SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The race looked good on paper for A Thread of Blue.
It'll look even better on paper when owner Leonard Green, who also happens to be trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's accountant, enters the winner's share into the ledger.
Based on past performance, A Thread of Blue appeared to be the only front-runner of 11 3-year-old colts lined up for the inaugural $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational Sunday.
That's exactly how the Saratoga Derby played out, as jockey Luis Saez got A Thread of Blue to the front early on the firm Mellon Turf Course, and never relinquished the lead for a mile and three-sixteenths, holding off Digital Age by a length.
"In a big race, you never know, but we were lucky that it was pretty easy up front," Saez said. "When we came into the stretch, I knew I had plenty of horse. I saw them coming, but he responded pretty well. It was easy for him today."
"An uncontested lead is big, and he's a very talented horse," McLaughlin said. "He likes it firm, obviously, winning three in Florida, and then Penn [Mile] just didn't go well and we gave him a little more time into this. But he's been training unbelievable, and it worked out great."
McLaughlin watched the race on TV on the ground floor of the clubhouse and burst into a long series of loud "Yeahs" as he made his way to the winner's circle, pumping his fists and hugging well-wishers.
"It's just a great win for these owners," McLaughlin said. "He's my accountant, too, so it's kind of special, and I haven't trained for him very long. And just for the morale of the barn, it's huge. We've gotten off to a slow start, so it's a lot of things, and it's just wonderful.
A Thread of Blue, whose $535,000 winner's share will be split among the connections, won three straight at Gulfstream Park from February to May, but was fourth on a yielding course in the Grade II Penn Mile.
McLaughlin said they had considered running in the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Friday and the Grade I Secretariat at Arlington Park next Saturday, but "we just kept landing back on this race," McLaughlin said.
"It seemed like we didn't have to go anywhere, and we might get an easier lead going further. Going a mile, they might be pressing more. He's a very talented horse, and we thought he could get the distance. Now, the next one we might have to talk about, a mile and a half. But we got this one. We're happy with this."
"The next one" referred to the Jockey Club Oaks, the third leg of the Turf Trinity at Belmont Park.
GRADE II ADIRONDACK
It could be natural for trainer Mark Casse to watch Perfect Alibi work in the morning and ask, "What's your excuse?"
The races in the afternoon are a different story.
Perfect Alibi moved past Magic Dance at the sixteenth pole and polished off a victory in the Grade II Adirondack for 2-year-old fillies by a half-length over Frank's Rockette.
Owned by Tracy Farmer, Perfect Alibi has won two of three in her short career, and Casse will consider running her right back in the Spinaway closing weekend because ... why not?
"If you see her in the morning, you wouldn't know she's anything," Casse said. "She breezes and will go a half [mile] in 50 [seconds], and it's like she's giving you everything. So I was a little surprised when she broke her maiden so easy.
"I told Mr. Farmer, 'I can't tell you not to run her, and I can't tell you to run her.' The good thing about Mr. Farmer is he's not afraid to lose. Sometimes you've got to run them."
The camera was Celtic Chaos' best friend in the $100,000 John Morrissey sprint for New York-breds, as neither trainer Brad Cox nor jockey Dylan Davis believed he had made it to the wire first.
The photo showed Celtic Chaos an inch or so ahead of Build to Suit and jockey Manny Franco, though, to give him just his third stakes victory in 35 career races. He also won the John Morrissey in 2017.
"He dug in when Franco came up on the inside, and he really fought to the wire," Davis said. "I thought I was on the losing side, but he got the head bob."
I honestly didn't think he got there, but with a photo, you've got a shot, and then they put his number up," Cox said. "Dylan did a great job riding him. He's put him up in the race a little closer the last couple races, and it's worked out really well."
"He gave me all he had, and that was just a bad bob," Franco said of Build to Suit.
Fools Gold appears to be the real thing in races at a mile and a half on the turf, as she won the Grade III Waya with Javier Castellano aboard.
She didn't miss by much over the same trip at Belmont park on July 5 in the River Memories, and stalked the pace in second in the Waya, and held off Get Explicit by three-quarters of a length.
"She's progressed all season, and now she's a player in the division," trainer Chad Brown told the New York Racing Association.