Lethal Combination rallied from last in upper stretch to register his first graded stakes win by a half-length over Turf Melody in the $100,000 Saranac (gr. IIIT) on Sarataga's Mellon Turf Course Sept. 5 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Alan Garcia, Lethal Combination benefited from the hot tempo established by Devon Rock, who led into the stretch and managed to cook the 9-5 favorite Fantastico Roberto, who came under a strong ride from John Velazquez on the final turn.
That set it up for the closers, with Lethal Combination on the far outside edging Turf Melody, the longest shot in the field at 11-1. It was three lengths back to Fantastico Roberto in third in the field of six. The final time for the 1 3/16-mile test of 3-year-olds was 1:53.18 over firm going.
Devon Rock, who took the lead from Fantastico Roberto just before reaching the finish line for the first time, proceeded to carve fractions of :23.22, :46.49 and 1:10.79, opening a three-length lead heading into the final turn. Devon Rock battled into the stretch but the quick splits took their toll. Fantastico Roberto, between horses, challenged for the lead along with Mystic and Citrus Kid along the inside.
Turf Melody, moving in tandem with the winner, swept past on the outside to lead a closely bunched group at mid-stretch. He could not hold off Lethal Combination, who prevailed under a strong hand ride in the final furlong from Garcia.
"With them going 46 and change the first part of the race, it was very quick," Garcia said. "My horse was calm and relaxed, but when it was time to make a move he started to pick it up and pick it up. He came home fast.”
Kiaran McLauglin trains Lethal Combination, a son of Broken Vow --Yard, by Boundary, for Namcook Stables. The dark bay or brown gelding was a $110,000 Keeneland September yearling sale in 2008. The Saranac distance was the farthest he has run.
McLaughlin noted the way the hard Saratoga turf has been playing.
“It’s been speed, speed, speed, but luckily a couple of them thought the same thing and went fast and set it up for us. We wanted to be a little closer to the pace, but the horse didn’t cooperate, so Alan rode a great race. He sat back and made a nice run, so it worked out.
"We thought he could handle the distance if he got the pace. He’s a nice little horse, does everything right."
McLaughlin said he's considering the Jamaica Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 9 at Belmont Park next for Lethal Combination.
"It’s good timing. We might do that,” he said.
Lethal Combination, who began his career in the William Haggas stable in Great Britain, closed smartly in the one-mile Quick Call Stakes in his last start July 29, finishing fourth while beaten by one length. He ran third in Belmont Park's one-mile Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III) prior to that. Lethal Combination's last win came in a second-level allowance on the Keeneland turf April 14.
A two-time winner in five starts in England, Lethal Combination owns a 4-0-2 career mark in 11 starts with earnings of $131,575. The Saranac win was worth $60,000.
Indian Creek bred the winner in Kentucky.
Sent off as the third choice in the compact field, Lethal Combination carried 117 pounds and paid $8.60, $4.60 and $2.90 and topped a $68 exacta. Turf Melody, who finished just a neck behind Lethal Combination in the Quick Call for trainer Graham Motion, returned $8.50 and $3.40. Fantastico Roberto, who raced without blinkers for trainer Todd Pletcher after finishing seventh in the Jersey Derby last time out, was $2.70 to show.
Mystic missed the show spot by a head. Citrus Kid, who hit the hedge in the stretch and dropped back, and Devon Rock trailed.