Jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer Bill Mott, once the hottest combination on the national stage, still form a powerful duo in the Bernard Baruch Handicap. They won the $150,000 event for the fifth time in seven years when Silver Tree prevailed over even-money favorite Nothing to Lose on a yielding Saratoga turf course Friday.
Bailey, always the money rider, edged ever closer to Angel Cordero Jr.'s all-time Saratoga jockey win record of 640. He now needs six more to tie.
Silver Tree, who launched his bid while three wide coming out of the far turn, edged ahead of pacesetter Union Place and Nothing to Lose in mid-stretch and held off Nothing to Lose in a long drive to the wire to win by a neck. The final time was 1:47 1/5 on the inner turf course for the 1 1/8-mile Baruch.
The yielding course played to closers.
"It was a good race for everyone," Bailey said. "I think a lot of people expected me to be either on the lead or close to it. When we broke from the gate, he really didn't want to prompt the pace. So, I just let him settle back and do what he wanted. Because of the turf course condition, I thought it was an advantage to be near the back."
Irish Colonial, a half-length behind the runner-up, closed belatedly to edge Randy Schulhofer stablemate Union Place for third by a neck.
Silver Tree lost three previous stakes tries this year, but he defeated Nothing to Lose in an optional claimer at Belmont June 16. He returned to finish third in Belmont's one-mile Poker Handicap (gr. III) July 10.
Bailey trailed the leaders with Silver Tree while racing near the rear of the pack on the outside. Union Place set out on the lead from the break and was clear of trouble in the first turn when Mr. Light, racing on the inside, ducked outward after striking the rail with jockey Richard Migliore coming out of the stirrups briefly. The mishap forced Nothing to Lose, with John Velazquez aboard, to go wide into the turn as well.
"I thought he would probably battle on pretty good," Mott said. "At least, there was nobody there to spurt away from him. Neither Jerry nor I expected him to be back that far because he had been a little rank or anxious in some of his mile races. He settled very well, for whatever reason, today. It was a very good race for him. We've never been on this type of ground before, but he handled it well."
"The first turn cost us the race," said Nothing to Lose's Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. "(Migliore) lost his irons and came out. Thankfully, nothing worse happened."
It was a credit to Velazquez that Nothing to Lose was able to gather himself and get back into the race.
"It got a little rough in the first turn," Velazquez said. "My horse got a little rank, and he never settled. But the rest of the trip was okay."
Union Place, ridden by Javier Castellano Jr., clipped along at :24 4/5, :49 1/5 and 1:13 1/5.
Silver Tree ranged up on the outside on the far turn and was on the leaders at the top of the stretch. After edging in front, Silver Tree and Nothing to Lose dueled to the wire, although Silver Tree appeared to be in control in the final strides.
The win was Silver Tree's sixth in 12 lifetime starts and earned $90,000 for owner/breeder Peter Vegso. The 4-year-old Florida-bred chestnut son of Hennessy has career earnings of $548,320.
The second choice in a field of seven, he paid $7.50, $3.10 and $2.60. Nothing to Lose returned $2.60 and $2.20 and completed a $12.80 exacta. Irish Colonial, who circled the field four wide on the turn and rallied late for Jean-Luc Samyn, was $3.40 to show.
Quest Star finished behind Union Place in fifth, followed by Quiet Ruler and Mr. Light. Evening Attire and Gygistar, who was entered for the main track only, were scratched.