December 1, 2021

A Thread of Blue wires Saratoga Derby; Perfect Alibi, Fools Gold score graded wins

A Thread of Blue and jockey Luis Saez capture the inaugural Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 4, 2019, at Saratoga (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Ethan Coglianese

by Teresa Genaro

Though the Saratoga Derby Invitational was being run for the first time and is not a graded stakes race, it nonetheless felt like the feature on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.

Perhaps it was the $1 million purse. Perhaps it was the field of 11 horses, including two trained by Aidan O’Brien. Perhaps it was because it is the second in a new three-race series for three-year-olds on the turf, created by the New York Racing Association.

Whatever it was, 13-1 chance A Thread of Blue won it, and $535,000 along with it.

Jockey Luis Saez let the dark bay colt go right to the lead in the 1 3/16-mile race, and that was where he stayed, largely unchallenged, until he crossed the wire a length ahead of Digital Age, trained by Chad Brown. O’Brien’s Cape of Good Hope finished third, followed by Social Paranoia, Henley’s Joy (who won the first leg of the series, the Belmont Derby Invitational [G1]), 5-2 favorite Rockemperor, Kadar, Mohawk, Flying Scotsman, Seismic Wave, and Eons, who veered sharply right at the break.

“In a big race, you never know, but we were lucky that it was pretty easy up front,” said Saez. “When we came into the stretch, I knew we had plenty of horse.”

“This is quite an honor, to win a race like this,” said Jonathan Green, general manager of his father Leonard’s stable. “When you come to Saratoga and race at any level, whether it’s a $12,500 claimer or a $1 million race, you know you’ll face the best competition in the world, and that’s why we like racing here.”

The Greens are based in New Jersey and usually race in the Midlantic; A Thread of Blue’s last start came in the Penn Mile (G2) at Penn National, when he finished fourth. Earlier this year, he was second by three-quarters of a length in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs, and he won the Palm Beach (G3) and Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. In 10 lifetime starts, he’s run at six racetracks.

“After the Penn race, [trainer] Kiaran [McLaughlin] said we should point to this race,” said Green. “We said, ‘You’re driving the bus, you get us there.’ We knew he’d have to perform at his highest level, and he proved that today.”

A Thread of Blue clocked 1:52.02, paid $28.40 to win, and increased his bankroll to $879,290.

The Greens purchased A Thread of Blue for $430,000 at the 2018 OBS March sale of two-year-olds in training. The son of Hard Spun sold as a yearling for $150,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale to Merites Stable. He is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Enthused, a Group 2 winner who raced exclusively in England. A Thread of Blue is a half-brother to Group 3 winner Norman Invader and to Ea, who earned nearly $600,000 racing in England and the United States.

“Mike Ryan picked him out,” said Green. “The pedigree’s proven, Kiaran’s proven, and Mike’s proven.”

McLaughlin said that the colt may well start in the third leg of the turf series, the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont Park on September 7.

Nearly a year to the day since Tracy Farmer bought a Sky Mesa filly at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, that filly – Perfect Alibi – was in the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course after winning the 103rd Adirondack S. (G2).

“It’s a good omen,” said a smiling Farmer.

Farmer paid $220,000 for the dark bay filly, drawn by her sire and her breeder, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud.

“Miss Abercrombie always has great mares,” said the owner.

The second choice in a field of eight, Magic Dance undefeated in two starts and a last-out winner in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, stumbled badly at the break, going to her knees. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. somehow gathered her up and got her back in the race, running sixth early in a tight group of two-year-old fillies.

Longshot Integral set the early pace, and the 6-1 Perfect Alibi raced several lengths off the lead in the two-path, with horses close to her on all sides. At the top of the stretch, she was eager to run, but with a line of horses in front of him, Irad Ortiz Jr. didn’t have much room to maneuver.

He tried once to get through a slim opening, but Just Fly squeezed that one shut as she caromed off horses to her inside and out, eventually fading to last. Ortiz tried again, and this time he made it through, Perfect Alibi bravely sneaking between horses. She was joined by favored Frank’s Rockette to her inside, but she hung on to win by a half-length.

Magic Dance recovered impressively to finish third. Miss Peppina, Big Q, Mylastfirstkiss, Integral, and Just Fly completed the order of finish.

“I didn’t want to make a premature move and try to get through because it looked like Santana had a lot of hose, so I just waited,” said Ortiz. “They didn’t keep a straight (path), so I got through in between horses and she responded really well.”

“I’ve had a good year, thanks to (the New York Racing Association),” said Farmer, who won this year’s Belmont S. (G1) with Sir Winston.

Both Sir Winston and Perfect Alibi are trained by Mark Casse, who admitted that the filly’s works wouldn’t necessarily suggest that she’d be much of a racehorse.

But, he said, “This is why you run them. Mr. Farmer’s not afraid to lose, and sometimes, you have to run them.”

Casse, bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins, and Farmer worked together to purchase Perfect Alibi a year ago. She was bred in Kentucky and is out of stakes winner No Use Denying, a Maria’s Mon mare also responsible for Grade 2-placed Noble Thought.

Perfect Alibi, who was second as the favorite in the Astoria S. last out, is likely to target the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga on September 1.

This year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale begins on Monday, and, said Casse, “I guess we’ll have to go back there and get another one.”

Two days after the champion mare Waya was inducted in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, her co-owner Peter Brant presented the trophy for the $200,000 Waya S. (G3).

Run at 12 furlongs on a firm turf course, the Waya featured a field of six, two of them trained by Brown. One of them, Santa Monica, was the 6-5 favorite. Fools Gold, “the other Chad,” went off at 3-1, and it was the latter who took home the laurels, winning by three-quarters of a length with Javier Castellano. Get Explicit edged Santa Monica for second.

Bred in Kentucky by Regis Farms, Fools Gold first sold for $180,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale in 2016 to Keats Grove Farm. Five months later, Allen Wise (with the aforementioned Ryan as agent) went to $425,000 for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro at the OBS March sale of two-year-olds in training.

“I loved her bloodlines,” said Wise after the race. “I hated the price.”

Fools Gold is out of the Saint Liam mare Moment of Majesty, a multiple stakes winner who was twice Grade 2-placed at Woodbine.

Now four, Fools Gold made her first graded stakes attempt in the Waya; in 12 lifetime races, she’s finished in the top three 10 times.

“She was slow to mature, but she has a lot of heart,” said her owner. “She gets better every time.”

A longtime visitor to Saratoga Springs who bought his first horse four years ago, Wise got his first win at the Old Spa in the Waya.

“I love it up here,” he said. “I love Saratoga. It’s really nice to get my biggest win here.”