08/12/2013 5:27PM

Saratoga: Strapping Groom best in Kid Russell

Barbara D. Livingston
Strapping Groom, with John Velazquez riding, takes the Kid Russell Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In the month of August, the Saratoga winner’s circle has been the place to be for jockey John Velazquez.

One day after winning five races on Sunday’s card, Velazquez took two more on Monday, including the $100,000 Kid Russell Stakes aboard Strapping Groom, whom Velazquez steered to a 1 3/4-length victory over Candyman E. It was three lengths back to Leave of Absence in third.

For Velazquez, it was his 19th win of the month from 66 mounts and gives him 28 wins at the meet, just three behind Joel Rosario and two behind Javier Castellano. Velazquez has won 10 stakes at the meet, seven in August, including Grade 1 successes with Cross Traffic in the Whitney and Justin Phillip in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt as well as with reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap.

“When you get to ride these kinds of horses they just give you that much confidence,” Velazquez said. “You’re really secure in what you’re doing. They’re running well. They just make you look good.”

Velazquez had Strapping Groom positioned in second place, a length behind the pacesetting Right to Vote, who set fractions of 21.58 seconds for the quarter and 44.11 for the half-mile.

Straightening away in the stretch, Strapping Groom took over and easily outpaced Candyman E to the wire. Strapping Groom, a 6-year-old son of Johannesburg, covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.99 and returned $9.20 to win.

Strapping Groom, who had won the Lion Cavern Stakes at Belmont in June, bounced back from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 James Marvin here on opening day.

“Today, he broke well and he was where I wanted to be,” Velazquez said. “Last time, he broke real slow and I went to put him in the race and he ended up running off with me.”

Strapping Groom is trained by David Jacobson for the Drawing Away Stable. Jacobson said that Strapping Groom had arrived in Saratoga just before the James Marvin and didn’t acclimate well to his new surroundings.

“Between shipping too close to the race, opening day Saratoga, the hard effort before the combination of everything it didn’t click,” Jacobson said. “We got him up here, grazing in the grass, and he just relaxed.”