On Monday morning, after several torrential downpours (what’s new?) overnight, I stopped by the barn of Dominick Galluscio to wish good luck to Early Response (by Hook and Ladder—clever, yes?), a two year old bay colt making his first start in yesterday’s seventh race. Four of the ten state-bred entries would be on the track for the first time.
In his stall in the morning, Early Response didn’t seem well-named. He looked kind of small and was about the most docile, gentle colt I’ve been around, and the strongest response I got from him were some placid nudges, asking to be pet; I swear, with a little encouragement, he’d have put his head on my shoulder and gone to sleep.
As the two-year-olds headed to the paddock for the race, so did I, but my progress was arrested by yet another epic Saratoga downpour. Not a lot of thunder and lightning, but torrential, hard-to-see-through rain, so I skipped the paddock, wondering how these youngsters would handle the adverse conditions. Only one had ever raced on a sloppy track before.
Early Response, from post one, broke well but within a few strides of the gate got slammed and bounced in towards the rail; recovering quickly, he hit his stride and tried to make up a move up on the rail on the backstretch, but the rail path was shut off, and he, under Mike Luzzi, raced in fourth through much of the race. As the rail opened up around the turn, Early Response took advantage, challenging Scooty the Pro, the horse who’d led throughout, while Bitabaz came up on the outside.
In the dark and the rain, it was hard to see who hit the wire first—inside horse? Outside horse? After a few minutes of examining the photo finish, the stewards posted the order: Scooty the Pro first, Early Response second, by a nose. A nostril. A hair. A whisker. Oh, so close…
Though second is disappointing when you’re so close to first, Early Response’s connections can be proud of their colt’s first appearance. Put him in your watch list–and maybe he’s not so badly named after all…
Monday’s card also featured the return of Wishful Tomcat, back after an eight month layoff. He was second under Ramon Dominguez here twice last summer, well-beaten both times, and his connections then boosted him to a state-bred stakes, in which he finished fifth in a race won by Big Truck and in which Spanky Fischbein (who also won yesterday at Saratoga) finished second.
It took Wishful Tomcat three more starts to break his maiden; he won in December at Aqueduct, dominating by more than seventeen lengths, again under Dominguez—the chart reads, “galloped home in hand.” His victorious return yesterday wasn’t quite as dominant, but pretty impressive for a horse who hadn’t raced in eight months. He went right to the lead and nobody got closer than a couple of lengths to him; he drew off to win by five and three quarters over a sloppy track. Who says cats aren’t supposed to like water?