The sloppy main track on which Fort Larned worked on Tuesday in preparation for the Whitney Stakes (gr.I) came up fast for Wednesday’s opener. Much Stronger closed from off the pace like a horse would on a good track but it was impossible to tell if the conditions favored that running style. The David Jacobson-trained colt that had won twice at Aqueduct in April and then failed on off tracks was 6-5 when the windows closed.
A purse of $100,000 was offered to six runners in the second race – a 1 1/8 miles spin for 3-year-old fillies called the Broom Dance Stakes. Montana Native, trained by Ken McPeek, ran close to the pace and finished strongly to triumph. South Dakota native Bill Mott saddled the morning line favorite Profetiza, but she ran dismally under jockey Mike Smith – a carpetbagger here for the weekend’s Jim Dandy Stakes - breaking slowly and never competing.
Two more stakes races were contested. The more highly-valued was the Lake George Stakes (gr.II) run on the lawn as the ninth race. By the way, nearby Lake George, a popular vacation spot for many Saratoga visitors, derives its name from King George II, related distantly to George VI, Queen Elizabeth’s father, after whom the Prince of Cambridge, the son of Kate Middleton and Prince William, was most likely named. King George VI was a favorite of England’s bookmakers.
Wednesday's feature race was named after Lake George, a gorgeous Adirondack Mountain resort lake.
Midnight Watch dashed to the front of the field in suicidal fractions – 23.55 and 46.45 in a 1 1/16 mile inner course race but couldn’t withstand the stretch runs of Kitten’s Dumplings and Watsdachances. Kitten’s Dumplings is another of those progeny of Kitten’s Joy, a sire that’s adept at producing grass winners.
If a hundred of the horse racing opinionators who are working the racecourse didn’t mention that the sixth race, a $100,00 optional claiming race for 4-year-olds and up, didn’t have the quality of a stakes race than none did. Seal Cove, a gray, beat Turallure, another gray, keeping current a trend for horses of their color. Both were not among the top picks of handicappers.
In the next race, female jockey Kristina McManigell – a tall drink of water as far as race riders go - was up for her second ride ever in Saratoga from riding in Mid-Atlantic states. She did not fare very well on Bear Slayer. Her filly bumped foes at the start and finished last. The other girl with a mount, Rosie Napravnik, won aboard Corinthianna.
Kristina McManigell is all smiles despite finishing last in her second ever ride at Saratoga.
It is hard to tell if the poor crowd or new management should take credit for the improvement in grandstand housekeeping. But the betting area behind Section H was unusually clean and for the first time in memory free of the garbage bins that drew flies and smelled of food spoilage. Has Chris Kay, the new CEO who promised a “enhanced guest experience,” learned to turn left when leaving his office?
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight seasons. He sits in Section J, one row over from Section H.