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2020 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and Ballston Spa Stakes

Ricardo Santana Jr. celebrates after Volatile wins the 2020 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
Date: 07/25/2020

The feature race on Saturday at Saratoga was the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), one of the premier races for older sprinters on the east coast. Due to coronavirus restrictions, New York racing continues to be conducted with no spectators, however conditions were ideal with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80's. After Lexitonian scratched, just 4 older horses went to post for this 6 furlong main track contest, with Volatile sent off as the 2-5 favorite., winner of 3 straight including the Aristides last out at Churchill Downs. In to challenge him were 4-1 second choice Whitmore, winner of the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn, 11-2 third choice Firenze Fire off his True North (G2) win at Belmont, and 6-1 longest shot Mind Control, 6th in the Carter (G1) after winning the Tom Fool (G3).

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. sent Volatile to the lead out of the chute and he set fractions of 23.46 and 46.67 while pressed by Mind Control and stalked by Whitmore. Turning for home, Volatile opened up a 2 length advantage over the tiring Mind Control through 5f in 58.00, and easily held off late-running Whitmore to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:09.61. It was another 1/2 length back to Mind Control third, and a neck more to Firenze Fire last.

Results Chart
Previous winners of the Vanderbilt

Left: Volatile in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "For a Grade 1 sprint race to be allowed that first quarter [23.46 seconds] was very fortunate. I think the anxious moments were all pre-race with the incident at the gate. Once he was away from the gate smoothly and they threw up the first quarter, he would be awfully hard to beat from there. We saw the first two races from him this year and they were absolutely brilliant. I feel very good about getting those races into him before he met accomplished horses like this. But from an ability or a speed level, he has it all."

Right: Trophy presentation for the Vanderbilt. Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "He was really on his toes today. Steve gave him a lot of time from his last race and he was feeling great. I was really happy with how he was out there. I'm glad we backed off from the gate again. When we came back up [to the gate] he relaxed really well and then I was happy because I could see he was ready to go. The gate opened and he put me in the spot that he wanted and I was happy, too. Turning for home he kicked really well."

Four hours before the Vanderbilt, the $200,000 Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) featured a field of 5 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course. Sistercharlie was sent off as the 2-5 favorite, unraced since finishing 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1). In to challenge her included 3-1 second choice and 2019 Canadian Horse of the Year Starship Jubilee, winner of 3 straight including the Suwanee River (G3) at Gulfstream and Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay, and 9-2 third choice Call Me Love, 4th in the New York Stakes.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione sent 26-1 North Broadway loose on the lead by as many as 10 lengths through fractions of 24.29, 48.18, and 1:12.68 while stalked by Call Me Love and Starship Jubilee. Turning for home North Broadway tired badly allowing Starship Jubilee and jockey Javier Castellano to take over the lead through 1 mile in 1:35.83. Starship Jubilee and Call Me Love dueled for the final furlong but Starship Jubilee prevailed by a neck in the final strides in 1:41.76. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to late-running favorite Sistercharlie third.

Results Chart
Previous winners of the Ballston Spa

Left: Inside angle of Starship Jubilee winning. Winning trainer Kevin Attard said by phone from Woodbine, "I thought Castellano rode her perfectly. [North Broadway] opened up and did the job they intended her to do and set the pace up for Sistercharlie. Going into the turn, Sistercharlie was flanking us the whole way and had dead aim on us. Coming around the turn to the quarter pole, I could see Johnny V [Velazquez, aboard Sistercharlie] start to go to work and she didn't look like she was picking up the bit yet and I thought if we could just stay ahead of her, at this point, we might be able to get the advantage. The favorite didn't kick in and [Call Me Love] kept battling back. It looked like we were safe and home, but the one wouldn't lay down and made it a good fight to the finish."

Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Sistercharlie at Saratoga last year. The Chad Brown trainee improved her record to 10 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds in 16 starts, earning $3,686,003 for owner Peter Brant,.

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