It hadn’t been done since Native Dancer set foot at the Spa 65 years ago, but Barry K. Schwartz’s Voodoo Song captured four consecutive starts at this summer’s Saratoga meeting. He began in a $ 40,000 claimer, and on Saturday, he capped off the streak with his first graded stakes win in the G3 Saranac, besting Yoshida by a neck at the wire after leading throughout. Trained by Linda Rice, the 3-year-old son of English Channel was ridden to victory by Jose Lezcano. The final time for nine furlongs over the firm turf was reported to be 1:46.18 after an apparent timer malfunction.
“It’s great to be in the same company as Native Dancer,” Rice said. “It’s been a real thrill for us. I’ve had a couple win three here now, [including] City Zip and New York’s Finest, but this was just really something. I really wanted to get into the allowance race earlier in the card because I thought that was a logical spot. When I could see where were going to be five or six deep on the also-eligibles, I thought we’d be better off putting him in the Saranac. Barry [Schwartz, the owner] was great he said [to do] whatever I wanted, so that’s what we did. His running style certainly helps with this course.
“The reason I’ve run him back so many times is he likes this course, he likes the configuration. Obviously, it hasn’t rained much, and he likes the firm going and that could change very quickly in the next 30 days or six weeks, so I thought let’s take advantage of it we can rest him later. This meet we haven’t had much rain. In 2009 when I won the title, we didn’t have much rain, and my turf horses ran great the same year, so sometimes that works for you.”
Voodoo Song broke and lurched to his left leaving the starting gate, shutting off Bricks and Mortar at the beginning of the Saranac. Lezcano took the colt to his favored position on the front end, allowing the free-runner to stretch out to a five-length lead down the backstretch. Caviar Czar and Mr. Havercamp were the closest to the leader, while Rocketry and Yoshida were moving together in the next grouping. Bricks and Mortar was shuffled back to be sixth in the early going.
“He broke to the lead and that was it,” Lezcano said. “That was the only strategy going in; let him go and let him break lose. I know we were going fast, but that is how he likes it, running free. If you make him hang around he throws his head, so we let him go. He’s happier that way and you saw the rest.”
Bricks and Mortar made a bold move approaching the far turn to range up within a half-length of Voodoo Song’s lead. Caviar Czar attempted to go with that rival, but Voodoo Song just picked up his pace to stretch his lead back to a full two lengths at the head of the lane. Bricks and Mortar attempted to re-rally as Mr. Havercamp languished at the rail, and Yoshida was making a bold bid down the center of the course. Again, Voodoo Song had just enough left to hold off Yoshida by a neck at the wire. Bricks and Mortar finished third.
“He got pretty far in front and I got a little concerned because of the fractions,” Rice reflected. “I couldn’t tell if he was going too fast because the clock was wrong. Jose [Lezcano] put him to sleep in the turn and they were making a fast move toward him. I thought ‘oh geez, I hope he isn’t empty,’ and then he spurted off. What a thrill.”
Bred in New York by Stonewall Farm, Voodoo Song is out of a stakes-winning daughter of Unbridled’s Song. He broke his maiden at second asking, but did not win again until his first start at Saratoga this summer.
Transferred from retired trainer Mike Hushion at the end of the Belmont spring/summer meet, Voodoo Song won his first start for Rice by a front-running 5 ¼ lengths in a $ 40,000 claiming race against open company at 1 1/16 miles on the grass on July 22. He repeated the win four days later, and again on Aug. 23. The Saranac makes him the first horse since Native Dancer to win four starts during the Saratoga meeting, and improves his record to five wins from nine starts with earnings of over $ 350,000.
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