Pat On the Back posts well-deserved victory in Saginaw

Friday, July 13th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

A narrowly-beaten bridesmaid in his two most recent outings, Pat On the Back earned a well-deserved victory in Belmont’s Friday feature, the $100,000 Saginaw Stakes for older New York-breds run at 1 1/16 miles.

Winner of the Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes and Belmont’s Bertram F. Bongard at two, Pat On the Back spent his sophomore campaign trying to recapture that strong form. Although he seemed at times to be on the verge of doing so, he never did quite break through and finished the year with only one win in nine tries.

At four, the son of Congrats has already signaled loud and clear that he is a bigger, better and stronger version of his 3-year-old self. Although he disliked the slop in his seasonal debut, finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Say Florida Sandy Stakes on January 13, the colt followed up with two strong stakes performances.

Pat On the Back finished second by three-quarters of a length to talented New York-bred sprinter Eye Luv Lulu in the 6-furlong Affirmed Success on April 27. Then, after relocating from original trainer Ken McPeek to Jeremiah Englehart and stretching out in distance, the colt came up just a nose short of catching the redoubtable Diversify – winner of last weekend’s Grade 2 Suburban in dazzling style – in the mile-long Commentator Stakes on May 28. Both performances returned career-high Beyer Speed Figures of 96.

Pat On the Back was sent off from his rail post in the Saginaw at odds of the 6-5 as the second choice in the betting. Recovering from a stumble at the start, the chestnut switched outside to stalk pacesetter Hit It Once More, who was sent aggressively to the lead by Hall of Famer John Velazquez. Wine Not stalked in third on the outside.

Hit It Once More’s early 2-length lead dwindled by the far turn, as Pat On the Back and Wine Not began to line up with him across the track.

Coglianese Photo

Late in the turn and in upper stretch Pat On the Back dueled between horses but Hit It Once More was a determined competitor at the rail. Around the furlong marker Pat On the Back gained firm control of the front, then drew off steadily to a 1 3/4-length victory.

Wine Not found his best cruising gear late and closed into second, leaving Hit It Once More to settle for third. Twisted Tom, the 2017 New York-bred champion 3-year-old and 3-5 favorite, finished fourth with the legitimate excuse of starting for the first time in nearly eight months. An outmatched Nick Zito-trained longshot, Fullback Foye completed the order of finish.

After fast early fractions, six furlongs in 1:10.08 and a mile in 1:35.08, the final time for the 1 1/16 miles was a sharp 1:41.73. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Dylan Davis, Pat On the Back’s regular rider, is a big fan of the colt. “He’s a straight horse. He’s one of my favorite horses,” Davis enthused.

Describing to the race flow, the rider said, “I just wanted to play off the break, I know he’s pretty speedy out of there. But I saw Hit It Once More wanted to take the lead and was pretty dominant about it, so I wanted to let him get going and got towards his outside.”

“He’s just a fighter,” David continued. “He does everything great. I just wanted him to ride his own race. He can get speedy. I thought I was going to have the pace up front, but I let them go have it. I had no problem going to the outside. He was going his own way comfortably. I got on to him early before the quarter pole because I was a little worried about Twisted Tom coming late. But there was no worry; he was fighting the good fight.”

Bred by Sugar Maple Farm where he was foaled, Pat On the Back is out of an unplaced Kentucky-bred Awesome Again mare named Accomplished. Purchased by Dan Haydon at the 2004 Keeneland November sale for $40,000, Accomplished produced eight winners from eight foals to start. Her other foal to earn black type, Sarah Accomplished by Performing Magic, won the 2008 Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes series.

The Saginaw is Pat On the Back’s fourth career stakes victory and improves his career record to four wins, three seconds and four thirds, and boosts his earnings bankroll to $474,282. The colt was bought by Ken McPeek for $70,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale.

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