Saratoga Diary: Hats Off to the Spa

It was "Hat's Off to Saratoga" Saturday, and several runners gave fans a reason for tipping their brims to a few trainers. On the one day of Saratoga when women actually wear hats to the racetrack, you would think that the opening Saturday should be called "Hat's On to Saratoga," but someone thought otherwise.

In any regard, despite a mid-afternoon downpour that disrupted the turf action on some of the scheduled events and made the main track sloppy, racing returned to the Spa at the level we've all come to expect.

Of course, everyone on Sunday morning is talking about the smashing performance of Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Bernardini. Trained by the Brooklyn-born Tom Albertrani for the Arabian interests of Darley Stables, this magnificent animal is the heir apparent to Barbaro, at least in terms of representing the sport as a star.

Bernardini won the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) by strolling home the last eighth of the mile. He was so clearly untested that his next start, the Travers (gr. I) on August 26, might be a walk-over. In a light-hearted, albeit prescient, moment, Bill Nader, NYRA's chief operating officer, said he's "setting the over/under on Travers starters at five."

On the beginning end of the program, D. Wayne Lukas unveiled a two-year-old that he believes to be "a good one," and despite the cliché, those who witnessed Pegasus Wind breeze to an easy 7-length maiden victory will believe him.

"Watch this one when he stretches out," Lukas said with predictable exuberance. "He does everything so easily that I was fooled into entering him in the Bashford Manor (gr. III) without tightening him up enough," the Hall of Fame trainer remarked.

Pegasus Wind made his debut in a stakes at Churchill Downs and, although finishing fifth to the highly-regarded Circular Quay in that race, was made the 2-1 second choice for his winning effort on Saturday. Could this be a colt to put Lukas back on the Kentucky Derby trail?

There was one more spectacular performance worth mentioning. In the six-horse Diana Handicap (gr. I), five fillies hit the wire simultaneously. But a stretch of film separated out Angara, trained by Bill Mott, from the others.

Hat's off to Mott, 53, for winning a race again on his birthday – you could buy out the stock in a haberdashery with the money made from betting this angle.

Vic Zast has been going to the races in Saratoga for 45 straight years. He is a horse owner, breeder and former racetrack executive, as well as a regular contributor to The Blood-Horse publications and others.

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