Cross Border dominates inaugural Lubash

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

No problems for Cross Border in Wednesday’s Lubash Stakes at Saratoga. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Facing just three opponents aboard a mount perfect at Saratoga and just beaten in Grade 1 company, Jose Ortiz knew exactly what to do in Wednesday’s inaugural running of the $85,000 Lubash Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

“I just wanted to ride him like he was much the best,” Ortiz said minutes after Cross Border proved just that, dismantling the field and winning his first stakes in the process.

Cross Border, fifth in the Grade 1 Manhattan last time out and close in three other graded stakes the last two seasons, won by 6 ¼ lengths for Ortiz, trainer Mike Maker and owner Three Diamonds Farm.

The 6-year-old English Channel ridgling won for the first time four starts this season in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for New York-breds and improved to 4-for-4 at Saratoga. Named for the two-time New York-bred champion turf male who won two editions of the West Point Stakes at Saratoga, the Lubash opened the state-bred or sired stakes program at Saratoga that continues Thursday with the Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Series and runs through Saratoga Showcase Day Friday, Sept. 4.

Cross Border, co-bred by Berkshire Stud and B. D. Gibbs, could wind up on the latter program in the West Point on the same course or make a return to graded company.

“It could be against New York-breds or it could be the Sword Dancer (Saturday, Aug. 29) but it will be something up here,” Maker said. “He’s run very well up here last year and started off well here this year.”

Maker said he’d prefer something like the Sword Dancer at 12 furlongs because of Cross Border’s affinity for marathon trips. He didn’t need any extra ground in the Lubash.

Cross Border came out a bit from his inside post at the start, bumped with The J Y before Ortiz let him settle into third past the empty Saratoga stand and into the clubhouse turn. Blewitt set the pace in his first start on grass, taking the field through splits of :25.48, :48.95 and 1:12.49 over the firm ground that took a little moisture overnight and in the morning Thursday.

Ortiz tipped out around the far turn, gained ground and rolled past Blewitt in the lane. They extended the lead in deep stretch while Rapt made steady progress well out into the middle of course to nip Blewitt on the wire for the place spot. The J Y finished fourth. Cross Border won in 1:41.75.

The runner-up improved on his third in a $40,000 claiming race last time in his second start of the year.

“That’s why we were here, to run for second,” trainer Robert Ribaudo said, acknowledging the expected tall order against Cross Border.

Foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Cross Border is out of the unraced Empire Maker mare Empress Josephine. Co-bred by Berkshire Stud, Empress Josephine produced two other foals – the 7-year-old winning Flatter mare Votre Coeur and the unraced 5-year-old Blame mare Blame Me Forever.

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