By Jarrod Horak
This is my first of three stakes recaps for the final week of the 2023 Saratoga summer meet. Bill Mott won a pair of juvenile stakes to begin the week, and Chad Brown’s exciting sophomore turf star Carl Spackler (IRE) picked up his second graded stakes win of the summer in the Grade 3 Saranac.
P. G. Johnson – August 30 – One mile dirt
This race was originally scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course. It was run at one mile on fast dirt and the field was reduced to four. Five horses headed to the gate, but Miz Sense ran off prior to the load and was scratched. The betting public made Magic Cross the favorite and she did not disappoint. She got to the front through reasonable splits of 24.16, 47.39, and 1:12.30. Takemetothebeach made a run at the early leader at the six furlong mark, but Magic Cross ($3.30) had plenty left, and she turned away her challenger and kicked away to score by an easy 4 1/2 lengths. Takemetothebeach was clearly second best and Dancing Spirit was third. Villi Olento briefly attended the pace and backed up readily. She eased across the line in fourth. The final time was 1:40.15, and winning trainer Bill Mott said after the race that he would like to run Magic Cross on turf next time. Brocknardini, Cynane, Gala Brand, Hard to Justify, Madame Mischief, Miz Sense, and She Feels Pretty scratched.
Grade 3 With Anticipation – August 31 – 1 1/16 miles inner turf
Bill Mott cross entered Gala Brand in the P. G. Johnson and With Anticipation. When the former race was moved to the main track, Mott opted to take on the boys in this spot. The turf course was labeled as good and the fractions were slow (25.02, 51.61, 1:16.42). Market Street carved out those fractions but he was not around at the end. My top choice Gala Brand ($7.80) was at the back of the pack for the opening six furlongs or so, and that is her running style. She picked up the pace in the latter stages under Jose Ortiz and she ran past them all to win by a half-length. Carson’s Run closed as well but could not quite go with the winner in the lane and settled for a clear place finish. Spirit Prince stalked the pace and was best of the rest in third under Flavien Prat. Get Spooled, Nomos, Wine Collector, and a fading Market Street completed the order of finish. The winning time was 1:45.93 and Gala Brand is a talented closer. She won her turf sprint bow and handled a turf route vs. the boys in this spot.
Grade 3 Saranac – September 1 – 1 1/16 miles inner turf
Taking Candy set the pace from the inside post but everyone’s top choice Carl Spackler (IRE) always had his measure. They went a quarter in 23.58, a half in 48.56, and six furlongs in 1:12.56. Tyler Gaffalione ratcheted up the pressure throughout and it was not a matter of if but when he would pull the trigger. They were even after six panels and Carl Spackler ($2.50) started to assert himself after that. The Hall of Fame (G2) hero put away the front runner and won by a very easy 3 1/2 lengths. Taking Candy held the place over Lost Ark, and Mendelssohns March and Yacowlef (IRE) also ran. Chad Brown was the winning trainer and his winning charge completed his mile and a sixteenth journey on turf in 1:42.23. Carl Spackler probably has two more races on his dance card this year. The Grade 2 Sands Point at Aqueduct on Oct. 14 might be next, followed by the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar later this year.
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