A slow start didn’t stop the favored Fashion Alert from pulling out a win in the first stakes race of the meet at Saratoga Race Course on Friday.
After she broke in from her 4 post and bumped Evrybdymstgetstonz, the Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old filly caught and pressured early leader Take Charge Brandi, pulling away under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez only in the last furlong to win the Grade III Schuylerville.
“The only good thing about the start for us is it allowed her to get outside of Wayne’s [trainer D. Wayne Lukas] filly and be the stalker instead of the stalkee,” Pletcher said.
The win in the six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies also served as a reminder of Pletcher’s dominance with juveniles over the past few years. Last year, 23 of his 36 wins came with 2-year-olds.
Take Charge Brandi took charge in the first sixteenth under jockey Corey Lanerie before Velazquez had navigated his filly about even with them.
“I wish we had a better break and could get a better position in the first five jumps out of there, but she recuperated right away and got in good position going to the half-mile pole,” Velazquez said. “From then on, I just wanted to give her a little breather and see how she did, and found a lane. She started leaning to the horse on the inside, and finally she started getting away from her in the last sixteenth of a mile.”
“Coming to the quarter pole, I thought I had more than him,” Lanerie said. “I was kind of watching what Johnny was doing, and it looked like he was trying to nudge his a little bit. He obviously had more horse than I thought, but I thought I was going to run away with it.”
The pair set fractions of 22.41 and 45.21 through the first half mile, at which time they were six lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Fashion Alert got a head in front around the quarter pole, but Take Charge Brandi didn’t yield until the furlong grounds.
Velazquez rode Fashion Alert in her debut win in the Astoria at Belmont on June 14, her only other race, which she won by 4 3⁄4 lengths. He knew he had enough horse to push the pace and still kick through the final furlong, so he decided to keep Take Charge Brandi honest with fast early fractions.
“When it ended up in front of me, I made sure I put on the pressure, because it seems like a nice horse, as well,” Velazquez said. “I wasn’t going to let it get away with slow fractions.”
Pletcher said he is encouraged by Fashion Alert’s win and is stabling another capable group of juveniles this summer.
Though he wasn’t surprised Fashion Alert had enough class to win the Schuylerville, he was pleased to see how she performed under constant pressure from another classy rival.
“You never know how they’re going to respond to a prolonged speed duel like they were in, so we were fortunate she was ready for that,” Pletcher said.
As the 1-5 favorite, Fashion Alert paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Take Charge Brandi paid $3.40 and $2.20. Tulira’s Star was the best of the rest, finishing third and paying $2.40 to show. Evrybdymstgetstonz was fourth and Mast Cove fifth.
The remaining 2-year-old filly stakes races at Saratoga are the Grade II Adirondack on Aug. 10 at 6 1⁄2 furlongs, which Pletcher wouldn’t rule out, and the more likely spot in the Grade I Spinaway on Aug. 31 at seven furlongs.
“I think she’s got a lot of potential, and I actually think she’s going to enjoy stretching out in distance a little bit when she can kind of get into a good comfortable rhythm,” Pletcher said. “From what we’ve seen in her training, we think she’ll run farther.”
TOURIST THREATENS RECORD
Tourist led from start to finish in the ungraded Sir Cat, finishing the mile on the inner turf in 1:33.54, just 0.12 off the course record set Sept. 5, 2004 by L'Oiseau d'Argent. He and jockey Joel Rosario had to hold off the early challenge of the Chad Brown-trained Storming Inti, then the late charge of Preakness-runner Ring Weekend.
Tourist, a 3-year-old son of Tiznow trained by Bill Mott, paid 5.40, 3.50 and 2.60 in the win. Ring Weekend returned 4.80 and 3.10, while Storming Inti paid 2.50 to show.