Notes & Quotes From the Wide, Wide World of Horse Racing — Sunday Stakes Edition

From the Media Teams at Saratoga & Del Mar:

(Dream Tree returns to the races with a huge G2 win at Saratoga / Photo by Coglianese & Courtesy of NYRA)

Saratoga Race Course:

G2 Prioress Stakes:

Mike Smith, rider of the winner, Dream Tree:

“She gave me goosebumps to be honest. I had never ridden her in the afternoon,” said Smith, who teamed with Baffert for their third graded stakes win of the Saratoga meet, joining Marley’s Freedom in the Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina and Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. “I was fortunate enough to work her one morning, so I knew she was really talented, but I didn’t realize she was this talented.

“You go back and look at some of fillies that she’s beat and she’s beaten some really, really good fillies, so the only thing that worried me a little bit was the long layoff, but she handled that well within herself. She was sharp out of the gate and she’s pretty aggressive in the post parade, she gets herself wound up, but the best part of the race is when the doors open; that’s when she relaxes. She has a natural high cruising speed and Bob had her ready today. He told me that’s why he decided to ship her.”

Bob Baffert, trainer of the winner:

“Man, she brought it today,” Baffert said by phone. “She had been training so well and we were debating on running her here [at Del Mar] in a stake on closing day or take her to Saratoga. She decided to give her a shot since she was doing so well. I’m just glad she shipped well and is still undefeated. That freshening really helped her. She’s really matured a lot. She showed today how good she really is. It’s pretty exciting.

“She showed last year that she could win going short, going long,” he added “She’s extremely fast. Turning for home, I thought, ‘Man, I think she’s ready.’ They were going pretty fast. I think Mike was pretty impressed with her. Sometimes it works out and sometimes, it leaves you scratching your head. I’m just really glad it worked out.”

(King of Speed wins the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes / Benoit Photo & Courtesy of Del Mar)

Del Mar Race Course:

Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes:

Gary Stevens, rider of the winner King of Speed:

“My 100th stakes win at Del Mar. Wow. I hope I can get number 101 a little later (he rides Majestic Eagle in the Del Mar Derby).

“I’ve liked this colt right from the beginning. I was getting on him early and I told Jeff ‘This could be my Del Mar Futurity horse.’ But he wasn’t doing as well as I thought he should on the dirt, so I said ‘Let’s try him on the grass.’ Jeff did and he responded much better to it. It’s a great feeling to be right about something like this every once in a while. He’s a nice colt and he’s found the place where he wants to be.”

Flavien Pratt, rider of runner-up Hartel:

“I had a perfect trip and when the hole opened turning for home, I had to go for it. I had no choice. But now, after the race is run, I’m wondering if it was too soon. What can you do.”

Rafael Bejarano, rider of third-place finisher Takeo Squared:

“When we went into the first turn, he tried to jump the fence on me. Then coming through the stretch, that other horse (Hartel) came over and scared my horse. That’s why I claimed foul.”

Jeff Bonde, trainer of the winner:

“We’ve always liked the horse. He always finishes well in his races. But he was kind of like a teenager, he hadn’t grown into himself mentally. Gary (Stevens) has been working him every week and he’s been putting it together and getting better each race. We talked it over and with the speed in the race Gary said he was just going to take back, save all the ground and make one run. That’s just what he did.”


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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