Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, maintained in a stalking position early by jockey Sean McDermott, boomed away from his opponents after the final fence of Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes and drew away to a 9 3/4-length victory on Wednesday.
James S. Carter’s Macnicholson, sent to the starter as the 35.25-to-1 longshot in the 2 3/8-mile Walsh, ran a big race to finish second, 10 3/4 lengths clear of Armata Stables’ New Member. Champion trainer Jack Fisher trains both Moscato and New Member.
Jeffrey S. Amling’s My Afleet, favored at 2.10-to-1 on a surge of late money, finished fourth, and Edition Farm’s Zio Elio picked up fifth money in a field of nine. Moscato, the second pick at 3.25-to-1, ran the Walsh distance in 4:31.36 on firm turf.
A rising star in the National Steeplechase Association’s rising-star division for horses in their first seasons of competition over fences, Moscato had come into the Walsh from a respectable second in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 26 behind Show Court, who is entered for Thursday’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1).
With the Walsh’s $45,000 first-place purse, British-bred Moscato moved to the top of the novice table with $111,000 in 2017 purses. It was the six-year-old Hernando gelding’s third victory in five jumps starts this year, and all the wins have been by multiple lengths.
“The race went as we had hoped,” said Michael Hankin, who heads the Bruton Street partnerships. “He’s a nice horse.”
Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau jumped out to a sizable lead in the early going, with McDermott keeping Moscato in second, approximately five lengths off the pace.
That arrangement was just fine with both Fisher and McDermott. “It was nice having the speed out front and close in on him,” said Fisher, whose 2017 purses surpassed $750,000 with first and third money.
“If there was no front-runner, we were going to have to do the work ourselves, which is fine, but’s always easier to have something to aim at,” said McDermott, the year’s leading jockey by purse winnings.
As the field passed the finish line for the second time, McDermott asked Moscato to close the gap, and the two leaders were heads apart after seven of nine fences.
After the last on Saratoga’s backstetch, McDermott separated Moscato from the remainder of the field, and the Walsh essentially was over. McDermott peeked behind him at the furlong pole, saw that he had a nine-length lead with no one closing ground on him, and kept Moscato under modest pressure to the finish line.
Although Moscato was winless over fences in England, he had five flat wins earlier in his career. “He can go back and win a nice race on the turf,” the jockey said. “Most of his wins in England came off distance on the turf.”
Fisher indicated that Moscato’s next start most likely will be the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 21.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, the 5.30-to-1 third betting choice, was pulled up in the stretch the first time by jockey Ross Geraghty. Trainer Ricky Hendriks said Geraghty sensed that Surprising Soul was not going well on the first turn and made the decision to protect his mount. Surprising Soul appeared to be uninjured, the trainer said.
Making an appearance in Saratoga’s paddock before the Walsh was five-time champion jockey Paddy Young, who was seriously injured at the Radnor Hunt Races on May 20. Continuing his recovery at the Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Center in suburban Philadelphia, Young smiled as he was greeted by many members of the steeplechase community.