Jack and Noah gives trainer Mark Casse first win of Saratoga meet in Mahony
by Brian Bohl
Gary Barber’s Jack and Noah broke alertly and never looked back, wiring an eight-horse field by drawing away to a 3 1/4-length victory in Wednesday’s $85,000 Mahony for sophomores at Saratoga Race Course.
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse entered the second running of the Mahony winless during the summer meet but tallied nine runner-up finishes. Jack and Noah finally eliminated the goose-egg for his conditioner, rocketing to the front under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez from the outermost post and building a six-length lead on the field with the opening quarter-mile in 21.50 seconds on the Mellon turf course labeled firm.
Jack and Noah registered the half-mile in 43.55 and built a 7 ½ length-edge at the three-eighths mark. In the stretch, Competitive Saint made up some ground, but the pacesetter was never seriously challenged, completing 5 ½ furlongs in a final time of 1:01.28.
Jack and Noah won for the second time in his three starts, building on a one-length score in the six-furlong Sir Cat in June at Belmont Park. The gray son of Bated Breath set the pace last out before tiring and finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Quick Call on July 24 at Saratoga. A month later, the French bred responded to a return engagement on the track by winning for the fourth time in eight starts overall.
“He was out of there right from the start,” Velazquez said. “Last time, the track was a little bit soft, so it took him a couple of strides to get out of the gate. Today, the track had a little more grip to it, so he got a nice grip coming out of there. All the way around the turn, I knew he was going well. I was just hoping that down the stretch things would go our way, and they did. I was proud of the horse’s effort.”
Casse earned his first victory with his 32nd starter of the meet, with the 5-1 selection returning $12 on a $2 win bet. Jack and Noah improved his career earnings to $216,300.
“We didn't tell Johnny too much. He's been here before and has a game plan going in,” Casse assistant Jamie Begg said. “Last time, he missed the break, but the turf was also a little soft, so when he needed to run last time, he struggled a bit through the softer turf. The turf has been a lot better recently, so we were confident going in and as soon we saw Johnny break on top like that, I knew we were away to the races.”
Earlier in the meet, Casse came close in graded stakes company, finishing second with Got Stormy in Saturday’s Grade 1 Fourstardave, Tap It to Win in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens on Whitney Day, August 1, and with Make Mischief in the Grade 2 Adirondack on August 12.
“It’s one of those things where if we had a few wins, we’d be having a decent enough meet,” Begg said. “We’ve been pretty consistent with the graded horses hitting the board. We just needed to get one and having it be in a stake with a horse coming back is pretty good.”
Competitive Saint, making his stakes debut after starting his career 2-for-2 for trainer George Weaver, finished 1 ½-lengths in front of Buy Land and See for second.
Island Commish, Flap Jack, 9-5 favorite Maven, Old Chestnut and Power Up Paynter completed the order of finish. Cajun Casanova and Turned Aside scratched, as did main-track only entrant Sky of Hook.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a nine-race card that features the $85,000 Smart N Fancy older fillies and mares going 5 ½ furlongs on turf in Race 7 at 4:41 p.m. First post is 1:10 p.m.