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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Stakes action for the 2021 meet at Saratoga Race Course kicked off in exciting fashion on Thursday’s Opening Day as highly-regarded turf sprinter Golden Pal returned to the Spa with vigor, posting a 3-length victory in the $120,000 Quick Call (G3) for 3-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Mellon turf course in front of 27,760 fans in attendance.
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Golden Pal shook off 8 months of rust from his previous outing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) on November 6 at Keeneland. That 3/4-length win came after another astounding Spa stakes win in the Skidmore at 5 1/2 furlongs last August.
Golden Pal gave Coolmore partners Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg another graded stakes triumph on the NYRA circuit less than a week after respective victories with Santa Barbara and Bolshoi Ballet in the Belmont Oaks and Belmont Derby on Saturday.
Irad Ortiz Jr. nudged Golden Pal coming out of the gate and the talented bay responded swiftly, blitzing through the opening 1/4-mile in a torrid 21.92 seconds over good turf. Jaxon Traveler kept close company in second as the field came around the far turn, but Ortiz Jr. did not call on his charge until just past the 1/4 pole.
Golden Pal extended his advantage in mid-stretch and was wrapped up past the 1/16 pole, completing the journey in 1:02.99.
Florida invader Omaha City closed late for second, edging Jaxon Traveler by a 1/2-length.
Rebel Posse, Second of July, and Kentucky Pharoah completed the order of finish. Fauci and main track only entrants Mr. Sippi and Fire Sword were scratched.
Ortiz Jr., who has never lost aboard Golden Pal in 3 starts, said he was pleased with the effort.
“He’s a nice horse. I’m happy he came back where he left off,” said Ortiz, Jr., who piloted Charlie’sarchangel to victory in the first race on Opening Day. “He broke really nice for me. When I asked him, he responded really well. I didn’t want to ask too early. I didn’t want him to do too much, he’s been off for a long time.”
Trainer Wesley Ward, who won his first graded stakes at the Spa, could not help but sing high praises on behalf of his talented colt.
“He’s so extremely talented and quick,” Ward said. “He’s a big horse and he moves like a cat, and that’s where he really has an advantage. I was a little concerned going into the race that I didn’t have a gate work into him, but he’s so smart that he overcame that in the first jump. When they said ‘Go,’ he was gone.
“I like sprinters off layoffs,” Ward continued. “I think they run their best races off layoffs, more so than the distance horses. I think they need spacing in between because they are so fast and put so much into it, especially the first part of the race.”
Ward said the long-term goal for Golden Pal is the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on November 6 at Del Mar.
“The bigger races are here in the next months and heading into the fall and then the Breeders’ Cup, so this is when you want to see them do this,” Ward said.
Upping his consistent record to 5-3-2-0, Golden Pal added $66,000 to a bankroll which now stands at $659,056. He returned $2.40 as the 1/5 post-time favorite.
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