Artie Schiller got the job done in Monday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, but his backers had some anxious moments down the stretch as the 2-5 favorite was all-out to beat pacesetting Silver Tree by a half-length.
Artie Schiller, a Kentucky-bred son of El Prado
racing for Mrs. Thomas Walsh and Timber Bay Farm, was coming off two narrow losses in the Dixie Handicap (gr. IIT) at Pimlico and Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. He was reunited in the Baruch with Richard Migliore, who rode Artie Schiller to four victories in 2004, but then was replaced by Edgar Prado after a troubled 12th-place finish as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup NetJets Milem (gr. IT).
Jerry Bailey took Silver Tree to the lead from the outside post in the field of five (after Not Phone, Golden Commander, and Willard Straight were scratched), and set slow fractions of :25.99 for the opening quarter-mile and :50:04 for the half. Artie Schiller was tracking the leader in second, but when Migliore went after Silver Tree approaching the far turn, the 3-1 second choice responded, maintaining his 1 1/2-length advantage after six furlongs in 1:12.88.
Migliore kept after Artie Schiller with repeated right-handed whipping, and the 4-year-old bay colt gradually erased the margin coming into the final sixteenth of a mile. He gained the lead in the final few strides and completed the nine furlongs in 1:47.65 on a turf course labeled good. Silver Tree, a 5-year-old by Hennessy
who won last year's Baruch, was 6 1/2 lengths to the good of America Alive, with Del Mar Show and Seeking Answers completing the field.
Trained by James Jerkens, Artie Schiller paid $2.90 to win and teamed with Silver Tree for a $7.40 exacta. It was his ninth victory in 17 career starts and second stakes win at Saratoga. Artie Schiller won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2004.
"(Silver Tree) is a decent horse; that was no slouch that was ahead of `Artie' ," Jerkens said. "He had (Jerry) Bailey on him, he was giving him a lot of weight. For him to finish like that, that was unbelievable. At the top of the stretch, I thought Silver Tree had us. I thought it was going to be real tough. I still can't believe he did it. This has to be one of his best races. The turf wasn't the way he likes it, and it is discouraging to have a quality horse to keep edging away from you like that. Only the real good ones keep coming."
Winning jockey Richard Miglore, said, "I wasn't concerned with the slow pace because I have so much confidence in my horse's turn of foot. I was actually happy I had a target because I was a little concerned about making the pace. I felt like I was on the best horse, and I was worried about making the lead because when he is by himself, he gawks a little. At the five-eighths pole, he bobbled and lost hold of the bridle. Then, I was a little concerned because I didn't think he was handling the ground that well. When I turned for home I clucked at him and let him swing out one more path to get on better ground. It seemed like he caught his beat."