SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Combine a perfect pace scenario with sizzling-hot jockey Alan Garcia and you wind up with Visionaire's last-to-first 2 1/4-length victory over Desert Key in Saturday's $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga. The win was the fifth on the card for Garcia, who 30 minutes earlier had captured the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Stakes aboard Shakis.
The Grade 1 King's Bishop was Visionaire's third start since his 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby nearly four months earlier. A stretch-running son of Grand Slam, he benefited from a furious battle for the early lead, with as many as five horses racing within heads of one another for much of the opening five furlongs of the seven-furlong King's Bishop.
J Be K, the 8-5 favorite, emerged from the pack with a clear advantage in early stretch. But by that time Visionaire, who lagged more than 15 lengths off the leaders in the run down the backstretch, was in full stride. Garcia kept Visionaire extremely wide around the final turn, avoiding some severe crowding and bumping that took place as the leaders began to weaken in early stretch. They readily overtook J Be K inside the eighth pole and won going away.
Desert Key, who had to steady along from behind the front-runners while saving ground throughout, finished willingly once finally clear to outgame both I'm So Lucky and Lantana Mob for second. Lantana Mob finished courageously after being knocked sideways in early stretch.
Visionaire, who earlier this year won the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Gotham at Aqueduct for his only previous graded stakes victory, completed the distance in 1:21.94 over a fast track and paid $15.60.
"It made me a little bit nervous when he was that far back, but when I saw the 44 and 1:09, and knowing the last time he got up at six and one-half, I didn't know he would win it, but I felt he'd make a run for it," said Michael Matz, who trains Visionaire for Team Valor International and Vision Racing LLC.
Asked about winning five races on the card, Garcia replied: "That's so great. I can't believe it."
- additional reporting by David Grening
Saratoga, 10th Race - August 23, 2008