SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – A capricious Sporting Chance capped another thrilling summer at Saratoga, making an impressive move down the stretch before bolting far outside and nearly unseating jockey Luis Saez before necking out a three-way photo finish in Monday’s Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful.
“I was going to win the race anyways, so I wanted to teach him a little bit to the left because I had never hit him with the left,” Saez said. “So when I hit him a little, he got scared and came out. I had the race, I just wanted to teach him. He is one of the best horses I have ever rode in my life, so I want to be okay with him, but Jesus, when he came out like that, I almost fell.”
Following Sporting Chance’s erratic move to the outside, jockey Robby Albarado (aboard runner-up Free Drop Billy) filed an objection with the stewards that was ultimately disallowed. Free Drop Billy’s trainer Dale Romans was less than pleased with the result.
“You can’t tell, (for) a 2-year-old who has run three times in his life and the horse bolts in front of him, how much it stops his momentum,” Romans said. “If they all stayed straight, he may run right past him (Sporting Chance). You don’t know what it does to a horse’s mind. He got beat a head by a horse who bolted in front of him. It’s a ridiculous call.”
Givemeaminit completed the trifecta of horses at the wire, officially missing out by a head for first and a neck for second, though the photo looked even closer. Firenze Fire, National Flag, Oskar Blues, Mojovation, and Psychoanalyze completed the order of finish.
“He didn’t disappoint me at all,” said winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “I thought he ran even better than I expected. I expected him to run a strong race. I would’ve liked to have seen it without incident. You want everything to go smooth. I don’t think it diminished his quality any, I think we’ll move forward from this. Stuff like this is very correctable.”
Where Lukas moves forward to, however, may come as a surprise. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, usually the next start on the path to the sophomore season, is not a guarantee for the son of Tiznow.
“I’m going to get together with the (owners),” Lukas said. “My first blush reaction is to maybe get a two-turn race. I might try to go straight to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but I’m not real fond of Del Mar. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m going to weigh all our chances. Another logical spot would be the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and go two turns, another Grade 1. There’s all kinds of options now.”
Sporting Chance returned $13.40 to win, $6.80 to place, and $4.70 to show. Free Drop Billy brought back $4.20 to place and $3.10 to show, while Givemeaminit paid $3.70 to show.