Flaxman Holdings' turf maiden winner Torres Del Paine, trained by Graham Motion, will shift to the main track for Wednesday's inaugural $100,000 Rick Violette, a six-furlong sprint for New York-bred juveniles at Saratoga Race Course.
Previously known as the Rockville Centre, the race was renamed in honor of the late Richard A. Violette, Jr., the longtime NYRA horseman and former president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
“Rick and I were friends, and I think it's great that they've named a race in his honor. It would make it even more special to win it the first year they run it,” said Motion. “Rick was a unique guy, a special guy and a real New York guy. It makes sense to have a race for New York-breds named for Rick.”
Violette enjoyed great success at Saratoga, including last summer when the recently retired Diversify captured an emotional renewal of the Grade 1 Whitney.
A lifelong supporter of all aspects of the industry, Violette was a founding member of the Board of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and co-created the TAKE THE LEAD Thoroughbred Retirement Program. He also co-founded TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program with a focus on providing an avenue for the retraining of retired racehorses.
“Rick was very committed to working for horsemen and for the backstretch employees,” Motion said. “I think we owe him a lot. He did a lot for us all.”
Torres Del Paine, a chestnut son of Karakontie, is out of the Curlin mare Miss Frost, who won the Tenski and Riskaverse on the Saratoga turf in 2014.
Motion said the pedigree was instrumental in his decision to try Torres Del Paine on turf for his 1 ¾-length debut score on June 28 at Laurel.
“I had hoped he would run well first time out. He actually worked fine on dirt but the pedigree leaned more towards grass being by Karakontie, so it made sense to start on grass,” said Motion. “As he has worked okay on the dirt, even though it's coming back a little quick, it made sense to take a shot in this race because there aren't many opportunities right now for 2-year-olds that have already broken their maiden.”
Torres Del Paine rallied from fifth under Wes Hamilton with a wide move to secure the win. Hamilton will retain the mount from post 5 on Wednesday.
“He was a little green when he made the lead. He definitely wandered a little bit in the stretch,” said Motion. “It's not unexpected with a 2-year-old going out for the first time.”
Bred in New York by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, he was purchased for $100,000 at the March OBS Sale by Flaxman Holdings, the racing and breeding operation of the Niarchos family, who also campaigned Karakontie.
“We bought him at the OBS Sale and the fact that he was a very attractive colt and by Karakontie was appealing to Niarchos and Flaxman Holdings as it's their stallion,” said Motion. “That he was by Karakontie was the main selling point and the fact that he's a New York-bred was just a bonus. He just did everything right since he came from the sale and we just carried on with him.”
Motion said Hamilton will have options for race tactics.
“I'll leave it up to Wes,” said Motion. “He's worked him and ridden him and I'm not going to change anything just because of the surface. We'll let the chips fall and see how he does.”
A talented field of five includes recent maiden winners Mission Wrapitup, Listentoyourheart and Sky of Hook.
Our Sugar Bear Stable's Mission Wrapitup, trained by Bruce Brown, earned a 66 Beyer Speed Figure for his rallying 8 ¼-length debut romp on May 31 in a five-furlong maiden sprint at Belmont.
“I really thought he might show speed and then get a little tired, but he ended up doing the opposite,” said Brown. “He always acted like he had some ability and some class, but I just wasn't sure if he was totally tight for the race.
“When he was behind early, I thought that was that and then here he comes. Once he got outside of horses, he really kicked in,” said Brown. “Usually, babies overreact to the dirt hitting them, but it didn't faze him. He really ran into it good.”
Mission Wrapitup breezed four furlongs in 47.34 seconds on the Saratoga main on July 9 in preparation for his stakes debut.
“He shipped up here early to get him used to everything and he had a really good breeze on the main track, so he's ready to go,” said Brown.
Brown echoed Motion's sentiments on the late Violette.
“Rick was a great guy,” said Brown. “It was a thankless job that he did, putting his own career on hold to try to further the business for the horsemen. It's something by no means he had to do, but he had a big enough heart to do it.”
Bred by Chester and Mary Broman, the Mission Impazible grey brought $35,000 at the March OBS. He will make his stakes debut from post 3 under Dylan Davis.
Merrylegs Farm homebred Listentoyourheart garnered a field-best 69 Beyer for his 1 ¼-length score in a five-furlong maiden sprint on June 23 at Belmont. The Afleet Alex bay will depart from post 2 under Manny Franco.
Sky of Hook, trained by Rudy Rodriguez for E.V. Racing Stable, registered a 51 Beyer for his rallying head score in a five furlong maiden sprint on May 10 at Belmont. The Tapiture chestnut, bred by EV and NC Corp, will emerge from post 4 under Luis Saez.
Completing the field is maiden Theitalianamerican for trainer Gary Contessa and owners Monty Foss and John Moirano. The Girolamo bay, bred by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds and Spruce Lane Farm, is the most experienced horse in the field with a pair of runner-up efforts.
Last out, Theitalianamerican rallied from last of seven to complete the exacta behind Fore Left in the 5 ½-furlong Tremont at Belmont. He will leave from the inside post under regular pilot Joel Rosario.
The Rick Violette is slated as Race 2 on Wednesday's 10-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m.
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