Virginia Graduate Wins Belmont Stake

Saratoga Snacks dominated the Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont on Saturday. Photo Courtesy Adam Conglianese.

Saratoga Snacks dominated the Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont on Saturday. Photo Courtesy Adam Conglianese.

Saratoga Snacks, a 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat purchased by Gary Sciacca and Virginian Woodberry Payne for client Bill Parcells, won his second stake of the year at Belmont on Saturday.

The bay ridgling has strung together an impressive strike rate, winning seven of his ten lifetime starts, and never finishing worse than third. Payne, who broke Saratoga Snacks at his Montpelier training stable, was not surprised.

“He was something special right from the get-go,” Payne said. “He just gave me a good feeling about everything he did and how he did it.”

Saratoga Snacks made $60,000 at the New York sale at Saratoga. Payne remembers the New York-bred as being an impressive individual: “He was a grand-looking horse, had a presence about him, and he was fairly correct. Stood over some ground, there was just a quality about him that we liked.”

Payne gave the ridgling 30 days off after the sale to “just be a horse,” then started him in the fall of that year. Saratoga Snacks came to hand quickly, and made his debut at Saratoga in August of that year, running second. He broke his maiden next out at the Spa, then strung together three subsequent victories. In the fall of his 3-year-old year, he ran a game second to Juddmonte’s Lunar Victory in the Empire Classic Stakes at Belmont.

Next came back-to-back stakes victories in the Alex M. Robb Stakes at Aqueduct and the Shy Groom Stakes at Belmont this June. He was third in the John Morrissey at Saratoga in August, then returned fresh to annex the Empire Classic on Saturday. The bay lay close to the pace throughout the running before digging in gamely on the outside to best Chester and Mary Broman’s Bigger is Bettor by three-quarters of a length.

“Gary has been very deliberate in stopping and giving him breaks,” Payne said. “He hasn’t started but ten times, but he’s seven for ten. Every time he goes over, he puts in a big effort.”

Payne currently has Saratoga Snacks’ full brother on the farm, jogging and cantering on the Montpelier oval. Parcells purchased the yearling for $105,000 at the New York-bred Preferred sale this August.

“He reminds me very much of Saratoga Snacks, and if anything, he might be even more impressive at this point,” Payne said. “If everything goes well, he’ll ship out in May and try to make the races in Saratoga this summer.”