Hold the Salsa digs in to win Bongard

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

Hold the Salsa, back on favorable ground at Belmont, wins Bertram F. Bongard for owner-breeder-trainer Richard Lugovich. NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Richard Lugovich couldn’t wait to get Hold the Salsa back to Belmont Park.

The 2-year-old son of Hold Me Back broke his maiden on “Big Sandy,” at 26-1 in his debut back in July, to earn a couple trips north for stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Hold the Salsa didn’t fare as well upstate, finishing ninth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and a decent fifth in the Funny Cide Stakes on the Saratoga Showcase Day card.

Lugovich, who trains out of the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, regrouped after those races and set his sights back to Belmont and Friday’s $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes. Hold the Salsa backed up his owner-trainer-breeder’s confidence in the 7-furlong Bongard, taking advantage of a well-timed ride from Junior Alvarado to beat a field that included two who finished ahead of him in the Funny Cide.

“To tell you the truth I thought he was going to win,” Lugovich said Friday from his home in Hershey, Pa. “I don’t think he particularly liked Saratoga. The track was too fast for him. He won at Belmont before and it’s just a different surface.

“Look at how things went. Rudy’s horse (4-5 favorite and eventual fifth-place finisher Eagle Orb) that was the favorite, he ran fast at Saratoga but couldn’t run that fast there. It’s just a different surface and my horse likes it.”

Junior Alvarado rode Hold the Salsa when he finished 4 ½ lengths behind Thin White Duke in the Funny Cide. He kept the colt third behind a tepid duel between Saratoga debut off-the-turf maiden winner Half Right and Lookin For Trouble before edging past that duo in the lane.

Lookin for Trouble, third and just a length behind Eagle Orb in the Funny Cide , finished second while Delaware Park maiden winner Brooklyn Strong finished third Hold the Salsa won in 1:24.54.

“I thought he was going to run good here,” Alvarado said. “He put in a good run here at Belmont first out. He’s a big horse for a 2-year-old and I thought the track would favor him today. He broke good and we tried to stalk 3 or 4 lengths behind, but all of a sudden, they started coming back to me and slowed it down a little too much.”

Lugovich bred Hold the Salsa out of his unraced homebred now 11-year-old King Cugat mare Northern Mambo. He’s a third generation homebred for Lugovich, who bought the four-time-winning Kick mare Northern Nymph, in foal to Four Seasons, for $2,700 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale in 1997.

Northern Nymph produced Northern Sprite on that cover in 1998. She only made one start, finishing 10th in a maiden race at Belmont in 2002 as a 4-year-old, before joining Lugovich’s broodmare band at Northway Farm in Stillwater, N.Y. Northern Mambo, the dam of Hold the Salsa, was born at Northway in 2009.

“We’re just over the Saratoga line, close to Joe McMahon’s. He’s a good friend of mine,” Lugovich said. “We’ve had some good horses come off the farm. Copper Chalice (a maiden winner for Lugovich at 74-1 June 5 at Belmont), that’s my son’s horse. Mambonick, he finished fourth going a mile on the grass the other day (Sept. 26 at Belmont). They were all born there.”

Lugovich also bred, foaled and raised Gregorian Gold at his farm just outside Saratoga. The now 7-year-old Touch Gold mare finished second in her debut late in the 2015 Saratoga meeting before winning the Lady Finger Stakes at Finger Lakes during her 2-year-old season.

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