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Alpha battles Flat Out to win the 2013 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Photo courtesy of NYRA & Associates. 

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

The 150th anniversary of racing at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., lived up to expectations with heart-pounding races and sterling individual accomplishments. Here is one observer’s list of the 10 most memorable moments associated with the meet this summer at Saratoga Race Course:

Beloved Calvin: No spectator stirred as Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby an unprecedented three times in a four-year span (2007-10), gave an emotional acceptance speech upon his induction into the Hall of Fame. “I just wish my Mom and Dad were here to see what I accomplished with my life,” Borel said, fighting back tears. “I know they are looking down on me.” While Borel finished with only an eighth-grade education, he possessed other qualities that allowed him to compensate. “I would work very hard,” he said, “but it paid off big-time.”

CALVIN BOREL INDUCTED INTO RACING HALL OF FAME

Calvin Borel

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Johnny V: John Velazquez emerged as Saratoga’s all-time leading rider, surpassing Jerry Bailey’s mark of 693 wins. It was only appropriate that he set the record aboard Unitarian, a horse trained by Todd Pletcher. “I definitely want to say thank you to Todd. I’ve been riding for him since 1998 and we’re still going,” Velazquez said during winner’s circle ceremonies. “I want to thank my family, without whose support I wouldn’t be able to do this. And I have to thank the fans. The fans have been great to me.”

JOHN VALAZQUEZ ACCEPTS AWARD FOR SARATOGA'S LEADING JOCKEY

John V. Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Dominant trainer: Todd Pletcher ruled the 2-year-old races and the major stakes in taking the H. Allen Jerkens training title for a record 10th time and the fourth consecutive season. Bill Mott also had nine titles to his credit, earning the most recent of those in 2007. Pletcher, who rarely shows excitement, was able to step back and appreciate the accomplishment. “I couldn’t have dreamed of having a better meet,” he said.

Bittersweet moment: Ramon Dominguez, who suffered career-ending injuries during an accident at Aqueduct Racetrack last January, was honored during winner’s circle ceremonies on Aug. 25. Dominguez was presented with his third Eclipse Award as well as the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, given to jockeys who display extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. Dominguez won 21 meet titles in New York.

RAMON DOMINGUEZ HONORED WITH ECLIPSE AND VENEZIA MEMORIAL AWARD

Ramon D. Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Ramseys roll: Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued a remarkable year when they set the modern-day record for victories at one Saratoga meet. The best available records indicated the mark had been 18, set by Zayat Stables in 2007. The Ramseys set records earlier this year for meets at Keeneland (25) and Churchill Downs (32).  

Taking charge: Will Take Charge, second to Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy, barely overtook Moreno to win the 144th Travers and give trainer D. Wayne Lukas his third triumph in the tradition-rich “Mid-Summer” Derby. Lukas, 77, had last prevailed in the Travers with Corporate Report (1991) and Thunder Gulch (1995). “This is our best training job,” Lukas said of his ability to improve Will Take Charge, who was 10th in the Belmont Stakes. Authorities are investigating an accusation that jockey Luis Saez carried a battery when he rode Will Take Charge.

WILL TAKE CHARGE DOMINATES 2013 TRAVERS STAKES

Will Take Charge Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Powerful Princess: Princess of Sylmar, the pride of Pennsylvania since she was bred in that state, left no room for debate about the best 3-year-old filly in the land by adding the Alabama to previous successes in the Coaching Club American Oaks, also at Saratoga, and the Kentucky Oaks. “That’s a pretty hard trifecta to win,” said Pletcher.

No traffic: Cross Traffic, unraced at 2 and 3, made up for lost time by taking the prestigious Whitney Handicap by three-quarters of a length against Successful Dan in only his fifth career start. Cross Traffic, masterfully handled by jockey John Velazquez, took the early lead and never relinquished it. Successful Dan hit another bump in the road during his star-crossed career. He got spooked after being saddled and fell, perhaps compromising his chances.

CROSS TRAFFIC LEADS 2013 WHITNEY HANDICAP

Cross Traffic Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Horse for course: Alpha won for the fourth time in five starts at Saratoga with a gutsy front-running effort in the Woodward Stakes that allowed him to hold off Flat Out by a surprising head. The addition of blinkers, combined with his obvious affinity for the track, helped Alpha end a six-race losing streak. He will long be remembered for dead-heating with long shot Golden Ticket in last year’s Travers Stakes. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of the Woodward: “The stretch run was more nerve-wracking than the Travers because we were there, trying to hold him off.”

Dandy outcome: Palace Malice provided a fitting encore to his 3 ¼-length Belmont Stakes score when he controlled the Jim Dandy by one length against Will Take Charge for trainer Todd Pletcher. “He was better than last time,” said jockey Mike Smith. “Those are big words to say after winning the Belmont, but he truly was.”

PALACE MALICE WINS 2013 JIM DANDY STAKES

Palace Malice Inside

Photo courtesy of NYRA & Associates

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