A $250,000 2-year-old in training purchase in Florida, Sarava boarded a plane after the sale to start his career in England. But the colt didn’t last long on the turf in that country and shipped back to the U.S. after a 13th-place finish in a September maiden to embark on a dirt campaign.
The switch to the surface was a smart one; Sarava won his dirt debut by 2 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs in November. From there, Sarava became a bridesmaid when finishing second in three straight allowance races through the winter and spring.
Shipping to Pimlico for Preakness weekend, Sarava skipped the second leg of the Triple Crown in favor of the Sir Barton Stakes, a race he won by four lengths. From there, it was off to the Belmont Stakes for the Wild Again son.
While Sarava was coming into the Belmont Stakes with a stakes win, he was overlooked by bettors and went off at odds of 70.25-to-1 for trainer Kenny McPeek. With a Triple Crown on the line, all eyes were focused on War Emblem and jockey Victor Espinoza. But when War Emblem stumbled out of the gate, it was Wiseman’s Ferry who took over the lead. Sarava ran about four lengths behind the leader for the first half mile before creeping closer as they neared the stretch.
Cutting through a hole between two runners as the field straightened out, Sarava kicked on to the lead and looked like he might leave the rest of the field behind. But a determined Medaglia d’Oro stuck with him and the battle was on. With Medaglia d’Oro on the inside and Sarava on the outside, the pair went head to head. Sarava started pulling away in the final furlong to win by half-length with the rest of the field 9 ½ lengths or more behind the pair. Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem finished eighth in the race, but that wasn’t the biggest story of the day as Sarava pulled the biggest upset in the history of the Belmont Stakes.
Those who took a shot and put $2 down on Sarava to win were rewarded with a $142.50 payoff while those who had the $2 trifecta of Sarava, Medaglia d’Oro and Sunday Break made $25,209.
2002 BELMONT STAKES
Courtesy of The New York Racing Association
Sarava was injured in July before his next race and forced to miss the rest of the season and ultimately the year. Returning nearly 14 months after his Belmont victory, Sarava had relocated to California to train with Bob Baffert, who started him in an allowance optional claimer where he finished sixth.
Over the next year, Sarava ran with some of the toughest horses in his division after two more allowance runs. While Sarava never hit the board, that record was deceiving as the horse was 2 ½ or fewer lengths behind the winner in three of his five starts back at the stakes level. Perhaps his closest taste of victory again was in the 2004 Suburban Handicap when he finished fifth by a length in a field where the top six were separated by just 2 ¼ lengths.
The plan was for Sarava to start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup then the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2004 but after his final workout for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, it was found that he had re-aggravated a previous injury.
“He worked fine, and our plan for him was the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup,” Baffert told Brisnet at the time. “But this morning, there was a little filling, some irritation. We did an ultra scan on him and found that he had tweaked himself a bit. It was an old injury he re-aggravated, and they told us it would be at least four months. He's getting older, so the decision was made to retire him.”
Sarava retired with a record of three wins and three seconds from 17 starts for $773,832 in earnings.
Sarava’s best runner in the United States is 2011 San Antonio winner Gladding, who hit the board in 14 of his 31 starts from 2010 to 2015. In 2012, Sarava was pensioned from breeding duties and sent to Old Friends Farm in Kentucky, becoming the retirement farm’s first classic winner.
Sarava is the first horse people see when pulling up the driveway to the barn area as the stallion is in the paddock behind the office, next to the pasture where Genuine Reward, the son of 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk, lives. Between Sarava and the barn lives multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude and his pasturemate Catlaunch, a multiple stakes winner.
In his time at Old Friends Sarava hasn’t only gotten used to the tours that take place daily on the farm, he has embraced them. An ambassador of sorts, as the first pasture fans go by, Sarava is never against hamming it up for cameras. He does demand payment in carrots but luckily for him, each tour – and even individuals walking through the farm – almost always has a near full bucket to give him.
If you want the opportunity to feed Sarava some carrots and visit the rest of Old Friends’ equine stars, you can visit www.oldfriendsequine.org to book your tour today.