With four horses lined up across the course in the stretch, Red Rifle emerged from the two path and drew off to a clear victory in the $250,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
With Javier Castellano showing the way, Twin Creeks Racing Stables homebred Red Rifle moved into the two path at mid-stretch, just outside Iron Power and inside Imagining , with War Dancer widest in the four-horse tussle. Red Rifle proved to have one final gear, bravely punching through on his way to a second straight graded stakes win.
The race was marred by the catastrophic breakdown of Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Innovation Economy, who won the Belmont Gold Cup Invitationial Stakes June 5 on the turf at Belmont Park. Innovation Economy was euthanized after the race.
Red Rifle entered off a clear victory in the Dominion Day Stakes (gr. III) July 1 on the Woodbine Polytrack. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding completed the 1 3/8-mile race in 2:13.69 on firm turf, returning $15.40 to win, $6.60 to place, and $4 to show. War Dancer finished second, paying $4.10 and $2.80, while Imagining returned $2.90 to show.
A ground-saving trip early in the Bowling Green likely helped Red Rifle late.
"I was able to take advantage all the way inside on the rail," Castellano said. "In a long distance, on the grass, the most important thing is to save all the ground. And that's exactly what I did. He did it very professionally today and I'm very satisfied with the way he did it."
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher earned three graded stakes wins in the space of 35 minutes Saturday, taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) with Rock Fall at 5:15 p.m. EDT, where he also teamed with Castellano; the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) at 5:23 with Madefromlucky, and then the Bowling Green with Red Rifle at 5:50.
With his Bowling Green win on grass, Dominion Day victory on Polytrack, and his 2014 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) score on the Hawthorne Race Course main track, Red Rifle boasts graded stakes wins on turf, synthetic, and dirt surfaces.
"He's just a throwback kind of horse—he's hardy, he's tough. He's a gelding now, (so) we just need to look at the opportunities and place him where he fits," Pletcher said. "He won the Hawthorne Gold Cup last year, he just won a race on Polytrack at Woodbine and now on the turf. All options are on the table."
Red Rifle was bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks and Tom and Nancy Clark.