Flatbird Stable's Rock Lobster shipped in from Maryland for trainer Michael Dickinson to surprise the field at odds of 8-1 in Sunday's $113,900 Saranac (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the Saratoga Mellon Turf Course. It was Rock Lobster's graded stakes debut.
Sixth on the rail at the top of the stretch, jockey Eibar Coa angled the Mt. Livermore
colt out for room, and he ran down Devil's Preacher in the final strides on the outside to win by a long neck. The final time for the 1 3/16-mile event on a course rated good was 1:57 1/5.
The Saranac became a wide-open affair when two of the three top horses on the morning line - favored Green Lemon and third choice Spider Power - were scratched. Grade III winner Outperformance also came out of the race, reducing the field to nine. That left Amigoni, third in the American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington Park at odds of 16-1 in his last start for trainer Graham Motion, as the 5-2 favorite.
The Irish-bred Amigoni wilted along with the rest of the front-runners after prompting early pacesetter Sadler's Trick, who set tepid fractions of :23 1/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12 4/5. Rock Lobster was steadied in traffic early but got into position between horses on the backstretch and moved up along the inside on the final turn. Coa altered course leaving the three-sixteenth pole to get room on the outside and gradually caught Devil's Preacher.
"I was saving ground, and the horses in front of me were slowing down," said Coa. "I had to stop a little on him, and he jumped up and overreacted. When I was able to straighten him out and get him outside of horses, he just took off."
Devil's Preacher, ridden by Edgar Prado, emerged from the pack mid-stretch and appeared to be the winner until Rock Lobster got rocking late. The runner-up battled gamely when hooked. Another closer, Murch - Garrett Gomez aboard - took third, 1 1/2 lengths behind, edging Crested, who also ran on well after stumbling badly at the start.
Rock Lobster earned his third win in eight starts while earning $68,340 Sunday. That pushed Rock Lobster's career bankroll to $180,704. In his last start, the Florida-bred chestnut was nosed in the Jersey Derby as the favorite on Haskell Invitational day at Monmouth Park Aug. 6. His last win came in Pimlico's Woodlawn May 6.
"We've been rained off for the last five times," said Flatbird Stable co-owner Daniel Milazzo. "We wanted to run before something happens, like the Kent (at Delaware Park) getting rained off. This race was available, and we ran here. He had been training at the farm on different types of tracks. Michael has a yielding, soft ground whenever you want."
Luis de Hechavarria bred the winner, who is out of the Fairy King mare Tadwiga. He was a $49,000 Ocala sale in March 2005.
The sixth choice in the field, Rock Lobster paid $19, $9.50, and $7. Devil's Preacher, who came up just short in his first starts sinceApril 8, returned $8.40 and $6.80. Murch, a Midwest shipper for Helen Pitts, was $7.90 to show.
Desert Wheat followed Crested home. Sadler's Trick, Classic Pack, Amigoni, and second choice French Beret trailed.
"He was never comfortable in the race," said Amigoni's jockey, Cornelio Velasquez. "He never settled for me. At the three-eighths pole, he just didn't try. The track was soft and deep, and that didn't help. But he just never tried."