SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Trainer Bill Mott spent yet another birthday in the winner’s circle on Saturday when Good Samaritan closed late to take the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course.
The victory marked the 16th time in the past 24 years that Mott has won at least once at The Spa on July 29.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he ran,” Mott said. “It was a terrific race for him.”
As expected, the Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming took the lead, with the Preakness winner Cloud Computing and recent debut maiden winner Pavel stalking behind. Always Dreaming and jockey John Velazquez put up early fractions of :24.13, :48.53, 1:13.27, and 1:38.23 through 1 mile. Their lead diminished into the far turn, though, and Always Dreaming was quickly flanked to the outside by Cloud Computing and Pavel.
Exiting the far turn, it looked as though a three-way run to the finish was in store, but that’s when Good Samaritan and jockey Joel Rosario made a hard charge from last. Sweeping around the trio just past the mile marker, Rosario hand-rode Good Samaritan down the stretch and through the wire, completing the 1 1/8-mile trip in 1:50.69.
“He tries hard all the time, Rosario said. “He got beat a couple of times by good horses, but he looked like he really had it today. Actually, he does not have a lot of (early) speed, so I just let him be where he is happy. He wants to always put in one last run. When I passed the 3/8 pole, he gave me a very good feeling. He was getting over the track very nice, so I just kind of tried to save a little ground before turning for home, but he was on his game today.”
A four-wide wall of horses finished 4 3/4 lengths behind, with Giuseppe the Great finishing a 1/2 length in front of the tiring pacesetters. Always Dreaming was a head in front of Pavel, who in turn was a head past Cloud Computing.
“He broke really well, and it went like we were expecting,” Velazquez said. “We got the lead and he put in a really good fight down the lane, he just couldn’t get away from the other horses for whatever reason.”
Following the race, jockey Javier Castellano was at a loss for why Cloud Computing finished last after taking a ground-saving trip similar to the one he used when winning the Preakness.
“I thought I had a perfect position in the race, Castellano said. “I let Always Dreaming dictate the pace, so I was able to let up a little bit and save all the ground and, little by little, go for him. He (Cloud Computing) just didn’t fire today.”
Switching to dirt for the first time after six turf starts, Good Samaritan wasn’t considered a strong threat to the Triple Crown winners. Despite their presence, and the fact that Mott has only won at a 10% clip over the past five years when moving horses from turf to dirt, it’s not as if Good Samaritan had been a dud in the past. His graded stakes record of 5-1-2-1 includes winning the Grade 2 Summer Stakes, and his only off-the-board performance came last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby when he missed third by a neck.
Those performances convinced Mott and Good Samaritan’s co-owner Elliot Walden (President of WinStar) to take the chance.
“(Walden’s) been wanting to try him on the dirt for a long time,” Mott said. “Even since he was a 2-year-old, he did even consider it in the Breeders’ Cup. He’s been anxious to find out. We talked about it earlier in the year. We had to lay him up (after finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf), so we missed the whole Triple Crown. Because of the timing of everything, I kind of put everything off until the Belmont Derby.”
Owned by a parternship between WinStar Farm LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, China Horse Club LLC, and SF Racing Group, the winner’s share of $360,000 increased the Harlan’s Holiday colt’s career earnings to $767,616. Look for Good Samaritan to make his next start over the same track on August 26.
“You saw him coming through the stretch,” said Mott. “He looks like he was good enough to get it done today. We’ll certainly nominate for the Travers and we’ll talk about it. I don’t see why we wouldn’t give it a try.”
Good Samaritan returned $19.20 to win, $5.60 to place, and $3.50 to show. Giuseppe the Great brought back $8.50 to place and $3.90 to show, while Always Dreaming paid $2.90 to show.