Canadian invader Shoal Water, with leading jockey John Velazquez in the saddle, wore down Sharp Impact in the final furlong to register a 2 1/4-length victory in the closing-day $108,800 Saranac Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds Monday at Saratoga Race Course.
Urban King, Jerry Bailey aboard, closed strongly to get second, a head in front of Sharp Impact and Eibar Coa. The final time on a good turf course was 1:55 2/5 for the 1 3/16-mile Saranac.
The 11-10 favorite in the field of six, Shoal Water ended a three-race losing streak while making his first graded stakes appearance. The Ontario-bred had competed in all three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown for his owner and breeder Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad.
Frostad last shipped down from his Woodbine base last year to win Saratoga's Go for Wand (gr. I) with Dancethruthedawn.
"We love to get down here whenever we can, but you have to have the horses to do it," Frostad said. "Perhaps (Shoal Water's) best distance is from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter. Since there was nothing in Toronto for him, this looked like the perfect spot.
"He's a very versatile horse and he can handle anything, turf or dirt. It's been slow to get him back to the races, but he is at his best now. We're going to bring him back to Canada and take a look at the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT at Belmont on Sept. 21).
The Smart Strike gelding, under top weight of 116 pounds, pressed the lead of Sharp Impact through fractions of :23 2/5, :48, 1:12 4/5 and 1:26 4/5. Sharp Impact opened up a half-length lead in the stretch before Shoal Water surged to the front inside the final eighth and drew away.
Sharp Impact was stubborn, but Shoal Water kicked in when Velazquez prompted him with some left-handed strikes and carried the 31-year-old native of Carolina, Puerto Rico to his record 61st winner of the meet.
"He went pretty easy," Velazquez said. "They told me he could pull me a little, and he was pretty strong. He battled me the whole first quarter-mile, but he calmed down on the backstretch. From then on, he was just cruising.
"I'm really glad with all that happened here," he said of his record meeting. "I couldn't ask for anything better. I can't say how awesome and unbelievable it was. The fans were great. They're true fans here in Saratoga."
Shoal Water, who collected $65,280 Monday, improved his career earnings to $403,580 with a record of 3-2-1 in eight starts. He was making his first start in the United States.
Urban King trailed down the backstretch before making a wide move on the final turn. He continued wide into the stretch and closed well as the 9-5 second choice.
Shoal Water paid $4.30, $2.50 and $2.20. Urban King returned $2.70 and $2.20. Sharp Impact's show price was $2.40. The $2 exacta was worth $9.20.
With 19,661 fans on hand for the finale of the 36-day Saratoga Race Course meet, total attendance reached a record 1,049,309.