08/06/2010 6:00PM

Always First upsets in John’s Call

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Barbara D. Livingston
Always First, with Robby Albarado up, wins the John's Call by a length on Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hollywood moved to upstate New York on Friday. First it was the improbable story of Lisa's Booby Trap in the Loudonville Stakes, and then Always First provided the tear-jerking final scene when he rallied to capture the $70,000 John's Call, a race named after the popular former stakes winner of Tom Voss, the trainer of Always First.

“You want it to happen, but you don’t think it could happen,” Voss said.

Voss was dismissive of the chances of Always First leading up to the race.

“Won't happen,” he said on a syndicated radio station Friday morning, two days after saying, almost sarcastically, “If there’s a God, it’ll happen” when discounting the chances of Always First pulling off the upset. And yet Always First, owned by Merriefield Farm, closed resolutely under jockey Robby Albarado to score a $44.60 surprise in the 1 5/8-mile turf race.

Always First beat Perfect Shower by one length, with pacesetting Coolcullen Times a head farther back in third. Solitaire, the 2-1 favorite, finished eighth in the field of 12.

Always First covered the 1 5/8 miles on firm turf in 2:41.47. A 9-year-old gelding, Always First had finished second in a $50,000 claiming race at Delaware in his only prior start this year.

“I should just train 9-year-olds,” Voss joked. John’s Call won a pair of Grade 1 stakes when he was 9. He died earlier this year in a paddock accident in Maryland.

“This is a big thrill, obviously,” Voss said. “Who would have thought?
It wasn't supposed to happen.”