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Robby Albarado and Hot Dixie Chick return after winning the Spinaway
The focus at Saratoga shifted to the juvenile fillies on Sunday afternoon, as a field of 8 went to post in the $300,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1). With sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's, officially 50,113 were on hand but this was inflated by "spinners" taking advantage of the winter cap giveaway. Hot Dixie Chick was sent off as the 3-10 favorite for this 7 furlong main track contest, exiting two straight wins including the Schuylerville last out. In to challenge her included 9-2 second choice Beautician, second in the Schuylerville after winning her debut, and 9-1 third choice Sassy Image, second in the Adirondack in her last start.
Down the stretch in the Spinaway
Jockey John Velazquez sent 35-1 outsider Bickersons to the lead soon after the start and she set fractions of 22.77 and 45.19 over the fast track while being stalked by Hot Dixie Chick to her inside and Beautician to her outside. Entering the stretch, Bickersons tired from her fast early pace, as Hot Dixie Chick and jockey Robby Albarado charged through on the rail, opening up a 2 1/2 length lead by midstretch through 3/4 in 1:09.41. Beautician put in a mild rally late but was no match for Hot Dixie Chick who cruised under the line 1 3/4 lengths in front in 1:22.28. It was a long 8 1/2 lengths back to pacesetter Bickersons third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Hot Dixie Chick Albarado 2.60 2.20 2.10 6 Beautician Desormeaux 3.30 2.70 4 Bickersons Velazquez 5.60 Winning Time: 1:22.28 $2 Exacta 1-6 5.10 $2 Trifecta 1-6-4 51.00 $2 Superfecta 1-6-4-5 152.00
Left: Hot Dixie Chick in the winner's circle. Her trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Robby looked very confident. He eased her back out of there. First time going 7/8 mile, he had a lot of confidence in who she is. (Bickersons) cleared her immediately. Today she was very professional and maintained her margin to the wire. Obviously, today she reached a new level. I don't know if we look past this at all. It's a Grade 1, the Spinaway. She's got a mind that's spooky. She's extremely laid back. (Assistant) Scott (Blasi) said she was laying down in the holding barn. Her demeanor is why she's stabled next to Rachel (Alexandra). You can't have a better demeanor than that."
Right: Hot Dixie Chick gets hosed off before heading back to the barn
Left: Hot Dixie Chick in the paddock before the race.
Right: Hot Dixie Chick in the post parade. Her jockey Robby Albarado said, "I had a great trip. We kind of figured (Bickersons) would be up there in front of us - she's quick - but I thought if Hot Dixie Chick settled in behind her she'd be fine, and she did. She had a nice opening up the fence and she ran well. I was just being patient in there, hoping something opened up."
Left: Second place finisher Beautician in the paddock. Her trainer Ken McPeek said, "We're exactly where we want to be. We have a couple of big races coming up: the Alcibiades and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. We want to get her at two turns. To be top 2-year-old filly, you have to win the big ones. I didn't want to overdo it today. I wanted to keep her fresh." Her jockey Kent Desormeaux added, "The winner has to be a super horse because my filly was ready."
Right: Third place finisher Bickersons returns after the race. Her jockey John Velazquez said, "She did everything good but she ran like a green horse. She was spooked by everything. I wasn't planning on putting her on the lead but she just broke on top so I wasn't going to take her back. (Trainer Kelly Breen) told me that she was going to break good. I had the pressure on me from the inside and outside, so it's not like I was going up front all alone."
Down the stretch in the Saranac Stakes
Sal The Barber dueled on the front end with Reservoir to his outside through fractions of 23.54, 48.13, and 1:11.92 over the firm course. Entering the stretch, Sal The Barber tired, as Al Khali, who was 5th early, came out three wide to gain the lead in mid-stretch through a mile in 1:35.69. 19-1 El Crespo put in a strong rally between horses but was left with too much ground to make up as Al Khali held him off by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:53.00. It was just a neck back to late-running 9-1 Armstrong Mill third, while favorite Sal The Barber faded to finish fifth beaten 4 1/2 lengths.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Al Khali Desormeaux 5.40 3.60 3.10 2 El Crespo Bridgmohan 11.80 7.60 4 Armstrong Mill Maragh 5.30 Winning Time: 1:53.00 $2 Exacta 6-2 67.00 $2 Trifecta 6-2-4 350.00 $2 Superfecta 6-2-4-3 1,623.00
Left: Al Khali in the winner's circle. His trainer Bill Mott said, "We love New York. We didn't have to ship. He's coming off only 3 weeks rest and I didn't want to van him down (to Delaware Park). I knew he ran well over this course. The weather was pretty good, and I wanted to take a chance here. He accelerated nicely today and closed off a relatively slow pace. It looked like he accelerated nicely in his last race, but he had a little bit of traffic trouble. The horse in front of him drifted out when he was making his move. He had to alter course and it cost him a step."
Right: Al Khali in the post parade. His jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "It looked like a 2 horse race to me, with (Al Khali) and Sal the Barber. I just wanted to make sure we didn't make any donations. I wanted to keep my horse close and keep Sal the Barber honest and everything did work out very well. It was a good, honest pace and my horse was very comfortable. (Sal the Barber) had some entertainment around the racecourse and I was able to sit in behind him and build up power. My horse was behind the field in reserve and when I presented (Al Khali), he took off with a beautiful turn of foot. It was a great job by Mott and thanks for the opportunity."
Left: Second place finisher El Crespo in the paddock. The 19-1 shot raced in third on the hedge the whole way under new jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, then closed late to get second beaten 1 1/4 lengths. The George Arnold trained son of A.P. Indy improved his record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 11 starts, earning $196,866 for owner-breeder G. Watts Humphrey Jr.
Right: Third place finisher Armstrong Mill in the paddock with trainer Christophe CLement on the left. The 9-1 shot stumbled and bumped with Reservoir at the start, then raced back in 6th early under jockey Rajiv Maragh, came out 4 wide into the lane and closed late to get third beaten 1 1/2 lengths. The son of Dynaformer improved his record to 1 win, 0 seconds, and 2 thirds in 3 starts, earning $41,700 for owner-breeder Overbrook Farm.
Commentator, one of the most successful New York breds in history, was honored at Saratoga with a stakes race named for him. He visited the paddock, paraded for the fans, and before the race was presented with an edible, peppermint flavored "key to the city" prepared by Glen Sanders Mansion Bakery. The 8-year-old chestnut gelding, owned by Tracy Farmer and trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, retired August 9, a day after finishing third in the Whitney Handicap (G1). He was attempting to join legends Discovery and Kelso as the only three-time winners of the race in its 82-year history, having won it in 2005 and again in 2008. He leaves the racing stage with 14 victories, 8 of them in stakes races, from 24 starts, with earnings of $2,049,845.
Here Commentator poses in the winner's circle with his connections. From left to right are owner Tracy Farmer, his wife Carol Farmer, trainer Nick Zito, groom Gustavo Sanchez, and exercise rider Carlos Correa aboard Commentator.
Left: Trainer Nick Zito feeds Commentator part of his key to the city. Zito said, "I want to thank NYRA and the fans of New York for supporting Commentator. It has been special to bring him to Saratoga for so many Whitneys, and we almost pulled it off for his third (win). It has been a tremendous honor. The fans know how hard it is to keep a horse going that long and to run at that high level, and that's what we did. He brought his game every day. Itís bittersweet. It's sad, but itís happy."
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