SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Thomas Conway’s King Zachary was so anxious to find the winner’s circle on Thursday that he shattered the Saratoga track record while romping home in the $100,000 Birdstone Stakes.
Breaing from post 6 under John Velazquez at 8/1 odds, King Zachary settled comfortably toward the rear while Marconi led from off of the rail through fractions of :24.19, :49.42, 1:14.65, and 1:39.38 for the opening mile. The field bunched up heading into the far turn for the second time, and the even-money favorite Rocketry made a bold wide move toward the front after spending much of the race barely in the TV frame.
Midway through the far turn, King Zachary bid for the lead around Marconi’s outside. Marconi dug in and fought back initially, but King Zachary proved to be too strong. Under a drive at the top of the stretch, King Zachary drew off steadily before crossing the wire 8 1/2 lengths much the best. The Graham Motion trainee completed the 1 3/4-mile event over the fast main track in 2:52.97, besting the 91-year-old record of 2:55.00 that Reigh Count set on September 1, 1928.
“We kept him up here and we thought if he was doing well, we’d give him a shot,” Motion said. “I’m glad he proved me right. Without doubt, he has plenty of talent. (Breaking) a track record from 1928, even though they don’t write the race very often, it’s certainly impressive to do that, and it was the way he did it. When Johnny looked under his legs at the 1/8 pole, I felt he had a lot of horse. I thought he looked really comfortable the whole way. When you got Johnny riding, you have to feel confident because he knows where to put them, especially in these longer races, which can be a little tricky.”
Rocketry was all-out at the top of the stretch but couldn’t gain enough ground to improve beyond third, finishing 1 3/4 lengths behind Marconi. Over 19 lengths behind him came Patch, with Curlin Road, Third Day, and Royal Albert Hall completing the order of finish. Turco Bravo, the 2016 winner, was scratched.
King Zachary’s win was his first in 2019 and his second at the stakes level, having won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) last summer at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old son of Curlin, purchased for $550,000 as a yearling, improved his career mark to 13-4-0-3 with $366,120 earned.
“He’s a beautiful horse, he’s absolutely gorgeous,” Motion said. “I knew there was talent there and I said to Johnny in the paddock, ‘If this isn’t what he wants to do, I don’t know.’ He acted to me like he wants to go all day. You don’t get many opportunities to run at distances like this.”
King Zachary returned $18.80 to win, $6.10 to place, and $3.30 to show. Marconi brought back $3.60 to place and $2.40 to show, while Rocketry paid $2.20 to show.