Bernie the Maestro won the third race Friday at Saratoga Race Course, a starter optional claimer with a $70,000 purse over seven dirt furlongs, but the race pitting several old veterans against each other will be more remembered for the breakdown and subsequent euthanization of Saginaw.
The 7-year-old New York-bred gelding entered on a five-race winning streak and was 15-1-1 in his last 18 races. Most recently, he won the $100,000 John Morrissey here on Aug. 1. Early in the turn, he stumbled and was pulled up by jockey Junior Alvarado.
Alvarado hopped off Saginaw as the equine ambulance made its way to the turn. They put a boot on Saginaw’s injured leg and loaded him on the van. Alvarado caught a ride back with EMTs and walked back to the jockey’s room while asking reporters to allow him time to collect his thoughts and rein in his emotions before talking to the media.
“He took a bad step and started limping,” he said a few races later. “After that, I was trying to hold it together, keep him from getting worse than he was already. As soon as he pulled up, I jumped off and tried to just wait for the van. There wasn’t really much that I could do.”
Saginaw fractured both sesamoids in the front left leg and had to be put down, according to a Daily Racing Form report. Coming on the 37th day, it was the fifth equine death of the 40-day meet.
Bernie the Maestro broke with the lead and was allowed to set an easy pace, by his standards, going out in 23.90 and 46.51 through the first quarter- and half-mile. Saginaw had been running second when he was injured, and no other runner came on in time to challenge Bernie the Maestro and jockey Rosie Napravnik. Caixa Eletronica was second, and Where’s Danny finished third in the five-horse field.
Between Caixa Eletronica, Bernie the Maestro and Saginaw, the three favorites in the race have now starter 163 races. Bernie the Maestro, a 6-year-old gelding, gave owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey their 20th win of the meet in his 55th career start.
WINDING BACK ‘WATCH’
Front-running Midnight Watch weakened in her try for the 1 1/16-mile Grade II Lake George here on July 24, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin cut her back to a mile and she won the $100,000 Riskaverse.
The 3-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic had won twice at 1 1/16 miles, but was unable to handle the distance against stakes company over good turf in the Lake George. In the Riskaverse, she once again went out to the lead, but jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was able to keep her from running too much of her race early, keeping her a few fifths of a second slower than she was in the Lake George through the first quarter- and half-mile.
“I told him, ‘Don’t rush her too much. Just ease into it,’ and we got a nice 23 and four[-fifths] first quarter,” winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “So he did a great job of riding her, because she is difficult and wants to go fast.”
“I tried to get her relaxed as much as I could,” Ortiz said. “She was pretty good all the way, and when I asked, she picked it up.”
She had to hold off Teen Pauline in the stretch to win by a length, who had won her turf debut here Aug. 11 at the Riskaverse distance. Unbelievable Dream stormed through the top of the stretch to improve from fifth to third.