Drawing Away Stables and David Jacobson's hard-knocking Saginaw inhaled five fellow New York-breds in the 2012 edition of the Affirmed Success Stakes, romping by 7 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park. The popular gelding is back to defend his title in the seven furlong sprint—but a stiffer challenge could lie ahead.
The field of six drawn for this year's edition of the $100,000 Affirmed Success includes grade I winner Willy Beamin. The 4-year-old gelded son of Suave, who upset last year's Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) comes in off a layup carrying three pounds less than 7-year-old Saginaw, who is highweighted at 123 pounds under jockey Junior Alvarado.
Willy Beamin has not raced for owner James Riccio since finishing fifth in his final start of 2012, the Nov. 22 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack. Formerly conditioned by suspended trainer Rick Dutrow, he is now under the care of Rudy Rodriguez. Prior to the off-the-board finish in his last start, he was second in Remington Park's Oklahoma Derby and runner-up in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
Saginaw, a son of Peruvian, is used to giving weight. He spotted eight pounds to his rivals last time out when burdened with 130 in a May 12 starter handicap, and won by a determined nose.
"I call this race guts versus glory," Drawing Away managing partner Robert Hachemeister Jr. said. "Willy Beamin is glory, and Saginaw is guts. This horse is all heart. In his last race, he showed me something I'd never seen before—and that's hard to do.
"In all of the previous races he's won, he just chewed up and spit out the competition. In that race, he actually relinquished the lead, and when he got headed he looked right over and saw the horse get in front of him, and it's almost like he snapped into another gear and said 'Oh, no, no, you're not winning!' He fought back."
Saginaw has won 13 of 16 races since trainer David Jacobson picked him up for a $30,000 tag at Aqueduct last March. That day, he romped by 13 1/4 lengths. His career record stands at 19-6-3 from 38 outings, including eight stakes victories. Ironically, he also was trained briefly by Dutrow following a stint with Dominick Schettino, after beginning his career with Chad Brown. Eight out of Drawing Away's approximately 100 partners share in his official ownership, but in New York and across the nation he has hundreds of fans.
"It's amazing because I live an hour away from either track, and if I walk into OTB and I have my jacket on from Drawing Away, the first thing they'll say is, 'You have that horse Saginaw!'" Hachemeister said.
Another contender who could prove dangerous to Saginaw's title defense is 8-year-old stablemate Be Bullish, owned by Christopher Dunn. The Pure Prize gelding was runner-up by a length to fellow Affirmed Success contender Mine Over Matter in the May 9 Corma Ray Stakes at Belmont.
"The race could possibly end up by default setting up for him, and that horse has proven himself at the distance," said Hachemeister. "If he decides to sit back and let Willy and Saginaw go at it, he could be dangerous."
Joining Be Bullish and Chester and Mary Broman's Mine Over Matter, who was third ahead of Willy Beamin last year in the Fall Highweight for trainer Mike Hushion, are Fiddlers Afleet and Flying Zealous.
Fiddlers Afleet, trained by Rodriguez and owned by Michael Dubb, Michael Imperio, and Gary Aisquith, looks back to August for his last win in an overnight stakes at Saratoga Race Course, while Flying Zealous makes his stakes debut off six straight allowance wins for owner/trainer Peter Kazamias.