Speightstown remained undefeated in four starts in 2004 with a track record-equaling victory in the $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Ridden by John Velazquez, the 6-year-old son of Gone West
, carrying top weight of 120 pounds against five rivals, pulled away from Mike's Classic with an eighth of a mile to go. He held off Clock Stopper by about 1 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:08 for the six furlongs. Speightstown tied the track mark set by Spanish Riddle in 1972 while breaking the stakes record of 1:08 1/5 established by Five Star Day in 2000.
Velazquez won his fourth race of the day in the Vanderbilt.
Speightstown, who was out of action with injuries from August 2001 to May 2003, won his fourth in a row and fifth in six races since returning for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"This horse has been perfect this year," said Pletcher. "You could see when he turns for home, that he's wanting it -- and that's after flying early. One-Oh-Eight-Oh-Four? I don't know what Spanish Riddle ran, but when you talk about equaling track records here, it is pretty serious stuff.
"He's just so good right now, it's scary. Johnny (Velazquez) said he got off to a little bit of a sluggish start. He looked like he was in hand, even though they were rolling along. Fort-four and two is plenty fast enough, but I felt comfortable that he was doing it the right way. When he asked him turning for home, there was another gear then."
He broke well from the inside and pressured pacesetter Mike's Classic through swift fractions of :22 of :44 2/5. At the head of the stretch, Speightstown increased the pressure as the two pulled clear of Gators N Bears and Clock Stopper closed in from behind.
Speightstown and Mike's Classic dueled to the final furlong, when Speightstown assumed command. As Mike's Classic fell back, Clock Stopper and Robby Albarado rallied with determination, but failed to get close to the winner. Gators N Bears, ridden by C.C. Lopez, came on again to take third.
Velazquez said he was amazed at the Speightstown's in the lane. He had plenty to keep off Clock Stopper.
"I think he is one of the best sprinters in the country," Velazquez said. "He's done everything right and he's been perfect. You can't complain about that. I was more nervous during the first part of the race to get hooked up and have nothing in the end. Luckily, we got a break in the first and second quarters. At the top of the stretch he was ready. I just shook the reins and he took off."
Said Albarado: "Speightstown is a nice horse, perhaps a super horse. He was really pressed hard for most of the race and still won. That's impressive. We had the pace to run at, we just couldn't catch him. I think you had to finish in 1:07 4/5 or faster to beat him."
Speightstown has no won nine of 14 lifetime starts with two seconds and a third. The $120,000 winner's share pushed his career earnings to $657,056 for owners Eugene and Laura Melnyk.
Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Spieghtstown is from the Storm Cat
mare Siken Cat.
The 4-5 choice paid $3.80, $2.60 and $2.10. Clock Stopper returned $3.20 and $2.30. Gators N Bears was $2.40 to show.
Mike's Classic, Gold Dollar and My Cousin Matt completed the order of finish.
Pletcher said that Speightstown will skip the $250,000 Forego Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs on Sept. 4 at Saratoga and may look to the Belmont Park Fall Championship Meet.