LAKE GEORGE STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILE (INNER TURF)
With a late stretch move, favored Daring Dancer caught A Little Bit Sassy to win by a head in the $200,000 Lake George Stakes July 23 over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.
The lone graded stakes winner in the field, Sagamore Farm homebred Daring Dancer launched her best move at about midstretch while racing toward the center of the inner turf course to nip A Little Bit Sassy.
"That was a very close race," said winning rider Alan Garcia, who delivered a perfectly timed rally. "Somebody had to win, [and] I was glad to win that race. She was comfortable all the way. Turning for home, I was looking for a hole, but I decided to move outside. She did it spectacularly."
The outcome marked the second straight tough loss for Ramona Bass' A Little Bit Sassy, who in her previous start finished first in the Regret Stakes June 14 at Churchill Downs only to be disqualified to fourth for interference in the stretch.
In Wednesday's race featuring seven 3-year-old fillies, Daring Kathy and jockey John Velazquez led the field through a quarter mile in :24.06 seconds, a half mile in :48.1 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:11.64, while jockey Luis Saez kept A Little Bit Sassy close to that pace. A Little Bit Sassy, by More Than Ready, challenged the front-runner as they turned for home and those two dueled to about midstretch.
A Little Bit Sassy put the stubborn Daring Kathy away and briefly appeared to be home free but she didn't have quite enough to hold off Daring Dancer's final charge. Daring Dancer, by Empire Maker, completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:40.92 on firm turf.
"When we came into the stretch, I had a lot of horse, but the last furlong the winner came on," Saez said of the the tough beat. "I saw the horse coming and I had to ride hard. We just got beat. She ran great today."
Trained by Graham Motion, Daring Dancer returned to the form that saw her win her first three career starts, including the Applachian Stakes April 17 at Keeneland. Her win streak was snapped May 25 at Belmont Park when she finished off the board in the Wonder Again Stakes.
"Alan [Garcia] said she never picked up the bridle [in the loss at Belmont, when fifth in the Wonder Again]. I honestly believe it had to be the soft ground," Motion said of the fifth-place finish in the Wonder Again. "I was having kittens in the paddock here when it started to rain, because it held off all afternoon, but she was a different horse today. Right from the beginning today, she was on the bridle. Alan gave her a beautiful ride and was very patient for her today."
Daring Dancer, the 3-1 favorite, returned $8.30, $4.10, and $3.40 to win, place, and show. A Little Bit Sassy paid $4.40 and $3.60. Daring Kathy held third and paid $3.90 to show.
Daring Dancer is out of the placed Red Ransom mare Vienna Affair, who has produced one other starter, the stakes winner Hamp.