With Played Hard and One More Baby, two of three starters
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Phil Bauer has only started three horses at the Saratoga Race Course this meeting, but has visited the winner’s circle twice after his trainees Played Hard and One More Baby scored in Thursday’s third and fifth races, respectively, at the Spa.
“That was a fun day. It’s very rare to win a race at Saratoga, let alone two, so we were excited,” said Bauer. “My wife and kids were up here, and the owner was here, so it was a great celebration. It was special and a day that we’ll never forget.”
Owned by Rigney Racing, Played Hard boasts a record of 11-5-3-1 that includes a Grade 3-placing when a pacesetting second to Bees and Honey in Aqueduct’s Comley in November, which came one start after finishing a neck behind multiple graded stakes-winner Crazy Beautiful in the Seneca at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly gave her all to persevere to victory in her Thursday effort, tracking in second under Tyler Gaffalione throughout the one-mile second-level allowance and dueling down the stretch with Boston Post Road to get her nose down just in time in a thrilling finish.
“She loves being a racehorse,” Bauer said. “It’s funny because she’s so laid back in the paddock and in the afternoons, but in the morning, she’s almost too much business and is sometimes difficult to gallop. But she’s a nice filly to say the least.”
Race 3 at 1:15:50; Race 6 at 2:56:00.
Bauer said Played Hard will likely make the step up to stakes company again in her next outing.
“She’s destined to be a broodmare for Rigney Racing, so hopefully we can get a stakes win at some point. Every time you win a race it’s great, but it gets tougher as you lose those conditions,” said Bauer. “We’ll find her a spot. I think it’s key for this filly to win a few in a row and I like how she rated yesterday and punched hard.”
Bauer said he will consider the $135,000 Summer Colony on August 19 at the Spa but that it may come up a bit too soon.
The celebrations continued for Bauer and his team just two races later when Rigney Racing’s homebred One More Baby graduated in his 10th start by a visually impressive 10 3/4 lengths in a nine-furlong $20,000 maiden claiming event for 3-year-olds and up.
The gelded son of Cairo Prince ran a similar race to Played Hard and stalked the pace in second before unleashing a devastating turn of foot and widening his margins down the lane under Luis Saez.
“We certainly didn’t see that coming. He was training great here – he shipped up here and kind of got a new lease on life,” Bauer said. “He had really dived into the feed tub and we knew he was ready. On paper, it looked like he could win, but if you told me he was going to win by 10, I would have called you crazy.”
Unfortunately for Bauer, One More Baby was haltered out of the effort by trainer Jose D’Angelo for owner Our Blue Streaks Stable, but the 37-year-old conditioner took it all in stride.
“It’s always bittersweet when you lose them in the claim box, but I think if people are claiming your horses, they’re in the right spot,” Bauer said. “That’s the key to winning races. We’ll keep our eye on him and keep track of him.”
Played Hard and One More Baby worked as a pair on July 23 over the main track, with the former completing the five-furlong exercise in 59 seconds flat and the latter in 1:00.85. Bauer said the drill helped both horses find the winner’s circle yesterday.
“I don’t know if they were workmates as much as they were predator and prey,” Bauer said, with a laugh. “They both benefitted from it and Played Hard was set off from One More Baby. We just needed to make sure they’re at the level they needed to be.”
Bauer’s Saratoga string of 12 horses also includes promising sophomore Warrior Johny, a gelded son of Cairo Prince who broke his maiden on June 18 at Churchill Downs after on-the-board finishes in four of his first five outings.
“He’s always competitive and runs mid-80 Beyers,” said Bauer. “I think he’d be competitive in a ‘1-X’ up here.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo of Played Hard (#3 outside) dueling hard for the win in an AOC at Saratoga August 4. (NYRA/Coglianese)