Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone’s homebred Winchester delivered the fourth grade I victory of his career Aug. 13 when he rallied from last to take the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by three-quarters of a length at Saratoga.
With Cornelio Velasquez in the irons for Christophe Clement, 6-year-old Winchester trailed the field for a mile and was still near the back when they turned for home, but was able to run down pacesetter Rahy's Attorney in the final yards to earn the win. It was the first triumph of the season for the son of Theatrical, who posted grade I victories in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in 2010 at Belmont Park. He also won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) as a 3-year-old.
Winchester, bred in Virginia and out of the Spectrum mare Rum Charger, improved to 6-6-2 from 23 lifetime starts and increased his earnings to $1,576,843. He covered 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf course in 2:26.74.
Rahy’s Attorney, with Emma-Jayne Wilson aboard, settled for second after setting fractions of :24.47, :48.65, 1:13.57, and 1:38.64. The 7-year-old gelding raced on an uncontested lead down the backstretch and it wasn’t until they rounded the final turn that the field of seven began to bunch up. But Rahy’s Attorney still carried a one-length lead over Boisterous when they hit the eighth pole, while Al Khali and United Nations (gr. IT) winner Teaks North gave chase.
Winchester gained ground on the leaders approaching the top of the stretch, drifted in on Al Khali near the eighth-pole, and overtook Rahy's Attorney just inside the sixteenth-pole. He had to survive an objection by Al Khali's jockey Alan Garcia before being declared the official winner.
“My horse had a very good trip," Velasquez said. "He was ready for this race. He always runs a big race, and today, he ran another one. I rode with confidence, but I had a lot of horse.”
Winchester, a three-time winner last year with earnings of nearly $900,000 from nine starts, did not make his 2011 debut until July 23 when he finished second in the off-the-turf Stars and Stripes (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park. But Clement, who won this event in 1999 with Honor Glide, had him ready in his second start off a layoff.
"This is his fourth grade I, he belongs to a very successful owner, we’ve been very lucky in the past and it’s been wonderful," Clement said. "I knew (the Stars and Stripes) would set him up perfectly for this race. He was unlucky: the race was switched from the turf to the Polytrack. He ran well anyway, and the race set him up, as you can see, perfectly for today. Mr. and Mrs. Firestone were flying in for the race and I just thought I’ve always been to the Million for the last two or three years and I thought it made sense to stay behind for once.”
Theatrical, also campaigned by the Firestones, won the Sword Dancer in 1987.
Rahy's Attorney, who was three parts of a length in front of Al Khali in second, had to be vanned off after the race. The immediate news from veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage was encouraging.
“He just pulled up lame but there’s nothing outwardly wrong. It was the left front, but there’s nothing outwardly apparent," Bramlage said.”
The winner paid $7.20, $4.20 and $2.90. Rahy's Attorney returned $5.50 and $4, and completed a $48.20 exacta (8-3). Al Khali paid $5.60 to show and filled out a $360.50 trifecta (8-3-6).