Ridden by Camden’s Bernie Dalton, owner-trainer Jimmy Day’s Diplomat surged into contention early in Saratoga’s homestretch, took the lead over the last fence, and drew away to a three-length victory in Wednesday’s $70,000 optional allowance hurdle.
Diplomat, winner of the 2015 $50,000 Carolina Cup, was claimed out of the race for $40,000 by trainer Charlton Baker for new owner Newman Racing.
Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu set the pace from the start of the 2 3/8-mile race over 10 National Fences and finished second, a neck ahead of owner-trainer David Jacobson’s All Together, who finished third after a fourth-place finish in last Thursday’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap.
Sent off as the 9.60-to-1 longshot in a field of six veteran hurdlers, Diplomat completed the distance in 4:42.96 on a firm inner turf course. The six-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding, who raced overseas last year and was purchased at auction by Day, collected his first victory since the Carolina Cup on March 28.
In his previous start, he had finished last of six in the $125,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial, although beaten only 4 1/4 lengths. Thursday’s victory was the third of the Saratoga meet for both Day and Dalton.
Paddy Young put Andi’amu on the lead at the start, with Irv Naylor’s Gimme Five taking the second spot. Also in the first flight was Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming, the 2.40-to-1 favorite based on his easy victory in a July 29 allowance hurdle.
Dalton placed Diplomat at the back of the field with Stone Farm’s Mandola, the 2.45-to-1 second betting choice. Gimme Five and Overwhelming began to tire on the final turn as Andi’amu kicked away slightly entering the stretch.
Diplomat closed ground to the final fence and gained a head lead over Andi’amu before opening daylight in the final sixteenth mile. Mandola, ridden by Camden’s Willie McCarthy, fell at the final fence and was vanned off the course.
On to Suffolk and Kentucky: Wednesday’s race closed the book on the 2015 Saratoga meet for the jumpers.
The National Steeplechase Association now moves south to the recently re-opened Suffolk Downs in East Boston for a $30,000 maiden hurdle and a 1 1/2 turf race on the flat for jumpers on Saturday. It will be the first time jumpers have raced at Suffolk since 1997.
Also on Saturday, Kentucky Downs will host a $40,000 maiden hurdle as well as a 1 1/2-mile run over the flat turf course which will be on open race for jumpers.