It took one turf powerhouse to thwart another in Saturday’s $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational. The Chad Brown-trained Domestic Spending outstripped Christophe Clement’s well-regarded pair of Gufo and 4-5 favorite Decorated Invader to reach a new career high.
Given the political climate, it’s perhaps only to be expected that Domestic Spending hasn’t been the smoothest horse to handle, or that he sealed the deal in a rather messy race.
Projected pacesetter Get Smokin had a miscue at the start, leaping in the air as the latch was sprung. He finally got his act together to take over by the first turn, but by that point, Decorated Invader was already keyed up. Whether from finding himself in front in the opening strides, or feeling uncomfortable when pinned on the hedge, the favorite did himself no favors in refusing to settle. Although he soon secured a clear stalking trip on the backstretch, the damage might have been done.
Conversely, the initial stages were working out better for Domestic Spending than in the July 18 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), where the gelding was a late-running third. This time, the Klaravich Stables colorbearer put himself in a more tactical position as Get Smokin reeled off fractions of :23.41, :47.76, and 1:12.18 on the firm Mellon turf.
Decorated Invader tried to kick at the top of the stretch, but without his usual panache, and the upset was unfolding. Domestic Spending pounced on the outside while No Word speared through on the inside. Further back, Colonel Liam was beginning to unwind, and Gufo shot into the picture.
With Irad Ortiz aboard, Domestic Spending offered the best-timed move in the cavalry charge and reached the wire a head in front. Gufo produced the fastest final three-sixteenths in :16.57 according to Trakus (compared to Domestic Spending’s :16.88), but his unwieldy momentum caused him to lug in.
Third-placer No Word capitalized on his interior passage to head Colonel Liam, who like Gufo got going a fraction too late. Decorated Invader lost fourth in a photo in a blanket finish. Bama Breeze closed from last to take sixth. Field Pass, who collided with Colonel Liam out of the gate, was a non-threatening seventh, and Get Smokin faded to last.
Let go at the biggest price of his nascent career, 7-1, Domestic Spending finished 1 3/16 miles in 1:52.52 and paid $16.40.
“We were looking to be a little more forwardly placed,” Ortiz said. “He broke more sharp than we thought and were very close to the pace so I tried to relax my horse and he relaxed very well. I could feel (the pressure) a little bit in the stretch, but he responded really well so I knew I had horse. He always finishes strong, so I kept riding. We got the jump and he held them until the end.”
Brown explained the progress Domestic Spending has made.
“He was a little closer to the pace this time, which is what we wanted to do last time and it just didn’t work out,” the trainer said. “He was real quirky when he was younger. We had to geld him just to get him to train willingly. Every month that’s gone by this year I’ve seen him really mature. In the paddock, I was confident that he would run a big race because he’s never acted better or more confident. I was real proud of the horse.
“With some experience the horse has really matured. I was talking to Irad in the paddock about how well behaved the horse was today. I was sharing with him how between his last start and today just how much more professional he has been in his works. Together, we were confident he would run his best race to date.”
On the other hand, Gufo didn’t help his own cause, as Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez recapped.
“My horse is a come-from-behind horse and he was a little closer than he normally is because there was no speed, so I was happy where he was,” Velazquez said. “I tried to bide my time and when I went to tip out he came running, and then I hit him right-handed and he ducked in. It stopped his momentum and that cost me the race.”
Clement was pleased with Gufo but noted Decorated Invader’s early keenness.
“My two horses went well,” the horseman said. “Decorated Invader was a little bit aggressive in the first part of the race and he probably paid for it a little bit at the end. They went a little quicker than I expected in the first half. Gufo ran a very good race but the one in front of him ran very well.”
Domestic Spending’s scorecard stands at 4-3-0-1, $340,900. The British-bred shaped with great promise in his first two starts, rallying to break his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 12 and again flashing home in a June 7 Belmont allowance. His inexperience told in the Hall of Fame, but he ran well in the circumstances, and moved forward here.
Bred by Rabbah Bloodstock and sold to his current connections for 300,000 guineas at Tattersalls October, Domestic Spending is a son of Kingman and the stakes-winning Urban Castle. The Street Cry mare is a half-sister to Group 3 victress Queen’s Best, dam of Queen’s Trust who denied Lady Eli in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and to multiple Group 3-placed stakes scorer Reverie Solitaire, dam of German highweight Royal Solitaire.
Domestic Spending’s second dam, Group 3 vixen and multiple Group 1-placed Cloud Castle, is a half-sister to the warriors Warrsan and Luso. This is also the family of dual French classic winner Avenir Certain and the precocious Mehmas, now a freshman sire on the map.