07/22/2012 6:37PM

Saratoga: Bern Identity shows he's the real deal in Sanford

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bern Identity, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, wins the Grade 2 Sanford over Handsome Jack.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Kelly Breen took stalls at Saratoga for the first time because he thought he had horses - especially 2-year-olds - that could compete at this elite meeting. Breen’s assessment was spot on as Bern Identity backed up his 13 3/4-length maiden win at Belmont on June 1 with a 1 1/4-length victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga.

Handsome Jack, part of a hot early pace, held on for second by three-quarters of a length over a late-running Onetwentyeight. Brave Dave, who blew the turn after dueling with Handsome Jack, finished fourth, and was followed in the order of finish by John Gordon, Special Jo, Hightail and Rose Junction.

In addition to earning the first-place prize of $120,000, Bern Identity also earned his connections, owners George and Lori Hall, a $100,000 bonus since the horse won a maiden race at Belmont Park.

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Rosie Napravnik rode Bern Identity, and appeared to be a bit emotional after the win.

“Lori asked me if this was my first Sanford and I said yes,” Napravnik said.”I’ve had a lot of firsts with these guys, so they’re great supporters and I’m glad to be riding this horse for them.”

Bern Identity showed tremendous speed in his maiden win at Belmont. On Sunday, however, he was bumped at the start and was outrun to the lead by Handsome Jack and Brave Dave. That pair dueled heads apart through a quarter in 21.60 seconds and a half-mile in 44.70. Bern Identity raced in the second flight, inside of Special Jo and Rose Junction.

Coming to the top of the stretch, Brave Dave drifted out badly, and Handsome Jack, under Joel Rosario, slipped away to the lead. But Bern Identity was guided off the rail by Napravnik, collared Handsome Jack inside the sixteenth pole and edged away late for the victory.

Bern Identity, a son of Bernstein, covered the six furlongs in 1:11.13 and returned $5.60 as the 9-5 favorite.

“He didn’t break great, but in a blink of an eye we’re a length behind,” Breen said. “Watching Rosie pretty closely, she had to ride him coming out of there. Around the turn it was a little nerve wracking - is he going to keep on coming? - because she never really had a chance to give him a breather. So he showed a lot of grit.”

The Sanford is the first of three Grade 2 stakes for juveniles run at the meet. It is unclear whether Breen would stretch Bern Identity out to seven furlongs in a race like the Grade 2 Hopeful on Sept. 2.

Breen said his long-range goal with Bern Identity for this year might be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Santa Anita in early November.

“His mother was a sprinter, so I don’t know if we want to go much further right now,” Breen said.