The most expensive New York-bred yearling purchase in history at $1.25 million made her debut in the first race Friday. The 3-year-old Silver Deputy filly owned by Debby Oxley was made an overwhelming 4-5 favorite.
Just as the doors swung opened, My Girl Natalie, standing one stall away, stumbled out of the starting gate and into the path of Perfectly Stunning. Jockey Jerry Bailey was able to steer clear, but got buried down on the inside and never found room to run, finishing seventh of 12, beaten 22 1/4 lengths.
"Jerry said the horse that went to his knees went right in front of us, so he didn't have much shot. That's why they write maiden races every week," trainer John Ward said. "It's good to have her going. It's been a long time. I think there's more in the package than we saw today. She was unfortunate on the break. She'll come back and be all right."
Allowed time to grow at 2, Perfectly Stunning was set to make her debut in June but suffered a foot injury and missed more than a month of training. She had been working steadily at Saratoga for her debut.
"She was kind of immature," Ward said. "Silver Deputys are sort of slow developing, and then she tore the side off her foot in a training accident right before she was ready to go this spring. She's just been one of those hard-luck horses. That's horse racing. That's first-time starters. It happens."
Frankel Registers Complaint
Trainer Bobby Frankel has a complaint about the King's Bishop, and every other Grade I run under allowance conditions. It's the issue of carrying weight.
"In Grade I's you shouldn't be giving away nine pounds to other horses," Frankel said. "When it shows up in the stud book, it doesn't tell you that you got beat a nose giving a horse nine pounds."
In the King's Bishop, Frankel's Labamta Babe returns from a seven-month layoff as the co-highweight with Gygistar at 124 pounds. They will concede, yes, nine pounds to five others in the field.
Frankel said he discussed the issue with Mike Lakow the racing secretary for the New York Racing Association this week.
According to Frankel, Lakow is considering a five-pound limit on weight allowances in Grade I races, beginning next year.
"You shouldn't get a horse beat in a Grade I giving him too much weight," Frankel said. "I've been saying for years: Grade I, equal weights. It's the championship races, right? Equal weights."
Frankel scoffed at the suggestion that races wouldn't fill if weight allowances were reduced or eliminated.
"If you put up the money they'll run," he said. "You won't lose that many horses because people want to win that Grade I race, either for a broodmare or a stallion. It has value. Why get beat by a horse you're giving nine pounds to by a head? You know what I mean? It's not fair.
"All Grade I's should be equal weights."
Most trainers would not start a horse in a Grade I race off an extended layoff, like Bobby Frankel is doing with Labamta Babe in the King's Bishop Saturday.
"I've done that before," he said. "I always go back to a horse I had called Lucky Lionel. I had him ready to run off a layoff and I had him in a stake, a Grade I, and I scratched him to run him in an allowance race.
"Well, I ran him in the allowance race and he breaks the track record. He runs 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13 1/5. He'd have galloped in the stake.
"You know what? That was the end of him. He just ran so fast that was the end of him. He had the one good race in him."
Frankel said he didn't forget the Lucky Lionel lesson.
"Now I had a horse called Mazel Trick. He hadn't been out in 10 months," Frankel said. "I'm nominated to the Triple Bend (gr. III) and I'm thinking, `Should I go in an allowance race?' I said, `The hell with it, I'm not going to do the same thing.'
"Because he wasn't the soundest horse in the world, I said I'll run him in the Triple Bend. Off a 10-month layoff he breaks the track record, runs 1:19 4/5. And he never came off the bridle. I don't think the jockey every hit him.
"From that one experience, I learned to say, `The heck with it, if they're good.' That's why I'm running LaBamta. Why waste a good race on an allowance race?"
Raging Fever in Breeders' Cup Sprint?
It's far from definite, but trainer Mark Hennig said he wouldn't rule out running star filly Raging Fever against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
First or second in all six of her races this year, Raging Fever makes her first start in two months as theprobable favorite in Sunday's seven-furlong Ballerina (gr.I).
"This is a great race," Hennig said. "We'd like to try to perform well and then possibly come back in the Ruffian (gr.I) again at a mile and a sixteenth. She's got a pretty good record at a mile and a sixteenth for a horse that doesn't get much credit for being able to run long."
Raging Fever won the Ogden Phipps (gr.I) last time out at that distance, but is also a graded stakes winner at six furlongs, seven furlongs and a mile.
Hennig hasn't looked beyond the Sept. 14 Ruffian in plotting out Raging Fever's fall campaign.
"At that point, we would be facing the decision as to what direction to go with her from there," he said. "I wouldn't hesitate to back her up to six furlongs and run her in the Sprint, under the right conditions.
"I think she could run with Xtra Heat, and if Xtra Heat could run with those boys, I wouldn't be afraid to try Raging Fever."
Travers Longshot Has Confident Owner
Martin Schwartz, the principal owner of Travers starter Saint Marden, couldn't be more confident in his colt's chances.
Making just his fifth career start, and first in stakes company, Saint Marden is a member of a group of horses at 20-1 on the morning line.
"I'm a gambler," Schwartz said. "I'm a numbers man. I've made all my money with numbers. I've run all the numbers on Bris.net and the Form. "And my numbers tell me I'm the second-best horse here."
Schwartz, a thoroughbred owner for 2 1/2 years, makes his living as trader in the stock market.
"This was our goal all along, so when you get a chance to get to your goal you take the shot," Schwartz said. "I've been a gambler my whole life. I'm a trader and mathematics are the sorts of things that I specialize in. I try to analyze everything."
Three-time U.S. Olympic equestrian team member Michael Matz, a silver medalist in 1996, handles Saint Marden for Schwartz and his partner, Dennis Drazin. Matz has been training race horses for five years.
Saint Marden had a quarter crack earlier in the season, which interrupted his racing schedule. He broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Delaware Park on June 9. Under jockey Jerry Bailey, he beat older allowance horses in a nine-furlong race during the first week of the Saratoga meeting.
"After his race on July 28th it was still a far-fetched step to go in the Travers,"Matz said. "But (Bailey) said this is a real nice horse. That's all he said to me, but his agent called me up and said, `If you don't go in the Travers and you go somewhere else, I want to stay on him.' That made me feel a little bit better."
With Schwartz so enthusiastic about the Travers, Matz decided to point the colt to the race.
"Watching the Jim Dandy, that looked like a terrific horse,Medaglia d'Oro," he said. "I know all the other horses have a lot more experience, but I don't think you should ever just be afraid of one horse. Because things can happen."