After training hours on Friday morning, trainer Eric Guillot hosted one of his Louisiana gumbo parties at Barn 34. There was a big pot of Cajun boil, trays of steaming rice, hot sauce and a guy with a paddle to stir things up, plus a Zydeco band and plenty of smack talk.
Zydeco band at Eric Gullot's Louisiana gumbo party on the backstretch.
Stirring up some mighty good tastin'.
Other trainers dropped by for a taste and to notify Guillot that their horses would catch his horse – the front-running Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) winner Moreno in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) – right after he passed the quarter pole in front. But mostly the gathering was folks having fun.
You could feel the excitement for Saturday building across Union Avenue. A huge crowd is anticipated. What the Travers will reveal, at least in small part, is if this is a good or an ordinary class. The general feeling is that the cream has finally risen in Verrazano, Palace Malice and Orb, revealing a banner crop. Whichever the case, fans are in for a thrilling upcoming fall and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
NYRA was smart to schedule excellent races early on. The weather again, as if Saratoga Springs was San Diego, was sunny and pleasant.
Havana made an auspicious debut in his first race ever and Friday’s first race. Breaking from the one hole, he nearly cracked the track record for 5 ½ furlongs. The gray colt by Dunkirk has a white face and wears a white halter, so he’s easy to spot. How long he can go with the zip that he showed is undetermined. Yet, he looked bold on the straight as he poured on the gas and the Champagne Stakes (gr.I) is next. Note, also, it was one heck of an effort for Kendall’s Boy, the second place horse.
The PPs for the second race, the Chowder’s First Stakes, didn’t indicate Palace had the class or the form to beat The Lumber Guy. But pace makes the race, especially in 6 ½ furlong sprints. Off since February 23, Barry K. Schwartz’s Grade I stakes winner suffered from going too fast at the start, thus finishing second.
Two runners with plenty of claims in their resumes won the third and the fourth races. Trainer David Jacobson, who saddled Writingonthewall in the third race, is near automatic with the first-start-after-a- claim angle. He bats 26 percent. Likewise, Michael Maker does wonders with haltering other people’s under-valued stock. Although he trained Yo Blue in two prior starts, Yo Blue made his third start for Maker a charm.
Yo Blue won the 12th running of the Copeland Cup, honoring the departed friends of Curragh Stable’s Bob Devlin and son Michael Devlin’s tribe of fraternal Mohicans – Harry “The Horse” Copeland, Bobby “Mouse” Meaney and Michael “Lawful” Wallender.
Mohicans in the winner's circle after the Copeland Cup.
Dance to Bristol beat Book Review to the wire by a head in the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) and paid $5.50 to win. The hard-fought victory made it seven in a row for the four-year-old Speightstown filly, the second in a row at the Spa. But it was her first Grade I triumph.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He is a Mohican.