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Mike previews the 2022 Rick Violette Stakes at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots for the inaugural running of this race, which is restricted to 3-year-old New York-breds. Dakota Gold leads a tough field in the Thursday feature event. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Dakota Gold will look to give his owners their second stakes victory of the Saratoga Race Course meet when he takes on six rivals in Thursday’s $125,000 Rick Violette for sophomore New York-breds travelling 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf.
The Rick Violette is named in honor of the late NYRA horseman and former president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association who was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Originally run as the Rockville Center at Belmont Park, the race was renamed and moved to Saratoga last year. It was previously run as a six-furlong sprint for state-bred juveniles.
Dakota Gold was victorious last out in his sophomore debut sprinting seven furlongs in the NYSSS Spectacular Bid on June 19 at Belmont Park. The son of leading New York sire Freud stalked in second under Irad Ortiz, Jr. before taking a narrow advantage at the stretch call and battling to the finish to prevail by three-quarters of a length over Surprise Boss.
“He’s been training really good. He’s not a big morning glory. He just does maintenance 50s, but he’s doing really well,” said trainer Danny Gargan. “He looks great and we’re all set for the race.”
The win came in Dakota Gold’s first outing since finishing a close fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar where he raced in third on the inside, was taken outside of rivals by Luis Saez and outkicked by the victorious Modern Games. It was the first and only loss for the chestnut colt, who graduated on debut in a 5 1/2-furlong off-the-turf maiden in September at the Spa before defeating returning rival and graded stakes-winner Coinage in the open Nownownow 24 days later at Monmouth Park over good turf.
“I thought he ran a tremendous race in the Breeders’ Cup. He took the worst of it at the gate that day, and he’s a little bad in the gate,” said Gargan. “I was thinking we were going to be scratched because he was going to blow up any second. He was frazzled, and to be beat only two and a quarter-lengths by who I think is one of the best 3-year-olds on the grass [was impressive].”
Dakota Gold will stretch out an extra furlong and a half from his last outing, something Gargan said will be no issue for him.
“I think [if it was] against the best horse in the world, the extra distance might matter, but I’m not worried about it now,” said Gargan.
The Rick Violette is part of a long-term plan Gargan has laid out for Dakota Gold’s campaign this year that he hopes will end with a trip to Del Mar in November for the nine-furlong Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.
Gargan said he is planning for the Rick Violette to be a springboard to the $150,000 NYSSS Cab Calloway on August 17 at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Bryan Station in October at Keeneland.
“We turned him out after the Breeders’ Cup because he got a little cut on his leg, and we brought him back in that race and now we’ll try to get him two races at Saratoga,” said Gargan.
Owner Dean Reeves, who celebrated a graded stakes victory here with the New York-bred City Man in Friday’s Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, said he looks forward to the plan Gargan has detailed for Dakota Gold.
“He is doing fabulous. He has bulked up over the winter. He looked good in his first race back,” said Reeves. “He’s sitting dead on ready and I think he could have a big year. We’d like to run against New York-breds here and stick with the plan we’ve got, and Danny wants to hit that Grade 1 in California at the end of the year.”
Dakota Gold will emerge from post 4 with Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse will send out Coinage to try and earn another Saratoga stakes victory after taking last year’s Grade 3 With Anticipation in his turf debut.
Coinage was last seen finishing a troubled sixth in the Manila going one-mile on July 4 at Belmont where he was bumped at the break, and tracked the pace from third before being shuffled three-wide and was left with too much to do down the lane. Despite the trouble, the effort garnered a career-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We’re coming right back from a couple weeks, but he’s training good and this should be a little easier company for him,” said Casse. “I thought his race was OK. He did have a little bit of a tough trip, but not bad. Coming back against New York-breds should be good for him. He likes Saratoga, so we’re keeping out fingers crossed.”
A homebred for Chester and Mary Broman, who co-own with D.J. Stable, the chestnut son of Tapit is the first foal out of Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare sprint winner Bar of Gold. He graduated at second asking in June 2021 going 5 1/2 furlongs over the main track at Belmont and followed with a third-place effort in last year’s six-furlong Rick Violette and his two-length With Anticipation victory.
Coinage closed out the year with a third to Dakota Gold in the Nownownow and an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He kicked off his sophomore campaign with a close third in the Palm Beach before finishing third and eighth in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland and Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs, respectively.
Casse said Coinage has improved physically since his last Saratoga appearance.
“He’s matured and gotten better. He’s filled out – he didn’t get much taller, but he did fill out some,” said Casse.
Luis Saez retains the mount from post 3.
Calumet Farm’s Timbuktu is in search of his first victory against winners after a narrow defeat last out in a nine-furlong first-level allowance on June 24 over firm Belmont turf. The Munnings colt was a debut winner last July at Saratoga, but was away from the races for nine months after. He returned with an even third-place effort on April 30 at Belmont.
Trainer Brad Cox said cutting back a half-furlong should be just fine for the chestnut colt.
“His last race was a good race second off the layoff,” said Cox. “He broke his maiden up here last year, so we’ll see how he likes this. Anywhere from a mile to a mile and an eighth is his thing.”
Manny Franco will guide Timbuktu from post 5.
Joe Sharp trainee Practice Squad makes his stakes debut after three solid allowance efforts this spring at Belmont Park, finishing second and third in his last two starts facing open company for owner Jordan Wycoff. The Malibu Moon gelding is a half-brother to the New York-bred Upstart, a dual graded stakes-winner and sire who was trained by Violette.
Practice Squad will exit post 7 with Flavien Prat aboard.
Completing the field are maiden winners Stop the Spread [post 1, Abel Lezcano], Sundaeswithsandy [post 2, Jose Ortiz] and Seaver [post 6, Dylan Davis]. The Bruce Grossman-trained maiden Compromiser is entered for the main track only.
The Rick Violette is slated as Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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