As most fans realize, the great summer race meets at Saratoga and Del Mar ended their 2018 seasons on Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 3.
While it would take more than this single column to describe the best of their seasons, I believe the following accomplishments deserve special mention.
First, we did see several outstanding performances in a variety of high profile races carded at both tracks.
Rising star Catholic Boy certainly busted on the scene with a big win in Saratoga’s 1-1/4 mile, $1.25 million Travers on Saturday, Aug. 25. Where Catholic Boy actually will run next is to be determined by his low profile trainer Thomas Jonathan. But, I make it even money, if he starts in a prep race or not, he still will be one of the key contenders in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Nov. 3. He just might win it.
Aug. 25 at the Spa actually was a stellar day, given the fine performances turned in by stakes winners Able Tasman, Whitmore, Glorious Empire and Promises Fulfilled. Over at Del Mar on the same day, I was quite impressed by the gritty performance Catalina Cruiser turned in to remain undefeated while winning the 7 furlong, $200K Pat O’Brien stakes.
Beyond those stellar performances, there were many more during the summer, which we frequently described in this space. But, with so much top class action, we probably did not give proper due to the jockeys and trainers who excelled at both summer tracks. To make up for that omission, in the box to the left you will find four separate lists that point out the most successful jockeys and trainers at both tracks. Please note none of these lists include any results that occurred on closing day, Monday, Sept. 3.
In addition to their respective performances, I was most impressed this summer by the way jockey Drayden Van Dyke emerged from the crowd of good jockeys in Southern California. He certainly scored many victories, including several aboard longshots. And he seemed quite polished.
At the same time, it was hard to ignore how trainer Chad Brown has become such a standout at virtually every race meet in New York, especially Saratoga where he has now won two straight meet titles.
Due to their respective successes, both Van Dyke and Brown are now reaping extra rewards. Both are attracting good horses to ride and train from many different sources. This in fact, is the time for horseplayers to give these two men a little extra credit anytime they show up in the entries. At the very least, both should be watched carefully as we move toward the Breeders’ Cup.
In other notes worth keeping in mind, the 2-year-old filly Sippican Harbor came out of her win in the Grade 2 Spinaway Stakes in good order and is being pointed for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Likewise, trainer Billy Mott said Yoshida came out of his strong winning performance in the $750K Woodward Stakes at Saratoga “in great shape.” Mott now has a couple of intriguing options going forward. You see, Yoshida – a proven turf horse – was winning the Woodward in his very first try on dirt!
Mott added: “We’ll be keeping both the (BC) Turf and Classic in mind as we watch (Yoshida) train. We do have two months to decide.
In the Spinaway, Sippican Harbor was winning her second straight start after breaking her maiden by 17 lengths on Aug. 12 at Saratoga. The two victories came after she placed fifth in her debut on grass on July 22 at the Spa.
“She’s good. But, I’d also say she’s a little tired,” admitted trainer Gary Contessa. “While I believe she’s as good on grass as she is on dirt, we’re not going back to the turf anytime soon. Still, the time may come where she does double duty.”
Plans now call for Sippican Harbor to skip any further races until the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.
“She deserves a break,” Contessa added: “I ran her 20 days apart to get her ready. Two months to get her to the Breeders’ Cup? Feels like a piece of cake.”
“I’m definitely excited,” he added. “Everything she’s ever done, she’s done like a super horse.”