Weekend Finale Fireworks

Sunday served as an enjoyable finale to the weekend. Good weather, marked by sunny skies and temps in the low 70s, kept the main racing surface fast and the turf courses firm.  An announced crowd of 58,701 people, presented with the incentive of a free beer glass with each paid admission, filled the backyard, the apron and all sections of the grandstand including the last three.  Up until Sunday, sections W, X and Y have seldom been occupied.  

Beer glass giveaway helps to bloat Saratoga crowd.
Photo by Vic Zast

Form continued to dominate the results.  Six of 10 races were won by the wagering favorite.  The most popular favorite to win was Kimono. The most accomplished favorite to win was Stephanie’s Kitten. Stephanie’s Kitten won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. II) last November.  Yet, she was one for three in 2012 and so Sunday’s Gr. II Lake Placid Stakes victory was especially satisfying to her trainer Wayne Catalano.  He gave jockey John R. Velazquez a big smooch in the winner’s circle.

By the way, Velazquez worked miracles in the homestretch.  He was trapped behind horses on the rail and none relented in terms of providing him an opening to move onward.  With little time to spare, the Hall of Fame rider coaxed Stephanie’s Kitten to the leaders’ right and, under a hand ride, the daughter of Kitten’s Joy gobbled up three lengths in a half dozen bold strides.

Kimono’s victory at 1-5 was less important in terms of appearance than significance.   Her entry-mate Kansas provided her lone competition.  Nonetheless, it must have been a redemptive experience, in a sense, for her trainer Todd Pletcher.  Pletcher is the meet’s leading trainer in races won and purses collected by far.  But on Opening Day, when he was still in some kind of dysfunctional funk, Kimono lost as the 6-5 favorite in her first career start.

It took four races for another aspect of the meet to return to normal.  Ramon Dominguez struck with Cosmic Energy, the first of two winners he rode on the card.  Then D. Wayne Lukas, who’d been zero for Saratoga with horses he’d saddled, finally got one to win in the fifth.  Knowing Lukas, he must now believe the filly is stakes-caliber.  Jockey Rajiv Maragh, who helped to break the drought for him, had two winners.  Javier Castellano accounted for three.

Polo continues to be played on Friday and Sunday evenings at Whitney Field.  Earlier this week, developers revealed plans to build a resort on the grounds.  When and if that happens, another tie to a simpler, more sophisticated, vintage Saratoga Springs, to say nothing of a breathtaking view, will disappear.

The Philadelphia Orchestra ended its 47th summer of residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with an all-Tchaikovsky concert and fireworks on Saturday night.  Cannons fired during the playing of the 1812 Overture.

Vic Zast is the author of "The History and Art of 25 Travers." He has attended the races at Saratoga for 47 straight summers.

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