SARANAC STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES (INNER TURF)
When jockey Ramon Dominguez piloted 10-1 shot Unbridled Command to victory in the Sept. 2 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, he achieved another great milestone: a new record for number of wins during the meet.
Dominguez, who now has 66 victories under his belt this season, passed Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who won 65 races during the 2004 Spa meet (technically 64 due to a horse testing positive for a banned substance following the conclusion of the meet).
Dominguez had six wins including the Saranac, also scoring in the second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth races on the Sept. 2 card.
"It's one of those days when you have to pinch yourself," said Dominguez after the Saranac. "I'm very excited. I knew I was within five wins of tying the record. It's something I was thinking about once in a while, especially when we are getting closer to the end. I thought we could tie the record with Johnny. If we had the chance to break it, that would have been better. I will be able to sleep good with a big smile, and prepare for tomorrow with no pressure."
Unbridled Command, trained by Tom Bush for Lakland Farm, provided Dominguez with the record in exciting, come-from-behind fashion. The 3-year-old son of Master Command prevailed by a half-length over Skyring and completed the 1 1/8-mile inner turf race in 1:46.54 over a firm course.
A full field of 10 3-year-olds contested the Saranac, which marked Unbridled Command's fourth victory in eight starts and first stakes score. The $90,000 winner's share pushed his career earnings to $214,040.
"Beautiful. Fabulous. I love it!" exclaimed Bush following the Saranac. "I actually think the horse would have been 15-1 or 16-1 if it wasn't for Ramon riding. You're always in good hands in the big races when you can get the top riders, and he's obviously the best."
The Saranac was the third straight victory for Unbridled Command, who was ridden for the first time by Dominguez. The gray or roan colt was coming off a half-length score in a one-mile allowance optional claiming contest on the inner turf at the Spa Aug. 1.
In his most recent work, Unbridled Command covered five furlongs in a swift :58 4/5 Aug. 24 over the turf training track, the second fastest of 20 horses at the distance that day.
"The horse has done wonderfully up here," said Bush. "He came out of his last race really good and had two really good works. His last work was sensational. It was as good as a horse can work. I was just hoping he had enough class to run good, and he did."
Skyring, trained by D. Wayne Lukas for Bluegrass Hall, broke early for the lead of the Saranac and opened up by 6 1/2 lengths at the three quarters mark, setting fractions of :22:51, :46:35, and 1:10.80. In the end, however, Skyring was unable to hold off a late challenge from Unbridled Command, who lugged in on his rival in the stretch.
"I was focusing on giving (Unbridled Command) the best ride that I could and getting the most from him," said Dominguez. "Coming to the three-eighths pole, when I was able to squeeze in between horses, he gave me a great kick. I knew I wasn't already there, but I was excited. I said to myself, 'Win or lose, at this point, I am within a chance of breaking the record.' It was neat. When I passed the wire, it was one of those (moments) to take a second to let all of it to sink in."
Unbridled Command paid $22.60, $10.20, and $5. Skyring, who was a length back in second returned $12 and $6.80. Favored Lucky Chappy (13-10) second in the Virginia Derby last out, checked in third, one length farther back.
Bred in New York by Sequel Thoroughbreds and A. Lakin and Sons, Unbridled Command is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Unbridled Betty.
King Kreesa was a neck behind in fourth, followed by Excaper, Set the Sail, Starforce, Quick Wit, Spring to the Sky, and Shkspeare Shaliyah. Politicallycorrect was entered for the main track only.