When I travelled to Saratoga last year it was all about seeing the phenom that was Rachel Alexandra. The then three year-old Rachel Alexandra had thrilled racing fans by dominating her division, taking on the boys and meeting new challenges while racing at a variety of tracks.
Blind Luck gets up late to win the Alabama
Little did I expect that on this year's trip to Saratoga, I would fall for another young filly who maybe hasn't dominated her division but has found the gumption to win at multiple tracks, over multiple surfaces, while racing at a variety of distances. Yes, Blind Luck - the late rallying winner of the Alabama Stakes - earned my respect on Saturday with a phenomenal performance closing on slow fractions that would have provided an excuse for lesser horses.
Blind Luck surges from the back of the pack
Blind Luck raced from last position early under Joel Rosario, sitting just behind heavily favored Devil May Care, while Acting Happy led the field through fractions of 24.03, 49.45 and 1:14.81.
Blind Luck returns to the winners circle
Havre de Grace made her move on the turn to gain the lead and Devil May Care charged up alongside but seemed to lack the extra gear of previous races. As Devil May Care faltered, Rosario urged Blind Luck five-wide and rallied past Havre de Grace to win in the final strides.
Devil May Care wins the Triple Tiara series
It was an eye-catching victory and one that earned the filly a great deal of applause on her return to the winners circle. Despite the victory, it was Devil May Care who would capture the Betfair TVG Triple Tiara series with 14 points, earning 10 points for her victory in the Grade 1 Betfair TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and two points for starting in that race and in the Alabama. Champagne d’Oro and Blind Luck, winners of the Acorn and Alabama, tied for second with 11 points. Betfair TVG will make $30,000 worth of donations to three charities selected by the owner of Devil May Care.
Although Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta continue to garner much of the press, let's not forget about the excellent Blind Luck who now has five Grade I wins to her credit and, unlike a certain other California girl, did so while making her fourth trip outside of California this season.
I'll take nine wins in thirteen interesting and challenging starts over an undefeated yawner campaign any day of the week.
Blind Luck wins the Alabama Stakes
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And now, on with the photos! Saturday's Saratoga crowd was revved up for a great day of racing.
Everybody dance now
My recent trips to New York have proven that I'm a bit of a lady killer. It's not what you think...earlier this year I went to Belmont Park to see Careless Jewel and Milwaukee Appeal compete in the Shuvee and the Josie Carroll filly, Careless Jewel, scratched.
Looking ahead at the Saratoga stakes schedule, I decided I would make my annual trip to Saratoga in time to watch Biofuel and Roan Inish compete in the Alabama Stakes. Neither filly made the race, though I'm happy to report that in my absence Biofuel won the Belle Mahone at Woodbine and Roan Inish is recovering nicely from injury.
I wasn't too bummed out about the Alabama though as I knew that Mark Casse and Roger Attfield would be sending Exclusive Love and No Explaining to post in Sunday's Lake Placid Stakes. In fact, this past week I wrote an article for the Saratogian outlining Woodbine success at the Spa.
Torrential rain kept Exclusive Love from competing in the off-the-turf Lake Placid
And, wouldn't you know it, a downpour on Sunday knocked the Lake Placid off the turf and both Woodbine-based horses were scratched. So, if any New York based trainers would like some assistance icing troublesome Woodbine shippers in future stakes events, simply provide me with round-trip airfare including accommodations. You'll find my email address in the top-left corner of this page.
No Explaining doesn't like it when it's raining
Of course, there was a little bit of Canadian content at Saratoga over the weekend. Debbie England sent out Woolly Bear to a fourth place finish in the Yaddo Stakes won by Meriweather Jessica.
Woodbine-based Woolly Bear in the Saratoga paddock
Forgive the lesser quality of some of these photos as I was trying out a smaller digital camera this weekend.
Woolly Bear heads to the track
Here's a horse who won some races at Woodbine!
Remember Bear's Rocket? This fella competed at the Spa over the weekend
Careless Jewel was at Saratoga...in spirit
Even though I missed out on seeing some horses there was still plenty to do at Saratoga. You really have to admire the tailgating atmosphere in the backyard and there's plenty of entertainment for the kids.
I remember collecting autographs when I was a kid. It's part of the reason I'm such a big fan of the game now. Saratoga makes it easy to fall in love with horse racing.
Sign it on the line
The other great thing about going to Saratoga are the people that you meet (when you're walking down the street, the people that you meet each day.) I won't bore you with all the name dropping but I met just about every prominent writer in the business. Here's a couple of my favourite personalities.
Ernie Munick was not signing autographs
The Hulk probably would have signed an autograph, brutha
Equidaily's Seth Merrow smiling like he has the Pick Six locked!
At any rate, I wasn't keeping score but it was great to meet some new folks and get back in touch with old friends
On Sunday, torrential rain pushed the races off the turf and turned the track into a sloppy mess. Fittingly, Sunday was also Umbrella Day at Saratoga and boy was that a prophetic giveaway. If NYRA ever organizes Hard Hat Day, I'd recommend staying home and watching on TV.
Umbrellas for everyone!
There was a little more Canadiana on Sunday as Eugene Melnyk won a race with Hillswick
Hillswick surges to the lead through the slop
Jockey Kent Desormeaux is squeaky clean following the win
I was feeling a little homesick, so I went inside to catch up on Woodbine racing
And now for the promised dirty photos...
Messy messy messy
(Sorry to disappoint. But this is a family site!)
Here's a little more Canadiana as a drenched TripleDeadHeat gives race calling tips to Tom Durkin
Jim's Applemartini drinks up the Saratoga slop
It's Tea Time glides to the finish to win the Lake Placid
I had a great trip and I'm already looking forward to next year. If you haven't been to Saratoga then start planning now. Every weekend is a lively one in Saratoga and this weekend's Travers featuring A Little Warm and the showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Life at Ten in the Personal Ensign will make for great racing.
Lucky Saratogians get another glimpse of Rachel Alexandra this weekend
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With the Saratoga photo review completed, future posts will return to Woodbine-based reporting. (Though I do have a review of Nick Eave's speech at the Jockey Club Round Table to post in the near future.)
The Woodbine weekend is shaping up nicely as No Explaining and Exclusive Love, who both scratched from Saratoga's Lake Placid, will try the Ontario Colleen against a tough field that includes Hunter's Tiger Paw and Jenny's So Great.
Even better, Sunday's G2 Play The King stakes features one of my local faves, Southdale, taking on six others in a seven furlong turf sprint. Trainer Sid Attard will send out three tough turfers including Jungle Wave, Smokey Fire and Signature Red. Field Commission, Fatal Bullet and Porter's Gate round out a highly competitive field.
Southdale will be piloted by Jim McAleney this weekend in the absence of the injured Emma-Jayne Wilson. All reports say that Emma is recovering well and I can't imagine anything keeping the competitive jock away from the track. Hurry back healthy Emma!
Southdale and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson on the Woodbine backstretch
As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page.