SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Race Course has a way of bringing out some goofball behavior.
And that doesn’t even include the backyard picnic area.
Copper Bullet didn’t have his mind on his job in the paddock on Sunday, but once he was on the track, his race experience kicked in and he kicked away to win the Grade II Saratoga Special by four lengths over Hollywood Star.
“He was being awfully sharp,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “Saratoga will bring that out. You walk over to the holding barn, you walk through all those people, with a 2-year-old who is very happy about who he is to begin with, and sharp enough to be racing and then you put him through the parade . . . they’ll show a little bit of emotion, usually.”
There was plenty of happy emotion at the finish line, especially for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who had four winners on the card and was greeted by his little daughter Sarai as she toddled across the winner’s circle and into his arms during the Saratoga Special trophy presentation.
It was the second win in four starts for Copper Bullet, a son of More Than Ready who was coming off a second in the Bashford Manor in which he also allowed himself to be distracted by his surroundings before the race.
On Sunday, he broke well from post No. 9, but front-runners Mo Diddley and Barry Lee hogged all the real estate near the rail.
Nevertheless, Ortiz and Copper Bullet were able to navigate a winning trip.
They went around those two on the turn, took command at the quarter pole and pulled away in the stretch.
“Last time, he missed the break, but this time I was in the clear,” Ortiz said. “I let him be comfortable, and when I asked him, he was there for me. The other horses had a little bit more speed than me, but he’s a big horse. He’s fast, but I didn’t want to go that fast early. I just wanted to stalk, and the trip worked out perfectly. When I asked him, he responded and did a great job. He finished good, and I think he can go farther.”
“He broke well, and then they ran up inside him, and I didn’t think Irad was given any options [to save ground] from there,” Asmussen said. “I think the way the race unfolded, it’s good that he’s had a few races.
“He’s looked like the real deal, and it’s good to see him win a race at this level.”
If Copper Bullet keeps running like this, Asmussen can perhaps forgive some paddock antics.
“He was a little playful in the paddock and stuff, but once he got on the racetrack, he was all business,” he said. “He broke very sharply. Twenty-one and three [21.73 seconds for the first quarter-mile] down the backside, I was a little concerned with how fast they were going, but I think the racing experience that he’s had showed up.”
With the four wins, Ortiz moved into a 31-29 lead over his brother Jose in the meet jockey standings, with John Velazquez lurking at 24 with 19 of 40 racing days left.
Todd Pletcher won the last race on the card with Itsabigboy to stay within one win of Chad Brown in the trainer standings 24-23. Nobody else has more than seven.