Saratoga notebook: Waya has that Hall of Fame feel
SARATOGA SPRINGS Time to update those introductions for the upcoming Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Add one more stakes win to the list for inductees John Velazquez and Roger Attfield. Velazquez rode Attfield’s Kissable to victory Monday in the $100,000 Waya at Saratoga Race Course, across the street from the museum gallery in which they will be enshrined following Friday’s induction ceremony at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion.
“What a great guy, what a great person to be around, and what a great trainer, as well,” Velazquez said of Attfield. “It’s well-deserved, and I’m glad to be a part of it. He’s been great to me for a long time now. He’s given me a lot of great chances on his horses.”
Irish-bred Kissable was running just her second North American race after going 1-2-2 in her first nine races in her home country. The Waya’s 11⁄2 miles over the inner turf for fillies and mares 3 and older was run on yielding ground, so it was almost like she was running at home.
“After talking to the assistant trainer, they thought she was actually going to benefit from the distance,” Velazquez said. “The way the ground was today, kind of softer, coming from [Ireland], it was going to benefit ourselves, as well. It just worked out perfect.”
That distance on the inner turf meant about 11⁄2 laps on the course, sending the field of 10 horses twice over much of the same soft ground. Kissable sat off the pace in seventh or eighth through most of the race. Velazquez made a quick study of the way the course was playing on the backstretch, and applied it late to find good ground for a stretch run.
“I saved the best ground I could in the first two turns,” he said. “Once we got to the backstretch and everybody moved out, I said, ‘I’m going to go for the best ground.’ We already ran twice over that ground, it was really cut up. When I pulled her out, she was on better ground where she felt more comfortable, and that was the key, right there.
“When she got her feet underneath of her and got back into the bridle, I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to keep it here.’ Because as soon I dropped in at the three-eighth pole heading to the quarter pole, you could see she’s struggling a little bit with the loose ground. I pulled her out in the stretch again, and she felt much better. So I kept her in the middle of the track. It was much better ground there.”
Entering the stretch, pacesetter Bizzy Caroline had faded to third, and Kissable took the lead by a head over Starformer at the eighth pole. Starformer had drifted out a couple of paths, but that didn’t bother Kissable and Velazquez, who wanted to stay wide, anyway.
Velazquez went to the whip just one more time, then pulled away with a hand ride to a four-length win over Starformer. Bizzy Caroline held on for third, three-quarters of a length ahead of Bubbly Jane.
From London, Attfield spoke with the New York Racing Association by phone.
“I’m told she won nicely, and I’m very pleased,” he said. “She had been training really, really well into it. The race in Canada [fifth in the Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine on July 8] was a new experience for her. Coming from over there [Ireland], they’re not used to running away from the gate so quickly, and I think [11⁄8 miles] was a bit short for her.
“After that race was when she started to get aggressive in her training. She’s gotten a lot sharper. Her last couple of works were especially good, and I expected she would run well.”
Attfield was glad to share the win with his fellow Class of 2012 inductee, Velazquez, who returned two weeks ago from a broken collarbone.
“It’s very special,” Attfield said. “I’m glad to see him come back from his injury and doing well, and I’m looking forward to seeing him on Friday.”
The card started off with bad news for Marylou Whitney and trainer Nick Zito. Their entry Afleet Bird did not finish the first race under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who had to stop near the eighth pole, as the horse suffered from a displaced right-front condylar fracture.
The last report was veterinarians were working to save the horse. Entering the day’s racing, there had been two fatalities during the meet.
HAPPY AFTER UPSET
Poseidon’s Warrior came out of his upset win in Sunday’s Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt in good order for trainer Robert Reid, who shares a barn with trainer Tony Dutrow.
“It was wonderful,” Reid’s wife, Virginia, told the NYRA. “So many people have topped by to congratulate us. Yesterday when we got back to the barn, Kim Dutrow had traced ‘Yes!’ in the dirt outside his stall. It was so sweet.”
After his neck victory, Poseidon’s Warrior has been full of energy and appetite.
“He ate everything up last night,” Reid said. “This morning, he went to graze, and I couldn’t get him back inside.”
The Grade I $500,000 Forego over seven furlongs on Sept. 1 is a possible next start for Poseidon’s Warrior, but that is one furlong longer than his favored six, at which he has claimed six of his seven wins.
TWO FOR PLETCHER
Two is once again a magic number for trainer Todd Pletcher, who leads the training race with 16 wins to Chad Brown’s 13 after Monday’s card.
Nine of those 16 wins have been claimed by 2-year-olds. Saturday, he will send out Kauai Kate in the Grade II $200,000 Adirondack and both Shanghai Bobby and Drumroll in the Grade II $200,000 Saratoga Special. A win in either would be his first juvenile stakes win of the meet.
All three worked in the morning over five furlongs. Kauai Kate breezed in 1:02.57, while Shanghai Bobby and Drumroll worked in company in 1:02.46.
Kauai Kate won by 12 lengths on opening day with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. Shanghai Bobby is 2-for-2 this year, and Drumroll won at Monmouth Park on July 8 by 23⁄4 lengths.
Believe You Can, winner of the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, caught her first breeze at Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track in preparation for the Aug. 18 running of the Grade I $600,000 Alabama. She covered five furlongs in 1:02.10 under Napravnik, the fifth fastest of 13 at that distance.
“Everything was good. She’s done everything real good,” trainer Larry Jones said. “The Alabama has been our goal. Now, we just have to get it all to come together.”