Sometimes, you just have to trust your own good judgment.
That concept was on full display in the Grade II Lake George at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday.
Not only did trainer Graham Motion and owner Sagamore Farm trust that Daring Dancer was as good as they’d always believed her to be, but jockey Alan Garcia trusted his internal clock and got her to the wire just in time to nail A Little Bit Sassy at the wire for the victory.
Other than a fifth by 93⁄4 lengths on soft turf at Belmont Park last time, Daring Dancer is undefeated and now should be considered one of the best 3-year-old turf fillies in the country.
“She was just a different horse today than she was at Belmont, and luckily, we stuck with it and just put it down to the soft ground,” Motion said. “I think she showed her true colors today. I mean, she’s pretty special, this filly.”
At 3-1 in a competitive field of seven, Daring Dancer went off as a slight favorite over A Little Bit Sassy and Sweet Acclaim, trained by Mechanicville’s Chad Brown.
Daring Kathy and jockey John Velazquez broke from the rail and took the field through reasonable fractions of 24.06 for the quarter-mile, :48.10 for the half and 1:11.64 for six furlongs in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lake George.
A Little Bit Sassy tracked closely in second, and those two dueled down the stretch, with Daring Kathy giving way begrudgingly inside the sixteenth pole.
Garcia, meanwhile, saved ground on the inside in the back of the pack and patiently waited for a seam during his first ride of the meet.
He finally got one after cutting the corner on the grandstand turn and moved to the outside for clear sailing.
A Little Bit Sassy, ridden by Luis Saez, nosed in front of Daring Kathy late, but couldn’t hold off Daring Dancer.
“That was a very close race, and I’m glad to win it,” Garcia. “I feel bad he got beat, but somebody had to win.
“She was very amazing. She was comfortable all the way. Turning for home, I was looking for a hole, and it was open outside, so I decided to move out. And she did it spectacular.”
“I had no excuse,” Saez said. “When we came into the stretch, I had a lot of horse, but the last furlong, the winner came on. I saw the horse coming, and I had to ride hard. We just got beat. She ran great today.”
Motion said he was more nervous about some rain that started to fall before the race than about the close finish.
After Daring Dancer lost the Wonder Again at Belmont on May 25, Motion and Sagamore general manager Tom Mullikin decided to draw a line through that one and proceed to Saratoga with confidence.
That confidence was rewarded when Garcia gave Daring Dancer a heady ride and she regained the form she showed while winning three straight, including the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland.
“That’s grass racing in graded races at Saratoga, right?” Motion said. “We’re treating her like she’s a really nice filly, and luckily after the last race, I talked to Tom, we decided to stick with the course. Just because she had one blemish on her record, we didn’t want to get off course and thought we should come up here, and it was a good move.”
It was a tough loss for A Little Bit Sassy, who is trained by Michael Matz and had won two straight stakes at Churchill Downs.
Daring Kathy, who had won three straight at Gulfstream Park, hung on for third by a length and a quarter.