Saratoga Race Report: Tis the Season

Saratoga Race Report: Tis the Season
Photo: AP/ (Dave Oxford
Published in the Aug. 4 issue of The Blood-Horse
It seems to happen every year around this time. Like swarms of bees, Bobby Frankel horses are turned loose all over the country, searching for rich stakes races. When the invasion is over, Frankel and his owners usually come away with the honey, and those in their way come away with the stings.

Last summer, Frankel's flying forces invaded three million-dollar stakes--in Chicago, San Diego, and Toronto--in the span of three weeks and brought home the riches each time.

In two grade I stakes run on July 1 of this year, Frankel walked off with $750,000 in winning purse money even though none of his horses crossed the finish line first. In one of the strangest occurrences in years, within the span of an hour, Frankel horses Aptitude and Senure were placed first through disqualification in the Hollywood Gold Cup and United Nations Handicap, respectively.

So, it certainly was not that big of a surprise to see Lido Palace, the Chilean Horse of the Year, knock off Albert the Great in the July 28 Whitney Handicap (gr. I), even though Albert the Great was the 4-5 favorite. Frankel's horses always seem to be lurking around, waiting to move in for the kill, whenever there's a vulnerable favorite. Albert the Great was coming off impressive scores in the Brooklyn (gr. II) and Suburban (gr. II) Handicaps at Belmont Park, where he's been all but invincible. But in the Whitney, he was giving away large chunks of weight to the entire field, including nine pounds to Lido Palace, and was breaking from the outside post in the field of seven.

As it turned out, Albert the Great got hung wide on the first turn, never got the early lead, and had to be content tracking the fast pace set by Elite Mercedes. By the time he managed to get his head in front nearing the quarter pole, Lido Palace and Jerry Bailey were all over him. Despite Lido Palace going wide turning for home and goofing off all down the stretch, he still managed to draw off to a two-length victory in a brisk 1:47.94, paying $7.90. Albert the Great barely held on for second over Gander. In his previous start, Albert the Great had defeated Lido Palace by 2 1/4 lengths, but the weight difference, the wide trip, and the fact Lido Palace is on the improve all added up to account for the reversal.

As for Frankel, he has so much going on at his home base at Del Mar, he didn't even make the trip to the Spa. But he will pay a visit next week to see the 18 horses he has stabled there, most notably the love of his life, Flute, who easily captured an allowance race the day before the Whitney as a prep for the Aug. 18 Alabama Stakes (gr. I). "I miss her," Frankel said. "I can't wait to see her."

After this weekend, Frankel will disperse his powerful band of older horses to all parts of the country. Lido Palace will head to Belmont and continue bugging the heck out of Albert the Great in either the Woodward (gr. I) or Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). Owned by Jerome and John Amerman, the son of the Forty Niner stallion Rich Man's Gold has made great strides since being buried by the Godolphin 3-year-olds Express Tour and Street Cry in the UAE Derby (UAE-III). In his first start in the U.S., he finished a strong second in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), then was second again in the Suburban.

"I told everyone right from the start this was a good horse," Frankel said. "He's got an unbelievable amount of talent. He's just coming around now, and I was very confident going into the Whitney. The two riders who have been on him (Bailey and David Flores) both said he was very lazy and they had to ride him hard the whole way. We put blinkers on for the Suburban and they've really helped. He's much more aggressive now. And don't forget, he only just turned four recently."

Lido Palace still has a few kinks to get out, judging from the way he kept drifting out from left-handed whipping, switching leads, and throwing his ears back and forth. But he obviously has a ton of ability and should only get better. With Lido Palace invading New York, Frankel will have San Diego Handicap (gr. II) winner Skimming to defend his crown in the Pacific Classic (gr. I), Aptitude for the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), and recent stakes winner Euchre for the Philip H. Iselin Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth, not to mention Senure for the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Flute's much-awaited showdown with Fleet Renee.


LAKE SUPERIOR

As cold as Shug McGaughey was at Belmont Park, that's how hot he's been in the opening week of Saratoga. In the first five days of the meet, McGaughey saddled five winners, culminating with an upset score in the July 29 Go for Wand Stakes (gr. I) with Emory A. Hamilton's homebred Serra Lake.

This was a bizarre race in the sense that racing fans are not used to seeing 1999 champion Beautiful Pleasure blow a 10-length lead nearing the quarter pole. But the daughter of Maudlin, who's been trying to race herself back into shape, got hot in the paddock and suddenly became leg weary nearing the quarter pole. One minute, there she was in all her isolated glory, and then suddenly she was gone.

Serra Lake, a tough, consistent closer, came charging from seventh along the rail, then swung out turning for home and ran down Pompeii and March Magic, both of whom had blown by a weary Beautiful Pleasure in tandem. The daughter of Seattle Slew drew off under Edgar Prado to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:49.62, paying $18.40. Beautiful Pleasure finished fifth, 1 1/2 lengths behind her stablemate Darling My Darling.

"I thought she would get a pace with Beautiful Pleasure, and that's the way it worked out," McGaughey said. "It was just a matter of being patient. The Personal Ensign (gr. I) would have to be a pretty good option, going a mile and a quarter over this track."

Beautiful Pleasure's trainer John Ward Jr. felt this was another step in the right direction. "She had her act together today," he said. "A little more performance and we're there. Her mind was too lackadaisical in her first race back and too much the other way this race. She'll settle back into it."


(Chart, Equibase)

Continued . . .

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