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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Marc Keller’s Pulsate took command in the stretch and fended off Backtohisroots’ late rally from the outside, posting a victory by a neck in Friday’s $120,000 Lucky Coin contested at 5 1/2 furlongs on Saratoga Race Course’s Mellon turf.
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The ninth running of the Lucky Coin, for 4-year-olds and up who had not won a stakes in 2021, saw Pulsate earn his first stakes win in his 17th career start, building on his runner-up finish in last year’s Lucky Coin edition to Battle Station.
The 5-year-old son of Speightstown won for the first time since December 2019 at Aqueduct Racetrack and provided trainer Robert Ribaudo his first stakes win since Quezon captured the 2018 La Verdad at the Big A.
Pulsate, under jockey Manny Franco, tracked in third position as 6/5 favorite Maven, with Noble Emotion challenging closely, led the seven-horse field through the opening 1/4-mile in 22.21 seconds over firm going.
Maven kept the advantage out of the turn with Noble Emotion positioned near the rail as the 1/2 went in 44.78. Once straightened for home, Pulsate responded to Franco’s right-handed encouragement, overtaking the pacesetters in the final furlong from the outside.
Backtohisroots, with meet-leading rider Luis Saez aboard, rallied from fourth in deep stretch to nearly collar Pulsate in the final jumps, though Franco’s charge hit the wire in 1:02.39 to secure the close victory.
Off at 6/1, Pulsate returned $15 on a $2 win bet. He improved to 4-4-2 and increased his career bankroll to $307,665. After running fourth when switched to the main track on August 6 at the Spa in his second start of the campaign, Ribaudo switched him back to the more familiar surface.
“They had the ‘3-other-than’ (on turf) in the book; it didn’t go, so I went in the dirt race at 6 1/2 (furlongs),” Ribaudo said. “It just felt like I needed to run him one time before this race and it worked out.”
Ribaudo, who earned his first win as a trainer in 1976, registered his first Saratoga stakes win since the 2008 Sword Dancer (G1) with Grand Couturier, for whom a stakes race is now named and contested at Belmont Park.
“Did it set up perfect? You can’t write the script any better,” Ribaudo said. “The fact that you’re inside and can outrun the rest of the field, so that you’re not boxed down on the fence. So, he stalked the leaders and was able to get out a little bit. No problem. Manny rode him perfect, as usual.”
Franco said moving Pulsate back to grass paid dividends.
“He’s a lot different on the turf, he’s a turf horse,” Franco said. “He tried on the dirt but on the turf, he’s a lot better. Today, I had a perfect trip. My plan was to sit behind those two horses and it worked out that way and we got it done.”
Backtohisroots, trained by John Terranova, finished 1 1/4 lengths clear of Guildsman for second in his first start in 11 months.
“He ran his race and tried pretty hard,” Saez said. “He came off a layoff and it was a great race. The pace was pretty fast up front. He ran pretty nicely.”
Noble Emotion, Holiday Stone, Maven, and Maxwell Esquire completed the order of finish. The Connector scratched.
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