SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Just as he did a year ago, Shadwell Stable’s Qurbaan conquered Monday’s $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2), the turf feature on Saratoga Closing Day.
Breaking from post 3 under Joel Rosario at 3/1 odds, Qurbaan was forwardly-placed early but eventually tucked back behind early leader Dream Friend heading into the clubhouse turn. Unpressured as the rain showers fell, Dream Friend posted uncontested opening fractions of :24.81, :44.90, and 1:11.60.
Still riding the hedges as the field made the far turn, Qurbaan cut the corner and exploded in the stretch. Kicking clear with every stride, Rosario hand-rode Qurbaan late before crossing with a 2 1/2-length advantage. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile event over the soft inner turf course in 1:45.20.
“On paper, it looked like there was only one horse with speed,” Rosario said. “He was up close and it looked like I could go to the lead, but I just decided to follow the other horse. I got through inside and everything worked out good. He was fine with the ground. He gave me a strong kick and it looked like he was really happy with it today.”
Sacred Life made a bid down the middle of the lane but couldn’t make up enough ground over the giving lawn and settled for second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of a weakened Dream Friend. Emaraaty had trouble settling before finishing a 1/2-length ahead of the 5/2 favorite Olympico, who never seemed to find his best footing. March to the Arch completed the order of finish. Noble Indy was scratched.
Qurbaan’s win was his first since taking last year’s edition and improved his career mark to 22-7-3-6. The 6-year-old son of Speightstown, who spent his first three racing seasons overseas, has now earned $854,408.
“It was great for him,” McLaughlin said. “He’s one of the barn favorites and unlucky so many times to be second, third with little excuses, but today, everything went perfect and Joel rode him great. It was a great ride. He’s very good after riding a horse a time or two, I’ve found out. He rode him last time and he knows the horse. He can be too keen or too far back sometimes, but he was ridden perfectly.”
Qurbaan returned $8.20 to win, $3.90 to place, and $2.80 to show. Sacred Life brought back $3.70 to place and $2.90 to show, while Dream Friend paid $5.50 to show.