The happy ending was supposed to come in the 10th race, not the 9th.
Commentator was supposed to win the 83rd Whitney, to join Kelso and Discovery as the only horses to win the Whitney three times. He was supposed to cruise to victory and sail off into the Saratoga sunset, retired at age eight as perhaps the best New York-bred horse ever.
Instead, Commentator finished third after setting the pace, and longshot Bullsbay picked up the pieces and cruised home to pay $39.60.
Migliore got his first win of the meet last Wednesday; he fights for mounts in the most competitive jockey colony in the country, and as the 45-year-old jockey is the first to admit, “Trainers want younger guys on their horses.”
Business is slow. I need the opportunity to show people that I’m the rider that I used to be. I see a race ten times better now than I did when I was younger,
and I’m less emotional, more even.
I’ve worked [Flashing] in the morning here. Rick [Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor] and Godolphin were worried about her drifting, and she never did anything except what I asked her.
She’s a sensitive filly with a sensitive mouth, and with her, less is more. I just keep a long, light hold on her.
It’s always more satisfying to win when you’ve been part of the process with a horse.
He’s been galloping horses here since he was 14 years old, and he loves the place, its beauty, its history. “Everything is magnified here,” he said. Migliore rode in California for a couple of years, occasionally coming back to New York, and on one of those visits, the Thoroughbred Times reported that he was warmly welcomed. “‘What a welcome I got, even walking in. Fans, people I don’t know were coming up and hugging me and saying they miss me.’”
That reaction was ice-cold compared to what greeted him yesterday. Outside the winner’s circle, fans yelled congratulations. “Way to go, Richie!” “Congratulations, Mig!” On the walk back to the jockeys’ room, he was engulfed by well-wishers seeking photos, autographs, a handshake. He indulged all of them, strangers and friends, basking in his first Grade I win at Saratoga since 2003.
Later, reflecting on the win, he said, “The response of the crowd was overwhelming. Everything is really special up here, and to tell you the truth, I got a little choked up.”
He’d acknowledged in the winner’s circle, “There are a lot of good riders here, lots of them are struggling. You have to remember that it’s not all about you.”
Except, Mig, sometimes it is, and for many of the 39,568 on hand on Saturday, it was indeed all about Richard Migliore. They didn’t get Commentator, but for fans of New York racing, this was just as good.