SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Border supported his heavy favoritism and kept a perfect record at Saratoga intact with a 6 ¼-length triumph in the inaugural running of the $85,000 Lubash on Wednesday over the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course.
The Mike Maker-trained dark bay son of English Channel arrived at the 1 1/16-mile event for New York-breds off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Manhattan on July 4 at Belmont Park, where he finished a length to Instilled Regard. Wednesday’s race was his first start against his Empire State-bred counterpart since winning an allowance optional claiming event over Saratoga’s inner turf in August 2019.
Breaking from the inside post under jockey Jose Ortiz, Cross Border took back and tipped off the inside moving into the three-path in third position as Blewitt led the field into the first turn. With The J Y tracking right to his outside in second, Blewitt controlled the pace through easy opening fractions of 25.48 seconds for the quarter-mile and 48.95 for the half over the firm turf course according to Equibase.
Around the far turn, Cross Border began inching his way into contention as Blewitt maintained his advantage under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Past the three-sixteenths pole, Cross Border had it all wrapped up, hitting the wire in 1:41.75. Rapt was second, a nose ahead of Blewitt. The J Y completed the order of finish. Dante’s Fire and main track only entrant Yankee Division were scratched.
Returning $2.60 for a $2 win bet, Cross Border made his eighth trip to the winner’s circle in 25 starts. Additionally, the Lubash was a first stakes triumph for Cross Border, who previously earned graded stakes black type when second in the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight at Gulfstream Park on January 25. Banking $46,750 in victory, Cross Border has now accumulated lifetime earnings of $396,971. A three-time winner over the turf at Saratoga last year, Cross Border is now unbeaten in four starts at the Spa.
“It looked like Todd [Pletcher]’s horse [Blewitt, No. 6] and Cross Border were the speed of the race. He’s done well in the past stalking but on paper he looked like the class,” Maker said. “I think his tactical speed helps him, but also being a New York-bred and the conditions he had really helped him last year. Plus, it was a four-horse field here and a drop in class can’t hurt.”
Maker did not rule out a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer on August 29 at Saratoga, which offers an automatic berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 7 at Keeneland.
“It could be against New York-breds or it could be the Sword Dancer, but it will be something up here,” Maker said. “He’s run very well up here last year and started off well here this year.”
Ortiz said that the trip went according to plan.
“He can go for bigger things in the future. He did it pretty easy,” Ortiz said. “I knew I had the 1-hole so I decided to take him back from the get-go and put him in that winning position. I knew Blewitt had some speed and the other horse outside me [The J Y, No. 2] had some speed, too. I didn’t want get into a bad position with him, I just wanted to ride him like he was much the best.”
Bred in New York by Berkshire Stud and B.D. Gibbs, Cross Border is out of the Empire Maker broodmare Empress Josephine and comes from the same family as leading New York sire Central Banker.
2020 Inaugural Lubash Stakes Replay
Live racing returns on Thursday with a 10-race card which features the $100,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series (Statue of Liberty) for 3-year-old fillies over the Mellon turf course and the Grade 1, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase going 2 1/16 miles. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Entries for Thursday, July 23
First post 12:50 p.m.
NYRA Press Release/Ryan Martin
Photo: Cross Border wins the Inaugural Lubash at Saratoga. Credit: Coglianese Photos