Chicken of Horse Racing

People pretending to be someone other than they are constituted a theme. Siro's booked an Elvis Presley tribute band to play in its backyard on Friday evening and the performer who played Elvis took his role so intently that you wondered if he was channeling the original.  Johnny Enright, a fellow from Malta, NY dressed as wrestler Hulk Hogan, patrolled the racecourse on Saturday.  When asked what he thought he was doing, Enright said, "Think of me as the ‘Chicken' of horse racing."

Nevertheless, unlike several previous days, Saratoga did not impersonate the experience that people have grown to expect from being here.  The end to July, humidity-free weather and fabulous horse racing provided a crowd of nearly 29,000 fans with an excuse to come back again.  Only two races failed to provide interest and even those offered betting odds that made them playable. Each of the three stakes on the 11-race card could have served as the sole headliner elsewhere.

The opener was called the $70,000 William B. Fasig Stakes.  The 1-1/16 mile turf race engaged several nice New York-bred horses, including Chestoria.  At 3-2, Chestoria was the favorite.  She was one of two horses that trainer Bill Badgett entered. His second horse, Exclusive Scheme, was the longest price on the board at 25-1. Exclusive Scheme triumphed unexpectedly, pretending the back-to-back pace challenges of two competitors didn't bother her.

Bill Mott got the luck in the Gr.1 $500,000 Diana.  Mike Smith came from California to ride only one horse and that horse - Proviso - popped her nose in front of two other horses to give Mott his fourth Diana victory in the last half-dozen summers. The 5-year-old mare rallied three wide coming through the final turn of the 1-1/8 mile event on a firm turf course, gained a brief advantage with a half-furlong to go and held on to withstand late runs by Shared Account and Forever Together. A nose and a nose separated the first from the third horse.

A Little Warm raced well enough in the Gr.2 $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes to lay claim to becoming a serious Travers contender.  The Stormin Fever colt, owned by Edward P. Evans and trained by Anthony Dutrow, beat Miner's Reserve at Delaware Park last time out and he beat him again Saturday.  Dutrow told Johnny Velasquez to ride with confidence and he did.  Velasquez is now tied for first in the jockey's standings.

A fourth race worth mentioning was a maiden special weights for 3-year-olds and up. All week long, the backstretch was active with talk about how good an Afleet Alex colt named Admiral Alex, owned and trained by Leon Blusiewicz, was. In this, his first start, Admiral Alex raced slightly behind the leaders until it came time to get serious. He then accelerated smoothly from one tap of the stick by Kent Desormeaux to win handily.  The ambitious next step is the Travers. There's no chicken to that.


Vic Zast writes a column for each Monday.   He has written the Saratoga Diary for in five of the last six years.

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