Witnessed by a record opening-day crowd of 31,254, Skeedattle Stable's Touch Love made a late run to draw off from five rivals in winning the Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga on Wednesday.
Sent off at 7-2 under Jorge Chavez, Touch Love won by five lengths over a rallying Lakeside Cup. Lost Expectations finished third.
As expected, the pace was fast and furious in the six-furlong stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Dreabon Copelan's Lakeside Cup and Happy Hill Farm's Self Rising broke best of the six fillies in the field, but it was the favored Baby Nance who advanced to take the early advantage. The daughter of Hennessy set sizzling fractions of :21.63 and :45.19 while being pressed by Self Rising. It was several lengths back to Touch Love and the rest of the field.
Turning for home, Self Rising dropped out of it, and Baby Nance's lead was quickly being cut into by Touch Love and Savannah Bayou. Advancing quickly while inside, Chavez steered Touch Love between a narrow opening between the rail and the tiring Baby Nance to get the lead. The five-furlong split was :58.34
Chavez and Touch Love drew off through the stretch for the lengthy victory as Lakeside Cup and Lost Expectations rallied for second and third, respectively.
Final time for the race was 1:11.12. The winner paid $9.80. The exacta returned $29.60 and the trifecta paid $163.50. V V S Flawless and I Will Survive were scratched.
Touch Love, a $17,000 yearling purchase at last year's Fasig-Tipton Mid-Lantic yearling sale in October, was winning her second straight stakes for trainer Anthony Dutrow. On July 1, the daughter of Not For Love won the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park.
Bred by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes in Maryland, Touch Love is out of the Smarten mare Smartenof.
"She continues to surprise me," said Dutrow of his first Spa victory. "I've been worried about her ability. She's always had a lot of heart and tries real hard. She's handled everything that she's faced, including the 1-hole today. I had some concerns about how fast she could run, but she's running fast enough. She broke real well today, and Jorge (Chavez) found himself right there with the leaders. He was smart enough to sit behind and let the leaders set a quick pace. Good horses need to be able to overcome so much. I don't know how good this filly is yet, but she's overcome everything. That leads you to believe she may be a decent kind of filly. It's very difficult to win a stakes race at Saratoga. I'm standing here as proof today that everyone has a chance. Mine only cost $17,000."
Dutrow, whose brother Richard Dutrow Jr. was the leading trainer of Belmont Park's spring/summer meet with 20 wins, plans to keep Touch Love at Saratoga.
"I was thinking about taking her back to Laurel after this, but now I think I might leave her here with my brother (Richard) and take a look at the Adirondack (Grade 2, $150,000 at six and a half furlongs on Monday, August 13th)," he said.
Runner-up Lakeside Cup was racing without Lasix for the first time in her five-race career. "She ran a good race," said her jockey, Pat Day said. "Her only drawback is that she is really tiny. She has a big heart and tries hard, but there's not a lot to her."
Post-time favorite Baby Nance beat only one horse, New York-bred Self Rising, after dueling with that one through a pace of :21 3/5; :45 and :58 1/5. Baby Nance's trainer, Bob Barbara, declined comment after the race.
The record opening-day crowd also set new standards for on-track ($3,567,244) and total ($14,518,176) handle.