05/28/2013 3:17PM

Belmont Park: Met Mile winner Sahara Sky found in unlikely spot

Tom Keyser
Next-out plans for Sahara Sky, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap, are uncertain, though the Breeders’ Cup Sprint seems likely a year-end goal.

Kim Lloyd, part-owner of Sahara Sky, was headed to Broadway Tuesday night, one day after the thrilling nose victory by his horse over Cross Traffic in Monday’s Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Naturally, the show he was going to see was called “Lucky Guy.”
Lloyd, as well as his co-owner and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer felt quite fortunate after Sahara Sky got his nose down on the wire in the final jump to beat the remarkably game Cross Traffic in the 120th Met Mile.

“It was a great thrill, some race,” Lloyd said Tuesday afternoon. “First time I came to Belmont Park was 1976 and I watched Forego beat Master Derby. It’s been my favorite race ever since then.”

Forego beat Master Derby by a head that afternoon. This finish was even closer as Sahara Sky, under Joel Rosario, rallied down the center of the track to nail the pacesetting Cross Traffic, who had put away two other horses, in the last jump. The final time for the mile was 1:34.17. Both horses earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 109.

Lloyd is fortunate to be involved in Sahara Sky in the first place. As the general manager of Barretts Sales and Racing, Lloyd was in Louisiana in December 2010 on a recruiting mission for his company’s 2-year-old in training sale the following March.
Trainer Jeff Hebert showed him Sahara Sky, a son of Pleasant Tap who had won his debut for maiden $20,000 claiming at Delta Downs at the end of November.

“When he walked out of the barn I just loved the horse,” Lloyd said. “I don’t buy horses privately. I really work for the auction company. It was just one of those lucky circumstances.”

Lloyd said while Hollendorfer was always going to train Sahara Sky, he had somebody else who was going to buy the horse. But that person backed out at the last minute and “Jerry stepped in,” Lloyd said.

Hollendorfer flew back to Southern California on Tuesday, and Sahara Sky was scheduled to travel back on Thursday. Lloyd said he didn’t know of any plans Hollendorfer had for Sahara Sky, though the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is likely a year-end goal, with the horse having 4 wins and 2 seconds from 6 starts at Santa Anita, site of this year’s Breeders Cup.

“He loves to run fresh,” said Lloyd, who credited Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward for his work with the horse. “I’m just along for the ride. Jerry calls the shots, and I get to enjoy the benefit of that.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Cross Traffic came out of the race in good order and would likely be stretched out in distance during the summer.

“The one thing we saw in the Westchester and the Met was he galloped out very well past the wire,” Pletcher said. “Despite running pretty fast he still had his legs underneath him. He looks like a horse that wants more ground.”

While Pletcher didn’t rule out the Suburban on July 6 he seemed more inclined to wait for the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 3.