A bold decision to come back in grade 2 company just 10 days after a state-bred stakes score ultimately led to success for Three Diamonds Farm with Cross Border, but not before a few anxious moments during the $250,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course.
The son of English Channel was awarded the victory in the 1 3/8-mile event on the Mellon Turf Course following the disqualification of four-time graded stakes-winning millionaire Sadler's Joy, who was placed fourth due to interference within the final eighth of a mile.
Cross Border arrived at the Bowling Green off a 6 1/4-length victory in the July 22 Lubash Stakes for trainer Mike Maker.
"This is just a gutsy New York-bred, and it's good for the game that they can breed a New York-bred that can win a grade 2 at Saratoga," said Kirk Wycoff, the owner of Three Diamonds Farm. "We love the Bowling Green. We were second in it three years ago with Bigger Picture. It was a calculated risk to come back in 10 days, and we weren't all in agreement, but Mike Maker made the decision and obviously it was the right one."
Fellow Maker trainee Marzo established command and opened by five lengths past the Saratoga grandstand through an opening quarter-mile in :25.30, carrying on to a half in :50.38 on firm ground. Meanwhile, jockey Jose Ortiz had Cross Border tucked along the rail in fourth with Sadler's Joy just to his outside.
Approaching the far turn, Ortiz gave Cross Border his cue while Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano did the same aboard Sadler's Joy. At the top of the stretch, Cross Border was five wide between horses with Sadler's Joy in pursuit.
In the final furlong, Sadler's Joy assumed command, with Cross Border and Channel Maker to his inside coming in close quarters. Sadler's Joy crossed the wire first by a neck in a final time of 2:14.77.
Following the race, the stewards ruled that Sadler's Joy would be disqualified from first to fourth due to lugging into the path of Cross Border and Channel Maker, who crossed the wire second and fourth, respectively. Highland Sky, who crossed the wire third, was elevated to second, and Channel Maker was elevated to third.
Castellano stated his case and said the contact was incidental.
"You could see I hit the hole when it opened, and I saw the (other) horse, but I never came over," Castellano said. "We were all on the same line, and I think the inside horses (were) involved a little bit, and we all ended up caught in an overreaction. Of course, that put everyone under pressure, and they were going to blame the horse on the outside (Sadler's Joy). It was a decision for the stewards."
It was the fifth victory in as many starts on the Saratoga turf for Cross Border, who joined Maker's stable last year.
"When it comes down to a street fight, Cross Border is awfully tough," Maker said.
The victory pushed Cross Border's earnings to $534,471. He returned $6.40 for a $2 wager. The Bowling Green was the fifth win of the meet for leading owners Three Diamonds Farm.
Bred in New York by Berkshire Stud and B. D. Gibbs, Cross Border is out of the Empire Maker mare Empress Josephine. He comes from the same family as leading New York sire Central Banker.