John's Call, Jean-Luc Samyn up, wins the Gr. I Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

John's Call, Jean-Luc Samyn up, wins the Gr. I Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

Barbara D. Livingston

John's Call Romps in Sword Dancer

Trillium Stable's John's Call drew off through the stretch to an impressive 9 1/4-length victory in the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) Saturday at Saratoga. Over soft turf, the 9-year-old gelding ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:32.17, completing the final quarter :23.98. Five scratches, including 1999 Sword Dancer winner Honor Glide, depleted the field to eight runners.
Aly's Alley struck to the early lead, running the half in :51.22 and six furlongs in 1:16.39, with Elhayq and Boatman tracking just behind. As they ran down the backstretch for the second time, John's Call began to move up along the rail under jockey Jean-Luc Samyn. John's Call continued to make progress as they raced around the third turn, with Aly's Alley still in command on the front. After they straightened for home, Samyn guided John's Call off the rail and the gelding responded, kicking clear of Aly's Alley and leaving the field far behind.

"I knew the rail was the place to be, and I wouldn't have moved off it for anything," said Samyn. "Once daylight had opened up, he just took off and exploded. It was a superb race for a 9-year-old like him to run. The thing I loved about it was that he was happy to do it. He knew he had won and he was happy galloping back."

Aly's Alley came home second, with a gap of 5 1/2 lengths back to third-place Single Empire. Williams News was fourth, followed by Elhayq, Deploy Venture, Drama Critic, and post-time favorite Boatman. In addition to Honor Glide, Val's Prince, Buff, Down the Aisle, and Nite Dreamer were also scratched.

John's Call (Lord At War--Calling Guest, by Be My Guest) is trained by Thomas Voss and was bred in Kentucky by Wimborne Farm. The 9-year-old earned $300,000 for the win, his 14th in 32 career starts. In his only other start of the year, he won the $61,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park in July. His last graded stakes win came over yielding turf in the Laurel Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) last November. The Sword Dancer marks his fourth career win at Saratoga.

As 13 horses were entered, John's Call was coupled in a mutuel field with Aly's Alley. John's Call paid $16.80, $15.20, and $7.20. Aly's Alley returned $15.20 and $7.20. Single Empire paid $3.90 to show. The exacta, completed by Single Empire, paid $83. (Chart, Equibase)