Corfu held off Wired Bryan to take the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special by a nose, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his first win in the race.
It also gave Pletcher a victory over his former assistant Michael Dilger and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez his fifth winner on Sunday’s card at Saratoga Race Course.
Corfu displayed his mettle in the Saratoga Special. Quickest from the gate, he was pressed in the opening stages by Wired Bryan before getting away to lead by 1 ½ lengths through an opening quarter-mile in 21.62 seconds. Wired Bryan drew alongside Corfu once again through a half in 44.02, setting the stage for a dramatic stretch run.
With Wired Bryan gradually drawing closer, Velazquez shook the reins at Corfu at the three-sixteenths pole and put the colt to a drive at the furlong marker. Wired Bryan made a lunge in the final strides, but Corfu got his nose down on the wire. Danza, a stablemate to Corfu, made a late charge along the inside and finished a diminishing half-length behind the winner in third.
“For having just one race and to come back to perform the way he did today, I am proud,” said Velazquez, who was denied what would have been a Saratoga record-tying sixth victory on the card when he finished second in the 11th and final race. “He held on after going as fast as they were going all the way around. You’ve got to take your hat off to him when the horse keeps running like that. We knew he is fast. That’s the way he won the first time out. We were hoping to get a little bit of a break, but we didn’t. We were rolling all the way around with the other horse next to me.”
Corfu, a son of Malibu Moon, went off at 6-1 and returned $15 for a $2 win wager. The final time for 6 ½ furlongs for 1:15.57.
“I thought [Wired Bryan] certainly would have been one of the horses, if not the horse, to beat,” said Pletcher. “[Wired Bryan] ran a courageous race; we were just on the fortunate side of the head bob.”
Owned by Derrick Smith, Michael B. Tabor, and Mrs. John Magnier, Corfu earned $120,000 for his Saratoga Special victory and has amassed $168,000 so far in his career.
“We’ve liked [Corfu] all along since we purchased him at Barretts,” said Pletcher. “We felt like he was a very fast horse there, and we felt like he was a precocious 2-year-old. We’re happy to get him started here and happy to have him win first time out. We were monitoring pretty closely how he bounced out of his maiden race and just wanted to decide whether we could turn him back on fairly short rest. He came back with a very good breeze, and I felt like that was the answer we were looking for. Luckily, he showed up today and had enough to hold on in a pretty fast race.”
Pletcher added that both Corfu and Danza will be considered for the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 2.
Dilger, who worked for Pletcher for seven years until January, expressed pride in Wired Bryan’s performance.
“I am very, very proud of our horse,” said Dilger. “He ran a great race. I was disappointed not to win. That was the closest thing to a dead heat that I’ve ever seen. We are very happy with him. [Despite the quick turnaround] he was doing very well.”
Lunarwarfare, an impressive winner at Gulfstream Park in his debut, finished fourth and was followed home by favored Candy Dandy, Ogermeister, and Twang.