For the second time this year, Starlight Racing won by technical knockout in a graded stakes race.
Magna Light was clearly the best horse as he led the field toward the wire in Saturday's Grade III Sanford at Saratoga Race Course, but his sudden zigzagging cost him the race by disqualification, giving it to Starlight’s Uncle Vinny.
Despite his shenanigans, Magna Light still finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Uncle Vinny, but the stewards ruled that Magna Light cost Percolator, who finished third, a chance to get up for second.
Starlight was in a similar winning position in February, when Itsaknockout finished second to Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, but won by disqualification.
As happy as the rollicking Starlight crew was about winning one of Saratoga’s graded stakes for 2-year-olds, co-managing partner Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg said they felt badly for the trainer and owners of Magna Light.
“It looks like we’ve got fighters on our hands, in our stable, right?” Lucarelli said. “But, no, I really, really do feel bad for [trainer] Rudy Rodriguez and Michael Dubb and his connections, because they really did run a winning race. It’s unfortunate you have to win them this way.”
Magna Light, ridden by Jose Ortiz, led from gate to wire, with a sharp move laterally to his right inside the eighth pole.
He was so well clear of the field that everyone behind him maintained a straight line, including Uncle Vinny and jockey John Velazquez on the outside. Magna Light couldn’t keep it straight, though, and ducked back toward the rail, at which point Percolator was in the vicinity.
There was a steward’s inquiry as well as an objection lodged by Kendrick Carmouche on Percolator. It took a few minutes before the ruling dropped Magna Light to third.
“I thought they were going to look at it, but not take it down,” Rodriguez said. “We have to get over it, but it’s a shame. You come to Saratoga to bring the horses the best way you can.”
“My horse was much the best,” Ortiz said. “I hit him left-handed, and he ducked out a little bit, but I was clear. Everybody could see that I was clear.”
Uncle Vinny became the first graded stakes winner sired by Uncle Mo, who won his career debut at Saratoga in 2010 on his way to the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old colts.
Breaking from the outside of the 11-horse field, Uncle Vinny tracked the leaders in fourth, found clear running room four wide on the turn and stayed about his business on the outside all the way down the stretch.
Magna Light’s move away from the rail was so severe as to draw an “Ooh” from the crowd.
“We ran huge, too, but the [No.] 4 today was a better horse,” Lucarelli said. “The bottom line is we get to cash a ticket.”
They also get to celebrate at co-managing partner Jack Wolf’s house near the track.
Uncle Vinny’s namesake, Vinny Tatum, was in town from Louisville to watch the Sanford. The fun-loving
42-year-old is a member of coach Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals basketball staff.
“It was a little pressure, just having my name on it,” he said. “It was fun. I was nervous. It’s going to be a good night at Siro’s and Jack’s front porch.”