09/01/2012 5:17PM

Saratoga: Dominus takes to turf in Bernard Baruch

Barbara D. Livingston
Dominus glides home to take the Bernard Baruch under Julien Leparoux.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Dominus, a graded stakes winner on dirt, made a smart-looking turf debut Saturday at Saratoga, leading every step of the way to take the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over even-money favorite Data Link.

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Running for the first time on turf after making his first seven starts on dirt, Dominus was able to get loose on the lead under Julien Leparoux, and was never seriously threatened in the lane. Data Link finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Sky Blazer, who broke awkwardly and was last early on.

The win was the fourth from eight starts for Dominus, a son of Smart Strike owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton and trained by Todd Pletcher.

As a 3-year-old, when trained by Steve Asmussen, Dominus won the Grade 2 Dwyer on dirt. He was given time off following a fourth in the King’s Bishop last Aug. 27 and during his vacation he had trained on the turf at a farm in Ocala, Fla. Dominus was transferred to Pletcher earlier this year and he won a third-level allowance race on the dirt here on Aug. 4.

But, following a sharp Monday workout on the Oklahoma turf course by Dominus, Pletcher and the braintrust of Stonestreet decided to give the Bernard Baruch a shot.

Seemingly the lone speed on paper, Dominus easily made the lead through a quarter in 24.29 seconds and a half-mile in 48.63.

“I would have been disappointed if he got beat at that point,” Pletcher said.

Dominus came into the stretch after running six furlongs in 1:12.26. Leparoux shook up Dominus, and the ridgling responded, gliding away from the field. Data Link, who moved three wide under John Velazquez, tried to run down Dominus in the stretch, but was no match.

“It’s hard to go by all the horses walking in front, especially a nice horse like him,” Velazquez said. “My horse ran his race, he just didn’t have any help in front.”

Dominus covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.32 and returned $5.70 as the second choice.

“We kind of anticipated he was going to be on the lead and the fractions were comfortable," Pletcher said. "He was relaxed nicely. Things went just like we hoped."

Pletcher said the turf victory opens up “tons of options” for Dominus’s future.

The win was the third on the card for Pletcher, who clinched his ninth Saratoga trainer’s title. Earlier on the card he won with Channel Lady and the first-time starter Micromanage, his 21st 2-year-old maiden winner of the meet.