Despite a paucity of horses in early races, Friday represented an excellent card. The 52nd running of the Gr.2 $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap brought together seven decent turf horses, including the winner Get Stormy. The bay colt by Stormy Atlantic has taken seven of his last eight races and is now four for four on the Saratoga turf courses.
The condition of small fields carried into the fifth race. There were six runners in the third and five in the fourth, a $75,000 stakes. The unbeaten Trickmeister, a recent acquisition by IEAH Stables, won the 1 1/8 mile Pleasant Colony. Garrett Gomez swung the Dick Dutrow trainee wide going into the clubhouse turn to give his four foes agita. He then rode comfortably at the front of the pack, extending his margin of victory to almost 12 lengths.
Trying to beat the 1-4 favorite in the first race proved futile. Although pressured by Estimator for a half mile in :45.27, Driven by Success won the Vic Ziegel Memorial, aka Charles Dowd Stakes, handily. The meet’s leaders – trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John R. Velazquez – were complicit. Velazquez rode three winners in all, but screwed up in the second and should have had four.
Velazquez didn’t ride like the meet’s leading jockey aboard Roderick. He and Cornelio Velasquez engaged in a debilitating speed duel that set things up for the 8-1 Steal the Shot. The New York-bred son of Vindication, owned and trained by Albert Fried Jr., deserves praise for his triumph, but it was given to him on a platter.
Six geldings went to the post in the third race, a maiden 7-furlong $60,000 claiming sprint. The three most expensive horses finished first, second and third. The one that cost $85,000 beat the one that cost $280,000 and the one that cost $280,000 beat the one that cost $175,000. None were claimed.
Two races prior to the feature, Saratoga held the second annual Edward F. Keis Memorial purse. The race is named after a Watervliet, NY beer distributor. Coincidentally, the 1-1/16 mile turf tilt went off at about the same time that the votes in the track’s Battle of the Brews were counted. For a $25 donation to the American Red Cross, patrons could sample up to 40 different beers and say which they thought was the best. A brand named Dogfish from Delaware won the brew fest. Peahi won the Keis.
Two unlikely-looking swing dancers from New Orleans cut a rug to the music of Reggie’s Red Hot Feet Warmers. Chance Bushman - his long hair tied hidden under a derby – and Giselle Anguizola – her arm covered with tattoos from shoulder to wrist – danced sensationally. They’ll be here to the end of the meet. Please feel free to drop a buck or two in their bucket.
Elsewhere, Robin Attwood of Seattle, WA played the washboard. A lot of horseplayers will be taking in laundry after a meet like this where the horses have been tough to beat.
Vic Zast is the author of the award-winning book, “The History and Art of 25 Travers.” He’s a Saratoga Springs summer resident, who lives in Chicago during the off season.