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Selflessly uses strong finish to win Lake George Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Klaravich Stables’ Selflessly finished well back of Sweet Melania when running fifth in the Grade 3 Wonder Again in June the previous time the two faced each other. But Friday, the Chad Brown trainee got the better of her rival, overtaking her in the final jumps for a victory by a nose in the Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course.

After that effort in the one-mile Wonder Again at Belmont Park, Selflessly returned to the same distance at the Spa a fresh horse two months later. With David Cohen picking up the mount as Irad Ortiz, Jr. recovers from an injury, Selflessly tracked in fifth position as Windracer led the 10-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.92 seconds and the half in 48.48 on the inner turf course labeled good.

Sweet Melania, the 3-5 favorite conditioned by Todd Pletcher, powered through an opening along the rail out of the final turn and was urged home by jockey Jose Ortiz. But the two-time graded stakes winner couldn’t repel Selflessly, who Cohen angled out slightly to Sweet Melania’s outside, gaining ground in the final sixteenth before getting up just ahead of hitting the wire in a final time of 1:36.06.

“We were happy to get a good trip behind the horse [Sweet Melania] I thought would take us the whole way,” said Cohen, who won his first graded stakes since 2018 and first at Saratoga since the 2012 Travers when he piloted Golden Ticket to a dead heat for first with Alpha. “You never really want to get stuck behind a horse that’s going to back up into you. My filly really finished up strong and showed a lot of heart.

“Chad and I had the same idea,” Cohen added. “We thought there would be two or three to go and we really wanted to get her out aggressively and not get shuffled back into the first turn and played it by ear. If Sweet Melania was on the lead and I was fortunate to get behind her then great she would take me the rest of the way and if not just figure it out from there. We went to Plan B and Plan C real quick. Everything got bottled up into that first turn and as Chad requested, if we didn’t send her out of there strong, we would have been shuffled seven eight back and probably never have the chance to get up for the win.”

The stretch drive featured a duel between the charges of the top-two leading trainers of the summer meet. With the win, Brown tied Pletcher for the top mark with 24 victories apiece. The 40-day meet has eight days remaining before closing on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Selflessly won her second graded stakes and first since capturing the Grade 2 Miss Grillo in September at Belmont. That preceded her fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita to cap her 2-year-old year. After a seven-month break, the More Than Ready filly made her sophomore bow in the Wonder Again before returning to Saratoga for the first time since her runner-up debut effort a year to the date of the Lake George.

“The first race of the year I was a little disappointed watching the race unfold and when we got her back to the barn, she had some cuts on the backs of her legs. She missed some training after that race to heal up, so she probably had an excuse in there,” Brown said. “My team at Belmont has had this horse all meet getting her ready and they really did a great job. David stepped in today when Irad couldn’t ride and I’m really proud of him. He rode a great race and we were happy to put him on the horse. I use him occasionally and we certainly ride against him a lot. He rides particularly well on the turf saving ground.”

Off at 14-1, Selflessly returned $30.60 on a $2 win wager. She improved her career earnings to $219,000.

“Some loyal Chad Brown fans made money today, for sure,” Brown said about winning with a rare longshot at the Spa.

Sweet Melania, owned by Robert and Lawana Low, finished a half-length in front of Witez for second. The daughter of 2015 Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah has never finished off the board in eight starts, moving to 3-2-3.

“Todd handicapped the race really well and he thought the two outside horses had more speed than we did,” Ortiz said. “In my mind, I was going to save when I break and those two went fast at the break, so it was easy for me to sit there. I sat very controlled the whole way around and had a good spot on the rail. She gave me a good run. The last couple of jumps, the other horse came to me, but she dug in and fought hard. It was a good race. Tough beat.”

Micheline, Sugar Fix, American Giant, My Sassy Sarah, Windracer, Velvet Crush and Cat’s Pajamas completed the order of finish. Miss Peppina, entered for the main track only, was scratched.

Live racing resumes today at Saratoga with an action packed 11-race card which will feature four graded stakes races, including the  Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing at seven furlongs over the main track, the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer going 1 ½ miles over the inner turf, the Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds going one mile over the inner turf and the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam for 3-year-olds going six furlongs over the main track. The first post is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

Captain Bombastic the best in $100K NYSSS Times Square

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Friday action at Saratoga Race Course kicked off with Team Hanley’s Captain Bombastic fending off early challenges from stakes winners Dream Bigger and Chowda before drawing away to a stylish 5 ¼-length victory in the $100,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series.

Sent off as the 3-5 post time favorite, the chestnut son of Forty Tales entered the 6 ½-furlong event for eligible New York-sired 3-year-olds from a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy on August 8 at the Spa.

Captain Bombastic was hustled out of the gate by jockey Luis Saez, who angled the colt one path to the inside and into contention as he found a frontrunning spot in between Chowda and Dream Bigger. All three stakes winners raced in tandem through a swift opening quarter in 21.80 seconds over the fast main track.

Approaching the far turn, Chowda began to retreat, leaving the two favorites alone on the front end. Through a half-mile in 44.10, Captain Bombastic had a slight advantage over Dream Bigger and began to distance himself from his foe. Captain Bombastic was under wraps once he hit the sixteenth-pole and finished in a final time of 1:15.36.

Dream Bigger finished second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Chowda. Slash Gordon and Ariesberg completed the order of finish.

“It was a battle. It was a pretty nice race,” said Saez, who won his third stakes race of the meet. “I knew I had horse and I was thinking to sit second or third behind the speed but when I saw Ariesberg didn’t break that well and I was there, I took it. When I came to the three-eighths, Jose [Ortiz, aboard Dream Bigger] started putting pressure on me but my horse was responding. When we came to the stretch, he went to the lead and took off. He was much the best.”

Englehart, who also saddled last-place finisher Ariesberg, said that he was a bit worried with the opening fractions.

“I was very concerned. In the paddock, Luis sounded like he wanted to be aggressive and it really wasn’t my plan,” Englehart said. “I knew my other horse would be a little fresh just coming off a layoff, but my plan with him was to let him settle and make a move if he could move into the race. Luis was aggressive and it ended up being the winning move because he took the race to the outside horse [Dream Bigger] and he knew what kind of horse he had under him and it worked out well.”

Bred in the Empire State by Chester and Mary Broman, Captain Bombastic notched a third restricted stakes win having captured the Sleepy Hollow on Oct. 19 at Belmont Park and the Mike Lee on June 14 two starts back over Big Sandy.

“I thought it was a two-horse race, so I tried to put on as much pressure as I could early but Captain Bombastic was the better horse today,” said jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard runner-up Dream Bigger. “He beat me in the Mike Lee [June 14 at Belmont Park] and he did it again today.”

Captain Bombastic, whose record now stands at 8-4-2-1, returned $3.30 in victory while bringing his lifetime earnings up to $389,800.

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