Saratoga 2018 has thus far been a stunning success. Since the Saratoga Race Track, built by original Jockey Club chairman William R. Travis, first opened on August 3, 1863, Saratoga has become the place for east coast equestrian fans to be in late summer. Today, August 3, 2018, the Saratoga races are 155 years old, and have grown to be a multi-week sporting event for fans looking to enjoy cooler New York summer temps and a day at the races. A classy, energetic atmosphere featuring vendors, dining, children’s activities and tours has made these races an incredible experience that draws thousands annually – each cheering their favorite(s) to the next big win.
One of the winners this past Wednesday, in the $65,000 allowance hurdle, was the eight-year-old gelding Boss Man, named in honor of his breeder and New York Yankee’s owner George “The Boss” Steinbrenner Jr. Boss Man was bred at Steinbrenner’s Kinsman Farm in Florida, and, although Steinbrenner sadly passed away that same year, 2010, you can bet he’d be pleased by Boss Man’s performance. The gelding’s win would come as no surprise with his maiden victory on April 28 of this year at the Queen’s Cup in Charlotte.
Owned by Bill and Carrington Price of Carrington Holdings, Boss Man is trained by Arch Kingsley, Jr., and ran the allowance hurdle under jockey Michael Mitchell. The gelding maintained the lead save for one furlong after the seventh fence, when Mitchell allowed him a bit of a rest in preparation for the final sprint. Boss Man outpaced Dark Gemini of Serendipity Stables and Peggy Steinman’s First Friday to win to win by two-and-quarter lengths.
Of course, Boss Man is one of several stars at Saratoga 2018. Top trainer Jack Fisher was there with New Member, who won his race on July 27 running under jockey William McCarthy. Jockey Michael Mitchell rode another racehorse, Show Court, to victory on July 30. Racehorse Gidu returned from across the pond and sixth place at Royal Ascot to compete in Saratoga’s National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. With back-to-back wins earlier this year at Tampa Bay and Belmont, Zayat Stables’ hoped he would be back to true form. This would not be as the 3-year-old led the pack toward the homestretch, but fell back in the end to claim 4th place.
Gidu wasn’t the only one making a return back to the track. Eclipse Award winning apprentice jockey Dale Beckner saddled up to race for the first time since 2012, returning to Saratoga for the first time since 2007. This comeback marks the end of a multi-year break for the former champion. This is Beckner’s second return to racing. After sustaining a severe injury in a fall at Presque Ilse Downs, Beckner underwent surgery reconstructing an eye socket and placing a titanium plat in his head. He was back in the saddle by April 2010, but in 2012 felt that he needed to take a longer respite to fully recover. Although he came in last in his first race since then, he was smiling from ear to ear. After having lost so much business after his injury, he was excited to be back in the saddle.
In another unexpected Saratoga 2018 win, Ian Wilkes’ Big Money Bill, would surprise nearly everyone. In the Birdstone at Saratoga, Big Money Bill started out slow running with the back of the pack, however, jockey Chris Landeros, who also happens to be Wilkes’ son-in-law, prodded the gelding to a 1:44:82 first mile – quickly catching up from seven lengths behind to only one length. In a dash worthy of a movie climax, Big Money Bill came up from behind, took the turn quickly, passed a little inside at the eighth post, and won the Birdstone by a length at 2:59:39, beating rival Hard Study. Neither jockey Chris Landeros nor Ian Wilkes, who had long wanted to see Big Money Bill run a track like this, couldn’t have been happier with the surprise outcome.
With only a few weeks remaining in Saratoga’s 2018 season and so many significant events having already occurred, it’s clear why east coast race fans love New York in the summertime. And it’s with certainty that those same fans will be paying close attention to which purebreds, new or established, will lead the pack down the finish line all the way to the winner’s circle hoping for the next unexpected surprise.
Sources: National Steeplechase