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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott finally lost the monkey on his back Saturday when saddling High Oak to post the 10/1 upset as his trainer’s first career winner of the $200,000 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) Presented by Miller Lite at Saratoga.
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High Oak broke from post 10 under Junior Alvarado and settled off the pace while remaining outside and in the clear of most kickback from his rivals.
Gunite raced inside the 3/2 favorite Doctor Jeff through opening fractions of :21.82 and :44.93. Alvarado let High Oak range up under his own power while cornering and the juvenile colt exploded at the top of the stretch.
Geared down after passing the 1/16 pole, High Oak crossed an easy 4 1/4-length winner while completing the 6 1/2-furlong fast dirt sprint in 1:16.53.
“He broke very sharp today,” said Alvarado, who won his third Saratoga Special and second in the last 3 runnings after piloting Green Light Go in 2019. “He was a whole different horse today. He was mentally prepared and sharp. To be honest, I was just a passenger today. He put me in the spot that I wanted and he took me all the way around. When I turned for home, I just had to ask him a little bit and he took off.
“He broke great so I wasn’t hustling to get there, but I wasn’t going to slow him down, either,” he added. “He was going in a good rhythm for my horse. I know they were going fast, but my horse was in a nice rhythm and he wasn’t going as fast as he can go. He was pretty happy there. He finished up strong and galloped out great.”
Gunite held onto second by 3 1/4 lengths over Nakatomi, while a late-running Double Thunder nailed Doctor Jeff by a nose for fourth.
Stolen Base, Ottoman Empire, Glacial, Dance Code, and Red Run completed the order of finish.
Kitodan and Midnight Worker scratched.
High Oak’s win was his second from as many starts and followed a rallying neck victory going 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park on June 26. The Gormley colt, purchased for $70,000 last September, has now earned $159,500 for co-owners LRE Racing and JEH Racing.
“You certainly would look at him and say that a one-turn mile is going to be OK,” Mott said, hinting that the 8-furlong Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on October 2 is the next target (the Champagne offers a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” berth for the Juvenile [G1]). “I guess you find all those things out as you go along. It’s usually guesswork until you do it.”
High Oak returned $22.40 to win, $9.50 to place, and $5.90 to show. Gunite brought back $6.20 to place and $4.40 to show. Nakatomi paid $5.10 to show.
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