The trip was wide.
Then it got wider.
Then it was a winning one.
While the 2-1 betting favorite, Lubash, never was able to find running room along the rail, Irad Ortiz Jr. found clear sailing on Hangover Kid in the middle of the track and won the $150,000 West Point for New York-breds on the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday.
“My horse broke good today, and I took a little chance and went a little wide on the first turn,” Ortiz said. “Then he relaxed on the backstretch. When I got on the turn, I had a lot of horse. There was a lot of traffic on the inside, so I put him outside and he went right by.”
The West Point was the first
career stakes win for Hangover Kid, a 5-year-old bay son of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Rakeen mare Absolute Patience.
Trained by Jason Servis and owned by Four Tags Stable, he took a big leap by attempting the Grade I United Nations on July 6, and did well to finish third behind Big Blue Kitten, who is running in Saturday’s Sword Dancer, and Teaks North.
“I don’t know, he’s Grade I-placed and he’s won a stake . . . we might look at some big stuff,” Servis said.
“It’s really gratifying to have a homebred like that. I had some problems with him coughing, but we decided to go with it and I’m glad we did. I let him open-gallop a little bit this morning, and I didn’t hear any coughing.”
“The trainer did a very good job with him,” Ortiz said. “The horse was ready. I didn’t have to do a lot with him.”
What he did was significant, though.
Breaking from the No. 8 post in the nine-horse field, Hangover Kid was in last place and three-wide all the way around the track until they came off the turn.
He was fanned widest of all, seven paths out, as he went around a wall of horses, but Hangover Kid didn’t have to deal with traffic out there and got past the front-runners late to win by a length over Hear the Footsteps, as Kharafa, the 5-2 second choice, was third.
Kharafa served as a barrier to Lubash and jockey Jose Lezcano, who cut the corner on the rail, but lost momentum several times trying to squeeze through.
“He was a little wide on the first turn, but Irad said, ‘Jay, I didn’t want to strangle him back,’ ” Servis said. “Once he got over on the backside, he was fine.”
Trainer Linda Rice said Hear the Footsteps, who went off at 13-1, said she was surprised by his performance in his stakes debut.
“We weren’t sure how he was going to do the two turns,” Rice said. “We gave him a chance at it. He’s an improved horse this year over the previous two years, and he’s really in great form.
“We might consider the Mohawk at Belmont, which is another New York-bred stake, around one turn. It looks like he can handle that.”