The Grey Wizard Strikes ‘Gold’ at Saratoga

The Grey Wizard Strikes ‘Gold’ at Saratoga

By: Bob Ehalt BloodHorse

There was an added bonus for The Grey Wizard ‘s victory in the June 6 Belmont Gold Cup Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course that may or may not go uncollected.

Aside from collecting the lion’s share of a $250,000 purse, the lucky connections also received a guaranteed spot for their gelding in the famed Melbourne Cup (G1) in Australia.

“I love the concept,” winning trainer Graham Motion said with a laugh. “But ask me in October or November about it. I love international racing and I love this idea, but it’s a huge undertaking. It is nice to think about.”

The finish of the Belmont Gold Cup also produced a nice feeling for Motion and the ownership group of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and The Estate of Albert Frassetto as The Grey Wizard needed every foot of the two-mile distance to charge home from 10th and last and prevail by a head in a blanket, three-horse finish.

“That was a thrill. It can’t get more exciting than that,” Motion said. “I wasn’t sure if we won, but I am never that confident.”

Aron Wellman, the president and founder of Eclipse, said the notion of competing in the Melbourne Cup was a cool thought, but “it’s a little early to get too far ahead of ourselves. But it’s a nice thing to dream about. It’s one of the most coveted races on the planet and to know the people associated with the Melbourne Cup hold this race in such high esteem that they would give the winner an automatic berth is very exciting.”

The Grey Wizard, a 5-year-old Caravaggio  gelding, was second in last year’s Gold Cup to European shipper Siskany . But Thursday’s rematch at Saratoga was a big reversal as Godolphin’s Siskany was third much of the way and then faded in the stretch to finish seventh.

R.T. Racing Stable’s Champagne Juan  led by a length and a half at the eighth pole of the Gold Cup as Stuart Janney III’s Limited Liability  closed in, but The Grey Wizard, as is his wont, closed quickly outside of them and prevailed in the final jump.

Ridden by John Velazquez, the gelding bred by Longfield Stud out of the Galileo mare Fancy covered the two miles in 3:18.35 on firm turf. He paid $14.40 as the 6-1 third choice in the wagering and has won four of 15 starts with earnings of $573,531.

“We were second in this race last year and we are really pleased to see him go one better this time,” Wellman said. “He’s not a lazy horse, but he’s a laid back horse and it takes a lot to get his gears going. Johnny knows him best and has won on him before, and I don’t know if there are any stronger left hands in the business than Johnny’s. From the three-sixteenths pole to the wire, John made up The Grey Wizard’s mind for him and that made the difference.”

The outcome was highly emotional as Frassetto passed away May 20 at the age of 87.

“We lost Al Frassetto recently, so I think there was a little angel on Johnny’s shoulder guiding him today,” Wellman said. “It’s a big loss to the industry to lose an owner like Al who invested in every part of the game. It was special for me to watch his sons walk The Grey Wizard into the winner’s circle.”

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