Trainer Todd Pletcher's decision to scratch Go Deputy from the Arlington Million (gr. IT) to run instead in Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) at Saratoga worked out brilliantly when the 6-year-old Deputy Minister horse ran away from the field at odds of 6-1 before a crowd of 31,692.
Go Deputy, seventh of eight for the first half-mile after steadying on the first turn, angled out in the stretch for jockey Eibar Coa and finished full of run to win for the third time in as many tries on the Saratoga lawn. The victory, by 1 3/4 lengths, was his first in a grade I race. The final time for the 12-furlong event on firm turf was 2:26 3/5.
"They broke kind of slow, so I let him stay back there," said Coa, who wanted to save ground for as long as possible. "Everything worked out in the first two turns. Going down the backside, I realized we were going slow and we were in traffic. I got outside and clear from traffic. In the stretch, he gave me something extra. This horse has a big heart."
Wertheimer and Frere's ultra-consistent Go Deputy was coming off a half-length win in Belmont Park's Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT), and has been worse than second just once in his last eight starts.
"Go Deputy is a developing horse, and what can I say? He's put together back-to-back big efforts," said assistant trainer Seth Benzel. "Today was another feather in his cap."
He closed from the outside on the final turn to reach contention and displayed an impressive stretch effort under steady pressure from Coa to post his sixth career win in 16 starts. Go Deputy increased his bankroll to $663,120.
Silver Whistle, ridden by Mike Smith, was a clear second by 1 3/4 lengths over the French import Grand Courturier, ridden in his first U.S. start by Richard Migliore.
"My horse will run two miles," Smith said of the runner-up, "but the winner just had a better turn of foot than we did."
Relaxed Gesture, the 3-5 choice in the field of eight, took the early lead unexpectedly, as jockey Kent Desormeaux tried to take him back and led through an opening half-mile of :49 1/5 before Ramazutti took over. Relaxed Gesture eventually fell back to fourth as Ramazutti led the field through six furlongs in 1:15 and the mile in 1:39 4/5. Go Deputy, Silver Deputy, and Grand Courturier overtook Ramazutti -- who finished fourth -- in the stretch. Relaxed Gesture finished evenly in fifth.
"I had (Ramazutti) eye-balling me the whole way," Desormeaux said. "I wasn't enjoying my position. I tried to get away from him and open up and get him to settle, but he kept engaging me. I was never comfortable at any point. When I finally got out, he had nothing left."
Silver Foot, Crown point and Wild Desert trailed.
Go Deputy paid $15.40, $7 and $4.90. Silver Whistle returned $10.20 and $6.90 while completing a healthy $119.50 exacta. The British-bred Grand Courturier, who won four of six in France to begin his career, was $5.50 to show.