SARATOGA SPRINGS — It took five starts, but Practice Squad finally won a race instead of simply finishing in the money.
He started his 2022 campaign with three straight second-place finishes, followed by a third three weeks ago at Belmont Park, but put it all together on Thursday to win the $125,000 Rick Violette at Saratoga Race Course on an inner turf course that had taken some heavy rain twice through the course of the day.
“He’s a little bit late-blooming, but that’s OK,” trainer Joe Sharp said. “He’s getting good at the right time.”
He and jockey Flavien Prat got to the finish line at the right time, too, since heavy favorite Dakota Gold (Irad Ortiz, Jr.) made a big run on the outside to engage Practice Squad in a head-bobbing duel from the sixteenth pole.
Practice Squad won by a head.
“It was exciting,” Sharp said. “When he squeaked off inside the eighth pole, it looked like he was going to win, and then Danny’s [trainer Danny Gargan] horse came up outside, and he dug back in and had to fight for it. He showed some grit and determination. He’s a forwardly-progressing 3-year-old.”
“The three [Coinage] came out and floated him, but that’s horse racing,” Gargan said. “Sometimes, you have to overcome things. He didn’t overcome it today. We’ll come back later on in the meet, there’s another stakes race. He ran his race, but we lost the head bob. We took a little bit of the worst of it.”
Practice Squad is a half-brother to Upstart, a multiple graded stakes winner trained by Violette, who died in 2018.
Violette was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
“We are big into aftercare, and he was definitely on the forefront of that,” Sharp said. “We’re proud to win it, of course. He was a wonderful horseman, so it’s an honor to win a race like that, especially with a New York-bred.”
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