Saratoga Diary: Playing Hooky with the Horses

Some mighty good horses gave race-goers who played hooky from work on Friday a taste of what's upcoming on Travers Day. On yet another perfect late summer afternoon – temps in the high 70s and no humidity – Saratoga Racecourse lived up to its old slogan, "the August place to be."

Paul Saylor brought his 17-year-old daughter Olivia to the track, and together they watched as his Fleet Indian romped to an easy front-running victory in the $400,000 Personal Ensign (gr. I). Saylor was anxious in the walking ring prior to the race, but this once, Olivia – a precocious teenager - was a calming influence as she clung to his side.

Saylor has owned good horses before, but mostly in partnership. In January, Saylor bought Fleet Indian as a broodmare prospect, but then made the fortuitous decision of turning her over to Todd Pletcher to see if he could eke out a few more wins for her resume before retiring her.

Beginning with the Next Move Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in March, Fleet Indian has rattled off five straight victories in a row for Pletcher, including the $1 million Delaware Handicap (gr. II). This latest victory, in the Personal Ensign at a mile and a quarter, makes the New York-bred mare even more valuable in the breeding barn and establishes her as the pre-race Breeders' Cup Fillies and Mare (gr. I) favorite.

It was a dumbfounding race, as both Javier Castellano aboard Balletto and Garrett Gomez on Yolanda B. Too allowed Jose Santos on Fleet Indian to dawdle through the early furlongs unchallenged. The slow early fractions, undoubtedly, were what permitted the dosage-challenged daughter of Indian Charlie to look like a stamina influence.

And speaking of stamina, nobody is certain of how far Discreet Cat – a son of Forestry – can run, yet everyone who saw him win the third race was asking why he wasn't entered in the Travers.

A year ago, when Discreet Cat made his debut at Saratoga, racing fans here thought that he would go on to be a champion. Since then, the horse's career has been a series of frustrations.

First, Discreet Cat was expected to run in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), then in the Dwyer Stakes (gr.II), then in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), and, finally, the Travers (gr. I). Instead, he popped up in a 7-furlong optional claiming race that was worth virtually nothing – well, okay, $54,000 isn't nothing.

Nevertheless, with a passel of Western-dressed sheikhs from Dubai on hand, Discreet Cat put on an exhibition reminiscent of last summer. Breaking from the far outside post, the light bay colt loped just off the pace until the quarter pole, then circled his competition with a move that was silky.

Afterwards, Rick Mattee – who oversees the training of Godolphin horses in New York for trainer Saeed bin Suroor – said, "I doubt you'll see him in the Breeders' Cup this year." How disappointing.