Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap (Grade 1)

SARATOGA last Saturday was a story of small margins.

Seven ran in the six-furlong Grade 1 Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap with Elite Power a hot favourite and only four took on Forte, again the market choice, in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy but both races went down to the final strides before the favourites got their heads in front over a ‘sloppy’ track.

Juddmonte’s Elite Power was going for eight wins in a row and his main rival was the Steve Asmussen-trained Gunite, a tough and consistent four-year-old still seeking his first Grade 1 win.

Into the straight, that son of Gun Runner took it up from early leader Dean Delivers and was heading for home with a three-length advantage on the favourite who looked in trouble.

Finding his stride as they came to the furlong marker, the Bill Mott-trained son of Curlin, as the commentator cried, was “motoring like a big chesnut tank on the outside!”

Elite Power came with a sweeping run to get up on the line by a head with over six lengths back to Dean Delivers in third. Elite Power was timed in 1m 09.22secs for the six furlongs

Bill Mott, celebrating his 70th birthday, said to press afterwards: “I am very proud of this horse. When they turned for home, Gunite had the jump on us. It’s hard to catch a horse on this kind of racetrack when they open up on you turning for home. Speed always carries over this kind of racetrack. Our horse deserves a lot of credit trying to make a big run from off the pace on this kind of surface.”

Irad Ortiz added: “He knows where the wire is. He does everything right.”

A return here for the Grade 1 Forego Stakes is next on the winner’s agenda.

Top billing

The Jim Dandy was a Grade 2 but shared top billing with two of the top three-year-olds in the five-horse line-up.

The finish bettered the Vanderbilt as Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte managed to overcome being held in to slowly reel in front-running Saudi Crown to win by a nose in the nine-furlong test and remind everyone that the leader of the three-year-old generation is still up for grabs and the Travers is likely to be the decider at the end of the month.

With blinkers added, Forte seemed to travel kindly over the sloppy surface as Brad Cox’s Saudi Crown led on the rail off moderate early fractions of 48.10secs and 1.12.30secs for six furlongs.

Into the straight, as Irad Ortiz went to pull Forte out from behind Saudi Crown, Flavien Prat on Angel Of Empire did his best to keep him penned in. Ortiz is used to such battles and Forte made racing room and slowly set about reeling in the leader, just getting to him in the very last stride.


With the contact early in the straight and Saudi Crown and Forte drifting into each other in the final 100 yards, the race needed a stewards’ inquiry before becoming official. Forte is now a winner of seven of nine starts with earnings of $2.9 million though he lost his Hopeful Stakes win under a drug test cloud

Owner Mike Repole said afterwards: “It’s been four months, four tough months. This horse needed a win like this and it feels good. He’s the best three-year-old in the country and today he proved it by gutting it out. He’s gutsy. He fights and he fights.”

Todd Pletcher added: “This was an important race for Forte to get back on track and return to the winner’s circle. That was a quality horse on the lead and a quality horse that was third.”

Repole is relishing the Travers. “He had 10 weeks off before the Belmont and seven weeks here. I think he will be sharper for the Travers.” Classic winners Arcangelo and Mage await there.

The Saturday crowd at a rather damp meeting was 34,771.

The Chosen Vron steps up

Del Mar

Bing Crosby Stakes (Grade 1)

THE narrow margins transferred to Del Mar where its feature, the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs was won by The Chosen Vron, by a head and a head from Anarchist and the favourite Dr Shivel.

A new name on the Grade 1 roll of honour, the winner came on a seven-race winning streak but just in California state-bred stakes races.

Trained by Eric Kruljac, who is a co-owner and the horse’s co-breeder, The Chosen Vron went off as the 4/1 third choice in the talented Crosby field with Dr Schivel the 9/5 favourite.

Dr Shivel had to race seven-wide on the turn and he and Anarchist battled down the straight, only to find The Chosen Vron ranging up to join them on their inside. The three raced to the wire, with The Chosen Vron poking his head in front. The winner is by California-based sire Vronsky.

“This horse is special,” said jockey Hector Berrios. “He just runs and I love to ride him. He’s very game and he makes it fun.”

There was a surprise in Saturday’s other Grade 2, the San Diego Handicap, when Senor Buscador, a son of Mineshaft trained by Todd W. Fincher and ridden by Geovanni Franco, was the length and a quarter winner over the mile and half a furlong. Bob Baffert’s favourite Defunded could only manage fourth.

Gold Phoenix

Phil D’Amato ran four in the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on Sunday and at the finish it was the D’Amato barn in the first four spots, the rest nowhere, as Irish-bred Gold Phoenix won, followed by Balnikhov, Masteroffoxhounds and Count Again.

It was also a one-two finish for horses owned by Little Red Feather Racing, a partner in both Gold Phoenix and Balnikhov.

Watch for the Thunder

A NEW star might have been revealed at Saratoga on the Friday when New York Thunder, a son of the Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, won the seven-furlong Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes.

Winner of his only three career starts, but trying dirt and graded company for the first time, New York Thunder set sizzling fractions on the front and maintained it to win by seven and a half lengths while eased up.


His 1m07.77secs six-furlongs was faster than the 1m07.92secs track record set in 2019 by Imperial Hint in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and after a blazing first quarter in 21.48secs and the mile in 43.56secs.

No Romance for Godolphin

Saratoga Sunday

GODOLPHIN were out of luck in the Sunday Saratoga feature when the odds-on favourite Rebel’s Romance had the misfortune to clip heals as he was beginning his run, stumble and send Richard Mullen crashing to the ground before the home turn.

The horse was okay but the rider taken to hospital and had suffered a broken collarbone, injured ribs and three fractured vertebrae in his fall.

With non-runners due to the soften turf, it had looked a good opportunity for the Breeders’ Cup winner but the one taking advantage of all the drama was the 2020 Eclipse Award-winning champion turf male, Channel Maker.

The nine-year-old English Channel gelding, head held hight as usual, posted a front-running two-length victory for trainer Bill Mott in the 11-furlong contest on his 54th career run and making it the seventh year in which the gelding has won a stakes race.

“I liked the situation we were in when he made the lead and was galloping in front. That was great,” Mott said. “We haven’t been able to do that in a while. We got a good pace scenario and the old man came through.”

Mott added: “He’s the happiest horse going to the track. He doesn’t hesitate. He has his ears up. He comes back happy and he’s dappled from one end to the other. He loves to train. He’s been with us since he was a two-year-old.”