The first Saturday in September, or the last Saturday of the 153rd racing season at Saratoga Racetrackif you prefer, a subtle reminder was given when the summer winds began their final descent into autumn.
The ghosts of yesteryear at the Spa have just given a little nudge to let everyone know that this great old horse park is still the graveyard of favourites. The suggestion was this: if you’re a big favorite in a big race in Saratoga, all bets are off.
Welcome to the 45th Annual $600,000 Flower Bowl Stakes (G2T), where the horse that was supposed to win didn’t. by George Krikorian war like goddess who had amassed a marvelous resume with eight wins in 10 starts (including last year’s Flower Bowl), would not find the winner’s circle as she sought to defend her title late on the afternoon of 3 september.
She was kicked out with an unbalanced rating of 1-5, which is a sure sign of bad luck if you go by the history of this place.
Sure enough, War Like Goddess had to settle for second place in the 1 3/8 mile race on the inside course. It was not an upheaval that rocked the rafters like when the Secretariat or American Pharaoh were defeated, but it still raised eyebrows.
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The Flower Bowl winner, who was downgraded from a grade 1 last year, was Virginia Jo therea 5 year old mare trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
The strategy was simple for this one. Go ahead, slow down and try your luck. It worked perfectly.
Virginia Joy leads the way past the clubhouse for the first time
“It was a comfortable lead,” said Ortiz, the competition’s top runner, who won four races on Saturday. “That was the plan. Take the lead and do it as slowly as possible. It worked out well.”
It was too good. Brown, seated in his bench seat, had to cartwheel inside as he watched Virginia Joy and Ortiz carve out fractions of :26.47, :53.29 and 1:19.59.
“There was no speed in the race,” Brown said. “She had already won a great race earlier in the season in a wire-to-wire race, so I said to Irad: ‘Why don’t you just put her in the lead? Unless someone goes crazy, just put it there and you’ll see how far it will go.'”
Virginia Joy, a daughter of hollow soldier owned by Peter Brant, won the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2T) on a yield course at Belmont Park May 22 by 14 1/2 lengths. In her last start, she fell short of War Like Goddess when she finished third in the 1 1/2 mile Glens Falls Stakes (G2T) on August 6.
Brown and Brant continued their mastery of the Flower Bowl. It was a record sixth victory in practice for Brown and the fifth – also a record – for Brant.
Victory also earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge in the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) at Keeneland November 5.
“We’ll see,” Brown said of the Breeders’ Cup. “The races get harder as you start putting the grade 1s next to them. He’s a quality horse and probably worth considering after today.”
Virginia Joy heads to the winner’s circle
War Like Goddess, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and ridden by Joel Rosario, had been able to overcome slow-paced scenarios in her last two races to win, but couldn’t do so in the Flower Bowl, when she was only pulling traffic at the head of the lane.
Rosario firmly held the daughter of English channel , who was near the rear of the six-horse pack traveling on the firm track. She started racing at three-sixteenth pole and was riding on sixteenth pole, but it was too little, too late. Virginia Joy won by a neckline.
“When they first passed the stands, they slowed down, slowed down, slowed down,” Mott said. “At that time, (Rosario) was on a life-saving journey. I don’t know if he had the opportunity to let her maybe pick up horses, and I think there may have been a when he did, but he chose not to.
“She came flying,” he added. “I don’t know how fast she got home, but she was rolling. She went straight to the hip (of Virginia Joy) and there was something left to the other.”
Virginia Joy’s relations enjoy the presentation of the trophy for the Flower Bowl Stakes
The final time was 2:19.51, influenced by the slow pace and a far cry from the course record of 2:11.46. Virginia Joy, the second pick at 9-2, paid $11.80. She was raised in Germany by Gestut Auenquelle de la Dean Mare Virginia Sun and arrived at Brown’s barn in April 2021. Since then, she has won four times in eight outings for a career-best 6-2-2 in 14 starts, with earnings of $845,557.
War Like Goddess finished 1 1/4 length ahead Coastana who was followed home by Temple City Terror , Anse de Flanigan, and Wonderful Maud . Capital structure has been scratched.