Late-blooming sophomore Scotland put himself into Travers (G1) consideration with a front-running victory in Friday’s $130,950 Curlin S. at Saratoga. One of a trio of Curlin grandsons in the race honoring the Hall of Famer, all by Good Magic, Scotland upstaged fellow Good Magic colt Blazing Sevens, the 7-10 favorite, who wound up third.
Trained by Bill Mott, the LNJ Foxwoods homebred was making his stakes and two-turn debut in this spot. Scotland had employed closing tactics in both prior wins, his seven-furlong premiere on March 4 at Gulfstream Park and his June 3 allowance around the one-turn mile at Churchill Downs. But in between, he had stalked when just missing by a nose in a Keeneland allowance.
Without much speed signed on at the Spa, jockey Junior Alvarado seized the initiative aboard the 2.45-1 second choice. The likely pace factor was longshot Il Miracolo, and once Scotland beat him to the punch, the race unfolded in his favor.
Scotland broke alertly and bagged the lead through an opening quarter in :23.69 on a track just upgraded to fast. Il Miracolo moved up to press through fractions of :47.56 and 1:11.12, but Scotland readily kicked away turning into the stretch. Extending his margin to 3 1/4 lengths while in hand late, the chestnut gelding negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.12.
Il Miracolo chased doggedly to hold second. Another three lengths back came the tiring Blazing Sevens, the Preakness (G1) near-misser, who added to doubts about the form of that middle jewel. Lost Ark and Perform rounded out the order in the strung-out field.
Blazing Sevens didn’t get the trip that trainer Chad Brown wanted, although he was quick to praise Scotland’s effort.
“I thought the winner was super impressive today. I don’t think anybody was going to beat him,” Brown said. “For my horse, that trip just gutted him. He probably could have been battling for second there and gave more run in the stretch if he had maybe just eased back off the first turn. It just didn’t work out again for him.
“I’ll re-evaluate him. He certainly didn’t run well enough to go on to the big race (the Travers). We’ll just regroup with this horse and see how he comes out of it and how we want to manage his future.”
Scotland sports a mark of 4-3-1-0, $211,210. Starting out around one turn made sense for the son of Grade 3-winning sprinter Gemswick Park, a daughter of Speightstown who placed third in the 2008 Frizette (G1). But he’s now taking after sire Good Magic.
“Maybe this is what he wanted all along,” Mott said of the two-turn distance. “We got a good foundation in him. We sprinted him a few times – he got the job done a couple times. First time in a stake, and here we are.
“Looking at the paper, it (being on the lead) was no surprise. We thought the horse on the outside (Il Miracolo) might try to go to the lead because he had won one of his previous races being on the lead. I think they wanted to be on the lead, but we took it away from them. We had a good trip. We were on the lead and we were challenged a little bit, but not pressed overly hard.”
Alvarado had the same feeling in the saddle.
“I know they were probably trying to go with the horse outside (Il Miracolo), but I thought I got so much horse from the get-go. So, I just let him get comfortable, cruise along. He was traveling beautifully,” Alvarado noted. “I was always hoping he’d give me the kick that I was expecting at the end and I mean, when I turned for home and I asked him, he was there for me. I always thought he was going to be a very nice horse going two turns and I think he proved it today.”
The Aug. 26 Travers would pose a stiffer challenge against the division leaders, but Mott sounded inclined to give him the opportunity.
“He is for me,” the Hall of Famer laughed about Scotland’s candidacy. “This was a test today to see if he could get the two turns, get the nine furlongs, and get him a race over the Saratoga racetrack. He answered both questions today. Obviously, the Travers is a different race and different competition. I’m sure we’ll have that debate with the racing managers and the owners, but I’m sure the Travers would be up on the list.”
Lake George (G3)
Brown gained compensation later on the card in the $175,000 Lake George (G3) for three-year-old turf fillies, where he had half the field. Winning the feature for the fifth straight year and seventh time overall, Brown sent out the exacta courtesy of a pair of Klaravich Stables runners in Surge Capacity and Tax Implications.
The biggest handicapping conundrum was finding the right member of his battalion, especially on a yielding inner course. Brown entered five of the original 10-horse assembly, but whittled his team down to four by scratching yet another Klaravich colorbearer, Utilization Rate. Christophe Clement withdrew Queen Picasso, leaving a field of eight, still half of them from the Brown barn.
Surge Capacity had the least experience, coming off a debut maiden win at Monmouth Park, and accordingly went off as a 5.50-1 dark horse. The homebred daughter of Flintshire, and half-sister to the same connections’ Grade 3 hero Highly Motivated, showed professionalism to drive through on the inside and go 2-for-2.
Pacesetter Secret Money managed to prevent a clean sweep by the Brown quartet. Setting splits of :24.97, :49.84, and 1:14.33, the Brendan Walsh pupil put away the attending Princess Bettina and soldiered on down the lane. She was soon accosted by stalkers on both flanks.
While Tax Implications rallied on the outside, Surge Capacity didn’t have to deviate from her ground-saving spot for Joel Rosario. Secret Money left the door ajar on the rail, and Surge Capacity surged into the breach to prevail by three-quarters of a length. By clocking the soggy mile in 1:38.00, she paid $13.
Tax Implications got up by a neck for second over Secret Money. Next came the two fancied Brown runners, the 2.40-1 Revalita and 2.10-1 favorite Liguria. Brown had suspected that Liguria could be vulnerable in the conditions as a daughter of War Front, and so it proved. Tryinmyheartout, Princess Bettina, and Lil Miss Moonlight concluded the order of finish.
Surge Capacity, who has now bankrolled $129,250, is the offspring of Brown trainees. While sire Flintshire was a Juddmonte transfer from France, her dam, Strong Incentive, spent her brief career in his shedrow. The Warrior’s Reward mare captured the 2015 Jammed Lovely S. at Woodbine in what turned out to be her final start.
“I trained the mare and the sire for a little bit,” Brown said. “We bred this horse, and we don’t breed too many horses, but occasionally we’ll keep a mare or two, and generally we sell them and buy new yearlings per our business model.
“Occasionally, we’ll keep a mare or two if we don’t get the price we want. This has been a nice mare,” Brown added of Strong Incentive. Surge Capacity is “a half-sister to Highly Motivated, who finished a nose to Essential Quality in the (2021) Blue Grass (G2) and ran in the (Kentucky) Derby (G1).”
Interestingly, that relationship has their trainer contemplating dirt possibilities for Surge Capacity.
“This was the one I was going to run if it came off (the turf),” Brown revealed. “I know, Flintshire on the dirt, but she has never trained bad on the dirt. I’m not saying I’ll put her there off this, but I’m going to see how she trains over it. She might be a pretty versatile horse. The female family is all dirt, so it wouldn’t surprise me.”