Patiently handled by jockey Cornelio
shot past Rahy’s Attorney, the resilient pacesetter, in the final
sixteenth of a mile to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational on
Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
bided his time in the early stages of the 1 ½-mile turf event, racing well off
the pace as he trailed the field of seven. After inching into contention along
the backstretch, he was given his cue by Velasquez on the far turn and came
widest of all into the stretch, eventually edging past Rahy’s Attorney to
prevail by three-quarters of a length.
“My horse had a very good trip,” said Velasquez. “He
was ready for this race. He always runs a big race, and today he ran another
one. I rode with confidence, but I had a lot of horse.”
was timed in 2:26.74 and returned $7.20 for a $2 win wager as the 5-2 second
The Saturday Pick 6, anchored by Ess Shape’s 66-1 upset in the 11th
and final race, proved elusive, creating a $76,567 carryover into
Sunday’s card. Sunday’s Pick 6 will begin with race 5, which has a
scheduled post time of 3:13 p.m.
The Sword Dancer was Winchester’s first
start in New York since his victory in the
2010 Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park
in October. He had made three starts in the interim, finishing fourth in the
Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November, 11th
in the Group 1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in December, and second
in his lone previous start of 2011, the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes on July 23,
which had been taken off the turf and transferred to Arlington Park’s
artificial main track.
“I knew that [the Stars and Stripes] would set him up perfectly
for this race,” said winning trainer Christophe Clement. “He was
unlucky: the race was switched from the turf to the Polytrack. He ran well
anyway, and the race set him up, as you can see, perfectly for today.”
Winchester has now won four
Grade 1 races, having also taken the 2008 Secretariat at Arlington
and the 2010 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont. Overall, he is 6-6-2 from 23 starts,
with the $300,000 winner’s share of the Sword Dancer purse lifting his
earnings to $1,557,498.
A 6-year-old, Winchester is owned by Mr.
and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, who bred the son of Theatrical in Virginia. Theatrical, also campaigned by the
Firestones, won the Sword Dancer in 1987.
Rahy’s Attorney was vanned off after pulling up lame, but Dr.
Larry Bramlage, the veterinarian on call, said there was “nothing
outwardly wrong” with the 7-year-old gelding.
“It was the left front [leg], but there’s nothing outwardly
apparent,” added Bramlage.
Alan Garcia, rider of third-place finisher Al Khali, lodged a claim of
foul against the winner, but the objection was denied by the stewards, who, in
their judgment, ruled the incident did not affect the order of finish.
Teaks North was fourth, and he was followed home by favored Boisterous,
Bim Bam, and Drosselmeyer. Grassy was scratched.