SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Three Diamonds Farm’s Fire At Will made his main track debut a winning one, staying off the pace as Blame the Booze set the early speed before gaining the lead in the stretch and holding off the even-money favorite’s re-rally bid in deep stretch for a 1/2-length win in the $100,000 With Anticipation (G3) for juveniles moved off the turf on Wednesday at Saratoga Race Course.
After running sixth in his debut on August 20 over firm Saratoga turf, Fire At Will made his second appearance at the Spa, taking a step up in class in the 16th running of the With Anticipation that was originally carded for 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf. With heavy rainfall forcing the race off the grass and into a 7-furlong dirt sprint, Fire At Will was content to track in the back of the pack in fourth under Irad Ortiz, Jr., as debut winner Blame the Booze led the field through the opening 1/4-mile in 22.60 seconds and the 1/2 in 45.61 on the sloppy and sealed track.
Approaching the top of the stretch, Ortiz, Jr., urged Fire At Will up and soon gained the advantage along the rail, overtaking Blame the Booze and repelled a stretch-length challenge, completing the course in 1:23.14.
“Speed is doing well so far, but I don’t like to rush the horses too much, so I just broke out of there with good intentions,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won 4 races on the card and is the meet leader with 51 victories with five days remaining. “He didn’t have the speed to stay close with them, so I just let him be him, let him settle, and tried to save some ground. When I asked him, he responded really well from the 1/2-mile all the way to the wire.
“I was saving all the ground I could and stayed on the rail,” he added. “I was thinking about getting outside but I saw the horse (Blame the Booze) get out a bit, so I just stayed on the rail and went for it.”
Trained by Mike Maker, Fire At Will’s ability to stay off the pace made the difference.
“It wasn’t necessarily by design. We left it up to Irad, he’s a smart rider,” said Maker assistant Nolan Ramsey. “As soon as he took back off the pace, I was really happy and he made a good run.”
Ramsey said they talked to Three Diamonds Farm’s Kirk Wycoff about staying in the race when it was moved off the grass and made a winning decision.
“With a short field, it made sense,” Ramsey said. “The horse really seemed to get a lot out of his first start and he’s been pretty sharp since. He worked a really nice half for us last time [bullet breeze in 47.16 on Aug. 29] and we talked to Mr. Wycoff and Mike and made the decision to stay in and we’re clearly happy we did.”
Bred in Kentucky by Troy Rankin, Fire At Will was purchased for $97,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The Declaration of War colt went off at 3/1 and returned $8.20 on a $2 win wager.
Three Diamonds Farm registered its eighth win of the summer meet, tying Repole Stable for second place and trailing only Klaravich Stables with 12.
Blame the Booze, a first-out winner for trainer Wesley Ward by 2 1/2 lengths on July 10 at Belmont Park in a race also moved off the turf, was five lengths clear of Zippy Baby for second. Winfromwithin completed the order of finish.
“He broke pretty nice and was right there,” said Blame the Booze jockey Luis Saez. “He was handling the track good and tried hard. He got a little tired at the end. When I made him switch leads, he came back on a little but the other horse was already gone.”
American Monarch, the morning-line favorite, and Nathan Detroit both scratched.