The Best of Saratoga 2013

I was fortunate to attend 10 of the 40 racing days at Saratoga during this summer of 2013. It was a Saratoga summer with unusually dry and mild weather. Very few races came off the turf and very few races were run on wet tracks. The typical hot temperatures and humid air were absent and so were the late afternoon thunderstorms.
During this 150th anniversary year celebration there were a total of 33 graded stakes races run at the Spa. Below you will find the chart that I kept all meeting that includes the winners of all those races and their Beyer Speed Figures.
The Star of the Meeting
Princess of Sylmar was the only horse to win two grade one stakes during the meeting. She backed up her victory in the Kentucky Oaks by first winning the Coaching Club American Oaks in July and then the Alabama in August. Those three impressive triumphs have locked up the three year-old filly championship for the Princess and her owner Eddie Stanco.
And the Co-Stars
Dance to Bristol came to Saratoga having won five races in a row and she became a star after adding two graded stakes to that streak. First she overcame traffic to get a close victory in the Honorable Miss on July 29th and she came back less than a month later to win the grade one Ballerina.
John Velazquez became the all-time leader in wins at Saratoga when the jockey visited the Spa winner’s circle for the 694th time. With that victory on July 24th, Johnny V. passed fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.
Royal Delta won the Personal Ensign after a second place finish in that race last year. Trainer Bill Mott brought her to Saratoga off a win in the Delaware Handicap. Clearly she is headed to the Breeders’ Cup to defend her title in the Distaff. It is possible that she will meet Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Sept. 28th.
Wise Dan returned to the Spa to win the Fourstardave for the second year in a row. Wise Dan is currently on an eight-race winning streak that includes only grade one and two stakes. He has won 11 out of his last 12 races with his only narrow loss to Ron the Greek in the 2012 Stephen Foster. Wise Dan is the Horse of the Year and he will stay Horse of the Year until the title goes to another horse.
The Top Juvenile Filly of the Meeting
Even though there was very little rain this summer at the Spa, the top two year-olds made their mark on sloppy racetracks. I was amazed at the maiden victory of the Street Sense filly Sweet Reason. She ran one of the most visually impressive races of the meetings by rallying from 19 lengths behind to a six-length victory. Sweet Reason found another sloppy track when she again came from off the pace to get trainer Leah Gyarmati her first grade one win in the Spinaway.
It is doubtful that Sweet Reason is just a wet track star. In her August 25th workout on a fast surface prior to the Spinaway, she started 6 lengths behind two promising Chad Brown runners and then easily passed and left them far behind in a mere five furlongs.
The Top Juvenile Colts of the Meeting
Strong Mandate‘s impressive 9¾-length victory in the Hopeful on the final day of the meeting caused a last minute change for my choice as top juvenile male.  This Tiznow colt broke his maiden in his second start on August 17th and came right back to defeat a quality field in the final stake of the summer at Saratoga. Strong Mandate became the 7th winner of the Hopeful for D. Wayne Lukas.
Honor Code won his seven-furlong maiden race in the same style as Sweet Reason. This Shug McGaughey trained AP Indy colt was 20 lengths behind in his sloppy track debut. He made his move along the inside and had no trouble bursting through a hole on the rail to go on to a four-length victory. This win on August 31st did not leave time for Honor Code to notch a Saratoga stakes win, but it still was one of the most impressive performances by a juvenile male.
Racetrack Comebacks
Alpha went more than a year to win another race after the 2012 Travers dead heat victory.  His gate to wire win in the Woodward on a sloppy track brought Alpha back into the spotlight.
Capo Bastone drew a great deal of attention after he ran third in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but struggled in 2013 with only an allowance win at Gulfstream until he upset the King’s Bishop at 28-1.
D. Wayne Lukas' return to prominence has been one of the biggest stories in racing in 2013. At Saratoga, the Coach backed up his Preakness win with victories in the Travers with Will Take Charge and the Hopeful with Strong Mandate.
Silver Max won five races in a row as a three year-old but had been struggling at get back to that form. At the Spa Silver Max won the Bernard Baruch with his signature front running style. That victory gave him two in a row to continue his turf comeback.
Will Take Charge made some noise on the 2013 Derby Trail when he won the Smarty Jones and Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, but he ran poorly in the Triple Crown races. At Saratoga his comeback began with a second place in the Jim Dandy and came full swing when he won the Travers.
The Meeting Leaders
Javier Castellano won the Saratoga Leading Jockey title for the first time after finishing second in the standings for the past three years. Javier won five races on the last day to give him a total of 66 wins, which was just two short of the record held by Ramon Dominguez.
Todd Pletcher won his 10th Leading Trainer title and his fourth in a row. In those years Pletcher has won 36, 36, 38 [which is the record], and 36 races. In 2013 twelve of those victories were in graded stakes races. Title number 10 moved him in front of Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
Ken Ramsey predicted that he would win the Leading Owner title at Saratoga and thus end Mike Repole’s streak of the past three years. Ramsey did it in record-breaking fashion when he ended the meeting with 22 wins.   


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Older Comments about The Best of Saratoga 2013...

Ramon won 68 races at Saratoga in 2012.
I have been going to Saratoga for the Travers weekend since 1985 and the weather this year was the best ever. One big problem was too many short fields and odds on favorites, the Alabama and Personal Ensign each had a great filly but were not very exciting races. Wayne Lukas's success shows that the old time trainers don't forget how to train, it is just that often they stop getting the good horses, there are a lot of old time trainers that would be successful if all the good horses weren't going to just a few popular trainers.
Many contributors who have a viable claim to that title.My star of the meet is Javier Castellano. He accomplished something no one ever did in the history of Saratoga.He won over 60 races(66 to be exact) He ran away with the most prestigious jockey crown for an individual meet.Unfortunately,his accomplishments were overshadowed by The great Johnny V.,who shattered the all time wins record for the meet.My other star ,although the win percentage was poor is DWayne Lukas. At 78 years young he was accused of forgetting his trade in the spring.In the Haskell ,he lost his first stringer Oxbow to injury.Going into that race ,he was arguably a top 2 contender for eclipse 3yo.DWL did not allow this to faze him,Hecame back and won the most prestigious 3yo and 2 yo race at the meet. Congrats to DWL.Dis-honorable mention should go to everyones favoritr new trainer Guilliot.Although sad and pathetic,he did provide entertainment foe a few seconds.
If I had been asked to choose beforehand which horses would have the top speed figures, I probably would have said Wise Dan and either Royal Delta or The Princess.
They may not have been both grade one, but she still should have gotten an honorable mention.
cleclair--The article said two grade ONE races for Princess. Laughing took the Diana G1 and Ballston Spa G2 (see the chart).
speed figures are often the creation of the FIELD they were in just as much as the performance they may have had.
Not that it makes any difference but Laughing also won two graded stakes in the meeting. Princess of Sylmar wasn't the only one. Just wanted to point it out.
Good point Ashley about the top figs! Who would we have predicted?
Alpha and Justin Phillip earning the top Beyer figures of the meet (in stakes) is rather surprising. Those are definitely not the two I would have chosen if you had asked me prior to the meet who I thought would run the biggest figure.
Your top star was the same as mine ... gotta love Princess of Sylmar!

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