year, Kiaran McLaughlin had an extraordinary meet, saddling four Grade 1
winners including Alpha's dead-heat victory in the Travers. While the
trainer has not won a graded stakes this season, the 150th meet has been
successful in a different way.
On Friday, Midnight Watch
gave McLaughlin his 15th winner of the meet when she took the $100,000
Riskaverse in front-running fashion. The victory was the 10th for
McLaughlin since August 14, including five maiden winners and Sayaad's
triumph in the Dance of Life overnight stakes on August 21. Heading
into Saturday's card, he was third in the meet trainer standings behind
Todd Pletcher (34 wins) and Chad Brown (22).
had a great meet," said McLaughlin. "A lot of the horses who ran second
early came back to win. We're real happy to win a stakes with Midnight
Watch; she's a nice filly and she came out of the race in good shape.
"If we pull off the upset today with Alpha [in the Grade 1 Woodward]," he added with a smile, "it would be super."
Watch, a 3-year-old Darley homebred, broke her maiden in front-running
fashion on May 5 at Belmont Park and on May 30 led every step to win a 1
1/16-mile allowance. In her first stakes start, she led through a
half-mile in 46.45 seconds before fading to fourth in the Grade 2 Lake
George. On Friday, she got away with a half in 47.24 and had plenty left
to hold off Teen Pauline.
was a great ride by Irad Ortiz," said McLaughlin. "We're happy to get
the black type. We really haven't thought beyond the race. The [Grade 1]
Garden City [September 14, Belmont Park] comes up too quick. We'll look
McLaughlin added that With Sugar On Top, who came from far back to win an optional claimer on August 22, was under consideration for the Garden City.
"She did run a big race here," he said. "It was just an allowance race, but it was a big race."
* * *
A glance at the Daily Racing Form
entries yesterday would have shown trainer Gary Contessa had zero wins
from his past 64 first-time starters. The statistics might have given
pause to some bettors but not Contessa's horses.
After winning with just two of 53 total starters during the Saratoga race meet, Contessa sent out first-timers Sidearm to win the second race and Fancy Boss to win the seventh.
Contessa last won with two first-time starters on the same card in November 2010 at Aqueduct.
guy yelled to me yesterday, 'Two for fifty-something!' I'm like, 'He
must be talking about my record at the meet.' Somebody said, 'No, no,
that's your record with first-time starters,'" Contessa said, laughing.
philosophy is that I want a young horse - and I've come up under a lot
of good trainers of 2-year-olds in my career - I want to run a
2-year-old 75 to 80 percent ready. If it's a sensational 2-year-old, it
will win first time being about 75 to 80 percent ready, and its second
start will take another step forward. But most of them - and let's face
it, we're playing on the big stage - we're running against guys who
purchased better 2-year-olds, and they're 100 percent ready. That's not
my philosophy. It's very important to me a horse improves in its second
and third start."
a son of Champion Sprinter Kodiak Kowboy, won his debut by 2 ½ lengths
at odds of 5-1, running six furlongs in 1:11.81 despite being bumped at
the break and racing wide.
Boss, by Street Boss, was a different story, taking jockey Abel Lezcano
on a wild adventure - including the race - before winning a 5 ½-furlong
turf sprint by 4 ¾ lengths in 1:03.81 at odds of 11-1.
is somewhat mentally challenged and very talented," Contessa said of
Fancy Boss. "Many, many times you hear the siren [signaling a loose
horse on the track in the morning], and it's Fancy Boss coming back
dumped that kid [Lezcano] four times yesterday," he continued. "She
dumped him in the paddock. Then she dumped him right where you walk out
of the tunnel onto the track. Then she dumped him once in the post
parade, and then she dumped him behind the gate. Any one of those times
could have been her undoing, but they hung onto her. Then, as her
trainer, what do I have to think about? She has the outside post in the
field, and, quite often, when you have a horse that's a little
challenged they break this way and turn right. So, I didn't know if she
would do that, but in my heart, I knew if she came out straight she had a
chance to win."