08/22/2013 2:12PM

Saratoga: Vitoria Olympica proves he can handle dirt in Alydar

Barbara D. Livingston
Vitoria Olympica, ridden by John Velazquez, wins his first start on dirt in the 1 1/8-mile Alydar.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.  - Vitoria Olimpica proved he was more than a one-dimensional  turf horse when he outgamed the 4-5 favorite Easter Gift to register a three-quarter-length victory in Thursday’s $100,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga.

Vitoria Olimpica, a Group 1 winner on grass in his native Brazil, was trying dirt for the first time in the Alydar after making his first seven career starts on turf. One of those seven races came here earlier in the meet when Vitoria Olimpica finished sixth after contesting the pace going a mile against high-priced optional claiming and allowance opposition in his United States debut

As expected, Vitoria Olimpica’s uncoupled stablemate under trainer Todd Pletcher’s shed, Percussion, set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Alydar while stalked by Csaba.  Vitoria Olimpica was also forwardly placed from the outset under jockey John Velazquez.

Vitoria Olimpica engaged Percussion leaving the final bend while joined by Easter Gift to his outside. Easter Gift, who was forced to fan four wide rallying into the stretch, gained a brief advantage near the eighth pole but Vitoria Olimpica dug in bravely, turning back the challenge to be edging away at the wire.

Percussion succumbed grudgingly to finish third, followed by Aussi Austin and the tiring Csaba.

Vitoria Olimpica, who is owned by Stud TNT, paid $11.40.

“He wasn’t a surprise winning today,” said Pletcher. “I didn’t think he ran a bad race last time. We were in a pretty tough race, certainly a stakes-caliber allowance race, and it seemed to me he just kind of stayed one-paced a bit. He trained so well on the dirt and I think those types of horses have a better chance on the dirt. I still think he’s a real nice turf horse. He probably wants to go further than a mile, but we’re not surprised he was able to do this today.”