Hand Rides

The rematch between Winter Memories and More Than Real, her lone conqueror, in the gr. 2 Lake George Stakes never took shape.  That puts added pressures on the powers to be to keep horse racing’s real rivalry going.  The connections of Blind Luck and Havre de Grace have said that they intend to bring their horses to Saratoga in late August.  But, as of now, they’ve decided to go separate ways.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the co-owner of Blind Luck, believes the gr. 1 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares is the race for her. Rick Porter, the owner of Havre de Grace, is thinking that the gr. 1 Woodward Stakes, against colts, is a better option.  NYRA should boost the purse of the Personal Ensign and move it forward a day to bring the two horses together.  That would lend Travers Day a dynamic that would satisfy the folks at NBC Sports that horse racing is looking out for them as well as itself.

In winning easily on Wednesday, Winter Memories confirmed that she’s clearly the better of More Than Real. The roan daughter of El Prado dropped five lengths behind the pack at the break, stayed put there before beginning her move on the second turn, then checked abruptly when Jose Lezcano inadvisably tried to squeeze her through on the rail before the stretch run, until circling wide and passing under the finish line while never feeling the whip.

In the third race, J C’s Pride, a two-year-old son of Henny Hughes, delivered an equally impressive victory.  As the odds-on favorite, owing to a second place finish to Overdriven in his first maiden attempt, J C’s Pride broke the track record for five furlongs under a hand ride in what is conceivably his last race for owner Joseph Bucci and trainer Robert Barbara.  Speculation began immediately after the colt’s 4-1/2 length win that some owner with a pocket full of money would soon steal him away.

Two of the first three races were plagued with a shortage of runners.  Nifty riding by the meet’s leading jockey, Javier Castellano, enabled Estero Bay to win the fourth.  State of Play took the fifth race like a horse with a future, even though he was inexpensively purchased at auction.  An outrider named Natalie distinguished herself professionally by catching the runaway Salty Little Sis in quick order before the day’s final race.  

Tyler Nielsen of Ridgewood, NJ received a prize of $500, compliments of Todd Pletcher, for making a distance-shortened half court shot during halftime of the Jockeys vs. Trainers basketball game benefitting the New York Chaplaincy.  The prize-winning shot was shortened because Nielsen stands barely five feet tall and is only 12 years old.  The trainers took their revenge out on the jockeys, who defeated them last summer, by winning 51-44.  Jeffrey Sanchez led the jockeys in points.

Caption: Jockeys vs. Trainers basketball game - Photo: Vic Zast

The Philadelphia Orchestra will play the score from Casablanca at SPAC tonight while the movie runs on a big screen in the background.  That’s tough competition for author Jamaica Kincaid, who is reading at Skidmore’s NYS Writer’s Institute, and Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos, in town to sign books – events that will take place concurrently.  

Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 25 Travers.” He’s attended the races at Saratoga for 48 straight seasons.

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