SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Carl R. Moore Management’s 4-5 favorite Finley’sluckycharm dueled with Vertical Oak for much of the race before pulling away in mid-stretch and drawing off late to win Wednesday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga.
Breaking from the far ouside in post 6 while carrying the high weight of 123 pounds under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Finley’sluckycharm quickly cleared the rest of the field and crossed over to run alongside the rail-drawn Vertical Oak. The two sprinted heads apart down the back and through the far turn in opening fractions of :22.52 and :45.00 while distancing themselves from their foes. Hitting the top of the stretch, Finley’sluckycharm initially struggled to put away a stubborn Vertical Oak, but in the final furlong, the Bret Calhoun trainee was able to increase the gap before crossing 2 1/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 1:09.48 for the 6-furlong event over a main track labeled good.
“That was great after last year being beaten a neck by Paulassilverlining,” said Hernandez. “We all went out to dinner and had our heads down, but this year we get to go to dinner and have a little celebration, so it’ll be fun. We put Vertical Oak away in the lane, but she kept coming back at us. We just needed to make sure our filly kept running through the wire and she did. She gutted it out and she ran a fast enough time for not running since on Derby Day at Churchill. She was impressive today.”
Vertical Oak was much the best of the rest, defeating third-place finisher Kirby’s Penny by 9 1/4 lengths. Thirteen Songs and a misfiring Faypien completed the order of finish. Chalon was scratched.
Finley’sluckycharm, second by a neck in this race a year ago, increased her overall record to 17-11-3-0 with a career bankroll of $913,068. The 5-year-old daughter of Twirling Candy rebounded nicely after finishing off the board last time out for only the third time in her career.
“I thought things went as well as they possibly could,” Calhoun said. “The pace wasn’t super hot, she was able to sit outside, save horse, push the button later and she cruised home. I think that’s the opportunity to bounce back out of a race as good as any. I don’t think it was super strenuous. She ran fast, but at least she wasn’t in a gut-wrenching race.”
Finley’sluckycharm returned $3.90 to win, $2.90 to place, and $2.10 to show. Vertical Oak brought back $3.80 to place and $2.60 to show, while Kirby’s Penny paid $2.50 to show.