Haskin's Saratoga Journal (Aug. 19)

Haskin's Saratoga Journal (Aug. 19)
Photo: Associated Press
The Cliff's Edge, with trainer Nick Zito.
Luck of LaPenta
Robert LaPenta obviously enjoys pinhooking, and he has a great eye picking out yearlings for him in Nick Zito. But Zito's main strength over the years has been picking out future runners who, for the most part, will hit their peak in early May of their 3-year-old year.

Now, here's where LaPenta has lucked out in his 2002-2003 pinhooking endeavor. Zito picked out four particular yearlings at the 2002 Keeneland yearling sale for LaPenta, who promptly wheeled them back in the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Calder 2-year-old sale. None of them met their reserve, and LaPenta was "forced" to race them.

The result was LaPenta having to race The Cliff's Edge, winner of the grade I Blue Grass Stakes, grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and grade III Iroquois Stakes, who placed in three other graded stakes and is one of the favorites for the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes (gr. I); Pies Prospect, winner of the Floor Show Stakes at Delaware Park and third in the grade I Haskell Invitational and grade III Leonard Richards; Ghost Mountain, third in the grade III Laurel Futurity and Spectacular Bid Stakes; and El Prado Rob, third in the grade I Futurity Stakes and fourth in five other stakes, three of them graded, including the grade II Fountain of Youth and Saratoga Special .

From a monetary perspective, LaPenta paid $495,000 for all four colts, and they have earned to date $1,440,424, for close to a $1 million profit. Actually, not a bad job of pinhooking at that.

To win or not to win
We all know strange things seem to happen at Saratoga, and John Fort of Peachtree Stable can attest to that. On Aug. 9, Fort had his 2-year-old Arcturus entered in the third race, a 1 1/16-mile maiden event on turf, coupled with Dogwood Stable's Ed Bowen, like Arcturus trained by Todd Pletcher.

As Fort explained, "the other horse (Ed Bowen) threw his rider in the paddock and ran off through the crowd. They didn't catch him until he had gotten to the Union Ave. gate. He was heading back to his barn (across Union Ave.). Because they scratched that horse, they immediately announced that Arcturus was running for purse money only, due to the fact that a lot of people had already made their bets. So, Arcturus goes out there running for purse money only, and the crowd bets the (Bobby) Frankel horse, Kfar Daniel, down to odds-on. We were 5-1 at the time the incident happened, but we just went off the board altogether. We held the lead the whole way until the eighth pole, when the Frankel horse comes up and collars him, gets a neck in front, and we fight back all the way and beat him by a neck.

Of course, the Frankel horse, in the pari-mutuel system, was the winner (paying $3.70). We were out of that picture completely, but not with the horsemen's bookkeeper. Nobody understood it. People kept coming up to me all day, saying, 'Explain this to me. I know you won the race, but did you really win the race?' I said, 'Yes, we really won the race.' Even though it wasn't our number on the tote board. Jerry Bailey kidded us about it afterward, saying, 'Why are you in the winner's circle, your number's not up there?' The bottom line is that we got the picture, we got the purse, and Frankel's horse, who paid off to win, is still a maiden."

Spa shorts
-- Peachtree Stable will attempt to win a race and collect a payoff when they send out Flamenco, winner of the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine and second in the Sanford (gr. II), in the Aug. 21 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I).

-- To show how far the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr. II) has come, this year's running, on Aug. 22, is expected to draw the winners of the grade I Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

-- Bobby Frankel is gearing up for a big fall with his sprinters. He has the freshened Toccet primed for the seven-furlong Forego Handicap (gr. I) Sep. 4, and has last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Cajun Beat ready for either the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint Aug. 28 or an allowance race at Saratoga. Frankel recently took over the training of Cajun Beat from Steve Margolis. He also has the speedy Ice Wynnd Fire nominated for the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 28. If Ghostzapper shows he's not as effective around two turns in the Philip Iselin Handicap (gr. III), then Frankel likely will return him back to sprints.

-- Frankel is waiting to see the weights for the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) before making a decision whether to run Sightseek. Frankel was not happy about the weight shift between Sightseek and Azeri in the Go For Wand (gr. I) and is looking to get weight from the former Horse of the Year and Breeders'Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner. If Sightseek doesn't run, she will return to her favorite track, Belmont, and close out her career in the grade I Ruffian Handicap and Beldame Stakes. She won the latter last year by 4 1/2 lengths over 3-year-old filly champ Bird Town.

-- Speaking of Azeri, the daughter of Jade Hunter lit up the Oklahoma training track Thursday morning, working six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 and galloping out seven panels in 1:26 3/5.

-- Dr. Charles Kidder is hoping to cap off a big racing-sales double at Saratoga in Saturday's Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Kidder and partners sold the highest-priced yearling at the recent Fasig-Tipton yearling sale for $1.85 million. In the Alabama, Kidder, his wife, Nancy Cole, Spendthrift Farm, and Nick Strong will attempt to win the Alabama with Stellar Jayne.

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