Updated on 09/16/2011 8:10AM

Top 10 Beyers at Saratoga 2002


Here are the 10 most memorable Beyer Speed Figures from this year's Saratoga meeting:

10. A One Rocket wired an allowance field on July 31, earning a Beyer of 99 - outstanding for a New York-bred. He came back to win again on Aug. 25 when the other speed in the race broke slowly and A One Rocket cleared the field on his way to a figure of 93.

9. First-time-starter Prince in Command, trained by Patrick Biancone, overcame a tough trip on Aug. 28 to run an 87, a powerful speed figure for a 2-year-old maiden.

8. Despite a tough, three-wide chasing trip in a race loaded with speed horses, Warners returned to the races on Aug. 10 with a huge figure of 109 in a one-other-than allowance.

7. Mandy's Gold ran a 108 on a sloppy track, giving her back-to-back figures of 109 and 108. Then she was involved in a vicious speed duel in the Ballerina, running fractions of 21.80 and 44 while battling on the outside. She showed her usual gameness until the last 50 yards, when Shine Again and Raging Fever finally struggled past her. Still, Mandy's Gold earned a 101.

6. This one was submitted by the Complaint Department. The tough turfer Aslaaf looked good in the eighth race Aug. 15. There appeared to be enough speed, and he had a great post and enough early foot to stay in close touch on the inside. Unfortunately, the jockeys had other ideas.

Especially Pat Day, who took Aslaaf way back to last even though River Rush had simply walked out to the lead on his own in an absurdly slow 25 and 48.40. Despite Day's astoundingly sleepy ride, Aslaaf angled out four wide at the top of the stretch and closed gamely to finish a remarkably close second, earning a 97 Beyer.

5. Repent ran a figure of 112 and almost caught Medaglia d'Oro in the Travers Stakes. Trainer Ken McPeek said Repent would run big, and he was right. A figure of that magnitude earned at a 1 1/4 miles in the slop after a 4 1/2-month layoff deserves special mention.

4. Sky Mesa's figure of 92 in a maiden win on Aug. 3 was one of the most impressive performances by a 2-year-old maiden I've ever seen. Trainer John Ward told jockey Edgar Prado that he should just keep Sky Mesa out in the middle of the track because he didn't think he was a sprinter, and he thought he would need more distance to do his best. Prado followed his orders and kept Sky Mesa out three and four wide on the turn. But the colt simply cruised on past his opposition, and drew off under wraps. After that impressive effort, it was no surprise that he was able to move right into the Hopeful Stakes and beat Zavata soundly, improving his Beyer to 103. In the last 10 years in the Hopeful, only Came Home's 108 last year was higher than Sky Mesa's figure last Saturday. Just like Came Home, Sky Mesa looks like a very, very special horse.

3. With his victories in the Jim Dandy (a figure of 120) and the Travers (113), Medaglia d'Oro was the star of the meeting. His 120 Beyer had not been seen in decades of runnings of either the Jim Dandy or the Travers. And his 113 in the Travers ranks behind only Point Given, Holy Bull, and Will's Way in recent runnings.

2. One minute we were all looking to bet against Orientate. The next minute we were all pronouncing him the best sprinter in America. The logic, such as it is, goes like this: Orientate had whipped fields at Churchill Downs and Calder, earning back-to-back Beyers of 115. Then, in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga, he faced a field full of speed horses. It looked like a must-bet-against situation. But all the other speeds scratched out of the race, and Orientate was able to set an easy pace and win with little effort (with a Beyer of 112). Then D. Wayne Lukas entered him in the Forego, where he would have to outrun last year's sprint champion, Squirtle Squirt. The two dueled in testing fractions, and Orientate drew away powerfully through the stretch. An awesome performance. At six furlongs he will be tough for anyone to beat.

1. Without question the top prize must go to Left Bank, now lost to racing because of an illness that struck him after his legendary achievement in the Whitney. Back at Belmont, Left Bank had crushed a field in the Tom Fool, earning a big Beyer of 121. A month later, in the Whitney, trainer Todd Pletcher asked him to go 1 1/8 miles, a bit beyond his optimal distance, in a field that included the speedster Saint Verre and the East Coast's top stakes horses. But the challenge proved no problem for Left Bank. He chased Saint Verre in some serious fractions, ran past him at the top of the stretch, and then held off Macho Uno, Lido Palace, and Street Cry. His Beyer of 121 made him the first runner since Artax in 1999 to earn back-to-back Beyers in the 120's.

Left Bank's performance was indeed legendary. He will be missed.