FIRST ALABAMA: When it comes to major stakes races at Saratoga’s summer meet, no one appreciates the history and magnitude of them more than Chad Brown. He grew up in nearby Mechanicville, N.Y., and his family made regular trips to the track, typically occupying a picnic table in the backyard. He can now check off the Alabama on his bucket list of accomplishments after Dunbar Road made her way through a heavy downpour to best Point of Honor by 2 ¾ lengths in the 139th Alabama. “The Alabama and the Travers (Stakes) are the two biggest races here, and to win one of them is very special,” Brown said before hurrying off to celebrate with family and friends.
THREE-PEAT: Jose Ortiz viewed himself as merely taking care of business after he captured his third straight Alabama following previous victories with Elate and Eskimo Kisses. He is the first jockey to rattle off three straight wins in the Alabama since Jerry Bailey did so from 1997-99. “My goal is to go to the Hall of Fame, and to go to the Hall of Fame, I have to win these types of races,” Ortiz said. He displayed his ability to adjust on the fly during the key contest for 3-year-old fillies. He was shuffled back despite pre-race instructions to be on or close to the lead. He still worked out a winning trip.
BLINKERS ON: Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott felt it wise to tweak something after highly-regarded Tacitus placed second in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. He hopes the addition of blinkers for the Aug. 24 $1.25 million, Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes will result in a reversal of fortunes. “Does he have to have them? Maybe not,” Mott said. “But if they help him an inch, it will be worth it.” With the new equipment and with the company of Seismic Wave, Tacitus drilled five furlongs in 1:00.48 with Ortiz aboard. “It was what we were looking for,” Ortiz said. “He was a bit more focused with the blinkers.”
DOUBLE TROUBLE?: Brown expressed cautious optimism that Highest Honors or Looking At Bikinis can present him with his first Travers victory after they prepped for the “Mid-Summer Derby” by finishing first and third, respectively, in the 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes. Brown liked the way Highest Honors concluded a five-furlong work in 1:01.66. “He galloped out strong and came back with a lot of energy,” he said. The meet’s leading trainer by a commanding margin also is encouraged by what he sees in Looking At Bikinis, who clocked 1:00.85 for five furlongs. “We only wanted to go on to this race if he trained well, and he has,” Brown said.
FASTER AND FASTER: Six track records have been set or tied at Saratoga during a summer meet marked by spectacular individual performances. The new record-holders are Leinster (five furlongs on the Mellon turf course, 1:00.23 in the Grade 3 Troy Stakes), Imperial Hint (six furlongs on the main track, 1:07.92, in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap) and King Zachary (1 ¾ miles on the main track, 2:52.97, in the Birdstone Stakes). Got Stormy (one mile on the inner turf, 1:32, in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap) broke the mark set by Macagone (1:33.13) set eight days earlier in an allowance optional claiming race. Uncontested tied a 41-year-old track record for seven furlongs over the main track, stopping the clock in 1:20.52 in an allowance optional claiming race on Aug. 15. When translated to fifths, his time was considered equal to that of Darby Creek Road (1:20 2/5 seconds).