08/10/2012 6:48PM

Saratoga: Quick Wit by a nose in Hall of Fame Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Quick Wit (left) perseveres to defeat Csaba in the Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - On paper, it looked like a sloppy track was the last thing trainer Dale Romans wanted to see for his 3-year-old Quick Wit.

On the track, it turned out to be just perfect for the son of Sharp Humor.

After hooking up with Csaba at the five-sixteenths pole, Quick Wit, a 10-1 shot under substitute jockey Rajiv Maragh, prevailed by a nose over the favored Csaba, under Julien Leparoux, to win the $200,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes Friday at saturated Saratoga. It was 4 3/4 lengths back to Daddy Nose Best in third.

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The Hall of Fame Stakes was originally scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course, but heavy rain forced the New York Racing Association to move it to the main track. Thus, the race is downgraded to a Grade 3 pending a review of the North American Graded Stakes Committee.

For Quick Wit, owned by Michael Bruder and trained by Dale Romans, it was his first stakes victory in four tries. In one of his previous stakes tries, Quick Wit was beaten 27 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 Derby Trial, which was also run over a sloppy track. Romans said the off track was not the reason for the poor performance that night.

"He had other excuses, he came out of the race a little jammed up," Romans said. "I didn't think it was the track surface at all."

Romans had named Corey Lanerie to ride, but that jockey missed his connecting flight from Atlanta to Albany, so Maragh picked up the mount.

Maragh put Quick Wit in third position early, but kept him in the space between Csaba and Skyring so that he wasn't getting slop kicked in his face.

Maragh split horses at the five-sixteenths, joined up with Csaba, and the race was on. It appeared as though Quick Wit was going to open up on Csaba in the stretch, but Csaba fought back. In the end, it was Quick Wit who put his nose on the line first.

Quick Wit covered the 1 1/8 miles in the slop in 1:51.95 and returned $23.80.

"When I first passed him I thought if my horse would sustain the run that he was making he would pull away," Maragh said. "But the other one started battling back, so it came down to a really close race. Fortunately, I got the win."

Phil Gleaves, who shipped Csaba here from south Florida, was naturally frustrated by the result, albeit pleased with his colt's gutty performance.

"I thought he ran game," Gleaves said.  "When he was headed, it looked like he was going to back up, and he came back again. I don't know how the race will shape up time-wise, but I was very proud of his effort. It's a long way to come to get beat a nose."