Grand Couturier Uses Rail to Capture Sword Dancer

Grand Couturier Uses Rail to Capture Sword Dancer
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Grand Couturier wins Sword Dancer.
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The $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) {VIDEO} was setting up perfectly for heavy favorite English Channel. After coming from well off the pace, the 5-year-old son of Smart Strike  made his usual late kick, rallying under jockey John Velazquez to take the lead as they headed for home.

The only problem was, Grand Couturier had a finishing kick that was too much even for one of America’s top turf horses, as the 4-year-old English-bred colt came flying along the rail to take Saratoga’s feature in dramatic fashion Aug. 11.

Going off at odds of 15-1, Grand Couturier sat in the back of the pack for most of the 1 1/2-mile on the turf, watching as Trippi’s Storm hit the lead around the final turn. Then, just as Velazquez forged English Channel to the front, jockey Calvin Borel moved the son of Grand Lodge along the rail and easily past his rival, crossing the wire three lengths in front. It was not only the first win this year for Grand Couturier, but the first graded stakes win of his career.

Trained by Robert Ribaudo, Grand Couturier paid $33.20, $7.50 and $4.30. English Channel, who has won four Grade I races in his career and went off at 3-5, finished second and filled out an $84.50 exacta (7-5). Trippi’s Storm held third for a $303.50 trifecta.

Grand Couturier, who ran third in the Sword last year, finished in 2:26.59.

Borel said he took advantage of a fast :22.66 first quarter-mile, which was set by longshot Fri Guy. “Around the first turn, I knew they were going pretty good, so I knew I had a little shot,” Borel said. “That went well in our favor. When I called on him, he went by them like they were standing still. It looked like I had a lot of horse. He kept the momentum going.

“He did well here last year, and the trainer said he had been doing good. He told me to save every inch I could and don’t get off the fence.”

Velazquez, who rode for trainer Todd Pletcher, said he was beaten by a better horse. “We had a good trip. The other horse (Grand Couturier) found room on the inside and all of a sudden got through. Not only got through, but punched hard. My horse ran his race, but that other horse just somehow ran a big race.

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