Straylight Racing’s Invocation battled to the front in the final strides and finished a neck in front of Zio Elio to win Wednesday’s $65,000 allowance hurdle at Saratoga Race Course.
Winner of a Radnor Hunt Races ratings handicap on May 20, Invocation had Sean McDermott in the saddle for the first time. While the French-bred had often shown speed in his jump races, McDermott placed him in the second flight of a field heavy with speed.
Maram LLC’s Alcazar de Maram, the race’s 2.35-to-1 second favorite off a runaway maiden hurdle win at the Carolina Cup on April 1 and a Parx flat win on July 8, blazed on the lead through the first seven fences in company with Rather Be Racing’s Kremlin, another front-running maiden winner.
Ridden by Keith Dalton, Kremlin took over the lead before the last of eight fences and held the advantage going into the final turn for the three-furlong run to the finish line. The solid early pace took its toll on a warm, sunny Upstate New York afternoon, and the second flight began to overtake the early leaders on the turn.
Edition Farm’s Zio Elio made the first move and seized lead in the stretch under Bernie Dalton. Invocation was close behind at the furlong pole, and McDermott kept him under strong pressure on the outside for the final 50 yards.
Zio Elio responded gamely to the challenge and led until five strides from the finish. But Invocation had enough left to seize the advantage in the shadow of the wire.
Trained by Leslie Young, Invocation ran the allowance hurdle’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:44.13 on firm turf. Late money piled on Invocation, and he went off as the 2.05-to-1 favorite.
In the winner’s circle, McDermott donned a blue baseball cap with “198” on it, in honor of five-time champion jockey Paddy Young and his 198 career victories in National Steeplechase Association races. The trainer’s husband continues his recovery from a serious head injury sustained at Radnor. Saddling Invocation in the trainer’s stead was owner-assistant Amy Taylor Rowe.