08/05/2012 6:28PM

Saratoga: Poseidon's Warrior pulls off 36-1 upset in Vanderbilt

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Barbara D. Livingston
Poseidon's Warrior, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., gives trainer Butch Reid his first career Grade 1 victory

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Based in the Mid-Atlantic region, trainer Butch Reid certainly makes his presence felt when he comes to New York.

Reid picked up his sixth career graded stakes victory - and third in New York - when Poseidon’s Warrior outgamed Justin Phillip to the wire to win Sunday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga. He was the second-longest shot in the eight-horse field, returning $74.50.

It was the first Grade 1 victory for the 56-year-old Reid, who began training in 1983.

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Despite drifting out in the stretch, Poseidon’s Warrior, under Irad Ortiz Jr., finished a neck in front of Justin Phillip, who was second by a neck over the pacesetting Emcee.

Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner and 6-5 Vanderbilt favorite, finished last in his first try at six furlongs. His connections blamed the performance on the muddy Saratoga track.

Two years ago, Reid won the Grade 2 Withers at Aqueduct with Afleet Again, who was 24-1. The next year, Afleet Again won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs at 41-1.

In 1995, Reid won the Grade 3 Roseben Handicap at Belmont with Evil Bear, who in 1994 finished second here to American Chance in the Grade 1 Forego, finishing ahead of that year’s Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin.

Reid called the Vanderbilt victory “a thrill of a lifetime” because “this is a place that we’ve always tried to come, haven’t always had all the quality horses to get up here and get it done.”

Poseidon’s Warrior was winless in two starts this year, but Reid felt the horse got enough out of a 2 3/4-length loss in the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth on July 8 to take a shot in here.

 “The timing was perfect. We decided to take a chance,” said Reid, who trains Poseidon’s Warrior for Tom McGrath’s Swilcan Stables.

 Breaking from post 5, Ortiz hustled Poseidon’s Warrior out of the gate and found himself chasing the pace of Emcee, who ran a quarter in 21.99 seconds and a half-mile in 44.61 while being prompted by Rothko.

 Emcee, under Alan Garcia, kept plugging away along the rail while Rothko faded inside the eighth pole. Meanwhile, Ortiz was persevering on Poseidon’s Warrior, who began to drift out in the stretch. That turned out to be a good thing as he was getting alongside Justin Phillip, who was rallying wide under Ramon Dominguez but couldn’t catch Poseidon’s Warrior.

Poseidon’s Warrior, a 4-year-old son of 2004 Vanderbilt winner Speightstown, covered six furlongs in 1:09.40.

 “I broke running and got a good position on the outside,” said Ortiz, who added this Grade 1 to his victory aboard Questing in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. “There were two horses fighting on the lead. I just waited and was patient. When I turned for home, I asked my horse and he had something [left].”

Conversely, Shackleford had nothing to offer from the outset. He broke a step slow from the rail, chased the pace along inside from fourth, and retreated to last.

 Jockey John Velazquez said he knew “two jumps” into the race, Shackleford wasn’t going to run well because he wasn’t showing his usual aggressiveness.

 Watching from the stands, trainer Dale Romans knew it as well.

 “When he wasn’t dragging Johnny up the backside I thought he wasn’t comfortable,” Romans said. “It’s not a soundness issue with him. I just think that he is surface sensitive. He’s a little bit finicky on what he runs on.”

 Romans said provided there is no physical issue with Shackleford he will still be pointed to the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 1.