09/05/2016 5:30PM

Ring Weekend by a neck in Bernard Baruch

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ring Weekend (No. 2) and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch by a neck Monday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Graham Motion predicted that Ring Weekend would run a much-improved race in Monday’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch than he had 16 days earlier in the Fourstardave. And he couldn’t have been more right, as Ring Weekend not only won the closing-day co-feature at Saratoga by a neck over Jay Gatsby but also established a course record.

Ring Weekend finished sixth and last in the Grade 1 Fourstardave. But Motion noted that his horse had not only become a little rank after getting pinched at the start of the race but also was making his first start in three months and just his second in nearly a year and a half that day.      

“I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t turn in a much more Ring Weekend kind of performance,” Motion said 48 hours in advance of the Bernard Baruch.

On Monday, John Velazquez, who guided Ring Weekend to an easy victory in the Grade 3 Saranac here two years ago, placed Ring Weekend in perfect striking position off the pace, set for much of the way by Take the Stand. Ring Weekend eased out to launch his bid in early stretch and outfinished Jay Gatsby, with the pair bumping briefly nearing the wire.

Jay Gatsby improved his position along the inside on the second turn, eased out between horses to continue his bid near midstretch, was put in tight quarters and jostled when Take the Stand came out slightly under left-handed pressure approaching the wire, and could not quite match strides with Ring Weekend at the end. Take the Stand succumbed very grudgingly, finishing just a nose farther back in third.

Following a stewards’ inquiry and claim of foul by Jay Gatsby’s jockey, Javier Castellano, against the winner, the result stood as is.

The victory was the sixth in 17 starts for Ring Weekend, who became a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita during the winter of 2015 before going to the sidelines for better than 14 months due to foot issues. His final time of 1:38.29 for 1 1/16 miles eclipsed the previous track mark of 1:38.54  set by Ironicus in winning the 2015 Bernard Baruch. Ring Weekend paid $7.90 as the slight favorite in a field of nine older turf specialists.

Motion watched the race from the Forest Hills neighborhood in Queens, where he was attending the U.S. Open tennis matches. 

“Serena [Williams] won her match just as [Ring Weekend] crossed the finish line, so the timing was a little awkward,” Motion quipped when reached by phone several minutes after the race. “In fairness to the horse, last time he got really aggressive after getting cut off at the break. This was the real Ring Weekend we saw today. He’s had an incredibly tough year, so I am very proud of him. You never expect any horse to set a track record, but I know what he’s capable of, so I’m not totally surprised.”

Motion said he has no definite plans for Ring Weekend other than to point him for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“I might just want to wrap him up in cotton balls and wait for the Breeders’ Cup,” Motion said when asked what might be next. “Seriously, I imagine he might run again, although I wouldn’t mind just sitting on him and waiting for the Breeders’ Cup, which is our major goal.”