Saratoga record puts Lawyer Ron in Breeders Cup
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) -- The verdict was never in doubt when Lawyer Ron hit the top of the stretch in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap.
The chestnut colt came roaring around the final turn and pulled away for a 4 3-4-length victory over Wanderin Boy on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, breaking a 33-year-old track record in the process.
"To have a horse win it the way he did makes it extra special," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said.
The victory earned Lawyer Ron an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, thanks to a new "Win and You're In" qualifying format created this year.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Lawyer Ron charged to the front and took the lead from Wanderin Boy, then the 4-year-old colt turned on the afterburners and covered 1 1-8 miles in 1:46.64, bettering the track record of 1:47 set by Tri Jet on Aug. 3, 1974.
The 11-horse Whitney field boasted some of the top older runners in the country, including Magna Graduate, Flashy Bull and rising star Papi Chullo.
But it was Lawyer Ron, one of three horses in the field trained by Pletcher, who was much the best in the Grade 1 Whitney. Pletcher's Fairbanks was fourth, while his 4-1 favorite Magna Graduate was sixth.
On a hot, steamy day at the Spa, Lawyer Ron went off at 5-1 and returned $13, $7.70 and $5.30. Wanderin Boy, who held the lead most of the way, paid $25.20 and $14, with Diamond Stripes returning $5.30 to show.
Dry Martini was fifth, followed by Magna Graduate, Flashy Bull, Brass Hat, Papi Chullo, Sun King and Awesome Twist. Student Council was a late scratch.
A year ago, Lawyer Ron was the talk of Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby, and even more well known than Barbaro at the time after compiling a 7-for-7 record in races on the dirt. But he finished 12th in the Derby a few days after being sold, and faded from the scene, only to appear in Pletcher's barn late last year.
Lawyer Ron seemed to be rounding into form earlier this year when he won the Oaklawn Handicap in April, but ran third in the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont and then second in the Salvatore Mile at Monmouth at 1-10 odds.
"He's been kind of unlucky not to win his last two starts," Pletcher said. "He was unlucky in the Met Mile and drew the one-hole going a mile. He was stuck down inside. At Monmouth, the track was just so crazy speed-biased, but he ran a great race."
He ran pretty good before a crowd of 29,216 at the Spa. Starting from the outside post, Lawyer Ron ran comfortably in third while Wanderin Boy set the pace, followed by Fairbanks.
When the field hit the quarter pole, Velazquez made his move.
"As soon as I got after him, he drew away from there," Velazquez said. "I took a peek to look for Magna Graduate because I thought he was the horse to beat. I didn't see him, but my horse was already gone so I didn't even stop his momentum. At that point, I just sat and rode him."
Lawyer Ron won for the 11th time in 23 starts and earned $450,000 for owners Hines Racing LLC, boosting his career earnings to $2.3 million.
"He's an easy horse to train because he likes training," Pletcher said. "He's very forward, that's just the way he is. He likes running."
Pletcher said the Woodward Stakes in September could be Lawyer Ron's next start.
" Obviously, we want to go to the Breeders' Cup Classic and we want to figure out the best way to do it," the trainer said.
In earlier races that carried automatic Breeders' Cup berths:
-- My Typhoon ($8.10) surged to the lead on the far turn and won the $500,000 Diana Handicap by three-quarters of a length over Argentina, clinching a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
-- Diabolical ($7) moved past Attila's Storm in the final strides and captured the $250,000 Albert G. Vanderbilt Handicap by a half-length.
Trained by Steve Klesaris, the 4-year-old colt clinched a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with his second win in four starts this year. Diabolical covered the six furlongs in 1:08.67.
-- Ginger Punch ($4.50) took charge in the stretch and pulled away for an easy victory in the $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap, earning a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.