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Velazquez sets meet win record
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There is a new King of Saratoga.
John Velazquez set the single-meet record for wins by a jockey at Saratoga on Saturday when he guided Lightning Lyla, a 2-year-old New York-bred daughter of Personal Flag, to a three-quarter-length victory in the second race. It was Velazquez's 56th victory, eclipsing the mark of 55 established by Jerry Bailey in 2001. Velazquez went on to win three more races Saturday and clinched his second Saratoga riding title. He also won the title here in 1998.
"It's great to get it done,'' said Velazquez, who went 0 for 8 since tying the mark on Thursday. "I think it's a great feeling. My feeling is, I don't care what the numbers are, I want to win more. I'd like to win 10 more by the end of the meet.''
The record probably meant more to Velazquez's agent, Angel Cordero, than it did to Velazquez. Cordero won 14 Saratoga riding titles in his Hall of Fame career and was dubbed the "King of Saratoga'' after winning 11 straight crowns from
1976-86. Cordero was obsessed with breaking Manny Ycaza's record of 41 wins for a 24-day meet, but the closest he ever came was 36 wins, which he accomplished in 1967 and 1988.
"This is a great, great feat - man, I envy him. I wish it was me,'' Cordero said in the winner's circle. "This was something I always dreamed to do and he did it so easy. I've tried it for so many years and look how he does it. It's good to be young.''
Velazquez, 31, has been the beneficiary of being the first-call rider for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is enjoying a record-setting Saratoga meet with 35 wins. Velazquez rode 31 of those winners. Velazquez has ridden winners for 19 other trainers including three apiece for Shug McGaughey, Bob Barbara, and John Terranova.
"I think I've been very blessed anyway, very fortunate to ride for the people that I ride for; they gave me a lot of good opportunities, especially Todd,'' Velazquez said. "I'm putting the horses where I think they have a chance to win the race. If they don't respond, they don't respond.''
Clarifying the record
While Pletcher's 35 wins are indeed a Saratoga record for a trainer, new information has refuted the record that he broke.
It had been widely reported that Syl Veitch saddled 24 winners in a 24-day period in 1954. Journalist Bill Mooney's research revealed that Veitch saddled only 19 winners that season. Veitch's mark was equaled by Allen Jerkens in 1972.
In 2001, Bill Mott set a 36-day meet record with 22 winners.
Through the first 24 days of the meet, Pletcher saddled 30 winners.
Career meet for Violette
With 6 wins from 24 starters this summer, trainer Rick Violette has enjoyed his finest Saratoga meet. What makes things even better is that four of his victories have come in the juvenile division.
From 2000-02, Violette went 3 for 7 here with his 2-year-olds. This year, Violette is 4 for 9. Violette won juvenile races with Read the Footnotes and Distressed Debt - both sons of champion sprinter Smoke Glacken - and Bond Arbitrage, a New York-bred son of Forestry. Friday, Violette won a maiden filly race with Silverwilldo, a horse he owns himself.
"The two Smoke Glackens are the ones I'm very, very excited about,'' Violette said. "Everything that broke their maiden here looks like they could run. What's nice about 2-year-olds is they get you out of bed in the morning.''
Violette said he has 18 to 20 2-year-olds this year, the most he has ever trained at one time. A majority of them are for Seth Klarman's Klaravich Stables, but Violette also trains some for West Point Thoroughbreds and Ralph Evans.
Violette now has the enviable task of trying to figure out how to manage his 2-year-old winners through the fall. Bond Arbitrage and Read the Footnotes - both New York-breds - won five-furlong races while Distressed Debt won his maiden going seven furlongs in his second start.
"I can't do Futurity, Champagne, Breeders' Cup with him,'' Violette said of Distressed Debt. "It'd be three weeks, three weeks, three weeks. Read the Footnotes, he needs to show he wants go on. An allowance race is a big possibility; it's a possibility I could go to Kentucky with him.''
Violette was referring to the Kentucky Cup Juvenile on Sept. 13 at Turfway Park.
Violette twice entered Bond Arbitrage in allowance races on the turf that did not fill. "He's got a lot of turf pedigree and he breezed well over it,'' Violette said.
Violette will consider the $200,000 Summer Stakes at Woodbine on Sept. 14 for Bond Arbitrage.
Violette owns Silverwilldo, who won her maiden by 5 3/4 lengths on Friday, covering 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.70. Violette is targeting the $150,000 Astarita Stakes on Oct. 12 at Belmont for her.
"She never broke the watches, but when I worked her with something she always had her head or neck in front,'' Violette said. "She's obviously got some talent. She settled and rated on the lead nicely and drew off when Richie [Migliore] asked her.''
Spoken Fur to Gazelle
Trainer Bobby Frankel was originally planning to try Spoken Fur, the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks winner, on the turf in next Sunday's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park.
But, Frankel said Saturday that if Dimitrova, the American Oaks winner, runs in the Garden City, he would run Spoken Fur in Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap on dirt.
Dimitrova, based in Europe under the care of trainer Dermot Weld, is better than a 50-50 proposition to run in the Garden City, according to New York racing officials.
In the Gazelle, Spoken Fur would have to face Island Fashion, the Alabama and Delaware Oaks winner, and Lady Tak, the Test winner.
"I'd rather run against those two than the filly that Dermot Weld's bringing,'' Frankel said.
Spoken Fur finished a dull third in the Alabama, a race in which she was shooting for a $2 million bonus for sweeping New York's Triple Tiara.
"She bounced out of the race really well. She's acting better now than she was before the Alabama,'' Frankel said.
With Island Fashion, Lady Tak, and Spoken Fur in the field, the Gazelle could play a major factor in determining the 3-year-old filly championship.
Bird Town, the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner, is not running in the Gazelle and instead will be pointed to either the Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 4 or the Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 5.
"They're both going to be tough races, but I can't come back right away,'' Bird Town's trainer Nick Zito said, referring to the three-week time frame between the Alabama and Gazelle.
Voodoo Dancer to skip Palomar
Voodoo Dancer, the Diana winner, is staying home. For now.
Trainer Christophe Clement said he will not ship Voodoo Dancer to California for next Sunday's Grade 2 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar. Instead, Clement will wait to run Voodoo Dancer in either the Flower Bowl at Belmont on Sept. 27 or the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Sept. 28. Either one will be used as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 25.
"I would run in the Flower Bowl if it's firm,'' Clement said. "But most likely because of the ground I'll run in the Yellow Ribbon. If the Flower Bowl is firm I'm running here.''
Clement said he decided to skip the Palomar - a race Voodoo Dancer won last year - in order to have Voodoo Dancer fresh for the fall. Clement plans to run Voodoo Dancer in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park Nov. 30.
"If you want to be fresh for races like the Yellow Ribbon or Flower Bowl, Breeders' Cup, and Matriarch, it's not a bad thing to give them a small summer break,'' Clement said. "She ran a big race in the Diana.''