SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez angled Bye Bye Melvin out in the stretch and piloted his charge through a thrilling stretch run that saw him overtake three rivals, including pacesetter Don Juan Kitten in the final jumps, for a rallying win by a head as the longest shot on the board in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course.
Off at 19-1, Bye Bye Melvin tracked in second position as 2-1 favorite Don Juan Kitten led the eight-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 27.17 seconds on the soft Mellon turf course that was pelted by rain.
Velazquez guided Bye Bye Melvin through a ground-saving trip, which he capitalized on out of the final turn by tipping him out and having him pick off a pair of rivals before running down the Danny Gargan-trained Don Juan Kitten just before the wire, completing the one-mile course in 1:39.92.
The 113th running of the Saranac, originally carded for the inner turf course, marked the first stakes win for Bye Bye Melvin, a Graham Motion trainee whose previous best effort came in a runner-up effort to Vanzzy in the Jersey Derby on July 26 at Monmouth Park.
“It’s very soft and heavy out there,” Velazquez said. “Even though they rolled it, it feels like you’re going very deep in the ground. We were running right on top of the rain, so it’s deep and slick at the same time, but he came running anyway.
“The first part, I came out running just to get a position going into the first turn,” Velazquez added. “He did not want to go anywhere. I grabbed him until he got more comfortable. He was lugging in down the stretch and I had to get after him, and he was slipping and sliding but he was good enough to get there. He was trying as hard as he could, but at the same time he was slipping. But he got there anyways.”
Owned and bred by Alex G. Campbell, Jr., Bye Bye Melvin improved to 3-1-1 in nine starts and has finished first or second four times in his last six starts. The Uncle Mo colt is out of Dynaformer mare Karlovy Vary and is a half-brother to the Motion-trained three-time graded stakes-winner Mean Mary, who ran second by a neck to Rushing Fall in last week’s Grade 1 Diana. Bye Bye Melvin impressed his conditioner with his effort in the inclement weather.
“He’s a late developer,” Motion said. “He’s been a little bit of a project in that way, but I’m not surprised with the way he ran He slugs it out and he obviously handled the soft turf better than most.”
Motion said the addition of blinkers was beneficial.
“My team at home [Fair Hill] thought it might help him focus a little bit, so I give credit to my assistant Cat McGee, and Skylar McKenna, who gallops him every day,” Motion said. “He’s not easy in the morning and I give them a lot of credit for how he ran today.”
Bye Bye Melvin returned $41 on a $2 win bet. He more than doubled his career earnings to $107,965.
Don Juan Kitten, ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Bodecream for second, marking his best stakes performance in three attempts.
“I had everything my way. The horse ran his heart out,” Carmouche said. “With different circumstances and a bit of a firmer turf course, I think it could have made the difference for us. But the horse ran well, we went into the race good and the horse gave us 100 percent. That’s all we can ask for.
“He was running on “E” by the time he [Bye Bye Melvin] got there from running over that soft turf course, the only reason the winner beat us is because he had a good gallop,” he added.
Embolden, Irish Mias, Three Technique, L’Imperator and Vanzzy completed the order of finish. Big Dreaming and Turn of Events scratched, as did main-track only entrant Ima Pharoah.
Bye Bye Melvin wins the 2020 Saranac
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card that features the Grade 3, $125,000 Shuvee for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles in Race 9 at 5:46 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:10 p.m.
Saratoga Entries for Sunday, August 30
Photo: Bye Bye Melvin (#2) wins the G3 Saranac beating favorite Don Juan Kitten to the wire. Credit: Skip Dickstein