(Golden Pal wins the G3 Troy Stakes at Saratoga / NYRA Photo)

From the NYRA Media Team / Ryan Martin:

Turf sprint titan Golden Pal came into Friday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Troy having secured all six of his lifetime victories leading from gate-to-wire. This time around, the Wesley Ward-trained colt displayed different dimensions, stalking the pace from a close third and outdueling a stubborn True Valour to capture the 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf dash for older horses at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Westerberg, Golden Pal has now won a stakes race at the Spa for three straight years. He broke his maiden in the Skidmore in August 2020 and won last year’s Grade 3 Quick Call, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons on both occasions.

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. — Golden Pal (1st):

The new running style was by design, according to both Ward and Ortiz, Jr.

“He moved a step right when they opened the gates. When they opened the gate he was moving at the same time and they outbreak me,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “They were in front of me and that’s not his style. He’s always in front of everyone the first couple of jumps. We’ve been working covered up in behind horses, that was how Wesley wanted me to work the horse, and today when that happened I wasn’t afraid to take a hold or drop in and sit and wait because I was working with the horse.”

Trainer Wesley Ward — Golden Pal:

Ward concurred, and credited his Keeneland-based exercise rider Julio Garcia with being instrumental to 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo’s newfound style.

“He’s got a brilliant mind this horse and takes everything in, but he knew it was race day,” Ward said. “The plan was, unless he broke super sharp, that I’d like him to come from behind. Irad worked him from behind the last few times, so he knew he could do it. Julio Garcia, our main rider at home, works him from behind every week. I’m glad he showed a little versatility today.”

Ward expressed confidence in the horse’s ability to find the wire in time, despite the close finish.

“You’re always concerned, but I have a of confidence in this horse. He’s certainly the best horse I’ve ever had,” Ward said. “Every time you lead him over, he proves more and more what a joy [it is] to be around a special horse like this. It would make every single trainer get up in the morning. He’s a once in a lifetime horse and I’ve been blessed to have a few of them, but this guy is certainly the best.”

Golden Pal has never lost at stakes level in North America. A winner of the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2020 at Keeneland, he captured last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar, becoming only the sixth horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup events.

Ward suggested that the newfound running style was to prepare Golden Pal for a return engagement in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

“When you get to the Breeders’ Cup there’s so many fast horses – 14 of them in the race – and you just want to be able to be tactical and not have to be in front. I think we showed that today,” Ward said.

Golden Pal could test new waters next out and try dirt for the first time in the Grade 2 Phoenix on October 7 at Keeneland – the oldest stakes race in North America.

“We’ll talk it over with everyone involved in the ownership of the horse and see which direction they want to go, but it’s important to them to show what the horse can do on the dirt as well,” Ward said. “Through all these issues he’s had throughout his career – minor issues – I’ve kept him on the grass to keep him sound, but he’s never been as sound as he is now. It would be a good time to try him and it would be a good time to try him on his home track.”

Jockey Feargal Lynch — True Valour (2nd):

Jockey Feargal Lynch was full of praise for the stubborn True Valour.

“He got the lead. I was expecting Golden Pal to go, but when I saw I cleared him out of the gate I wasn’t going to disappoint the horse in his grind,” Lynch said. “He got it very easy in front and when we kicked I thought we’d won it. For an 8-year-old, we’re two old men in the twilight of our career and we’re just enjoying it.”