Riderless Gander crossed the finish line first in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup.

Riderless Gander crossed the finish line first in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup.

AP/Jim McKnight

Saratoga Race Report (Cont.)

Bothersome Breeders' Cup

As the result of a change in the meet's stakes schedule, the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap was run just before the Alabama, producing a rarity in American racing: back-to-back 1 1/4-mile graded stakes.

From the moment the gates opened, Gander played a role in the outcome. Though the gray New York-bred reached the wire first, he officially finished last in the field of 10. With a little bit of an assist from Gander, Evening Attire caught Abreeze in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths in 2:02.95.

Gander stumbled badly leaving the gate--unseating jockey Mike Smith, who was not injured--but promptly moved up among the group of horses running behind pacesetting Abreeze. Going up the backstretch with a five-length advantage, Abreeze's jockey, Richard Migliore, was surprised to see the riderless gray gelding range up on his outside.

"It cost us the race," Migliore said. "I got my horse nice and settled and relaxed on the lead, then I've got a horse carrying no weight coming alongside us. My horse isn't the kind of horse that just turns off. He wants to run."

Standing near the scale in the winner's circle enclosure, Migliore nodded toward the infield video board showing the early fractions for the $300,000 race--:23.98, :47.97, and 1:11.53.

"I just got him where he pricked his ears and we were going to dictate our own pace and that :47 4/5 might have been :48 and two or three," Migliore said. "The three-quarters would have been 1:12, but now he's up alongside of me and my horse wants to run with him. I can't make my horse understand he doesn't count; he doesn't have a rider."

Migliore shook his head and turned the palms of his hands up as he made his point.

"They say there are how many ways to lose and only one way to win?" he asked. "Well, there goes another way to lose because I'm convinced that the best horse got beat because we were nagged by a loose horse."

It was the fourth graded stakes win of his career for Evening Attire, a 4-year-old gelded son of Black Tie Affair trained by Patrick Kelly. Evening Attire finished second to Macho Uno in the Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) on June 1 and was fourth in the paceless Suburban Handicap (gr. II) won by E Dubai on July 6.

"He's been very competitive," Kelly said. "We took a little shot against Street Cry last year off the layoff and surprised him (in the Discovery Handicap, gr. III, on Oct. 31). The horse has done very well. He spent the winter in New York. We wanted to give him a little time after the Suburban. The Whitney (gr. I) came up a little quick and this was a nice race.

"The mile and a quarter is a big factor. There is a race a couple of months from now at a mile and a quarter in Chicago."

That race has a distinctive name: the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

Around the Spa
Michael Tabor's 2-year-old colt Zavata rolled to a 7 1/4-length victory in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) on Aug. 14. Zavata, winner of the Tremont (gr. III) at Belmont Park, sat behind the early speed under jockey Jerry Bailey and made his move to the lead on the turn. Bailey kept him out in the middle of the track to avoid some traffic at the top of the stretch and the Phone Trick colt easily separated himself from the rest. "Like all good horses, he handles everything. It's just that he was caught a bit wide, like usual," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "He's so much better than the other ones, that it makes it easy for everybody. For Jerry. For me. He's just a galloping machine. I don't think we meet too many like him in the trainers' lives."... WinStar Farm got a quick return on its investment when Awesome Humor won the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) on Aug. 12. The Distorted Humor filly was purchased by WinStar in a private sale following her victory in the July 6 Debutante Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs... John and Joan Phillips' Wonder Again captured the Lake Placid Handicap (gr. IIT) by 2 1/4 lengths on Aug.18. The Silver Hawk filly, trained by Jimmy Toner, won the nine-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies in 1:49.24.

(Chart, Equibase)