A steward’s inquiry was launched after the physical conclusion to the Grade III Sanford, but jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. had no worries about his finish up front.
Aboard Big Trouble, he was bumped by second-place runner Mr. Z as the pair of 11-1 shots rallied in the stretch to finish ahead of the top two choices, favored Nonna’s Boy and Cinco Charlie. Big Trouble needed a photo at the finish and then survive the steward’s inquiry for the win in 100th running of the six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds.
While the inquiry was in progress, Ortiz dismounted and reassured trainer Anthony Dutrow.
“We’re OK,” he said. “Trust me.”
Mr. Z was coming out to find running room around the dueling Nonna’s Boy and Cinco Charlie, the only problem being Big Trouble occupied that lane and was making his own run.
“He tried to get out, I tried to stay in my lane,” Ortiz said. “It was 50-50, and my horse did win, so I don’t complain.”
After the bump, Big Trouble still had the maturity to keep his momentum and focus.
“Mr. Z had plenty of run in him, and he needs a place to go, so he’s pushing out,” Dutrow said while watching the replay from the winner’s enclosure. “There, they finished up together. Both colts are good colts. You can’t do that if you’re not a good colt.”
It helps that Big Trouble is a big, athletic baby.
“You have to have respect for the horse, because he is a big horse. He ran the first of June, now he’s back in July, and I think you have to have respect for such a big horse to be this athletic so early,” Dutrow said. “So hopefully, there’s a good future in front of him.”
Cinco Charlie and Chocolate Wildcat broke with the lead, but Chocolate Wildcat quickly dropped back. Bessie’s Boy quickly came forward to join Cinco Charlie through a first quarter in 21.65, but coming out of the turn, Bessie’s Boy couldn’t maintain the pace and dropped back. The Todd Pletcher-trained Nonna’s Boy ran strong around the bend with Mr. Z in tow, joining Cinco Charlie in the stretch.
Big Trouble, who won his front-running debut at Belmont on June 1, proved he could run a tactical race, as well, and came charging along the outside to reach the leaders and eventually prevail.
Big Trouble returned $25.60, $10.00 and $5.60 in the win, while Mr. Z paid $11.20 and $6.10. Cinco Charlie paid $3.50 to show.
“I’m so happy that this boy was able to do something different than his maiden win against, obviously, some nice horses in this race today,” Dutrow said. “So for him to be completely different than he was in his first race, with only having one experience at this, I have to feel really good about his future.”
Dutrow said he may wait for the Belmont fall meet to run Big Trouble again, but he will at least nominate him for the Grade I Hopeful at the end of the Saratoga meet.
A strong field for the Grade II Jim Dandy is shaping up. Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist worked five furlongs in 1:01.79 in his final workout for the July 26 prep for the Travers. Stablemate Life in Shambles was about 11⁄2 lengths back to push Tonalist and drew alongside him late. Life in Shambles is pointing toward the Curlin on Friday.
Winner of the Grade I Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong went six furlongs in 1:13.09. He also finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont with California Chrome.
Samraat, who has won multiple Grade III races and was sixth in the Belmont, worked four furlongs in 48.79 on the main track and will head to either the Jim Dandy or the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth on July 27.
Another horse whose next race remains undetermined is Commanding Curve, the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby. He went five furlongs in 1:0.61 and is being considered for the Curlin or Jim Dandy.
The seven-furlong Shine Again on Monday will feature 2011 champion 2-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia, coming back after 16 months on the shelf. She last ran third in the Grade III Azeri for trainer Steve Asmussen, but is now trained by Pletcher.
One of her opponents in the Shine Again will be Grace Hall, who returns to sprinting for the first time since winning the Grade I Spinaway here in 2011.
Now two days and 10 mounts into his first trip to Saratoga, jockey Frankie Dettori is 2-3-0, including a runner-up finish in the Grade I Diana aboard the Chad Brown-trained Stephanie’s Kitten.