Bob Baron of Voorheesville visited his uncle John Helenek in Connecticut for the last time on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Uncle John told his nephew, “Bobby, we’ve got to win that race.”
He died on Sunday, Aug. 19, and then the best horse Baron has ever owned fulfilled that promise, four weeks after he answered another one.
Promises Fulfilled got to the lead and never surrendered it, winning the Grade I Allen Jerkens by a length and a quarter as the 6-5 betting favorite at Saratoga Race Course Saturday.
The horse was named to signify how Baron and his wife of 44 years, Debbie, had made good on the vows they spoke on their wedding day, having brought a beautiful family with 10 grandchildren into the world.
The colt, who made it to the Kentucky Derby but faded to almost 40 lengths behind Justify in finishing 15th, came back at Saratoga to win the Grade III Amsterdam on July 28 to live up to his name.
Then he topped it Saturday by winning a Grade I, sending most of the Barons’ grandchildren, all dressed in the green-and-white of Bob Baron’s silks colors, to the winner’s circle.
Bob Baron of Voorheesville dedicated the win to his uncle John, who passed away last Sunday https://t.co/Adyv7ArubK— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) August 25, 2018
“They put off the calling hours for Uncle John until tomorrow [Sunday] and Monday, purposely put them off until after this race, because they said he wouldn’t want it any other way,” Bob Baron said. “He loved horse racing. So this is saying ‘Hello’ to Uncle John up there.”
Baron, who owns a construction trucking company, has been coming to Saratoga since the 1960s, when he played quarterback at RPI. He has owned racehorses since the 1990s, and had been bringing his uncle to Saratoga for the last 10 years.
He had won some stakes races at other tracks over the years, but Promises Fulfilled’s Amsterdam was a breakthrough as a graded stakes win at Baron’s favorite track.
The colt took it up a notch Saturday by getting away from the gate sharply, then sustaining his run through seven furlongs under Luis Saez and outbattling Engage at the eighth pole.
“I was the speed in the race, and my plan was to break and run him from there and find out who was bad, who was in the lead, so we can take it,” Saez said. “He looked like he was very comfortable when he came to the stretch.”
“He’s special,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It’s just going to be who has the most stamina, and we know the kind of stamina he has to win.”
“I think he’s grown up,” Baron said. “If you knew what he looked like at the Kentucky Derby, he was more like a thousand pounds. He filled out, he’s bigger. I heard people talking about him bouncing, but he’s just grown a couple inches and 150 pounds. Like Dale said for the last race, he’s gone from a boy to a man.”
Owner Bob Baron of Voorheesville, Tammy Fox and Dale Romans celebrate Promises Fulfilled's Allen Jerkens win pic.twitter.com/igcNQuXyAd— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) August 25, 2018
Romans not only had the winner, but his other horse, the 32-1 long shot Seven Trumpets, closed well to finish second.
Like Baron, Romans had some sentimental attachment to the race, since he was a good friend to the late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, whom he considered a mentor.
“It’s an honor to win this race, and I think to get up for second, we might have had a little divine intervention,” Romans said.
Baron said he would have time to bring his grandchildren to the barn Sunday morning to feed Promises Fulfilled some treats before he drives to Connecticut for his uncle’s calling hours.
In the meantime, the kids were having too much fun bouncing around the winner’s circle while their grandfather talked to the media.
“Everybody was up and yelling and screaming and going nuts the whole way,” Baron said. “It was just a great day.
“I’m happy for the horse, and I’m happy for all these kids. This is what it’s all about.”
Trainer Chad Brown was staring at a winless Travers Day after Good Magic and Gronkowski got beat in the big race, but he salvaged something positive just after the Travers, when his mare Quidura won the Grade II Ballston Spa by 1 3/4 lengths.
It was Brown’s fourth win in this race in the last seven years, after Zagora (2012), Dacita (2015) and Lady Eli (2017).
“It’s a nice race to win, and I’m grateful for that,” Brown said. “I had two other horses in the race that are really nice that didn’t hit the board. I have to examine that. I have a feeling it is due to the turf course.
“I was surprised she [A Raving Beauty] didn’t fire. I have to re-evaluate her.”
A Raving Beauty went off as the 4-5 betting favorite after wins in the Grade III Beaugay and Grade I Just A Game, then a third by less than a length to stablemate Sistercharlie in the Grade I Diana. She was fourth of six horses in the Ballston Spa.
Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith went 2-for-2 on the Travers card, winning the Grade I Ballerina with Marley’s Freedom just after Abel Tasman won the Personal Ensign.
It was Marley’s Freedom’s fourth straight win (the last three after being transferred from Bob Hess to Baffert) and her third straight graded stakes win.
“Winning her last two races was pretty impressive,” Baffert said. “The quality is there, and you have to come to Saratoga if you are looking for a championship. That is why I brought her, to see how she fits, and this is a pretty good field.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux has won all of three races from almost 70 mounts at this meet.
Good thing for Glorious Empire.
Julien Leparoux hasn't done much at this meet, but he and Glorious Empire now have the Grade I Sword Dancer to go with the Grade II Bowling Green pic.twitter.com/dZI4hrj5tL— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) August 25, 2018
The 7-year-old gelding was sent off at odds of 15-1 in the Grade I Sword Dancer and won on the front end by almost two lengths over Channel Maker.
He and Leparoux also won the Grade II Bowling Green earlier in the meet on a much different turf condition, but with the same front-running style.
“It was a rough race, like the last time,” Leparoux said. “He obviously loves the track. We won two here this year and one last year.”
That 2017 victory was vastly different from these two, since it came in a claiming race.
“This is my first Grade I, and we’re going to bask in it,” trainer James “Chuck” Lawrence said. “Our big goal before was just to win a race at Saratoga with him, so he’s exceeded our expectations.”
Whitmore tries hard every time.
The late-running sprinter doesn’t always get there, but the multiple graded stakes did so in the Grade I Forego, taking command in upper stretch and polishing off the victory by 1 1/2 lengths over 4-5 betting favorite City of Light.
“He’s as consistent as they come,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “He’s made a career out of outrunning his trainer, and I hope he keeps doing it. He’s a cool dude. He’s fun to be around. He’s a challenge. He brings that same tenacity to the track.”
You can see a gallery of all the Travers Day stakes races here.