Saratoga County took advantage of a fast pace to collar Pomeroy in mid-stretch and pulled away to a 2 1/4-length victory in the $200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Saturday.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Saratoga County completed the one mile Gotham in 1:35 2/5 on a drying track that had been upgraded from muddy to good. A storm in New York closed Aqueduct on Friday.
Saratoga County had not won a race since breaking his maiden at Saratoga last summer at first asking.
Pomeroy, ridden by Mike Smith, held on for second, a three quarters of a length in front of 8-5 favorite Eddington. With Egar Prado aboard, Eddington ran last through the opening quarter mile after a bump at thes start and came on late while lacking the explosive closing kick he had shown in two victories against softer company earlier this year.
Saratoga County, a Kentucky-bred colt by Valid Expectations
–Grub's Dancer (by Grub), was coming off a third-place finish in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 14 for trainer George Weaver. He started the year with a runner-up showing in the Spectacular Bid (gr. III) at Gulfstream a month earlier.
Pomeroy, making his first start since September, sat just off the blazing wind-aided fractions set by Deputy Storm, who broke quickly from the rail for Jorge Chavez and flew through a :21 4/5 opening quarter and a :43 3/5 half.
Pomeroy grabbed the lead at the head of the stretch after six furlongs in 1:08 and gave way grudgingly in the final furlong. Saratoga County releaxed early and came with a wide move to grabe the lead.
"About two or three weeks ago, I was in Florida and I met George Weaver [Saratoga County's trainer] after the races," Castellano said. "He told me he was thinking about scratching out of the Swale to run here, and asked me if I would be able to ride the horse. He took me to the grandstand to show me the computer (race replay machine), and showed me his race [in the Hutcheson}. He lugged out when he broke and hit the gate pretty hard. I told George, `If he breaks clean, he wins the race.'
"Today, I had a good hold of him and he broke clean. We stayed behind Chavez [jockey Jorge Chavez on Deputy Storm) and followed him until he gave it up and then we went by."
Deputy Storm was fourth, 5 1/4 lengths behind Eddington, followed by Redskin Warrior, Rockhewn, Quick Action and War's Prospect.
Saratoga County, who was bred by Round Table LLC, earned $120,000 for owner Evelyn M. Pollard. It was his second win in five starts and increased his career bankroll to $156,500. The bay colt was purchased for $100,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sale in February 2003.
Weaver said Saratoga County could next go in the $325,00 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) on April 17 at Keeneland.
"I didn't really pay too much attention to the weather when I got up here from Florida," Weaver said. "I pretty much just put the bridle on him and let him go. We knew there would be a good pace in here, and all we wanted was a clean break and a chance to stalk the leaders.
"This was a terrific win for him. Now, we will probably consider the Lexington. Everything with him so far, including the Gotham, has been logical progression. Those three big races on April 10th (Wood Memorial, Toyota Blue Grass, Arkansas Derby) are all two turns and a mile and an eighth, but they come up too soon for this horse. The Lexington is the right next step; plus his pedigree doesn't exactly scream, `mile and a quarter.'"
Patrick Biancone, trainer of Pomeroy, said he wasn't surprised his horse was a little short for his first start in six months.
"He is a very lazy horse in the morning," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "He doesn't work too much, and I thought he would be `short' going into this race. I liked his race today because he was aggressive. He was a bit fresh. He is going back Tuesday to California, It's too cold here. But I am very pleased with him. He ran exactly the way I expected."
Trainer Mark Hennig said he would likely bring Eddington back for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 10.
"I couldn't tell what happened at the start. It looked like he got hit pretty hard," said Hennig. "Edgar (Prado) said he almost came off of him at the start. He rode him the only way he could. He just had to sit and wait for him to grind it out. It was a little bit of an odd race, going :43 and change [for the first half-mile]. He didn't seem to handle the track that well when he asked him. He was late switching leads and wasn't able to sustain his momentum. But he was chasing into pretty fast fractions trying to catch up. I don't think this race will remotely resemble the next one. Obviously, two turns is better for him.
The winner paid $11.40, $6.10 and $3.20. Pomeroy returned $9.20 and $4.40. Eddington's show was $2.50. The $2 exacta was worth $93.50.