Ibn Al Haitham Finds Home On Saratoga Turf

Ibn Al Haitham Finds Home On Saratoga Turf
Photo: NTRA/Adam Coglianese
Ibn Al Haitham, kept turf record intact with Saranac victory.
(From track report)
Ibn Al Haitham stayed perfect on the turf and perfect at Saratoga, as he carried jockey Richard Migliore to a half-length victory over Finality in Monday's 95th running of the $111,500 Saranac Handicap (gr. III) for three-year-olds at 1 3/16 mile on the turf.

The Saranac was the Closing Day feature of the Saratoga season, and the Labor Day crowd of 22,287 boosted meet attendance to 999,388 – just 1.2 percent down from last year's record attendance of 1,011,689.

The Spa, however, broke its own North American record for daily average total handle for commingled with $15,621,026 and all-sources handle on Saratoga's live races was $16,312,846.

It was only the second win in 10 starts for Ibn Al Haitham, who had shown some flashes of talent in his dirt starts, including a runner-up finish in Santa Anita's Norfolk (gr. II) last year and a third in United Arab Emirates Derby (gr. II) at Nad al Sheba. Victory, however, did not come until he came to Saratoga on August 7, where, in his first start on turf, he was a runaway 9 ½-length winner.

In fact, he won with such authority that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and the management team for owner Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum decided that the Saranac was within his scope.

It was also didn't hurt that Migliore was aboard. Migliore was supposed to ride Magic Weisner in Monday's Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, but the Preakness runner-up took sick on Friday and Migliore became available.

Migliore put his mount right with front-runner Regal Sanction, who was meandering along on a pace of :24 1/5; :49 3/5; 1:13 1/5 and 1:37 4/5. As the field turned for home, Ibn Al Haitham kicked in and held off challenges from Finality, Irish Colonial and briefly, from favored Miesque's Approval, to win in 1:55 1/5.

"We spoke about switching to the turf because of his pedigree," McLaughlin said. "Richie (Migliore), I thought, rode a great race and that is partially why we won. After he broke his maiden, he was training fabulously and he is also a classy animal. All he needed was a change of surface. Before we went into this race, I thought we would be laying third or fourth, but Richie used his judgment to have this horse on the lead."

For Migliore, it was his 22nd win of the meet and placed him seventh in the overall standings.

"Kiaran (McLaughlin) put me on a real class animal," Migliore said. "Kiaran has been a huge supporter of me over the years. I appreciate him letting me ride this horse, because I wasn't supposed to be here today. And when I got the word that Magic Weisner (scheduled to run in today's Pennsylvania Derby) was sick, Friday night I called Kiaran first and he said, `Okay, you got it.' My horse was very comfortable in his position, and when I asked him, he responded. He was very professional.

"The race was terrific. The horse was push-button, did everything right. Honestly, he was a pleasure to ride. He was just in a kind of high gallop down the backstretch, and when we straightened up off the turn for home and I asked him, he dropped (his head) and finished. He was very impressive."

Miesque's Approval was Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's final chance to get a share of the leading trainer title, which would have been his ninth Spa crown. When the day started, Mott and Todd Pletcher were tied in Saratoga's trainer standings, both with 18 wins.

Pletcher won Monday's sixth race with Ocean Drive, then was second in the Saranac with Finality, while Mott was fourth with favored Miesque's Approval. With 19 winners, Pletcher is Saratoga's leading trainer for 2002. This is the second time Pletcher has led the standings here. He did it in 1998 with 20 winners.

Edgar Prado was the meet's leading jockey, coming up just one victory shy of Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey's single-season win record of 55, set last year. Prado did not ride in Saratoga on Monday; instead, he was at Philadelphia Park, where he won the Pennsylvania Derby aboard Harlan's Holiday. Bailey was shut out on the card.

New York racing resumes downstate on Friday with the opening of Belmont Park's 33-day Fall Championship Meet.

(Chart, Equibase)

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