SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Turf sprint titan Golden Pal came into Friday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Troy having secured all six of his lifetime victories leading from gate-to-wire. This time around, the Wesley Ward-trained colt displayed different dimensions, stalking the pace from a close third and outdueling a stubborn True Valour to capture the 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf dash for older horses at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Westerberg, Golden Pal has now won a stakes race at the Spa for three straight years. He broke his maiden in the Skidmore in August 2020 and won last year’s Grade 3 Quick Call, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons on both occasions.
Entering from an uncharacteristic last-of-16 in the Group 1 King’s Stand on June 14 at Royal Ascot – his third overseas engagement – Golden Pal successfully sought amends when returning to familiar territory.
Golden Pal broke awkwardly from post 5 under Ortiz, Jr. and secured close position on the outside in third as 8-year-old veteran True Valour, who angled inward at the start, established control with Carotari tracking in second through an opening quarter-mile in a torrid 21.93 seconds over the firm going.
Golden Pal made a three-wide move around the far turn and put himself on even terms with True Valour and Carotari. As Carotari retreated nearing the three-sixteenths, Golden Pal was fought tooth-and-nail by a persistent True Valour to his inside. But Golden Pal’s class and brilliance prevailed once again, fending off True Valour and a late-closing Thin White Duke to secure his sixth overall stakes victory by a head in a final time of 1:00.92.
True Valour finished a neck to the better of Thin White Duke, who rounded out the trifecta as the 30-1 longest shot in the seven-horse field. Arzak, Yes and Yes, Spycraft and Carotari completed the order of finish.
The new running style was by design, according to both Ward and Ortiz, Jr.
“He moved a step right when they opened the gates. When they opened the gate he was moving at the same time and they outbreak me,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “They were in front of me and that’s not his style. He’s always in front of everyone the first couple of jumps. We’ve been working covered up in behind horses, that was how Wesley wanted me to work the horse, and today when that happened I wasn’t afraid to take a hold or drop in and sit and wait because I was working with the horse.”
Ward concurred and credited his Keeneland-based exercise rider Julio Garcia with being instrumental to the 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo’s newfound style.
“He’s got a brilliant mind this horse and takes everything in, but he knew it was race day,” Ward said. “The plan was, unless he broke super sharp, that I’d like him to come from behind. Irad worked him from behind the last few times, so he knew he could do it. Julio Garcia, our main rider at home, works him from behind every week. I’m glad he showed a little versatility today.”
Ward expressed confidence in the horse’s ability to find the wire in time, despite the close finish.
“You’re always concerned, but I have a lot of confidence in this horse. He’s certainly the best horse I’ve ever had,” Ward said. “Every time you lead him over, he proves more and more what a joy [it is] to be around a special horse like this. It would make every single trainer get up in the morning. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse and I’ve been blessed to have a few of them, but this guy is certainly the best.”
Golden Pal has never lost at stakes level in North America. A winner of the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2020 at Keeneland, he captured last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar, becoming only the sixth horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup events.
Ward suggested that the newfound running style was to prepare Golden Pal for a return engagement in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.
“When you get to the Breeders’ Cup there’s so many fast horses – 14 of them in the race – and you just want to be able to be tactical and not have to be in front. I think we showed that today,” Ward said.
Golden Pal could test new waters next out and try dirt for the first time in the Grade 2 Phoenix on October 7 at Keeneland – the oldest stakes race in North America.
“We’ll talk it over with everyone involved in the ownership of the horse and see which direction they want to go, but it’s important to them to show what the horse can do on the dirt as well,” Ward said. “Through all these issues he’s had throughout his career – minor issues – I’ve kept him on the grass to keep him sound, but he’s never been as sound as he is now. It would be a good time to try him and it would be a good time to try him on his home track.”
Jockey Feargal Lynch was full of praise for the stubborn True Valour.
“He got the lead. I was expecting Golden Pal to go, but when I saw I cleared him out of the gate I wasn’t going to disappoint the horse in his grind,” Lynch said. “He got it very easy in front and when we kicked I thought we’d won it. For an 8-year-old, we’re two old men in the twilight of our career and we’re just enjoying it.”
Bred in Florida by Randall E. Lowe, Golden Pal is out of 11-time stakes-winning turf sprinter Lady Shipman, who won the 2015 Coronation Cup and Smart N Fancy at the Spa en route to a second-place finish in that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.
Returning $2.60 as the overwhelming 1-5 favorite, Golden Pal banked $165,000 in victory, enhancing his already millionaire status to $1,638,431. His lifetime record now stands at 11-7-2-0, with his only off-the-board finishes taking place overseas.
Live racing resumes on Saturday at Saratoga with the lucrative Grade 1, $1 million Whitney card, which also features the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby, the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test, the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls and the $135,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
Ryan Martin/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Golden Pal (middle) getting up for the win in the G3 Troy (NYRA/Coglianese)