Serendipity Stables’ heavily favored Dark Gemini, ridden confidently by Willie McCarthy, advanced on the final run down Saratoga Race Course’s backstretch, seized the lead early in the stretch, and drew away to a 5 1/4-length victory in Wednesday’s $65,000 allowance hurdle.
The 2 3/8-mile race brought down the curtain on the National Steeplechase Association’s 2018 program of six jump races at the historic Upstate New York track.
Virginia Lazenby’s homebred Dancin in the Rain set all the pace until Dark Gemini’s winning move and finished second under Bernie Dalton. Irv Naylor’s Ocean Ready shadowed Dancin in the Rain from the start and finished third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back, in a field of five. Beverly R. Steinman’s First Friday finished fourth, and Sarah Sheila Stables’ Wild Dynaformer was fifth.
Sent to the starter at odds-on at .75-to-1, Dark Gemini paid $3.50 for a $2 win bet after running the 2 3/8-mile distance in 4:35.49 on firm turf on a warm, humid day.
Dark Gemini’s victory was the second of the Saratoga meet for McCarthy and trainer Jack Fisher, who combined forces to win the meet’s first jump race, the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes with Armata Stables’ New Member, who ran a good second to Optimus Prime in last Thursday’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1).
Dancin in the Rain, a front-running maiden winner at Monmouth Park on Aug. 9, rolled away from the flag drop and opened a seven-length lead on the first of three turns around Saratoga’s far turn. Dark Gemini, second in a Saratoga allowance hurdle on Aug. 1, lagged early and was still toward the back as the field moved through Saratoga’s homestretch the second time.
Dalton gave Dancin in the Rain a breather on that circuit and opened three lengths as the field jumped the third-to-last fence, located before Saratoga’s clubhouse turn. Dancin in the Rain stumbled over the next-to-last fence, but Dalton righted him and held the lead at the last.
Dark Gemini advanced on the backstretch run and was third over the last, near the end of Saratoga’s backstretch. McCarthy guided him to the inside, and Dark Gemini advanced to the lead under a hand ride.
With two taps of his whip right-handed, McCarthy reminded his mount that the race wasn’t over, and Dark Gemini widened to the finish line under a hand ride.