SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Vineyard Haven served notice he should be a force to reckon with in the sprint division and perhaps beyond during the second half of the season after splashing to an easy 1 3/4-length victory over Half Metal Jacket in Friday's $75,000 James Marvin overnight stakes at soggy Saratoga.
Making his first start since finishing a game third in the 2009 Cigar Mile, Vineyard Haven contested the early pace of the seven-furlong James Marvin with Flat Bold while under confident handling by jockey Alan Garcia. Vineyard Haven, a 4-year-old son of Lido Palace, readily disposed of his early challenger upon settling into the stretch, drew well clear with Garcia peaking around for competition several times through midstretch, and then cruised to an easy win despite being taken in hand near the sixteenth pole.
Full Metal Jacket, claimed for $50,000 earlier this year, rallied wide to be second best, finishing 2 1/2 lengths clear of You and I Forever who rallied from last to be third in a field reduced to nine starters with the scratch of Cool Coal Man.
Vineyard Haven completed seven furlongs in 1:22.30 over the sloppy track and paid $3.30.
"I was pretty sure after Cool Coal Man came out this is about how the race would play out," said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "It seems like every time we run this horse, the track comes up muddy, and I'm not sure if the wet track moves him up or not."
Vineyard Haven won the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial over a sloppy strip last fall at Laurel and was disqualified from first after registering an apparent victory over similar footing here last summer in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.
"Obviously, we're very pleased with this performance, it was easier than I thought it would be," Mettee said. "I thought that he might get a little tired the last part, but Alan was easy on him the whole way and said at no point did he ever think he'd get beat."
Vineyard Haven is owned by Godolphin Stables, which won eight races, including four Grade 1 stakes, from just 14 starters during the 2009 Saratoga meet.
"I'll talk to Saeed and see what he wants to do next," Mettee said. "The Forego is the logical spot, although there is the Woodward, which would be the bolder play. Right now, we'll just keep all our options open."