Yaupon holds up despite Firenze Fire bite attempt in Forego stretch


SARATOGA SPRINGS – While Gamine did everything right in winning the $ 500,000 Grade I ballerina on Saturday, a race later Firenze Fire’s bizarre behavior likely cost her the $ 600,000 Grade I Forego victory.

In the midst of his battle in the stretch with favorite Yaupon, Firenze Fire turned his head to the left at the sixteenth pole and tried to bite – in the race, it’s called “wild” – his opponent. The 6-year-old, on his 36th career start, bit Yaupon’s face seven times and briefly had Yaupon’s bridle in his teeth while jockey Jose Ortiz worked hard to keep Firenze Fire away from the other horse. Yaupon and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. managed to keep going and won by a header over Firenze Fire.

Thirty-five minutes earlier, under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Gamine was the consummate pro, showing the form that earned her the 2020 Eclipse Award as a champion sprinter at the age of 3. . She escaped the gate well, completed comfortable fractions of 23.20 seconds in the quarter mile and 45.68 in the lead half and completed all seven stages in 1: 21.61 to beat Lake Avenue of 1¾ in length. As a 1-5 favorite, she paid $ 2.70. Her ninth victory in 10 career starts earned filly Into Mischief trained by Bob Baffert a place in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, a race she won by 6¼ length last year.

Baffert sent Gamine to Saratoga with his longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes and watched the race on TV in California.

“I am very happy for her. She’s a great mare, ”Baffert said in a telephone interview. “That’s what the great days are. You want to be part of the big days. “

After recording his fifth consecutive victory, Barnes praised his abilities and consistency, calling him the “Kid Machine”.

Baffert has trained many champions during his Hall of Fame career and gets excited when he talks about Gamine, who he manages for owner Michael Lund Petersen.

“I’m excited about my mare. She has a great mind, ”Baffert said. “She’s so fun to watch run.”

Even though she was a big favorite and looking to lie down on the field of nine, Baffert admitted to being tense before the race.

“I’m getting nervous because I expect her to win. I’m worried about the break, ”Baffert said. “When she went there (23.20), I felt pretty good. It usually goes faster.

Velazquez said the race went exactly as he planned.

“She was racing speed and I know she’s not a racehorse so I just dropped her from there and see where she’s going,” Velazquez said. “I had the reins loose. She relaxed very well. From that point on he would wait and Quarter Post would ask her to do whatever she had to do. She did it.

Yaupon and Firenze Fire were in the two outposts in the squad of eight, moved quickly to the front and stayed there throughout. Santana had Yaupon on a narrow inside lead thanks to an opening quarter-mile in 23.09 and a half-mile in 45.70. Firenze Fire stayed with William and Corrine Heiligbrodt’s foal. Coming out of the corner, Firenze Fire seemed to have a small advantage, but Yaupon rose to the challenge. Just inside the sixteenth post, 110 yards from the wire, Firenze Fire launched its surprise attack. His attempt to hurt Yaupon cost him momentum as Ortiz struggled to get him away.

Asmussen said it was exciting to win Forego for his longtime clients, who had their first Grade I winner at Saratoga, Lady Tak, in 2003.

“But the finish made it even more dramatic,” Asmussen said. “I will watch this rerun several times in my future. Whether this happens in a Grade I at Saratoga with two horses in the lead will be memorable.

Asmussen said it seemed like Firenze Fire was trying to bite Santana.

“We had some not ideal finishes this year,” said Asmussen. “and you’re not there until you get to the wire.”

Three years ago in Parx, Firenze Fire won the Grade III Gallant Bob although he was ravaged in the stretch by Whereshetoldmetogo. In Forego, he was the aggressor.

Ortiz said the incident made the difference between winning and losing.

“I had a perfect position,” Ortiz said. “I stood next to him (Yaupon) and thought I beat him, but you saw what happened inside the sixteenth. My horse tried to bite the other horse and I really had to catch him to get him away from him.

Yaupon completed all seven stages in 1: 21.74 and paid $ 6 to win.

Veteran Whitmore, the 2020 men’s sprint champion, galloped to a halt in distress and was eliminated. Coach Ron Moquett later said he would retire.

Saber dancer

Gufo and jockey Joel Rosario took the upper hand over Japan in the third round and won the Grade I, $ 750,000 race by a neck over the Irish-based British-bred European invader.

Japan and jockey Ryan Moore followed leaders Channel Maker and Tribhuvan and looked ready to clear an opening between the two. Just as that hole closed, Gufo pulled over outside of Japan, trapping him briefly behind the idling horses for a few strides. Once the 5-2 frontrunner Gufo moved on, Japan started a solid rally and closed ground, but couldn’t get past the 4-year-old colt coached by Christophe Clément.

Gufo completed the 1½ miles in 2: 28.30 and paid $ 7.10.

The Ballston Spa

Viadera knows how to find the thread at the finish line. The 5 year old mare had another frenetic end to a race winning the Ballston Spa Grade II, $ 400,000 for fillies and mares aged 4 and over. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Viadera won the 1 1/16 mile indoor turf race by a nose.

In her last four victories, she has won by two noses and two necks.

“She has an affinity for the thread,” said winning coach Chad Brown. “If you train horses long enough, you will find that some horses know where they are on the winning side and others seem to be on the losing side. She’s one of those who know where they are.”

The favorite 4-5, Viadera resisted the fast closing High Opinion (8-1) and the jockey Luis Saez. It was his second start of the year and followed a fourth place finish in the unranked De La Rose here on August 8.

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