Comical prevails in dramatic Schuylerville Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — ERJ Racing, Gary Barber, Dave Kenney and Madaket Stables’ Comical captured the first stakes of the Saratoga meet in a thrilling dash to the finish to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville on Opening Day Thursday.

Trained by Doug O’Neill, the Into Mischief bay arrived at the six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies from a convincing six-length debut score on May 26 at Santa Anita Park.

Sent to post as the 3-1 second choice under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Comical stalked from second position as Integral sped through an opening quarter-mile in 22.54 seconds on the muddy and sealed main track.

Integral led the field to the turn as the half-mile was clocked in 46.24, with Comical pressuring from the outside while Shippy, the even-money mutuel favorite, waited for her cue from Jose Ortiz on the rail.

Comical surged to the lead as the field straightened away and angled to the rail to engage her advancing stablemate Shippy, but it was the wide-rallying Kiss the Girl, under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, providing the danger with a menacing move on the outside. All out to the finish, Comical prevailed by a neck in a final time of 1:11.66.

Castellano praised Comical’s determination late in the lane.

“She moved fast out of the gate and attended the pace and went forward,” said Castellano. “Turning for home, I was able to save a little ground, and I’m very lucky she’s a good enough filly to win the race, because the other horse was coming at her.”

Kiss the Girl was a half-length the better of Shippy, with Buxom Beast a further 7 1/4-lengths in arrears in fourth. Integral, Lula’s Roadrunner, His Glory and Lady Fatima completed the order of finish. Aurelia Garland was scratched.

Velazquez said Kiss the Girl, a 4 1/2-length maiden winner at Belmont Park last out, lost focus during the race.

“She ran in spots, but when they opened up a length and a half, she didn’t know what to do. She was running and stopping,” said Velazquez. “She was just green today. When she won at Belmont, she was right next to the other horse the whole way around. She was more focused than she was today.”

Erik Johnson, a defenseman for the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche, is part owner of Comical under the nom de course ERJ Racing. The Bloomington, Minnesota native, who won the silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics, was thrilled with the effort from the talented bay filly.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win at Saratoga, and we’re blessed. To get a win here means a lot,” said Johnson. “They’re special animals and they’re a part of your family when they run at a racetrack. To get a win here feels absolutely amazing. Hopefully, I can win the Stanley Cup later next year and get a daily double.”

Comical, a $100,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, banked $82,500 in victory.

Johnson said Comical, who is closely related to multiple Grade 1-winner and 2008 Travers winner Colonel John, could have the stamina to go further.

“We’re excited to see what her future holds. Her dam [Kaycee Ace] is a full sister to Colonel John, so hopefully she can stretch out,” said Johnson.

Comical, bred in Kentucky by Susan Casner, paid $8.20 for a $2 win ticket.

Live racing resumes today at Saratoga with a 10-race card, highlighted by the Grade 3, $150,000 Forbidden Apple. The first post time is slated for 1 p.m.

Quick Call

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Reddam Racing’s California-bred Listing enjoyed stakes success in the Golden State and continued his winning ways on the opposite coast, surging from second-to-last to overtake Neverland Rock and fend off Elektronic in deep stretch for a half-length win in the 10th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Quick Call for 3-year-olds on Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.

Off as the 7-5 favorite, Listing stayed covered up in sixth as jockey Joel Rosario kept the Square Eddie colt tucked inside as Abyssinian led the seven-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 21.68 seconds and the half in 45.54 into the turn in the 5 ½-furlong sprint on the yielding Mellon turf.

Rosario, bidding for his third win on Opening Day at the Spa, capitalized on a ground-saving trip out of the turn and tipped Listing out wide for his move, with his charge responding by running down five competitors, including Neverland Rock just before the wire, and outkicked a charging Elektronic, recording a final time of 1:03.94.

“He has speed and he broke sharp and it looked for a second that he wanted to be where he was,” said Rosario, who won aboard Big Q in Race 5 and Wegetsdamunnys in Race 7. “So, I just wanted to hold him together and try to move at the right time, and he did. I got in between horses and he kicked home, and that was good.

“The turf is soft but he was handling it fine. I rode him once on the dirt in California and he went to the grass after and won easy. It was on the grass again today, so that was a good performance.”

Listing improved to 4-1-1 in nine career starts, with all of his victories coming against stakes company. A 1 ¼-length debut winner in the I’m Smokin in August at Del Mar, Listing also scored stakes wins in the California Cup Turf Sprint in January at Santa Anita and a last-out triumph in the Desert Code on June 9 at Santa Anita.

Making his Saratoga debut, Listing gave trainer Ben Cecil his first graded stakes win in seven years. Cecil’s previous graded stakes success was with Quiet Oasis in the 2012 Grade 2 Royal Heroine Mile and the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap.

Listing returned $4.80 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career bankroll to $280,400.

Elektronic, owned and trained by Linda Rice, edged Neverland Rock, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, by a neck in a strong stakes debut.

“We broke well but the first quarter, he didn’t handle the soft turf too good,” said Elektronic jockey Jose Lezcano. “I struggled a little bit to put him back on the bridle, but finally when I did he gave me a good kick. He’s a nice horse.”

Somebeyay, Abyssinian, Fully Loaded and Call Paul completed the order of finish. Gladiator King, Mount Travers, Dunph and Releasethethunder, a main-track only entrant, were scratched.

Inaugurated in 2008, the Quick Call was named after the multiple graded stakes-winning gelding who won more than half of his 16 career victories at the Spa. Quick Call has found continued success following his racing career as the face of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Program in Wallkill.