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Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Saratoga in overdrive

By Bob Ehalt

The true essence of Saratoga can be found in so many of the meet’s most vibrant elements.

There’s the great racing. The idyllic setting. An atmosphere in which racing is king and baseball and football are afterthoughts.

Then there’s the stars.

A grand part of Saratoga’s tradition has been the way it serves as a place where greatness can be bestowed or confirmed, and the opening weekend of the 2011 meet was no exception.

On Saturday, It’s Tricky put her star power on display in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Sunday brought us Uncle Mo Part II as owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher returned to the winner’s circle at the Spa through Overdriven’s easy victory in the Sanford. The final time wasn’t overpowering -- he ran six furlongs in 1:10.60 while older non-winners of 2 allowance horses covered the same distance in 1:10.77 -- but a four-length margin at the finish line says more about his status among this year’s crop of 2-year-olds.

He’s even ahead of Uncle Mo in terms of development as he’s already 2-for-2 and “Mo” did not debut until Travers Day.

“Todd’s done an amazing job with this horse, and here we go again, man,” said Repole, who grew up in Queens and now lives on Long Island. “Pretty nice horse last year and pretty nice horse so far this year. There’s only one Uncle Mo. And there’s one Overdriven.”

While they may be two different horses, the goal for one is the same as it was for the other: an Eclipse Award.

“Last year, Uncle Mo was the best 2-year-old in the country and as of July 24, Overdriven is the best 2-year-old in the country,” Repole said.

That’s a pretty striking resemblance, and it will stay that way at least through the next month or so. Pletcher said Overdriven will be pointed to the Hopeful on closing day at the Spa, and judging by the way Overdriven extended his lead in the final furlong of the Sanford, seven furlongs shouldn’t be a problem for the son of Tale of the Cat.

“(Overdriven) is 2-for-2 now and he’s obviously a very mature 2-year-old, physically and mentally, precocious and gifted with some natural talent,” Pletcher said.

He’s also the newest star born at the proving grounds of champions, Saratoga.

Feast or famine?

1 for 9 isn’t too bad for Repole. Overdriven’s victory filled in the blanks on what had been an empty meet for the owner, who lost with his first eight starts at the Spa.

“I had nine in this weekend, but if I was going to be 1-for-9, this is the one I would have chosen, so it worked out good,” Repole said.

One of those horses in Repole’s Mets-ian (think I invented a word there) orange and blue colors who went down to defeat was How Do I Win, a first-time starter who was mentioned in a recent blog post here and is still searching for the answer to his name. He was third as a 4-5 favorite.

Aside from watching him run back, we’ll still keep an eye out for Repole’s unraced son of Giant’s Causeway -- who will be named Giant Surprise pending approval from The Jockey Club -- though we have no aspirations of seeing him at a big price on the toteboard.

We’ve already been down that road with a couple of Flying Zee first-time starters. If you read the recent post here on the passing of Carl Lizza, you no doubt saw that trainer Phil Serpe mentioned a couple of 2-year-olds slated to debut at the Spa.

One was Pure Gossip, who won Friday’s seventh race and paid, brace yourself if you forgot to enter him in your stable mail, $76.

The other was Cybertron, who was fifth at 4-1 in Sunday’s second race.
Depending on how well you heeded Serpe’s advice, you probably dined at either the Gideon Putnam or KFC this weekend.

Yeah, that was me Sunday with the $10 bucket special.

And what are your thoughts on the latest stars to rise at Saratoga? How’s the meet treating you? Gideon Putnam or KFC?