SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Ring Weekend overtook Take the Stand in deep stretch en route to setting a course record in Monday's Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Graham Motion, Ring Weekend hit the wire in 1:38.29 over 1 1/16 miles on the firm Mellon turf, breaking Ironicus' previous mark of 1:38.54 set in last year's edition of the Bernard Baruch.
It was the first win of the year for the 5-year-old Tapit gelding, who was second by a neck in the Grade 2 Dixie on May 21 at Pimlico before finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap last out on August 20.
Take the Stand set early fractions of 23.26 seconds, 46.59, 1:09.09 and 1:32.64 to pace the nine-horse field. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez kept Ring Weekend just off the pace before coaxing him to the outside, taking the lead just before the sixteenth pole and outlasting Jay Gatsby by a neck.
"He settled a little bit better than last time out here that was the key right there," Velazquez said. "He broke better, settled better and that was the difference today. And then when I asked him to run, he responded very easily.
"I was pretty certain when the horse [Jay Gatsby] got between us [Take the Stand], I went to lean a little bit, but I saw the horse on the inside start coming out and I eased out with him at the same time," he added. "You can see how far out we came from the rail because the horse on the inside was coming out, so I was not concerned."
Ring Weekend, off as the 5-2 favorite, paid $7.90 on a $2 win bet. Co-owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and St. Elias Stable, he improved his career earnings to $1,305,410. It also was his fifth career graded stakes win, which includes the 2014 Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the 2015 Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
"The day after the Fourstardave, Graham said, 'I think we've got a shot to run him back at the end of the meet,' and it kind of took me back a little bit," said Terry Finley, the managing partener of West Point Thoroughbreds. "All week long he's trained great and I had a great feeling. I told everybody I thought he would be very tough today. I had no reservations about bringing him back because Graham's got a really good sense of this horse and he really loves this horse. All those things put together we had a lot of confidence in putting everything together towards this outlook, and we have great partners."
The Jimmy Jerkens-trained Jay Gatsby held off Take the Stand by a nose for second.
Farhaan, Dubai Sky, Reporting Star, Takeover Target, Solemn Tribute and Natchez completed the order of finish. War Dancer was scratched.
Bernard Baruch (1870-1965) was an advisor to presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as a racing fan and thoroughbred owner who campaigned horses under the name Kershaw Stable. In 1927, his horse Happy Argo won the Carter.
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