07/19/2013 4:47PM

Saratoga: Sage Valley edges clear for James Marvin victory

Barbara D. Livingston
Sage Valley, with Cornelio Velasquez riding, pulls clear in the James Marvin on Saratoga’s opening-day card.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was on the fence all week trying to decide whether to run Sage Valley in Friday’s $100,000 James Marvin Stakes on opening day at Saratoga.  Fortunately, he and co-owner Michael Dubb made the right choice.

Benefiting from a perfectly judged ride by Cornelio Velasquez and a torrid pace that ultimately took its toll on 9-5 favorite Souper Speedy, Sage Valley rallied to a one-length decision over Laurie’s Rocket in the Grade 3 James Marvin, with Hello Lover finishing another half-length further back in third.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Rodriguez was worried about the 123-pound weight assignment Sage Valley was forced to carry in the seven-furlong James Marvin under the allowance conditions of the race. But after discussing the situation with Dubb, the pair decided to give it a go.

Sage Valley broke well and briefly ran with the early leaders before easing off the pace set by Souper Speedy and pressed from the outside by Laurie’s Rocket and Strapping Groom. Souper Speedy held a short advantage along the rail while posting early fractions of 22.38 and 44.42 seconds for the opening quarter- and half-mile. Velasquez bided his time aboard Sage Valley, who swung four wide to launch his bid into the stretch. Sage Valley, who earned his topweight assignment by virtue of his easy victory in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap two months ago, joined the tiring leaders inside the eighth pole and gradually edged clear.

Politicallycorrect saved ground into the stretch, eased out between rivals to continue his bid, and was second-best. Hello Lover loomed boldly after circling widest turning for home but hung late.

Souper Speedy dueled courageously along the inside for six furlongs before weakening to finish fourth in the scratch-reduced field of just six older sprinters.

Sage Valley, a son of Discreet Cat owned by Dubb in partnership with Gary Aisquith, covered seven furlongs in 1:22.49 and paid $8.90.

“He was training very well, and Mike [Dubb] just gave me the okay to do whatever I wanted to do,” said Rodriguez. “And it worked out pretty good. Cornelio gave him a perfect ride, he’s one of the best riders in the country, and I’m always happy to have him on my horses.”

Rodriguez said he would discuss future options for Sage Valley with Dubb that will include a possible start in the Grade 1 Forego on Aug. 31.