⭐️Trainer Michelle Lovell had never started a horse at Saratoga before Saturday. She had been there before, briefly as an apprentice jockey in the early 90’s, but she was no rookie trainer, nearly 30 years later when she shipped Damon’s Mound north from her summer training base of Colonial Downs. Many in the crowd of 38,629 may have not been familiar with Lovell, but she had carved out a good career as a solid trainer mostly on the Louisiana circuit before shifting her focus to Kentucky, stabling at Churchill Downs. She had won 534 races in 3199 starts and close to $14,000,000 before Saturday. They have heard of her now after start number 3200 and win 535 thanks to a homebred Girvin colt named Damon’s Mound. He burst on the racing scene closing weekend on the Churchill Downs meet with a destruction of a good field of maiden colts (3 others from that race on July 2 have come back to win). It was a professional win too (TG fig of 5), he swept by the field on the turn, he didn’t just run them off of their feet like a lot of early two year old winners do. Amazingly enough he wasn’t even the fastest two year old of the Churchill spring meet, that honor went to Gulfport, an Uncle Mo colt from the two year old factory of Steve Asmussen, who had crushed maidens and been even better when winning the Bashford Manor (TG 3) as easily as he pleased, two days after Damon’s Mound’s unveiling. A collision course between the two talented colts seemed inevitable, that it happened so quickly was a big win for fans of racing. Despite the short field of four in the Saratoga Special (Gr II) after a early morning scratch of Owen’s Leap, the presence of the two dominant early season winners mitigated the usual handwringing. Gulfport who was a heavy favorite, got the jump on Damon’s Mound, breaking sharp and setting up shop close to the pace while three wide with Damon’s Mound sitting in last early as the field proceeded down the backside. Super Chow, a speedy Lord Nelson colt, led them narrowly through a quarter in 21.94 with longshot Valenzan chasing in second, Joel Rosario biding his time three wide on Gulfport and Damon’s Mound and Gabriel Saez still content to follow the trio. As they headed into the far turn, Super Chow shook off Valenzan who began to retreat and Damon’s Mound was guided outside of Gulfport to begin to make his run at the leaders. In a move reminiscent of his maiden win, Damon’s Mound just cruised past Gulfport under a motionless Saez, with Rosario unsuccessfully pushing Gulfport to try to match strides. As they passed the half mile marker in 45.06, Damon’s Mound was taking control of the race while Super Chow bore out into the path of Gulfport, forcing him to check briefly and costing him his position. Damon’s Mound briefly idled outside Super Chow as Saez worked to get the colt to switch leads, but when he finally did, he left him and the rest in his wake, powering home to score easy win number two and in the process seize control at the top of the two year old division. Gulfport rallied after his trouble to be a clear cut second while Super Chow continued to drift in the stretch once again but was third by default as Valenzan was well beaten in last. The scary thing about the winner was that despite his clearly immense talent, there still seems to be a few things for Lovell to work on. He doesn’t leave the gate particularly fast and he was a little green with his late lead change yet those minor issues seem like complaining about the gas mileage on a Ferrari. Obviously with any impressive stakes win by a two year old colt, Derby speculation begins however todays lesson should be that given the right horse Michele Lovell and other talented trainers like her can do the job every bit as good as anyone else. The big names and expensive purchases get all the focus and press but a homebred by a regional stallion with a $6000 fee and former Louisana circuit trainer give us someone to feel good about rooting for.
🎪 I’m Very Busy took all the money in the first and the Pennsylvania bred by Cloud Computing made it look smart as he closed impressively to win the MSW for 2yo’s going 8.5 on the grass for C. Brown and Prat.
🎪 Mount Athos got bet off the board in the second but he broke in a tangle and Fast and Fearious took advantage, going wire to wire to win the conditioned 35000 claimer for Bruce Brown and bug rider Jose Gomez. Mount Athos was claimed however it was voided by the track vet.
🎪 I legged up Robbie Davis, the jockey, on Wagon Limit when he upset Skip Away in the 1998 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 34-1. However it seemed like Robbie Davis, the trainer, pulled off an even bigger upset when his Vallelujah rallied up the rail under his daughter Jacky Davis to win the 5th, a NYB allowance race for fillies and mare going 7f. My co-host on the Big Monday show was very unhappy with this result as he was alive to literally everyone BUT Vallelujah in the pick 4 and pick 5 🤦🏼♂️. The win was Jacky Davis first Saratoga victory.
🎪 Trainer Bob Ribaudo and his chief client Marc Keller’s strong meet continued when their Neuro won the 6th, NYB’s NW1x going 5.5 on the grass. It was his second win of the meet and the year and though a later entry raced well but was unplaced, his current Spa 2022 record stands at 7-2-2-1. Speaking of strong meet, Javier Castellano was aboard this winner, the first of two on the day.
🎪 The hot tub time machine touched down in Saratoga once again this Saturday at about 4:30pm when a resurgent Wayne Lukas struck with a two year old once again! This time it was a blowout win by second time starter Bourbon Bash, a City of Light colt who crushed a highly touted field of maidens by 8 lengths under Flavian Prat who won four Saturday.
🎪 Expressman, a 3 year old first time starter by Liam’s Map, blitzed a field of maidens going 7f in the 9th. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Castellano, his final time of 1:22.94 should earn him an impressive figure.
🏅 Casa Creed finally won a big race going two turns when he rallied past the leaders in the lane to score a 1 1/2 length win in the Fourstardave (Gr I). Regal Glory, who was wildly over bet as the 1/2 favorite, really had no excuse (as did anyone else in the small field) other than being second best. This was not a stellar edition of the Fourstardave though Bill Mott, Luis Saez and owners LRE Racing and JEH Racing will certainly take it. Interesting situation for the connections trying to figure out where to go next with the six year old son of Jimmy Creed who had been more successful navigating one turn races in the past.
👏🏼 One of the highlights of the 2022 Spa meet for me has been reconnecting with a ton of people that I hadn’t seen in awhile. It’s also been great to meet so many followers of the Going in Circles Podcast/GIC Digest (and this blog) and social media friends. Racing Twitter and Facebook can be toxic at times but the great thing about them is they bringing people from diverse backgrounds and different places together, bonded by a love of racing. Appreciate all the kind words and nice things that people have written and said and I know that Barry appreciates it as well. Never hesitate to reach out to us electronically or in person as we are always happy to converse, answer questions or just listen to people’s stories. 💙
📋 Coming on Tuesday is the first of four Going in Circles monthly division rankings. We have assembled a team of 14 of the finest minds in racing (plus me) to rank the top 7 leaders in each of the pertinent divisions. Stay tuned for the release so you can compare your own lists to our experts!
📰 The editors of the Times Union (local Capital District paper) might have worked as 🤡’s prior to taking their current job based on their shoddy coverage of the Saratoga meet.
Day 24 (16 racing days to go)
The Mahony for three year old turf sprinters is the feature today. Headlining the race is the winner of the Quick Call and four time stakes winner (from four tries) Big Invasion. Joe O’Brien, who has had a quiet meet so far, ships in euro invader Cadamosto (Ire), Kenny McPeek shows up with an Argentine invader Editorial Comment (Arg) who has won two stakes in a row in South America though he is a lot younger than most of these (August foal). That’s Right has three blowout wins in a row after being switched over to turf sprints for Mike Moore. Surprise Boss returns with a “new trainer” in Rafael Rohena “taking over” for the suspended Juan Vasquez though I’m skeptical that this is the case anywhere but on paper. Rohena, who is based at the Finger Lakes, hasn’t had a Parx starter since April but suddenly has opened up a division at a training center across the Delaware River in New Jersey at Westampton? The New Jersey Racing commission barely monitors training centers (certainly not like riding crops) so virtually anyone could be actually calling the shots there. Perception is reality and the serial violators are enemies of the sport. Today in Saratoga, the Jockey Club Roundtable convenes to talk about various issues facing our sport. Hopefully those in attendance are as curious as to who actually trains Surprise Boss as I am, and are as motivated to ensure that it’s not someone who shouldn’t.
I always love reading your Going in Circles Digest but this is my very favorite one!!