Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Monday morning, which also
happened to be the day after the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, I left New Jersey to head back up to Saratoga. I
was looking forward to spending a few quiet mid-week days at the Spa.
My wife and I left at
around 7am in order to leave plenty of time for a relaxed drive north. She was going to spend the day in
downtown Saratoga Springs reading and writing while I headed to the track
looking forward to seeing the sprinter Dance to Bristol in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2). The four year-old filly was on a five race win streak with
victories at four different tracks, most recently having won the Bed O Roses
Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park on June 15th.
I woke up on Monday still
excited about the performance of Verrazano in the Haskell and I think I tempted fate a bit too much when I said to my
wife, “Maybe we can beat Verrazano to Saratoga so that I can watch his arrival
back at Todd’s barn.” I had heard
that Verrazano was going to leave the Pletcher barn at Monmouth Park that same
morning and his trip would be about an hour longer than ours.
About an hour south of
Saratoga is when the plan fell apart. We had passed Saugerties, heading north
on the New York Thruway when I head a strange noise coming from the
engine. It sounded like some
leaves or pebbles shaking their way out from under the hood. It didn’t last
long and quiet returned, but then the red battery light came on, signaling more
trouble. We continued a couple of miles and pulled in to the Malden rest area.
Deciding not to drive the
car further, Gallagher’s towing service was dispatched to our rescue. Roger,
who was a hard-working 20 year-old wearing jeans that were dark brown with
grease and grime, told us that the best chance of a speedy repair was to take a
very expensive tow truck ride with him to the Pep Boys outside of Albany. It
turned out that Roger was rather charming in certain kinds of ways and that he
had been working for 36 straight hours.
The Pep Boys gang: Rick,
Bob, and Julia, said that the water pump had seized up and that caused a belt
to snap and as a result the alternator was not turning so the battery light had
come on. Even though there was no sight of Manny, Moe, and Jack, they got us
back on the road by 2:45pm.
The Honorable Miss was
carded as race eight, and after dropping my wife at Uncommon Grounds on
Broadway, I managed to get to the track with 20 minutes left before the
Dance to Bristol is the
kind of horse that you have to love. A $42,000 yearling purchase at the 2011
May Fasig-Tipton sale is a daughter of Speightstown, who carries a $60,000 stud
fee. She is trained by Ollie Figgins III, who is successful on
the Maryland circuit and had only one prior starter at Saratoga, a fourth place
in a maiden race years ago.
Dance to Bristol entered
the Honorable Miss with a record of 16: 8-7-0 for $500,880. Her only blemish to the top two
finishes was a fourth place in the 2012 Ruthless behind the speedy Agave Kiss
after she bobbled at the break.
Dance to Bristol was heavily
bet to be an odds-on favorite at .85-1. In her five-race win streak she had always
been lucky and had advantageous trips. Not today, Dance to Bristol was going to
have bad trip for the first time. After our trouble filled journey, I had a bit
more sympathy for the idea of a bad trip.
Trainer Figgins said,
“This was not the cleanest of trips she’s ever had, and you don’t know how she
is going to react because she’s always had nice, perfect trips. This is the
toughest field she’s ever run against.”
She had to race “three
wide and steady off heels briefly near the seven-sixteenth poll” and she fell
four-lengths behind. Regular rider Xavier Perez found a seam in the traffic and
Dance to Bristol made a dramatic charge down the stretch to win by a neck over
Classic Point, who was trained by the “Giant Killer” Allen Jerkens.
Her now six-race win
streak began at Laurel this winter when she won two OC allowances. In April she
won the Sugar Maple, a $200,000 stake at Charles Town. In May the fourth
consecutive victory came in the Skipat at Pimlico on the day before the
Preakness. With her two most recent wins in New York graded stake races, Dance
to Bristol has joined the leaders of the female sprint division.
Figgins said that, “She’s
a pleasure around the barn, absolutely no trouble at all.” When she was getting
in the paddock getting saddled she was a handful and as Perez came to get a leg
up she was on her toes, exuding strength and power. “She’s like a fighter a
bit. She wants to get on with it,” added Figgins.
It turned out to be a
rather long trouble filled day for me, but it ended up being a very special day
when I got to see Dance to Bristol overcome her bad trip, too.