real deal,’ ” Stewart said. “A lot of credit goes to him and Gary Scherer. They did a great job. They sent her in here, she was ready to run. I was just trying not to mess her up.”
The Adirondack overall was simply a mess.
While the connections for Who’s in Town and Fiftyshadesofgold glumly watched and waited after the race, the announced crowd of 46,330 that was significantly inflated by repeat entries for a bobblehead giveaway was distracted by events up the track.
Charmed Hour suffered a compound fracture of her right front cannon bone and threw John Velazquez, who landed on his back.
He walked off, but his filly was euthanized on the track by NYRA veterinarian Dr. Anthony Verderosa.
“That type of fracture is contaminated at the time of the injury and surgical repair is not an option,” Dr. Scott Palmer, the on-call vet from the American Association of Equine Veterinarians, said in a statement.
The fatality was the first of the meet, in either racing or training.