Touchet, left, Tommy Mejia up, and Painted Image, Wilmer Garcia in the saddle, finish first and second, respectively, in Monmouth Park’s first race on Saturday. Both fillies are trained by Derek Ryan. BILL DENVER/EQUI-PHOTO
By John Manley
Kiaran McLaughlin has gotten off to perhaps the slowest start at Saratoga that he’s experienced over the past 20 years. But he appears to be coming out of the slump in fashion, winning his second and third races of the meet over the weekend in stakes races.
Leonard Green’s A Thread of Blue put McLaughlin in the winner’s circle after Sunday’s Saratoga Derby, the inaugural running of the million-dollar race for 3-year-olds. The son of Hard Spun led throughout under Luis Saez and was a length clear of Irish-breds Digital Age and Cape of Good Hope at the wire. The latter was one of two Aidan O’Brien runners in the race; the other, Mohawk, checked in eighth.
The mile and three-sixteenths Derby was a quarter-mile farther than A Thread of Blue had previously raced, but he had the lead to himself, albeit through honest fractions of 23.3 and 48.2. He’s now won five of 10 career races. He paid $28.40 to win.
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Godolphin’s Lucullan, ridden by Saez, squandered a two-length lead down the length of the stretch in Saturday’s Lure Stakes, but had enough juice to hold off Sacred Life by a nose and prove that Chad Brown doesn’t win every grass stakes race upstate. McLaughlin brought Lucullan, a late developing 5-year-old son of Hard Spun, back off a 14-month layoff in July at Belmont Park to win an optional claiming race. Here, he tracked the early pace and got first jump around the far turn, which was enough to outleg a rallying Brown duo that took second and third. Lucullan, the favorite, paid $5.90 to win.
Waterford and Kerry had their moments at Saratoga on Saturday. Waterford native Tom Moore owns the sixth race winner, En Wye Cee, while Kerryman Maurice Regan and his wife Samantha waited around until the nightcap, when their Fled, running in their Newtown Anner Stud silks, rallied to victory. Both are homebreds, making the victories even sweeter.
En Wye Cee, a 3-year-old colt trained by Todd Pletcher, overcame a bumpy beginning and rallied wide under Jose Ortiz to nail Brown’s heavy favorite by one-half length. A Kentucky-bred making his career debut, the winner is by Declaration of War out of Celtic Arch, an Arch mare. He paid $23.40 to win in this maiden special weight sprint on the main track.
Far be it from this corner to say, “Told you so,” but we speculated after Fled’s last win, against claiming company at Laurel, that he might be ticketed for a statebred allowance race at Saratoga. That’s just where he found himself and he was ridden with supreme confidence by Jose Lezcano in this grass sprint. Fled, a 5-year-old gelding, had only one rival beaten entering the far turn, but got going soon thereafter, surging down the center of the course to cruise on in by two and one-half lengths. The Miguel Vera trainee paid $8.10 to win. The Regans are not shy about taking a shot – their Chilly in Charge got fifth in Saturday’s Grade 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer after winning a statebred stakes at Parx – so maybe a New York-bred stakes will be in Fled’s future before the end of the Saratoga meet.
RYAN DUO POUNCE AT MONMOUTH
On the off chance you were betting Monmouth Park’s first race on Saturday and decided to put a flyer on a Derek Ryan exacta, you came out of it cashing for $522.00 on a $2 ticket. The duo, comprised of Metro Thoroughbreds’ Touchet and Paradise Farms’ Painted Image, went off as the second- and third-longest shots among seven fillies and mares in a scramble at the $16,000 claiming level over the grass. Touchet, ridden by Tommy Mejia and coming off a win, collared her stablemate and Wilmer Garcia inside the sixteenth pole to get the nod in a photo. Touchet paid $50.00, $22.00 and $6.60 across, while Painted Image returned $14.00 and $5.40 to place and show. Neither filly was claimed out of the race.
Ellis Park’s Irish riding contingent each scored on Saturday’s card. James Graham was first in the winner’s circle after piloting Rick Hiles’ Northern Connect to a convincing four-length tally in the sixth race, a nickel claiming sprint on the main track. The Declans, Carroll and Cannon, took second and fourth places in this race, respectively. Graham’s mount returned $5.60 to win and keyed a $9.80 exacta with Carroll’s. Cannon lost a photo for third with his 22-1 shot.
Half an hour later, Cannon brought Russ Davis’ Dixieincandyland home in front by almost a length in a maiden special weight sprint on the lawn. The Eddie Kenneally trainee, in her fifth afternoon try, paid $5.60 to win.
Then, in the ninth race, Carroll won a three-horse photo aboard Mt Joy Stable’s Cubs Win. They prevailed in a long drive in a first-level allowance tilt on the grass. The winner was good for a $7.60 win mutual.
Graham then had a big day on Sunday at Ellis, which featured five stakes races on the card. Thanks to trainer Keith Desormeaux, Graham accounted for the winners of the first and third races, both maidens at big odds. He rallied aboard Automate in the first race, which yielded a $43.80 win mutual. Then, in the third, he wired the field on Juggernaut, a six-length winner, which returned $54.20 to win and keyed a $766.00 exacta with Dean Martini, which had Carroll in the saddle.
Graham was denied in the stakes races, although he stirred things up with second-place finishes aboard Siem Riep, 16-1, in the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile Stakes, and Jazzy Times, 11-1, in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint Stakes. He later got third in the Kentucky Downs Preview Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes on the 5-1 My Boy Jack in a three-way photo that saw Cannon settle for place money aboard the 36-1 Botswana.