Always in close contention, The Elkstone Group’s Bodie Island took the lead with one circuit of Saratoga Race Course’s inner turf course remaining, jumped the last fence with a sizable lead, and held off a late challenge by Virsito to win last Wednesday’s $65,000 optional allowance claiming hurdle by a head.
The Elkstone Goup, headed by Stuart Grant, owns the Camden Training Center.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, dropping into the claiming ranks with a $30,000 tag, also made a run at Bodie Island in the stretch, but his bid faded, and the two-time Grade 1 winner settled for third, 2 1/4 lengths farther back, in a field of seven.
Bodie Island, third to Virsito in a Saratoga optional allowance claiming hurdle on July 30, provided trainer Richard Valentine and jockey Kieran Norris with their second victories of the current Saratoga meet. They had combined forces for a victory by Gil Johnston’s Awesome Pearl in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 31.
Sent to the starter as the 3-to-1 second betting choice behind 9-to-5 Virsito, Bodie Island ran the race’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:34.62 on firm turf. Bodie Island also wore a $30,000 claiming tag and collected his first victory since a starter handicap score at the Carolina Cup in Camden on March 29.
Irv Naylor’s Meganisi took the lead in the early going with jockey Bernie Dalton and held the advantage until Bodie Island glided to the lead on the second run through Saratoga’s stretch. He established a daylight lead on the last trip down the backstretch and opened four lengths at the final fence.
But Paddy Young kicked Virsito into gear after the last and weaved around Naylor’s You’re the Top, who had lost jockey Ross Geraghty at the fifth fence. Virsito made up much of the margin on the inside, but Bodie Island fought back under pressure from Norris and fended off the challenge at the finish line.
Virsito was claimed out of the race by veteran steeplechase participant Gregg Ryan. Trainer George Weaver put in the claim for Virsito, who previously was owned by Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster.
Rain pushes Turf Writers to Monday: The $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup, scheduled for Thursday, August 21, has been rescheduled for Monday, Aug. 25. New York Racing Association officials postponed the race because of inclement weather conditions and all scheduled Thursday races being moved off the turf course at Saratoga