Flavien Prat rides Rockemperor to win Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course


SARATOGA SPRINGS—It took a while for Rockemperor to warm to his task. After trailing the pace-setters for almost all of the mile and three eighths of the race, the Irish-bred burst out of the field and went on to win Saratoga’s Sunday feature, the $250,000, Grade II Bowling Green for a host of racing partners and trainer Chad Brown.

The 64th running of the turf marathon drew a field of five older horses. Jockey Flavien Prat kept his charge back in fourth place behind the pace-setting L’Imperator with Manny Franco in the saddle who was also riding for Brown.

After Rockemperor crossed the finish line, Brown allowed he had plans on how both his horses were to win the Bowling Green “and it pretty much went exactly as we planned,” he said.

“Manny rode a great race and almost pulled it off,” Brown said. Franco and L’Imperator came within a 16th of a mile of stealing the whole thing until they were passed by Rockemperor and Arklow, who came from last place with Irad Ortiz Jr., the Spa’s leading rider, at the controls.

Ortiz seemed to want to share some of the blame for Arklow’s second place finish when he said, “I think we were unlucky. Or, maybe I waited too long to get him out.”

The official order of finish was Rockemporer by a half length over Arklow who was a half-length to the good of L’Imperator. Highland Chief and Treavor McCarthy, who spent most of the race pressuring L’Imperator, finished in fourth a neck ahead of Cross Border and jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

Rockemporer’s running time of 2 minutes, 15.81 seconds was recorded on a firm course.

Those who made $2 bets on Rockemporer collected $6.90 for the win, $3.40 to place and $2.60 to show. Arklow was worth $4.10 and $2.70 while L’Imperator’s show price was $3.00.

The Rockemporer – Arklow $1 exacta returned $13.30. The superfecta was rounded out by Highland Chief by paying $5.40 for each ten cent wager.

Rockemporer’s Bowling Green snapped a four-race losing streak, all in graded stakes, dating back to October. That win came in Belmont’s Turf Classic Invitational.

Brown, a four-time Eclipse Award winner as thoroughbred racing’s trainer-of-the-year, was non-committal about Rockemporer’s late summer and fall racing schedule. “We’ll keep every option open and see where he takes us.”

Both trainer and jockey believe a firm turf course is best for the Bowling Green winner. “He’s getting up there in age, but he’s starting to round back into form. Getting the firmer ground is going to be a little more challenging,” Brown said.

When Prat was asked about distance and footing for Rockemporer, he replied, “I think he needs firm turf. He needs distance. But, he showed up today and that’s all that mattered,” the rider said.

When the calendar turns to August, the trainers of turf runners begin to look for one of two prestigious races prior to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic that is run annually on the first Saturday in November.

Those conditioners who opt to stay at the Spa can look ahead to the $750,000, Grade I Resorts World Casino Sword Dance that will be run at a mile and a half, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic Distance.

Brad Cox, the trainer of Bowling Green runner-up Arklow who is based in Kentucky, said he’s going to ship the 8-year-old to Kentucky Downs for the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup on September 10.

Travel plans for the others in the field are still indefinite.

Alex Orr Jr. is a long-time horse racing writer.

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