Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, always in a commanding position, moved past early pacesetter Secret Reward on Saratoga Race Course’s final turn and drew away to a 3 1/4-length victory over Castle Hill on Thursday in a $65,000 allowance hurdle that brought down the curtain on Saratoga’s rich schedule of jump races.
Ballybristol Farm’s Blue Atlantic finished third, 8 3/4 lengths behind Bill Pape’s Castle Hill, and Sue Sensor’s Cash Crop prevailed in a photo finish for fourth in a field of eight.
Sent off as the 9-to-2 second betting choice, Hardrock Eleven paid $11 to win after running the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:46.43 on firm turf.
The race established a few notable milestones. It was the second straight win in the same non-winners-of-two allowance for Hardrock Eleven, who drew off by a 4 1/4-length win last September in Saratoga’s final jump race of the season. The Rock Hard Ten gelding entered that 2 3/8-mile race as a maiden.
The victory was the second of the meet for both owner Lazenby and trainer Doug Fout. They had combined forces on Aug. 24 for a victory by Help From Heaven in another $65,000 allowance hurdle. The win was the first Saratoga score for apprentice jockey Brendan Crowley.
Trained on the flat in Louisiana by Lazenby’s late brother, David M. Banks, Hardrock Eleven had gone winless since his Spa win last Sept. 3, although he had finished second in a good effort behind Detroit Blues in a Saratoga allowance on Aug. 17.
Crowley placed him on the outside of Secret Reward’s flank in the early going of the Spa jumps finale and briefly took the lead as the field passed the finish line for the second time. Crowley moved Hardrock Eleven to the lead after the last of eight fences, quickly drew clear, and had a four-length lead at the furlong pole on the Mellon Turf Course.
Castle Hill, bidding to keep alive Jonathan Sheppard’s record of 47 straight years with a Saratoga winner, broke clear of the other challengers in midstretch under Gerard Galligan, but Crowley kept Hardrock Eleven under steady right-handed pressure through the stretch and maintained his advantage to the finish line.