Standard of Perfection

by Vic Zast


A crowd of 31,894 fans pushed its way into the racecourse to see the reigning Horse of the Year.

From his humble beginnings to his strolls through the streets to the bars of the city to his amazing eight-year win streak, Richie Bomze’s “Sultan of Saratoga” - Fourstardave, became a horse of the people.  On a sparkling summer day, with the grandstand nearly stuffed to capacity and the clubhouse boxes dolled up with bigwigs in town for The Jockey Club Round Table Conference, the reigning Horse of the Year ran in the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. II).  It’s now been twice that Wise Dan has won it.


Wise Dan loads in first for the Fourstardave.

It would be unfair to Kelso, Forego and Cigar to place Wise Dan in their company.  The three ran more often and won more races – they had a bigger influence over a greater length of time.  But given the path of consistent success that Mort Fink’s champion is traveling, he’s as close to the standard of, at least, interpretive perfection as possible.  Carrying 129 pounds, he came within two ticks of the course record without feeling the stick.  Wise Dan offered ample proof that it will take more than the burden of cargo or history to stop him.

As has been the custom for each visiting star, hundreds of people packed the walking ring to wish Wise Dan well before the field of seven runners paraded.  John Velazquez, one of several riders who have partnered with Wise Dan in the past, had the mount for the Fourstardave.  The rich get richer.  That said, JR deserved every penny he earned.  He waited patiently in third place until the pace up ahead softened and then gave his runner the green light.  Saratoga Springs, NY resident Adam McNeill, the recipient of Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson’s free $15,000 wager, cashed his ticket for roughly 21,000 smackers and never looked back.

Only one race, the fifth, was taken off the turf and the switch in surface allowed the winner Dighton to draw in from the MTO list.  A good Kentucky Derby hopeful emerged from the sixth. But it’s unclear which it is.  Mosler, a colt owned by Adele B. Dilschneider, cost over $1 million at the Keeneland sales last fall.  He finished fourth.

The jockeys promenading for the co-featured $100,000 Auntie Mame Stakes sported the spiffiest silks.  They had the flair that you see at Sha-Tin, dazzling and original without being garish and, of course, absent of owner’s initials.  William M. Backer’s Royal blue with white palm tree front and back and white half crescent moons on the sleeves were chic.  But Bona Venture Stables’ gold with Kelly green and white pentagon, worn by Joe Rocco, Jr. aboard Summer of Fun, flashed under the wire first and resulted in the photograph.


Colorful day included some dazzling jockeys' silks.

The first of two evenings on which the Fasig-Tipton Company is auctioning NY-Bred yearlings ended with good financial and aesthetic results.  With the racino at Aqueduct contributing generously to purses, buyers figure that now is a good time to go after them.

Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers.  Fourstardave was buried in Claire Court on the backstretch of the racecourse.

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