Saratoga Racing Report: Easy Come, Easy Go

Published in the Sept. 1 issue of The Blood-Horse
In one of those too-weird-to-be-true scenarios that played out on Travers weekend at Saratoga, trainer John Kimmel demonstrated how it is possible to win and lose at the same time. And in less than 24 hours, he did it again.

After posing for pictures and accepting the trophy following Pompeii's victory in the $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) on Aug. 24, Kimmel explained that the mare had been sold by Robert Clay to WinStar Farm and would be moved to trainer Elliott Walden's barn. Oddly enough, Pompeii's Personal Ensign win came on the anniversary of the day in 79 A.D. that the Italian city of Pompeii was buried under ash and lava in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Kimmel gave the same speech the next afternoon when Dr. Kashnikow rallied from off the pace to win the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Travers Day program. Dr. Kashnikow, purchased two weeks before the race by Eugene Dixon's Erdenheim Farm from Al Ferri's Triple F Stable, was headed to trainer Dr. John Fisher.

Kimmel had won a pair of Saratoga's graded stakes, yet it seemed like he was in claiming company the way horses were leaving his barn.

"I've got tough feelings, really," Kimmel said after the Personal Ensign. "There is a lot of emotion involved. You put a lot of time and effort into horses and to see them and watch them develop since you've had them at 2. She (Pompeii) was life and death as a 3-year-old just to win a maiden (race). Here we are a year-and-a-half later and she's winning a grade I."

Since completing her allowance conditions during the last week of December at Aqueduct, Pompeii has emerged as a capable stakes player. She won the Rare Treat (gr. III) and the Doylestown Handicaps and was second in the Next Move (gr. III) and the Go for Wand (gr. I) Handicaps.

"It just shows you horses can change and mature and develop," Kimmel said. "She's just a prime example. Don't assess your horse too soon when they're young. They can change and they can get better. She's been a model of a horse that does that. It's hard to see her leave, but business is business in this game. I hope she continues her success for the new owners. We'll be rooting for her."

Bidding for her third straight Personal Ensign, Beautiful Pleasure carried the field of seven through early fractions of :24.88, :49.09, and 1:13.41. They were much more controlled and tactical split times under jockey Jorge Chavez than the agitated 6-year-old mare turned in while opening up a 12-length early lead in the Go for Wand.

Richard Migliore kept Pompeii in a stalking position behind Beautiful Pleasure, waiting for an opportunity to pounce in the 10-furlong Personal Ensign. Beautiful Pleasure had a comfortable lead and looked like a winner under Chavez on the turn, but she came very wide entering the stretch and quickly gave up her advantage. Migliore and Pompeii moved to the front up the rail and managed to withstand another surge by Beautiful Pleasure to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:04.60.

"I kind of assumed the way she ran off last time that they were going to try harder to restrain her this time," Migliore said. "When I saw she wasn't getting out as much the first turn, I felt pretty strong that she wasn't flying. It seems like when she runs fast, that's when she bears out. My filly was just in a good, comfortable rhythm. I was just never going to commit to her outside because I knew once Jorge let her run, she was going to drift and I didn't want to get hung up outside of that.

"I had enough room to get inside of her, but I knew it was going to blow wide open when he had to let her run. I had a handful of horse most of the way."

Trainer John Ward was satisfied with Beautiful Pleasure's progress in the third start after a lengthy layoff. "Everything went all right. She's just getting a little better," he said. "She wasn't quite good enough that trip."

Beautiful Pleasure was very nervous in the paddock prior to the Go for Wand, but was relaxed before the Personal Ensign.

"She's gotten her mind back into the game," Ward said. "She gave up a pretty good amount going wide on that turn coming for the stretch. The other thing was she picked it back up and went to running back down the lane. I think everybody is getting their synch back together, horse and rider."

Kimmel purchased Dr. Kashnikow as a yearling for $220,000, then discovered the son of El Gran Senor out of the Mythical Ruler mare One More Breeze was a challenge to train.

"He was such a bad tying-up horse, a horse that gets muscle cramps," Kimmel said. "He was so bad that I couldn't even gallop him without having him tie-up. The only way we got any success with his training was changing the program, changing his diet. We cut him and there are a lot of other things that went into it, and a lot of hard work. We shipped him up here last year, he made a nice debut, and he's kind of been a real consistent horse since then. This is by far his strongest performance. The people who own him now should be very excited about his future."

Jockey John Velazquez' patience paid off when he found a seam in the horses in front of him at the quarter pole and Dr. Kashnikow moved through the opening to challenge for the lead. Tubrok, a 27-1 longshot, followed up the hedge and finished second, three-quarters of a length back. Dr. Kashnikow covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.30. He leaves Kimmel's barn with a record of five wins, a second, and one third in eight starts.

"Nobody likes to lose quality horses," Kimmel said. "You win two beautiful races at Saratoga, you put a lot of work and effort into it, and the next thing you know somebody else is managing a horse that you've basically had since it was a yearling. They're not easy to replace. People have always said, 'If you're not turning them over, you're probably not doing the best for your outfit.'

"You make a commission when they come and a commission when they go. It subsidizes your income a little, but emotionally it's really tough."