Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes was created to serve as a little softer spot than Saturday’s Jim Dandy Stakes (gr.II) for three-year-old horses prepping for the Travers (gr.I). Transparent’s interference on the turn, and subsequent disqualification, had nothing to do with Darley stablemate Romansh’s inability to beat him to the wire. In finishing first by several lengths, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained son of Bernardini, a Travers winner in 2006, looked like a Travers horse, all right. He’d been off since early April and hadn’t won a stakes before. But if he stays sound, he will.
Bad Hombre was moved up to second when Transparent was dropped down to fifth. What’s notable about this is Bad Hombre was ridden by John Velazquez. So close, no cigar. Fans wanted to see Johnny V top Jerry Bailey’s total of 693 Saratoga victories. They will have to wait a day longer for champagne corks to pop.
Velazquez was scratched from his mounts in the first two races. He would have had a legitimate chance in at least the first. Six horses were expected to start and his mount Doctor Chit was the choice of many experts. Still Jake N Elwood sprung from the gate with a clatter and kept moving. He was mighty impressive in beating three runners including Currency Swap.
The best chance for Velazquez came in the fifth. He rode Sophie’s Turn perfectly, saving ground on the inner turf course in a two-turn maiden race and being just where he should have been when the pack reached mid-stretch. Javier Castellano and several other riders had more horse. The Lady Says Yes, a three-year-old filly from the Chad Brown barn, won.
Castellano won the preceding race, too. He guided the odds-on Read the Research to a nifty sprint victory. It’s nice when they win when they’re supposed to. Mike Smith, scheduled to ride Belmont Stakes champion Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy, rode two horses – Posse Attack and To My Valentine – and he won with both. Neither was favored.
It was a perfectly sublime July day – cool with clear skies and no humidity. Jeremy Edge, the Walking Brit who hiked from Belmont Park to Saratoga several years ago to raise money for Belmont Child Care was seen on the premises. He’ll stay to the end of the meet. Edge shared that he bet the name James with the bookies in England and regrets that he didn’t choose George. To boot, he is staying on George Street.
Equine artist Nick Martinez, who sells his paintings and prints on the concourse, has moved to the area. He loves it so much. Look closely for a guy with silver spiked hair on the stairs of the clubhouse in his latest creation called “150 Years.”
Equine artist Nick Martinez points at a mysterious lone figure in his latest painting.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers.