Saratoga County Romps in Golden Shaheen

Saratoga County Romps in Golden Shaheen
Photo: AP/Kamran Jebreili
Saratoga County wins the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
By Jason Ford
As expected the Americans won the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) over six furlongs on the dirt at Nad Al Sheba Saturday, but it was not hot favorite Pico Central who took the honors but George Weaver's Saratoga Country who landed the spoils under Javier Castellano.

The favorite in the world's richest sprint race was badly checked about 300 meters out and ran on to take fourth behind Godolphin's Botanical (third) and local hope Tropical Star who was second – the same place he filled behind Firebreak in last year's Godolphin Mile (UAE-II). The race was run on a straight. Saratoga County won by one length.

A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Valid Expectations, the winner was recording a sixth career win on his 17th start and his first in grade or group I company. It was the bay colt's fourth consecutive win for owner Evelyn M. Pollard.

"(Castellano) gets on really well with this horse and it made a big difference that he came here to ride it," said a delighted Weaver. "The horse used to be a bit of 'a lad' but has calmed down well and is a lot more relaxed.

"We were not sure how he would handle the ship here but he certainly has done so and very well. His target will be the Breeders' Cup now."

Drawn close to the far rail, he was never far away and established a clear lead on that side of the track as Pico Central endured traffic problems after leading early. Both Botanical and Tropical Star emerged as the main protagonists on the stands' side, while Pico Central gave gallant chase on the far side behind the winner.

Alex Solis, Pico Central's jockey, immediately lodged an objection against the winner who was involved in the incident which cost Pico Central several lengths. Stewards ruled that the interference did not make a difference in the order of finish.

""He didn't get a hold of the track," Solis said. "He kept switching leads and just wasn't himself today.

"Right at the quarter pole My Cousin Matt and the winner came in on me. It cost me a better place, but I couldn't win."

Patrick Valenzuela, aboard My Cousin Matt, said, "He tracked Pico Central the whole way. He switched leads great, but when I needed him the last quarter of a mile he couldn't go with the winner."

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