The public saw it as a two-horse race but the masses were off by one, as Henny Hughes made the $150,00 Saratoga Special (gr. II) all about himself Thursday.
Before a crowd of more than 31,000, the son of Hennessy
went to the front out of the gate under Gary Stevens, galled on the lead, and just cruised home the easiest kind of winner in the six-furlong race at odds of 9-10. He defeated the public's other top choice, 6-5 Master of Disaster with Jerry Bailey aloft, by 3 3/4 lengths, the smallest margin of victory in Henny Hughes' three-race career.
Henny Hughes had won his first two starts for Gulf Coast Farms and Martin Cherry and was then sold privately to Sheikh Rajid, a son of Sheikh Mohammed. He raced for the first time in the Saratoga Special in the family's Darley colors, earning $90,000 for the victory.
Gulf Coast and Cherry bought Henny Hughes last year at the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale for $180,000. They then bought him back for $370,000 at the Barretts sale this March.
Out of the Meadowlake
mare Meadow Flyer, Henny Hughes broke his maiden June 17 at Monmouth by six lengths and then came back to take the Tremont Stakes at Belmont July 4 by a whopping 15 lengths. He is trained by Patrick Biancone.
"They don't call it the `Special' for nothing," said Stevens, who will ride at Saratoga fulltime this season. "I think the most nerve-racking part was in the paddock. They had a hard time putting the saddle on him. But he was very professional once they got the saddle on him and he got on the track. My only concern was to get a clean break. He did stumble the other day (in the Tremont), but he got away on all four feet and it was just a matter of me dictating the pace around there."
Biancone said Henny Hughes will be pointed to the $250,000 Hopeful (gr. I) at seven furlongs on Aug. 27.
"He was just playing around in the paddock," said Biancone, who previously won the Saratoga Special with Zavata in 2002. "He wasn't sweating or nervous. He just wanted to be the boss - and he was the boss on the racetrack. Unlike other two-year-olds that I have had success with, this one is more manageable. In his first start, he came off the pace. In his next start, he was closer. Here, he was in front.
"He could be anything. He could be the next Secretariat. I don't know if he could be, but he does it so easily."
The colt was bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Trackside Farm, and CHO.
Master of Disaster, who broke his maiden by 13 1/4 lengths at Delaware Park May 10, ran second but never threatened.
Third-choice Union Course was third in the six-horse field, more than seven lengths behind the winner.
Parkhimonbroadway, Hold On Tight, and Short Circuit trailed. Stormatic was scratched.
Henny Hughes, who carried 121 pounds, four more than the others in the field, and interestingly the only one racing without Salix, paid $3.80, $2.50, and $2.10. Master of Disaster returned $2.60 and $2.20 and Union Course was worth $2.60.
He completed the six furlongs in 1:10.38 after clipping fractions of :22 3/5, :45 4/5 and :57 3/5.