No horse has ever won all three legs of the OTB Big Apple Triple, which comprises the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont, New York Derby at Finger Lakes and the Albany at Saratoga. A sweep of the three would earn the winner a $250,000 bonus. Since its inception in 1999, a couple of horses have come close, Image Maker in 2000 and Ferocious Won last year.
But once again, the Albany was the stumbling block, as Chief’s Lake tired in the final furlong, finishing a distant third, while Stunt Man went on to take top prize. Dr. V’s Magic finished in second.
As the field of seven approached the final turn, three horses vied for the lead, with Stunt Man holding a short advantage over Doctor Freud and Chief’s Lake right on their heels. Stunt Man and Chief’s Lake were one-two at the eighth pole, but as they made it to mid-stretch Stunt Man had more left in the tank, while the son of Yonaguska was used up.
It was the first time Chief’s Lake had tried a mile-and-an-eighth, as seven of his eight career starts had been less than two turns. It proved to be too much distance.
Stunt Man, trained by Gary Contessa, won for the second time this summer and third time in his career. The 3-year-old colt by Raffie's Majesty paid $9.40 to win. The final time under jockey Ramon Dominguez was 1:51.23. Bred by Flying Zee Stables, Stunt Man won for Winning Move Stable, Island Win Racing and Celebrity Group Stables.
“I had a great trip,” said Dominguez. “My horse was forwardly placed from the get-go. As soon as I got to the backside, I realized how slow we were going (:49.31 half-mile), so I didn’t hesitate to get him three-wide and get him out of trouble.
“I wasn’t going to be happy keeping him behind horses with such a slow pace. Around the three-eighths pole, he started taking me to the lead, and from there we cruised home. He had a good late kick.”
Chief’s Lake trainer Steve Asmussen said the 124 pounds that his gelding carried, nine more than Stunt Man, was a big factor.
“He was third-best today. It was a lot of weight to give up for a three-year-old going a mile-and-an-eighth.
“It is what it is, but he ran hard and we are very proud of everything he’s done. The (Big Apple) Triple is very hard because of the distance changes. To be able to be a good seven-furlong horse and a good mile-and-an-eighth horse is totally different. But he ran very well.”
Dr. V’s Magic, who saved ground for much of the backstretch, closed well for second and filled out a $35.60 exacta (3-2). Chief's Lake was the even-money favorite.