Late-running Better Lucky rallied from far back in a field of four and ran down fellow Grade I winners Grace Hall and My Miss Aurelia to win the $100,000 Shine Again at Saratoga Race Course Monday.
The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper was reserved in the early going under jockey Javier Castellano before unleashing a powerful stretch drive to catch Grace Hall near the wire and win by a head.
“It was a beautiful trip. That’s where I wanted to be at, that’s the way I handicapped the race,” said Castellano. “There were only four horses in the race. In a small field, I mean, three horses with speed. They were head to head to head.
“At one point on the backside, I felt in my mind that they went pretty quick. I could feel that I didn’t want to go at the same pace with my horse. I didn’t want to be too far back, but I didn’t want to ask her too much. And it worked out perfectly, because at the top of the stretch, I saw the horses starting to come back to me. They started to slow down, like they were in slow motion.”
Better Lucky ran seven furlongs in 1:22.56, and paid $12.60 and $3.90, with Grace Hall returning $2.40 for second. There was no show wagering.
“I was getting a little bit concerned until I saw the 44 [seconds] and change pop up there, and then I thought she could close; it would just be a matter of getting there in time,” said trainer Tom Albertrani of Better Lucky. “When they were turning for home, I could see she was getting a little closer, then at the eighth pole, I knew she was going to get up there. It worked out perfectly.”
It was a tough loss for Grace Hall, who raced in tight and bumped with My Miss Aurelia near the eighth pole, and has now finished second in all three 2014 starts.
“I think she was the best horse in the race,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “She was bothered at the three-sixteenths pole and had to come out of there and go around, and she had to alter course at the eighth pole.”
My Miss Aurelia, the 6-5 favorite making her first start in more than 16 months, finished a half-length behind Grace Hall in third. The pacesetting Bridgehampton completed the field, another length back.
“I thought she ran very well,” said My Miss Aurelia’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. “She hadn’t run in a long time, and she fought hard and just got a little tired in the last hundred yards.”
Owned by Godolphin Stable, Better Lucky won for the sixth time in 17 lifetime starts. The $60,000 winner’s share pushed her career purse earnings to $993,950.
“I think seven-eighths to a mile is really her best distance,” said Albertrani. “Surface doesn’t really matter; she’s won on three different types of surfaces. She’s a really talented filly, and she was on her game today. Hopefully, we can use this to go to the Ballerina [on Aug. 23].”
Will Take Charge, the 2013 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.02 on the Oklahoma dirt training track in preparation for the Grade I Whitney on Aug. 2.
Will Take Charge has run five times this year in top company, winning the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and finishing second in three Grade 1’s — the Donn, Santa Anita and Stephen Foster handicaps. His lone finish out of the exacta came when he finished sixth in the Grade II Alysheba on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Asked about the Whitney, in which Will Take Charge will face Palace Malice, among other top older horses in the country, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, “Look, we’re the champion. We don’t give a damn who shows up. Bring ‘em on. You can’t dodge them; they’re all going to show up. Line ‘em up. Let’s see what we’ve got. There’s no place to hide in Saratoga.”
Trainer Leah Gyarmati said that Noble Moon, unraced since finishing sixth in the Grade I Wood Memorial on April 5, may make his return on Saturday.
Gyarmati is considering the Grade II Amsterdam at 61⁄2 furlongs for Noble Moon’s comeback race, rather than the nine-furlong Jim Dandy the same day.
“We’re thinking of the Amsterdam. We’ll see,” Gyarmati said. “He has had off and on chronic foot problems. We’ve given him all the time to get things in line; the question will be is the Amsterdam the right place to come back off this kind of layoff. It’s going to depend on exactly how he’s doing, and who’s going in there.”