Jockey Joel Rosario asked, and his mount fired into action around the final turn.
Then he got stuck behind horses looking for a spot along the rail. Rosario pulled him back to look for room around the leader, Sayaad, then when Sayaad drifted out slightly, opening just enough room on the rail, Rosario asked again.
Beneath him, the appropriately named Seek Again was ready to run and hit the hole, pulling away to set a course record and win the Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
“First, there was not a lot of room there,” Rosario said. “I said, ‘I have to stay here,’ because he likes to run that way, that’s his style. As soon as the horse opened up a little bit, I just went through.”
The inner turf record for a mile had been 1:33.42, set in gate-to-wire fashion by L’Oiseau d’Argent under Hall of Fame jockey Richard Migliore in an allowance race on Aug. 5, 2004. Seek Again finished in 1:33.25 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Juddmonte Farms.
“I was thinking it could be over at the eighth pole,” Mott said as he watched the replay in the winner’s enclosure. “I saw him have to alter course two different times, and I thought, ‘Well, we could be in trouble.’ It’s awful late in the game to have to stop your momentum and go a different direction.”
Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who had won the previous two editions of this race, was originally pointed toward an attempt at a three-peat. Trainer Charles LoPresti, though, decided he was not fit enough in time after colic surgery in May, and has pointed him instead toward the Grade II Bernard Baruch (1 1/16 miles on turf) or the Grade I Woodward (11⁄8 miles on dirt), both on Aug. 30. He worked six furlongs Saturday morning on the main track in 1:13.25.
With no Horse of the Year to worry about, favored Silver Max looked to be set up for his fifth victory in six starts when he broke from the inside post and assumed the lead through a first quarter-mile in 23.33. He was joined by Sayaad after a half-mile in 46.18.
At the quarter pole, Sayaad poked his head in front of Silver Max, and Silver Max faded quickly along the rail to finish last of six horses.
“They went really fast,” said Silver Max trainer Dale Romans. “We were going to go fast, we knew it all along. Second start back, maybe I didn’t do enough with him.”
It was Silver Max’s second start after seven months off.
By the time Silver Max was backing up along the rail, Seek Again was in full flight and passed just outside the early pacesetter before pulling in behind Sayaad. Grand Arch was closing to the outside of Sayaad and briefly took a slim lead in the stretch. Rosario’s patience paid off, and he came home a neck ahead of Grand Arch, who was three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Jack Milton.
Mott passed up sending Seek Again to the Arlington Million for half the purse and a shorter race. He said it was a test, to see how the Speightstown colt handled a mile. His previous three starts in North America were all longer, two of them at 11⁄4 miles.
“He’s got some versatility to him,” Mott said. “He’s a horse who can obviously run fast at a mile, but he did win a Grade I [Hollywood Derby] at a mile and a quarter, and he was third in the [11⁄4-mile Grade I] Manhattan.”
Seek Again paid $6.70, $3.80 and $3.10 in the win. Grand Arch returned $8.00 and $3.70, while Jack Milton paid $2.90 to show.
Romans said he couldn’t tell what kept Silver Max from maintaining his pace through the stretch.
“It just looked to me like he wasn’t comfortable on the ground,” Romans said. “That’s a pretty easy excuse. Right now, I have no idea. I want to go back and check him.
“I watched him closely jog back and walk off, and everything looked fine. We’ll see how he is in the morning.”