The return (we hope!) of Saratoga Russell

When last we saw Saratoga Russell, he was struggling home last in the Gotham. He’d gone to the lead and faded badly in the stretch, emerging from the fog to stagger home. He had been so impressive to that point: second in his first start in November 2007 at Aqueduct, setting sizzling fractions before National Pride overtook him; a month later, he won by seven before heading south for the winter, where, in early February, he won by ten over a sloppy track at Gulfstream. He went off the 3 -2 favorite in the Gotham, displaced a palate, and hasn’t raced since.

Shortly after the Gotham, Saratoga Russell underwent an unsuccessful myectomy; he was still “making noise,” according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin (this West Point-owned colt was moved from Rick Violette to McLaughlin shortly after his surgery), and he underwent a series of other surgeries to deal with the problem.

Saratoga Russell, under the care of West Point, spent part of the spring and summer in Lexington as vets attempted to solve his breathing problems. McLaughlin says that the colt is now doing “really well, not making noise,” and is scheduled to have his second breeze this morning. Last week, he worked for the first time, going three furlongs at Palm Meadows in: 38.

McLaughlin says, while figuratively knocking wood, that aside from the breathing, the horse has experienced no other physical problems, and indicated that his connections are optimistic and confident in the colt’s talent. Without any setbacks, he’s scheduled to make it back to the races in early February. One of his owners, a regular reader and commenter last winter, writes to say that he’s “cautiously optimistic.”

Saratoga Russell was electrifying the three of the four times he raced. I went back and watched his first three races tonight; I’d forgotten how dominating he was, how easy he made it look, how fast he was. He was my crush last winter, and I declared it—how fittingly!—just before Valentine’s Day. Watching the replays brought it all back: the excitement of his wins, the devastation of his loss in the Gotham…and then, nothing. He disappeared.

With the bleak midwinter of racing approaching, Saratoga Russell’s return to the track is something to anticipate for those of us who watched him last year—and I’ve fallen for him all over again…

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