West Point Thoroughbreds’ and St. Elias Stable’s Ring Weekend rebounded with a gritty win in Monday’s $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) at Saratoga. This was the sixth win of the Tapit gelding’s career, the fifth in a graded stake.
In prevailing by a neck, he set a new course record (1:38.29) for a mile and one sixteenth on the turf at the Spa and is now a prime contender for the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) run on November 5 at Santa Anita Park.
After winning three graded stakes as a 3-year-old, Ring Weekend captured the Frank E. Kilroe (G1) at age four in March of 2015. Following that race he was sidelined for over a year due to a nasty foot abscess that required several months of corrective shoeing.
Off a 14 month layoff, he ran huge to finish second in the $250,000 Dixie Stakes (G2) on Preakness Day before finishing sixth in the Fourstardave on August 20. It’s a bit unorthodox to run a graded stake horse back off short rest, but trainer Graham Motion felt the gelding was thriving at Saratoga and just had an unlucky trip in the Fourstardave.
Motion watched the race on his iPad from the U.S. Open. “Serena won her match just as he crossed the finish line, so the timing was a little awkward,” he quipped when reached by phone several minutes after the race. “In fairness to the horse, last time he got really aggressive after getting cut off at the break. This was the real Ring Weekend we saw today. He’s had an incredibly tough year, so I am very proud of him. You never expect any horse to set a track record, but I know what he’s capable of, so I’m not totally surprised.”
“I was taken aback a little bit when Graham said he thought we had a shot to run him back before the end of the meet,” said West Point president Terry Finley. “After watching him train all week, coming into the race I felt confident he’d run big. Graham’s done a tremendous job getting him back into peak form. I also want to thank Dr. Dean Richardson and Bruce Jackson, who are an instrumental part of the team. It’s been a patience-testing last year and a half, and I couldn’t be happier for our Partners. It was a lot of fun reliving our celebration in the champagne room following the Tampa Bay Derby. We’ll sit down as a team and decide if we’ll run again in October or just head straight to the Breeders’ Cup.”
This was Ring Weekend’s third win under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Velazquez commented, “He broke better, settled better and that was the difference today. And then when I asked him to run, he responded very easily.”
West Point and Vinnie and Teresa Viola of St. Elias Stables purchased Ring Weeknd for $310,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Viola and Terry Finley are both graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and named the chestnut colt after an academy traditional where senior cadets are awarded their class rings.
Partners and WPT team celebrating at the “big screen”
Terry toasting to Ring Weekend in the Saratoga champagne room: