Trainer Rick Dutrow may be facing diminishing opportunity to saddle winners, but that didn't stop him from sending 6-1 shot Pacific Ocean to take the $100,000 James Marvin Stakes (gr. III) July 20 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
Jackson Bend, the 4-5 favorite and 2011 winner of the James Marvin, finished fourth.
One day after a New York court upheld the New York State Racing & Wagering Board's decision to revoke Dutrow's license for 10 years, the trainer was celebrating victory at the upstate oval. A stay obtained last year from a lower state court remains in effect until the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, decides whether or not to hear his case.
Dutrow brought Dennis Narlinger's 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper back to winning form in the James Marvin off a sixth-place finish in the True North Handicap (gr. II) last time out June 9, his first start of the season and first for his new connections. The chestnut gelding won the Vernon Underwood Stakes (gr. III) at Betfair Hollywood Park last November when owned by JMJ Racing Stables and trained by Mike Mitchell.
"I told a lot of people that called me ... he was training so much better for this race than he was for his last race," Dutrow remarked. "In his last race, he had a bad post, there was a lot of speed, he was in a bad spot. Today was different. He had everything going his way. He was sitting on a race. He ran big."
The wire-to-wire win for Dutrow was obtained via the hands of jockey Joel Rosario, who turned in a crafty ride aboard the sprint contender. First at the break, he settled Pacific Ocean into a rhythmic lead and lulled the field to sleep with early fractions of :23.19 and :46.67 for the seven-furlong event. Crossbow was taken back to rate in second while Golddigger's Boy followed along in third. True North winner Caixa Eletronica saved ground in fourth but never fired, while Jackson Bend was caught taking the overland route.
"That was perfect," said Rosario, who is riding at his first full Saratoga meet after transplanting to New York from Southern California. "I just tried to relax him as much as I could early and hoped nobody put on any pressure, and that's exactly what happened."
When the field turned for home through three-quarters in 1:10.12, there was nothing for the closers to run at and Rosario was still loaded with horse. Although jockey Ramon Dominguez attempted to apply pressure aboard Crossbow, that one faded from second and was passed by Golddigger's Boy, who put in a good kick down the center of the lane.
"When Crossbow came to me, he kind of waited a little bit," Rosario remarked. "I thought he wanted to go when he came to me, but he took his time. After that, when Pacific Ocean kept the lead, I thought at that moment the game was over."
The last time Rosario won a stakes race at Saratoga was when he piloted Blind Luck to win the Alabama (gr. I) in 2010. That score was by a neck; this one came with a little more security as the gelding drew away to a 1 3/4-length victory in a final time of 1:22.53, returning $14.20, $7.40, and $7.40. Golddigger's Boy brought $9.40 and $5.40 and Crossbow paid $6.10. Jackson Bend, Caixa Eletronica and Scotus completed the order of finish. Zero Rate Policy scratched.
"We couldn't get the trip," Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said of Jackson Bend's fourth-place finish. "Rosie was trying to get inside, but couldn't get there. That's what he wants to do - run inside. It's frustrating because he was running in the end."
"It was a very wide trip. We were just caught wide the whole way. The pace, needless to say, was not ideal, but he came home good himself in the end."
Bred in Kentucky by Swordlestown Stud out of the Unbridled mare Miss Salsa, Pacific Ocean improved his career record to five wins and a second from eight starts, with earnings of $217,199. Dutrow said the Sept. 1 Forego Stakes (gr. I) was the natural target for Pacific Ocean.
" I have to see how he comes out of this race," he said. "He's not the easiest horse in the world to handle. I have to see how things are and go from there, but (the Forego) is a big race and he likes this track."