David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stable’s former claimer Saginaw raised the bar yet again at Aqueduct on Saturday, winning the 54th running of the open $75,000 Gravesend Handicap. The powerful performance was his tenth victory of 2012 and left his trainer looking ahead to a start in the Alex M. Robb at 1 1/16 miles on December 26, the final scheduled New York-bred stakes race of the year.
Winner of nine of his last 11 starts, including five stakes races for state-breds, Saginaw has only really faltered once since March, when he took on the best of open company in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. Trainer David Jacobson was hoping the 6-year-old Peruvian gelding would “take it to the next level” when faced again with open competition in the Gravesend.
Toting the highweight of 119 and bet down to 1-2 favoritism under Junior Alvarado, Saginaw and tough 5-2 rival Royal Currier (Red Bullet) turned the six-furlong affair into a two-horse race in the scratched down field of four.
Royal Currier set the pace from the get-go while Saginaw came through between horses to settle in second. After enjoying as much as a two-length lead on the backstretch through the early splits (23.37; 45.83), Royal Currier was confronted by his main rival in the turn. The two battled hammer and tongs in upper stretch and were inseparable at the furlong marker, but with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Saginaw put a head in front before going on to win by one length in a sharp final time of 1:09.40. [VIDEO]
Rider Junior Alvarado, who had the call aboard Saginaw for the first time, said, “David pretty much left it up to me. I tried to play the break and have a good break. He broke well. I had the best horse in the race, so I put him right there. He’s a class horse, and when I asked him he gave it all to me. It was pretty much easy at the end. When we turned for home, I knew how much horse I had. [Royal Currier] was still trying, but I had plenty of horse left.”
Trainer David Jacobson added, “That was a legitimate horse he beat [Royal Currier]; [trainer] Linda [Rice] always does a great job. They ran really fast. I’m happy to see he can compete in open company now. The only other time he did was in May [in the Metropolitan Handicap]. We’ll definitely be back for the Alex M. Robb, provided he comes back OK. He’ll let us know.”
Saginaw was claimed by Jacobson for $30,000 out of a 13 1/4-length romp at Aqueduct on March 8, when he was equipped with blinkers for the first time by trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr., who had him for one start.
Wearing blinkers for all 11 subsequent starts, Saginaw has been virtually unstoppable, adding nine victories to his tally, including stakes scores in the Carr Heaven and Affirmed Success at Belmont in April and May, Saratoga’s John Morrissey Stakes, the Promenade All in Belmont in September, and Fourstars Allstar at Aqueduct in November, now capped by his Gravesend win. In the Hudson on Showcase Day, he ran second to the Mind Over Matter after a poor start.
Saginaw’s career record now stands at 16-6-2 from 34 starts with earnings of $739,190. His tenth victory of 2012 leaves him in a tie for the lead nationally with Finger Lakes-based Clean Jean (Ecton Park) and Winning Dubai (E Dubai) who races at the Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico.
Bred by Ted Taylor and foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, Saginaw is one of three winners and two black type performers out of Devilzene, a Kentucky-bred winner by Devil’s Bag purchased by Ted Taylor for $21,000 as a yearling at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale. Saginaw’s full brother Sipsey is stakes placed ($97,194). Devilzene currently has a 2-year-old filly by Desert Warrior named Sinclair who has not started and was bred this year to Desert Warrior.