Violette, Free of Love Almost Spring Upset

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

Tell me one thing, you were rooting for him. You had to be. Even if you had never heard of Free of Love or Rick Violette before Saturday's Jim Dandy, you climbed on him about the head of the stretch didn't you?

The way Congaree and Gary Stevens blew past Free of Love down the backside. The way Free of Love charged back at him like a little brother in a brawl. The way he cost $9,000 in 1998. The way his odds closed at nearly 30-1 on the board. The way his head got lower and lower down the lane. The way his legs went to lead while his heart went to reserve. The way the story would read if Violette won the Jim Dandy rather than D. Wayne Lukas. Face it, Hollywood has made a living with stories about the little guy upsetting the big guy.

From Rocky to Rudy, they're just plain better reads. Nothing against Lukas, but Scorpion winning the Jim Dandy probably wouldn't make his top 100 list. Violette's list still has plenty of lines to get to 100. That's not lost on the backside.

Violette went to the six furlong gap just like any other day -- coffee cup in his hand, mobile phone clipped to his belt, binoculars slung from his left shoulder. It was only the banter that was different. This is how the interviews go the morning after a race like that:

"Congratulations Rick."
"Thank you Neil, boy, it was fun."

"I kind of expected to see Scorpion in front but they were content to let us go. I really think Gary thought 30-1, I'll just put him away. Unfortunately for both of us the race started at the five-eighths pole," Violette said. "It was kind of a paradox, you can't be disappointed after a horse runs that hard. But you‚re still disappointed, you're a half length away from winning a grade one at Saratoga. It was fun but it could have been just a little bit more fun."

"Great job, Rick."
"Thank you Kieran, it was fun."

"Late last year and early this year, he showed me a lot. He ran some teaser races, Then some disappointing races but we always liked the horse," Violette said. "We went over there to win. If we were going to run it again tomorrow, Congaree doesn't commit that early because it's going to cost him too. If we're allowed to just gallop along a little bit longer we have just enough to hold off everybody."

"Rick, I didn't even know that was you. Whew, congratulations."
"Thank you Chuck, he ran big."

"Just something at any part . . . it doesn't take much to turn the table there," Violette said. "But he didn't win, he finished second, he ran huge and we're pretty happy with him.

"Hey Violette nice going."
"Thank you Angel. Good race."

"That was one of the nicest things, there was so many people rooting for us. It was fun. That's what probably got us, there was so much weight on our back," Violette said. "It was tough but we'd do it again. If someone told us before the race we'd be second we would have signed up like that. He got away with an easy quarter, I wouldn't change anything other than the move Gary made."

"Way to go Rick."
"Thank you Mark. It was fun."

"We went to dinner at Siro's last night. We were up but . . . "

"Oh, you damn near got it."
"Thank you, it was fun. "

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at or telephone at 518-581-1947.