Klaravich Stables’ Public Sector (GB) again displayed an affinity for the Saratoga Race Course turf, winning for the second time at the summer meet by overtaking Never Surprised going three-wide in the final furlong in powering to a one-length victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Saranac Stakes for sophomores contesting at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 4.
The 114th edition of the Saranac, held over the inner turf, saw 6-5 favorite Public Sector notch his second consecutive score at the Spa. The Chad Brown trainee replicated his one-length win in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 6 going one mile.
Public Sector, who bolstered the respective win totals for both his meet-leading owner and conditioner, broke from the inside post under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and stalked in fourth position as Never Surprised led the six-horse field of 3-year-olds through an opening quarter-mile in :24.73 and the half in :49.19 over firm going.
Out of the turn, Ortiz, Jr. kept Public Sector to the outside of Like the King and Never Surprised. The son of Kingman (GB) had plenty left in reserve, and under his rider’s right-handed encouragement, displayed an impressive turn-of-foot in collaring the pair of rivals before surging to the wire in a final time of 1:41.78.
Public Sector improved to 4-3-0 in eight career starts, with his only off-the-board effort coming in a 12th-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November at Keeneland. Repole Stable’s Never Surprised, making his first start off a seven-month layoff, earned second by a length in front of Like the King.
“I wanted to save ground, get a pocketed trip and see if he could square off with Never Surprised, who I think is a really, really good horse,” Brown said. “He (Public Sector) came into the race as the favorite, but this is the best horse he’s faced, except in the Breeders’ Cup when our horse wasn’t right.
“I was really as curious as anyone to see how he would kick on when he squared off with this horse in the stretch and of course, we had the benefit of having some race fitness, while the other horse was coming off a layoff,” Brown continued. “I’m sure he got a lot out of that. I’m so proud of my horse and the trip Irad was able to execute with him. My team really kept him in good form and kept developing him.”
Brown, who extended his win total to 39 with two more race days remaining in the 40-day summer meet, said the nine-furlong Grade 1, $400,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 27 at Del Mar remains in play for Public Sector.
“The Hollywood Derby, definitely,” Brown said about his next steps. “It’s a little far away and this horse will have to run between now and then one time. I’m not sure exactly which race yet.
“What we’re seeing with him and a lot of horses like him is as he matures, he should be able to stretch out a little bit,” Brown added. “He certainly looked good doing this and I certainly wouldn’t be afraid of a mile and an eighth in the Hollywood Derby. For this year, that’s as far as I’ll run him. Then down the road, we’ll see.”
Public Sector returned $4.40 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $378,600.
“I got a perfect trip,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “We broke well from the one-hole and two horses had speed, so I sat off of them. When it was time to roll, I asked my horse and he was loaded. When he switched leads, he gave me a good turn-of-foot. He responded really well.”
Never Surprised, making his first start since a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy in January at Gulfstream Park, topped Like the King by one length under meet-leading rider Luis Saez.
Never Surprised, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, has finished first or second in each of his four starts, including a win in the Central Park in November at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“I had a good trip. He was moving well and ran really hard,” Saez said. “That other horse came flying. He tried hard.”