Shug shakes up The Spa (again!)

July 31, 2001 5:20 AM
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Welcome back Shug!

Following a dismal spring/summer meet at Belmont, trainer Shug McGaughey has returned to the old days here at Saratoga.

The Kentucky-born trainer saddled his fifth winner in five days Sunday when Serra Lake came flying late to catch March Magic and Pompeii and win the $250,000 Go for Wand by a length.

Sent off at 8-1 by a crowd of 58,835, Serra Lake ran the nine furlongs in 1:49 3/5, returning $18.40.

Pompeii, at 7-1, ran second, while 15-1 long shot March Magic came on for third, 1 length in front of Beautiful Pleasure, the 6-5 favorite who lost this race for the third straight year. McGaughey went 1-for-40 during Belmont’s 55-day meet and is now 10-5-2-1 here at Saratoga.

Serra Lake was his second winner of the day, following Saint Verre in the seventh race.

Serra Lake was nowhere to be found in the race’s early stages, as Beautiful Pleasure got out quickly and opened up a 12-length lead at one point down the backstretch, setting fractions of :23 3/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 3/5.

That lead shrunk considerably as the field approached the stretch, when Pompeii and March Magic reeled in the tiring leader. They came down the stretch together until Serra Lake passed them all.

Overweight and sluggish in her last ”” and only ”” race this year in the June 23 Hempstead, Beautiful Pleasure was almost too eager to run, trainer John Ward said.

“Her mind was too lackadaisical the first race and went the other way too much this race,” Ward said. “She’ll settle back into it. She had her act together today. A little bit more performance and we’re there. That’s where we want to be.”

Ward said he wasn’t surprised to see Beautiful Pleasure, who ran second in this race the past two years before capturing back-to-back Personal Ensigns, open up on the field. “We didn’t want to control her,” he said. “We wanted to go out there, run her race, and get the job done.”

First Week Notes: The first week is in the bag here at the Spa and here are some notes:

There have been 48 races run (through Sunday). Five of 10 races were won by favorites on Sunday. Overall, 20 of 48 races (42 percent) have been won by the race favorite at this meeting.

The average winner’s odds were an astonishing low $3.69-to-1. This does not include the one steeplechase winner who at 18-1 would bring the average up to $4.07-to-1. So much for the “graveyard of favorites”.

Also, a 55-year track record was broken on opening day when Michael Tabor’s Mayakovsky tripped the teletimer in 1:03.32 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Running Styles: Two things of note that have been the norm in previous meets. First, speed is very important in 51/2 and 6 furlong sprints. At other distances on the main track, things played pretty fair.

On both turf courses, stalkers and closers won almost every race ”” from one mile through 1 3/16 miles. A winner has a very tough time going to the lead and staying there on the sod.

Post Positions: All the winners at 5 1/2 furlong races have been from post 3 and out. The inside posts appear to get pinched in the short run into the turn. At 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 on the main track, seven of eight winners came from posts 1, 2, 3.

SARATOGA SPY - Racing Secretary Mike Lakow received confirmation that Wood Memorial winner Congaree will start this Saturday in the $600,000 Jim Dandy for trainer Bob Baffert. The nine-furlong Jim Dandy, given Grade 1 status this year, is for three-year-olds and is the traditional local prep for the meet’s biggest race, the Gr.1 $1 million Travers at 10 furlongs on Saturday, August 25th. Also expected for the Jim Dandy are Windsor Castle, who worked five furlongs in :59 2 /5, breezing this morning on the fast main track. The Lord Carson colt, winner of the Remsen last fall, was second in the Dwyer to E Dubai on July 8th. Other Jim Dandy probables are A P Valentine; and possibly Buckle Down Ben; Express Tour; and Griffinite. Dollar Bill remains questionable.

Jose Cuevas, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, was a happy man after he saddled John and Jerome Amerman’s Lido Palace to victory in the prestigious Gr.1 Whitney. The final time of 1:47 4/5 was the eighth-fastest running of the 74-year-old race and the fastest since Brunswick won in 1993. Lido Palace recorded his first Grade 1 win in America by taking the Whitney.