Michael Paulson and Edward White's Rob's Spirit held off the late charge of Whata Brainstorm to narrowly win the $113,800 Saranac Handicap (gr. IIIT) Sunday at Saratoga. The top two finishers continue the legacies of two of the sport's premier breeders. Rob's Spirit was bred by the late Allen Paulson; Whata Brainstorm by the late Fred Hooper.
Racing on "good" turf, Rumsonontheriver took the early lead in the 1 3/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, followed by Rob's Spirit and Lake Austin. Those three continued along the backstretch with Rumsonontheriver leading by a half-length after a half-mile in :48.66. Jerry Bailey sent Rob's Spirit to the lead on the second turn while racing outside of Rumsonontheriver, with Lake Austin challenging from the outside. Rob's Spirit and Lake Austin raced heads apart into the stretch, with the latter a head in front after a mile in 1:37.40. Rob's Spirit edged away in mid-stretch and had just enough left to hold off Whatabrainstorm, winning by a neck in 1:55.47.
"He's a big horse and one that I would want to have a sustained run with as opposed to just pushing him the last eighth of a mile," said Bailey.
Dawn of the Condor closed down the center of the track for third, followed by Lake Austin, Three Wonders, Polish Miner, Aldo, Treasured Gift, and Rumsonontheriver.
The odds-on favorite, Rob's Spirit returned $3.50, $2.60, and $2.40. 19-1 longshot Whatabrainstorm paid $9.20 and $6.10. Dawn of the Condor, sent off at just under 19-1, was worth $5.90 to show. The winning exacta paid $42.
For Bailey, the win equaled his previous Sartoga record of 48 wins set during the 1997 Saratoga meet.
"It feels good to tie my record," said Bailey, who has seven mounts on Monday's card, the final day of the meet. "I would like to try to get over 50 wins, but more importantly win tomorrow's stake (the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT), aboard morning-line favorite Perfect Sting)."
Rob's Spirit (Theatrical--Winglet, by Alydar) earned $68,280 for his second stakes victory. After finishing second in the Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park in June, he won the Lexington (gr. IIIT) by five lengths on soft turf. Trained by Bill Mott, Rob's Spirit -- a half-brother to champion 3-year-old filly Ajina -- improved his career record to four wins from six career starts.
"We'd like to see if he can compete in the Breeders' Cup, but before that we'll probably need to stretch him out to 12 furlongs and experiment against older horse," Mott said. (Chart, Equibase