SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trainer’s intuition is worth something. When it’s Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the youngest trainer ever inducted into the Hall in 1998, you can’t really put a dollar amount on it.
Around January or February, Mott had a feeling that Elate would be a filly better suited for the Grade I Alabama at a mile and a quarter. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro proved him correct Saturday, winning Saratoga Race Course’s signature stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 5 1/2 lengths.
Elate had broken her maiden at first asking by 12 lengths in November. She followed that with two seconds, a third and a did-not-finish.
But she rebounded with an easy win in the Light Hearted at Delaware Park in June. Then in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks here on July 23, she finished second by a head to Abel Tasman — and that was after an inquiry didn’t go her way. She put in two strong works in preparation for the Alabama, and proved she was much the best in a contentious nine-horse field in which the favorite went off at 4-1.
“We started cranking her up and getting her ready for the races (this year), and it was just kind of like she hadn’t come alive yet,” Mott said. “She was doing fine, but her works were good without being spectacular. You could tell she was a filly who was just going through a little bit of a growing stage, little bit of a development stage. We said then she probably wouldn’t be on her game for the Kentucky Oaks, that she was more of an Alabama filly, and that’s exactly how it worked out.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz kept Elate in the middle of the pack for much of the race, but entering the far turn, he had moved her into second behind pace setter It Tiz Well. He made his bid outside the quarter-pole, took the lead at the top of the stretch and opened up from there.
“At the three-eighths pole, I felt like I still had a lot of horse underneath me,” Ortiz said. “I just went with it when we hit the stretch, I made her switch leads, little by little get her going, and when she gets going, she got going really well.”
“The mile and a quarter is probably her trip,” said Mott, who won his third Alabama. “She finished well. She’s got a nice burst of speed and she stays on well.”
It Tiz Well hung on for second, a head in front of Salty. The slight favorite Holy Helena never fired, finishing eighth, and Unchained Melody, winner of the Mother Goose, was pulled up on the far turn when jockey Joel Rosario said he felt his filly was tired and “didn’t want to do it.”
Drayden Van Dyke, jockey of It Tiz Well, said his filly never relaxed while on the lead, as evidenced by her running three-quarters of a mile in 1 minute, 10.92 seconds.
“If she would have relaxed for at least an eighth of a mile more, she would have finished a lot better,” he said.
Ruler of the Lakes
Proctor’s Ledge completed the sweep of the Grade III Lake George and Grade II Lake Placid, winning the latter Saturday by three-quarters of a length over Uni.
Javier Castellano rode the 3-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper to a final time of 1:47.74 for the 1 1/8 miles over a Mellon Turf Course labeled firm, but that still had a little moisture in it from overnight rain.
Proctor’s Ledge has four wins, one second and one third from seven starts this year, but she’s gotten better as the year has progressed.
“She’s won on the front, she’s won from off the pace, so she’s very versatile,” winning trainer Brendan Walsh said. “I just told (Castellano), ‘You ride your own race.’”
Castellano kept her fourth in a field of five for most of the race, but took command with a furlong left and inched away.
“It’s unbelievable, for her to go and win the two stakes here,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t happen too often, I don’t think. It takes a good one to do it.”