Saratoga Recap: Pletcher, Dominguez Dominate at Spa

My Miss Aurelia made her return to Saratoga a winning one taking the Mandy's Gold on Aug. 8

The 40-day Saratoga meeting is in the books, with familiar names sitting on top of the standings, and handle showing a solid improvement over last year’s numbers.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won 36 races from his 149 starters to win the training title for the third consecutive year, and the ninth time in his career.

Pletcher won his first Spa training title in 1998, and also won from 2002 through 2006 as well as 2010 and 2011.

The trainer got off to a slow start at the meet this year, but finished with a flourish, with 23 of his wins coming with juveniles.

He fared well in graded stakes, winning with Love and Pride in the Personal Ensign Invitational Handicap (G1), Turbulent Descent in the Ballerina (G1), Dominus in the Bernard Baruch (G2), Kauai Katie in the Grade 2 Adirondack (G2), and capped off the meeting on closing day by winning the Hopeful (G2) with Shanghai Bobby.

Pletcher won a record 38 races in 2011 at the Spa from his 149 starters.

Chad Brown was second in the trainer standings again this summer, winning with 29 of his 95 starters, good for a 31% win clip.

Last year Brown was second with 22 starters from 75 starters, good for a 29% win rate.

Among the other trainers that had a strong Spa showing include Steve Asmussen (12 for 69), Tony Dutrow (11 for 39), Bruce Levine (11 for 48), and Al Stall (7 for 23).

High profile trainers  that had subpar meets included Mike Maker (5 for 54), Bruce Brown (5 for 61), Ken McPeek (4 for 48), Nike Zito (2 for 55), Graham Motion (2 for 40), and D. Wayne Lukas (2 for 43).

Among the trainers who were shut at the meet were Barclay Tagg (0 for 24), William Badgett, Jr. (0 for 27), and Randi Persaud (0 for 21).

Ramon Dominguez dominated the jockey colony with an all-time record of 66 wins from his 288 mounts.

Dominguez topped the previous mark of 64 winners booted home by John Velazquez in 2004. The meeting was 36 days that year.

Strong Handle Numbers at Spa

Daily average all-sources handle, which includes wagers on Saratoga races both on-track and from simulcast facilities nationwide, was $14,708,799, up 9.0 percent from $13,493,636 last year.  Total all-sources handle was $588,351,964, an increase of 11.8 percent from $526,251,819 in 2011.

There were 417 races run during this year’s 40-day meet compared to 397 over 39 days in 2011. Average betting interests per race were 8.4 (3,492 total) compared to 8.2 (3,269 total) in 2011. Turf races totaled 197 with 27 taken off the turf and moved to the main track, compared to 158 on and 41 off in 2011.

Belmont Park Meeting Kicks Off Saturday

The 37-day fall championship meeting at Belmont Park kicks off Saturday, with the opening day feature the $200,000 Bowling Green Handicap (G2).

There will be 21 graded stakes during the meeting including many key final preps for the Breeders’ Cup.

September 29 is the key day of the meeting, with the Super Saturday card offering five Grade 1 races, all of which will have Breeders’ Cup implications.

The $1 million TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (G1) is a key final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Also on the card is the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) for older males on the grass, the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational for fillies and mares on the turf, the $400,000 Beldame Invitational (G1) for fillies and mares on dirt, the $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational (G1) for sprinters, and the$400,000 Kelso Handicap (G2) at a mile on the main track.

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