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Memorable opening day for Englehart, Dettori
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Jeremiah Englehart had to wait a long time for his first Saratoga victory. Not so for Frankie Dettori.
The two horsemen were like little kids on Christmas morning Friday as Saratoga opened its 146th meeting under pristine conditions. Englehart, the 37-year-old trainer from upstate New York, and Dettori, the 43-year-old jockey based in England, both got the presents they wanted.
Englehart won his first-ever race at Saratoga with his 59th starter when Winter Games held off the late run of Goodnewsisnonews to take the first race of the meet by a nose. Englehart began running horses at Saratoga in 2003.
Meanwhile, Dettori, riding for the first time at Saratoga, won two races on the card, getting his first with Aventure Love in the eighth and his second on Jet Majesty in the 10th. In between, he finished second on Tiz Sardonic Joe.
“It feels great,” Dettori said after his win on Aventure Love. “To get the first one out of the way, great. It was a great feeling when I crossed that line, you know? I felt like a kid again. It's a childhood dream to ride at Saratoga, and I managed to do it.”
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s with low humidity, Saratoga opened its 40-day meet with a crowd of 25,612, an increase of 17 percent over the 21,935 here on opening day last year, when temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 90s.
Friday’s ontrack handle – also counting money bet at Aqueduct and Belmont – was $4,235,168, up 10.1 percent from last year’s ontrack handle of $3,831,584.
All-sources handle was $14,916,986, down 4.3 percent from last year’s figure of $15,591,240. Business might have been affected by having to refund wagers on Tiz Sardonic Joe, who lost a shoe before the race and was made to run for purse only, and Winter Wish, who got loose in the paddock prior to the last race and was scratched.
Friday’s Saratoga card began like most have over the last three-plus decades, but will for the last time. Track announcer Tom Durkin, who is retiring at the end of this meet, led the enthusiastic crowd in the call “And they’re off at Saratoga” as the horses jettisoned from the gate in the opener.
Winter Games, under Jose Ortiz, went to the front and held off the late run from Goodnewsisnonews to break the decade-long drought for Englehart.
“Yeah, we’re outta here. Going to pack the vans – we’re leading trainer,” Englehart said in the winner’s circle. “This is great. I’m really excited about this. The last two years, I thought, ‘Boy, we’re going to have a really good meet at Saratoga,’ and this year coming in, I was like, ‘Boy, I’m not as confident as I was the last two years.’ So, maybe I got to just think things aren’t going that well and we’ll run well.”
Travel plans delayed Dettori’s arrival at Saratoga until after the races had begun, and he was forced to miss his first two scheduled rides. A whirlwind week included riding in Istanbul on Wednesday night and Doncaster on Thursday night.
He flew to New York from Heathrow, landing shortly before 11 a.m. He then took a private plane to Albany and was driven to Saratoga.
“I thought I was in Disney World, there were so many people,” Dettori said. “I thought maybe I’d gone to the wrong venue. It’s nice to see people at the races.”
Dettori’s luggage – including his riding tack – did not leave Heathrow, so he had to borrow equipment from other jockeys to ride.
“I borrowed a bit from everybody,” Dettori said. “Hopefully, my tack arrives tomorrow, otherwise I’ll have to take this lucky tack back home.”
Dettori is scheduled to ride here through Monday.
While Dettori’s presence created a buzz, it was Jose Ortiz who was the riding star of the day, booting home three winners, including the early daily double, Winter Games ($31) and By the Moon ($14). Ortiz also won the sixth on Graeme Crackers ($11.40), a New York-bred 2-year-old filly.
Among the more familiar scenes on opening day was that of Todd Pletcher in the winner’s circle following a 2-year-old race. Pletcher’s Fashion Alert won the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 1 1/2 lengths over Take Charge Brandi. It was Pletcher 73rd victory in a 2-year-old race here since 2010. It was also his fifth win in the Schuylerville, and the fourth for winning rider John Velazquez, who won two races on Friday’s card.
Later on the card, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won the $100,000 Sir Cat Stakes with Tourist, who went gate to wire under Joel Rosario.
Its always good to have a big name outsider at a meet like saratoga..its keeps the other jocks honest..and dettori despite his problems is a star in the sport and just a fun guy.and a great rider.
love to see frankie stay,great rider great spokesman for the sport
Not surprising watch it on TV.
Comments on opening day (my 27th in a row)...Thanks for the TV's- they were long overdue. Now if you could actually make the sound on them work (i.e. the group of four closest to the clubhouse entrance next to the paddock). Thanks for the picnic tables, again, long overdue. Bathroom upgrades...? Oh, you mean the new faucets, gee thanks. How about running down to the local Salvation Army and grabbing some A/C units for $50. And a grade of F for the obstructive views of the paddock now. The broadcast booth for Talking Horses- F. The big tent (bigger this year) in front of the paddock -F. The Broadcast booth near the clubhouse-F. And if there was a worse grade than F, you would get it for the increase in Beer and Food prices. A 16 ounce Coors Light....$8! REALLY? The craft beer tent offerings...last year $5, this year $7! Okay, so we needed a new CEO to come in and turn things around in a struggling industry having a hard time bringing in new fans - so his idea to gain more players and have the current ones come back more often? RAISE the parking, RAISE the admission, RAISE the food and beverage prices. Brilliant!!- that ought to bring 'em in!
Dettori should be in a circus ! he will be great at, with the clowns.
Durkin needs to retire...he's terrible...
Way to go Frankie! See ya Sunday!
I was looking forward to beating him in big spots.....the ride on Jet Majesty has me taking a wait and see on that!!
It is just wonderful that the great Frankie Dettori is here for a bit to ride. It just adds more class to what should be a fun meet. Susy