`Saratoga' shows range, wins stakes

Horse Racing

May 29, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Saratoga Games proved his versatility again yesterday, pulling away in the stretch and breezing to an 8 3/4 -length victory over Ronnie's Hot Rod in the $75,000 Honor Guard Stakes, the Memorial Day feature at Pimlico Race Course.

"I thought when he went longer, he'd be even better," said jockey Mario Pino. "Today he faced tough competition and moved up another notch."

The winning time for 1 1/8 miles on the main track was 1:49 2/5 in the third race of the program, moved off a turf course that was softened by persistent rainfall. All told, 18 horses scratched from the events that were shifted to the dirt.

"I rode him a few times when he sprinted and he always rallied from way back," said Pino. "Now he's raced twice long and he's won both times on different surfaces. He's a really fun horse to ride."

Saratoga Games stalked an honest pace set by Lit de Lace, with Ronnie's Hot Rod in close pursuit. On the final turn, Pino took the colt wide of the leaders and seized command approaching the eighth pole. At the wire, he was pulling away convincingly after veering out a bit in mid-stretch.

"This horse is very kind to himself in a race," said trainer Anthony Dutrow. "He rates very easily and does everything professionally. When you ask him to run, he gives you everything he's got."

NOTES: Travis Dunkelberger, the nation's leading jockey, rode four winners on the card, which gave him 160 and increased his lead to five over Ramon Dominguez. Mark Johnston is tied for eighth nationally with 122. ... At Belmont Park, former Maryland rider Mike Luzzi was presented the 2001 Mike Venezia Memorial Award, which honors jockeys "who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship."

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