Guided by jockey Jerry Bailey, betting favorite Hap saved ground along the hedge, rallying through the stretch to win the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) by 3/4-lengths Saturday at Saratoga. Shadwell Stable's Altibr finished a fast-closing second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Weatherbird. Hap completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.24 over firm turf.
Officialpermission broke through the starting gate, delaying the race as an outrider quickly reeled him in. The 6-year-old gelding was reloaded and the race began with North East Bound assuming the early lead. North East Bound led through a comfortable opening quarter-mile run in :24.04 before picking up the pace slightly through a half-mile in :47.45.
"On paper, it seemed like a lot of speed in the race," said Bailey. "But as it developed, it seemed the pace wasn't that fast."
Morluc moved up to challenge the leader into the second turn, where Conserve moved into contention while racing a bit wide. The field bunched as they straightened for home and Bailey guided Hap through an opening on the inside, established a clear lead, and lasted for the win as Altibr closed ground late.
"Coming around the turn, it seemed the pace was OK, but I was wondering where I was going to go. In those situations, you just have to sit and hope for the best and hope a passage becomes open," Bailey said. "The horse was quick enough to get there. He made me look really good."
North East Bound held for fourth, followed by Inexplicable, Conserve, Officialpermission, Musical Ghost, Morluc, Delay of Game, and Phi Beta Doc.
The win marks Hap's second grade II triumph on the current Saratoga meet. In July, the 4-year old son of Theatrical -- out of Commited, by Hagley -- won the 1 1/8-mile Bernard Baruch Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over Inexplicable for his first stakes win. Hap was bred in Kentucky by Allen Paulson and with the win earned $120,000 for owners Michael Paulson and Edward White. The chestnut colt, trained by Bill Mott, has now won six races from nine career starts.
For the Mott-Bailey combination the win was the third consecutive victory on the day. The all Mott-Bailey pick-3 on races five, six, and seven paid $136.
"I think this horse could probably be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT)," said Mott. "He's a mile to a mile and an eighth type horse. There are a couple of races at Belmont between now and then we'll take a look at."
Hap returned $4.60, $3.20, and $2.70. Altibr paid $11.60 and $7.20. Weatherbird was worth $5.30 to show. The winning exacta combination returned $72.50. (Chart, Equibase