Two-thirty Timing

The long summer polo season, which began July 8, headed into the final two days with The Celebrate Saratoga Cup in direct competition with the racecourse.  A 2:30 pm late post time caused the 5:30 pm polo match to begin as the horses entered the track for the seventh race, a 5-1/2 furlong $42,000 sprint on the turf for New York State-breds.  The 3-1 favorite Petey Cramer ran a corker as the first chukker started, but he couldn’t out-finish the winner.

Trainer Joseph Aquilino must not have heard the complaints about Dick Dutrow sending a horse four times to the post in 11 days.  He saddled Isn’tlovejustgrand for the fifth time this meet and Isn’tlovejustgrand won.  In making his 16th start of 2011, the three-year-old New York-bred colt now has crossed the wire first on three occasions and hit the board 50 percent of the time. 

Incidentally, the much-maligned Dutrow trains the horse that won the race that was run immediately preceding Isn’tlovejustgrand’s victory.  The last time Dutrow ran River Fancy was on July 30, so there shouldn’t be criticism.  With turf specialist Julien Leparoux in the saddle, the five-year-old Congaree mare took a 1-1/16 miles $20,000 claiming race on the Mellon Course.

The day’s racing began with stakes as two of the first three races.  A good-looking two-year-old colt named Zow made the $75,000 Gold and Roses Stakes memorable.  By beating a small field of five other runners, Zow enabled Todd Pletcher to record his 37th win of the meet.  The number betters by one his record triumphs of last summer.  Only five lengths separated Zow from the last horse, but you knew he would win when the bell rung.  Back-up track announcer John Imbriale did his best to squeeze the pow out of Zow’s call, but he’s no Tom Durkin.

Race 3 was the $75,000 Distorted Humor Stakes, a six furlong race that engaged only five contestants.  Steve Asmussen trained two of the five.  He won with Wine Police.  Third to Caleb’s Posse - the horse that beat Uncle Mo in the King’s Bishop - the last time he ran, Wine Police triumphed this time.  In fact, he patterned his win after Caleb’s Posse’s win, rushing from last to first like Silky Sullivan.

Speightscity won the most unusual race.  Saratoga’s unable to hold one mile and 1-1/16 miles races on the main track.  Consequently, PJ Campo wrote a 1-1/8 miles race for two-year-olds.  It was this race, by the way, that convinced everyone finally that the horses on the backstretch appear bigger when viewed by the naked eye than when viewed on the video display boards.

The tenth and last race was over at 7:17 pm, when the daylight was dimmer than midnight on an Inuvik golf course.  Downtown is abuzz with Skidmore College students returning for fall semester.  The Final Stretch Festival will probably result in some 4:00 am collars for disorderly conduct on Caroline Street.

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

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