by Ryan Martin
The 62nd running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course was not without some anxious moments during the stretch run, but Cross Border, 10 days removed from a victory in the Lubash, was awarded the victory and kept an unbeaten record at Saratoga intact for leading owner Three Diamonds Farm and trainer Mike Maker.
The dark bay son of English Channel was named the winner of the 1 3/8-mile event over the Mellon turf following the disqualification of four-time graded stakes winning millionaire Sadler's Joy, who was placed fourth due to interference within the final eighth of a mile. Cross Border arrived at the Bowling Green off a 6 ¼-length victory in the Lubash on July 22.
Stable mate Marzo established command heading into the first turn and opened up by five lengths past the Saratoga grandstand through an opening quarter-mile in 25.30 seconds and a half in 50.38 seconds over a firm turf course.
Meanwhile, jockey Jose Ortiz had Cross Border tucked along the rail in fourth with Sadler's Joy just to his outside. Approaching the far turn, Ortiz gave Cross Border his cue while Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano did the same aboard Sadler's Joy. At the top of the stretch, Cross Border was five wide in between horses with Sadler's Joy in pursuit.
In the final furlong, Sadler's Joy assumed command with Cross Border and Channel Maker to his inside coming in close quarters and crossed the wire first by a neck in a final time of 2:14.77.
Highland Sky, who crossed the wire third, was subsequently elevated to second.
Following the race, the stewards ruled that Sadler's Joy would be disqualified from first to fourth due to lugging into the path of Cross Border and Channel Maker who crossed the wire second and fourth respectively. Following the ruling, Channel Maker was elevated to third.
The official remaining order of finish was Sadler's Joy, Marzo and Dot Matrix. Pillar Mountain was scratched.
The triumph was a fifth victory in as many starts over the Saratoga turf for Cross Border, who joined Maker's stable last year.
"We weren't sure which horse would be the pacesetter, but Marzo coming off the layoff was up there. I thought Marzo ran an incredible race. When it comes down to a street fight, Cross Border is awfully tough," Maker said.
The victory pushed Cross Border's lifetime earnings past the half-million mark to $534,471 after banking $137,500 in victory. He returned $6.40 for a $2 win wager.
The Bowling Green marked a fifth win of the meet for current leading owners Three Diamonds Farm.
"This is just a gutsy New York bred and its good for the game that they can breed a New York bred that can win a Grade 2 at Saratoga," said Three Diamonds Farm owner Kirk Wycoff. "We love the Bowling Green. We were second in it three years ago with Bigger Picture. It was a calculated risk to come back in 10 days and we weren't all in agreement, but Mike Maker made the decision and obviously it was the right one."
The win was a third stakes victory of the meet for Maker, who also saddled Somelikeithotbrown to victory in Sunday's Grade 2 Bernard Baruch over the inner turf.
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.
Castellano, aboard Sadler's Joy, stated his case and said the contact was incidental.
"You could see I hit the hole when it opened and I saw the [other] horse, but I never came over," Castellano said. "We were all on the same line and I think the inside horses was involved a little bit and we all ended up caught in an overreaction. Of course, that put everyone under pressure and they were going to blame the horse on the outside [Sadler's Joy]. It was a decision for the stewards."
Live racing returns on Sunday with a 10-race card which features the $100,000 Birdstone for 4-year-olds and upward going 1 ¾ miles over the main track. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.