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HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

Saratoga Notebook: August 15th, 2014

Weekend Hideaway Saratoga 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA
This much is clear: Weekend Hideaway loves Saratoga.

Dismissed as a 6-1 outsider in the John Morrissey Friday at The Spa, the son of Speightstown recorded his third win in four starts on the Saratoga main track. He did so in wire-to-wire fashion over as strong a group of state-breds as Empire State racing fans may see all year.

Among those Weekend Hideaway dispatched were Big Business, who had to settle for another second-place finish this meet, as well as multiple state-bred stakes-winner Saratoga Snacks, whose first start for trainer Bill Mott resulted in a fourth-place finish.

Phil Serpe trains Weekend Hideaway, who recorded his sixth lifetime win in his 16th career start. He is now a three-time stakes-winner, and has won stakes races at ages two, three, and four.

- Maiden races for 2-year-olds are often won by horses who break quickly and establish presences early on. Not so, however, with Friday’s second race, as Upstart rallied from off the pace to score an impressive victory in his debut.

Green early on, the Rick Violette trainee rated in fifth behind several others going into the turn. Jockey Jose Ortiz maneuvered the son of Flatter to the rail at the top of the lane, though, and once a hole appeared, the ridgling found another gear, spurting clear to win by more than five lengths.

Upstart covered the 5 ½ furlongs in a swift 1:04.01, and returned $5 for every successful $2 win wager. A New York-bred, Upstart is owned by Ralph Evans.

- Penwith went off well above her morning line odds, and bettors seeking an attractive overlay were delighted when the daughter of Bernardini led the fourth race from gate to wire.

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., earned one of his four wins on the card by dictating the race from the start. Penwith set modest fractions of :24.54 and :49.27, and the Darley Stable homebred kicked clear turning for home. When the dust settled, the 3-year-old filly was nearly five lengths clear of Sheer Drama, while odds-on favorite Street Girl was all-out to hold third.

- Friday’s eighth race could have doubled as a stakes race on any weekday card. The $80,000 allowance drew several stakes-caliber horses, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., wound up finding himself in a very familiar place: The winner’s circle.

Maximova rated well off the early pace set by Mariel N Kathy, and that pace was not fast. After an opening half-mile in :49.50, Mariel N Kathy had something left, but Maximova was beginning to wind up.

When the field turned for home, the Christophe Clement trainee was four-wide and closing quickly. Mariel N Kathy fought on, but Maximova assumed command in deep-stretch and prevailed by a length.

- Saratoga Hijinks: After Friday’s third race, cameras flocked to the winner’s circle. It wasn’t for anything racing-related, though, as a surprise marriage proposal was in the works. The man dropped to one knee, the woman said yes, and Sam the Bugler belted out “Here Comes the Bride,” but the whole thing lost some of its luster (to me, at least) once an announcement came that at least a portion of it was sponsored.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s card, we’ve got a good one in store. It’s Alabama Day at The Spa, and the Grade 1 race headlines an 11-race slate. If you’re a Pick 4 player, the late sequence features a $500,000 guaranteed pool, but given the field sizes (13, 10, nine, and 10), you’ll need a little money and a whole lot of luck to hit it.


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Meet Andrew Champagne


A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.

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