(Next captures Brimstone Stakes at Saratoga / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Trainer William “Doug” Cowans and jockey Luan Machado each earned their first Saratoga Race Course victory when heavy post-time favorite Next coasted to an impressive win in Thursday’s $150,000 Birdstone, a 1 3/4-mile marathon for older horses, over the Spa’s fast main track.

Owned by Michael A. Foster, Next found the winner’s circle with a stalking trip under a patient Machado, allowing New York-bred Sea Foam to control the tempo before pouncing with ease into the final turn to notch his fourth stakes victory in his last five outings. The son of Not This Time entered from a strong 2 1/4-length triumph in the 1 1/2-mile Grade 2 Brooklyn on June 10 at Belmont Park.

“We were worried about coming up here with a deeper track and an extra two furlongs, but the horse got into his rhythm like he does,” said Cowans, whose lone previous start at the Spa was a close runner-up finish with Next Shares in the 2015 Grade 2 With Anticipation. “We weren’t worried about where we were positioned in the race. Everything went just like planned.

“First win at Saratoga is awesome,” Cowans added. “Came up here with one other horse that got beat a neck. It’s great to come up here. It’s prestigious.”

Next was away cleanly from the outermost post 7 and tucked into the three path to stalk a length back of the sharp Sea Foam, who bounded to the front to lead through the first two turns and into the backstretch. Dash Attack and Lone Rock, winner of this event in 2021, matched strides in third as Machado kept a loaded Next within one length of Sea Foam.

Dash Attack attempted to inch up along the rail into the final turn as Next was given his cue and ranged up on the outside of a toiling Sea Foam. Machado needed only to shake the reins for Next to take a clear advantage into the top of the stretch before widening his margin under a confident hand ride.

The Ricardo Santana Jr.-piloted Time for Trouble made up ground late to battle with Dash Attack for place honors, but the two were no match for Next, who crossed the finish line first by 11 3/4 lengths. Time for Trouble swept past a game Dash Attack by four lengths for second with The Skipper Too coming on late for fourth another 4 1/4 lengths back. Sea Foam, Lone Rock and Treasure Trove completed the order of finish.

Due to a timing issue, the Birdstone will be hand-timed with a final time published on Friday.

Machado, aboard for each of Next’s last five outings, said it is special to win at Saratoga, especially with a horse as talented as him.

“It just feels great,” Machado said. “The horse was great and we’re happy to be here and get another one. When we were passing by the half-mile pole, it was the first time I checked on him to see how he was doing and he grabbed the bridle and gave me all that confidence. It was done by the half-mile. He was looking good and the other horses were asking already. He still had much to give and I felt super comfortable at that point.”

Next has proven to be the acquisition of Cowans’ career after he was haltered for $62,500 out of a distant ninth when sprinting seven furlongs last April at Keeneland. The veteran conditioner won first off the claim with the grey gelding when stretching him out to nine furlongs in a $50,000 claiming tilt, but saw the biggest improvement when bringing him up to the marathon distance for the first time with an 18 1/4-length romp in an off-the-turf edition of the 12-furlong Cape Henlopen in September at Delaware Park.

Foster, who enjoyed his first graded victory when Next won the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance in November at Keeneland, said he never anticipated the journey Next would take him on when he was first claimed last spring.

“We’ve claimed a lot of horses and had a lot of success. It’s not our first stakes horse that we’ve claimed, but this guy’s a claim of the century,” said Foster. “Doug figured him out early. We ran him back for $50,000 [tag] and we’re amazed we got away with it. He’s just a dream come true, I tell you. We have more fun with this horse than we ever dreamed of. We take every race one at a time, but we wanted Saratoga so bad just to be able to race up here. We’re very happy.”

Cowans said Next will now target the 12-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Greenwood Cup on September 23 at Parx Racing with an eye to a repeat victory in the 13-furlong Grade 2, $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

Bred in Kentucky by Silverton Hill, Next banked $82,500 in victory and improved his lifetime record to 18-8-0-1. He returned $3.20 for a $2 win ticket.

Live racing resumes Friday at Saratoga with an 11-race card, featuring the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam in Race 10. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.