Updated 07/22/2012 07:02 PM
The Spa Spot: Bern Identity prevails in the 98th Sanford
George and Lori Hall's Bern Identity benefitted from a ground-saving trip and rallied in the stretch to win the historic Sanford Stakes Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik picked up the first Saratoga stakes victory of her career aboard the son of Bernstein. Napravnik took the colt to the rail for the early stages of the six-furlong Grade 2 race while Handsome Jack and Brave Dave battled through quick early fractions of :21.60 and :44.70. She moved Bern Identity to the outside near the three-sixteenths pole and he surged in the next furlong to get the lead.
Bern Identity finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Handsome Jack and paid $5.60 as the 9-5 favorite in the field of eight 2-year-olds.
New Jersey-based trainer Kelly Breen decided to try to cash in on the new NYRA program that rewards horses that break their maidens in New York and then win one of the graded stakes at Saratoga. Instead of a winner's share of $120,000, Bern Identity earned $220,000 for the Halls.
“The extra $100,000 bonus makes it all sweeter. So, thanks, NYRA!," Breen said. "Even for his first start, without the bonus, I don’t know if I would have run him in New York to begin with. Maybe with the big money here, we’ll have to think about bringing some more horses here.”
The Halls paid $70,000 for the colt as a yearling at Keeneland September sale. He finished second in his first race on May 9 then romped by 13 3/4 lengths on June 1 at Belmont Park.
“He’s a fast horse," Breen said. "After he won, he came back and worked extremely fast. That kind of indicated to me he was the real deal. That’s how I feel in my heart anyway.
"They outran him a little bit in the beginning; I was a little surprised. Maybe the fast workout last week took a little bit out of him. But he showed his grit, got a little bit of dirt in his face and ran nice. He didn’t break great, but in the blink of an eye we were a length behind. She had to ride him coming out of there.
"Around the turn it was a little nerve-wracking – is he going to keep coming? – she never had a chance to give him a breather. She sat on him a little bit around the turn and then asked him to go again. He showed a lot of grit. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think he was a nice horse. We take our chances coming to New York, and when we show up we’re here for a reason. We were here with what I thought was a nice horse.”
Napravnik said she was fortunate to make the best of the situation they encountered.
“He ran great," she said. "He’s really got a lot of grit. We weren’t quite as forwardly placed as I thought we might be, but the pace was extremely fast. He just hung in there down on the rail and finished strongest coming for home."