In the first, Mess in a Dress ($14.40) closed like a shot to get up by a nose after she and the rest of the field looked hopelessly beaten by Catalonia. A lot, if not most of the time at this level, it's only an illusion that a horse is closing that fast, but this filly actually did close pretty quickly, in 12.18 seconds. In contrast, Catalonia, who got mixed up while changing leads late, stopped to a 13.48 final furlong to inflict one tough beat for anyone who had her at 6-1.
In the 2nd, Hillswick ($5) earned back $40,200 of the 50K that Jacobson claimed him for at Belmont in June. First and only winner of the meet thus far for a barn that thrives in the colder weather at the Big A and which has now started 11 horses. But he did win five races here last year in 27 starts, a respectable percentage, and he's certainly capable any time of the year.
In the 5th, the bettors went back to the Toddster two-year old well despite his 1 for 22 record coming in and the fact that Lucky Friend was beaten soundly (albeit with excuses) at .75 to 1 in her debut. 8-5 this time, she finished 4th again, but this time beaten by 17 lengths instead of 6 1/2. Well-bet 1st timer Teen Pauline ($6.80) won for Asmussen, 11-3-4-0 on the meet thus far. She's by Tapit, out of Effectual, a Carson City mare who won a Grade 3 at two.
Hobbs ($13) got Pletcher on the board in the 6th, wiring the field at a mile on the turf in his first try beyond six furlongs. Son of Put It Back, out of a Dehere mare, is related to the trainer's one-time Derby hopeful Gemologist (the 3rd dam of Hobbs is the 4th dam of Gemologist), who will make his first start since he flopped in that race when he starts in the Haskell on Sunday.
"I thought he breezed as well this morning as he's ever breezed and he's always been a good work horse," Pletcher said afterward. "But he was exceptionally good this morning." [ESPN.com] Doesn't he say that a lot?
Cease ($5.60) went off lower than I'd liked, as the bettors weren't totally fooled by Ruler On Ice (though he did eventually, and seemingly hesitatingly, bet down to 5-2 by post time). Five-year old gelded son of War Chant is now 3 for 3 at a nine furlongs on the Saratoga main track, so maybe we'll see him in the Woodward at meet's end. In the old days, perhaps he would have been wheeled right back for the Whitney. But these ain't the old days.
Nice ride by Leparoux on the Lake George winner Centre Court ($7.50). I don't know that he had much choice given the horses outside of him, but he at least looked chill sitting towards the inside waiting for room turning for home, and was able to emerge from between horses by the 1/16th pole to get her second graded stakes win in as many starts since graduating in May. She's by Smart Strike out of the Grade 1 winner Let (AP Indy).