Home Nurse course Robin Sparkes captures Caress in Saratoga

Robin Sparkes captures Caress in Saratoga


Robin Sparkles, a 5-year-old mare bred in New York, made every pole a victory by winning the 11th edition of the $200,000, Grade III Caress Stakes. Bruce Brown’s apprentice beat eight rivals by winning the 5 1/2 furlong sprint on a firm Mellon Turf course in 1 minute, 1.98 seconds.

Despite winning eight races in 15 starts and finishing third to Caress and Smart ‘N Fancy last year at Spa, bettors sent flag bearer Michael Schrader to the post at odds of 21- 1. Exotic bets were significantly inflated when Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Saver finished a header behind Robin Sparkles at 8-1 odds and Lady Edith was another half length in third at 15-1. Miss J McKay placed fourth at 6-1.

With nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in the exacta pool, a $1 ticket on Robin Sparkles and Souper Saver paid $221.50. A fifty-cent trifecta paid $934 while the superfecta paid $1,160.25 for every penny wagered.

After the race, jockey Javier Castellano explained his strategy saying: “She only likes to go ahead. I tried to slow the pace as best I could. I like the way it ended.

Coach Bruce Brown, who was celebrating his first win of the Saratoga season, said his pre-race chat with Castellano went something like, “Let’s try to get her out. She doesn’t like being squeezed too tight…just let go and heal her there. These tactics gave the victory to his mare and earned the rider a double for the day.

Rivals to watch

Archivists Malathaat and Clairier will face off again in the $200,000, Grade II Shuvee Stakes, Saratoga’s Sunday feature. Clairiere was the winner the last time they met when she had the lead before the wire in the Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes from Belmont last month.

Malathaat, who races for the Shadwell Breeding and Racing Organization, will wear new gear as she goes out for the mile and a long run for fillies and mares. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said earlier in the week that the daughter of famed stallion Curlin will race in blinkers. “She seemed to lose her focus in her two starts this year. So we put blinders on her and we think we got the desired effect,” he said.

Saratoga fans will remember Malathaat’s victory in the Grade I Alabama Stakes last year as she was on her way to being crowned champion 3-year-old fillies.

Really good was… really good

Really Good lived up to his name in Saturday’s opener when he took a 1 1/2 length victory in an inaugural $100,000 race for 2-year-olds. His first win was coach Mike Maker’s fourth victory on day eight of the Saratoga 40-Day Meeting. Luis Saez’ winning race was his 10th at Spa this season.

Velazquez wins a pair

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez scored a brace when he won race three aboard Union Lake, then came right back riding Jane Mast to help him win his first race . The back-to-back wins gave the jockey his fourth and fifth wins of the competition.

Rarify can’t wait to go

“We are ready to go.” That was trainer Wesley Ward’s assessment of Rarify, a 2-year-old filly by Triple Crown winner Justify who is due to make her debut on Sunday afternoon. Ward, a Kentucky rider renowned for his sprints, said, “What really impresses me is his stride. All his breezes have been perfect.”

Irad Ortiz took the riding call. He will break Rarify from the No. 7 post in a field of eight fillies.

Alex Orr Jr. is a longtime horse racing writer.