By Ryan Martin
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Rockemperor became racing’s newest millionaire with a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green going 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Now boasting a record of 25-5-5-6, Rockemperor banked $137,500 in victory, which brought his overall bankroll to $1,134,904. He returned $6.90 for a $2 win wager.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Wonder Stables, Madaket Stables, Michael E. Kisber and Michael J. Caruso, Rockemperor finished a non-threatening fifth in both starts this year, which took place in Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Fort Marcy and Grade 1 Manhattan. The 6-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor made his third 2022 start the charm, providing trainer Chad Brown with his fourth stakes victory at the meet.
Breaking from the outermost post 5, Rockemperor bumped with Cross Border, the winner of the last two runnings of the Bowling Green, as the Manny Franco-piloted stablemate L’Imperator set the tempo with Highland Chief just to his outside in second passing the grandstand. L’Imperator marked the opening quarter-mile in 24.62 seconds over the firm going with Rockemperor 3 1/2 lengths back in fifth towards the rear of the compact field.
Positions remained unchanged as L’Imperator led through a half-mile in 50.21 seconds and three-quarters in 1:16.21, but the pace began to quicken as the field rounded the far turn.
Rockemperor made a sweeping three-wide move approaching the quarter pole with L’Imperator still to catch, confronting his stable mate inside the eighth pole, but a new challenge loomed as Arklow launched a late menacing bid. Nevertheless, Rockemperor had enough to stave off Arklown, winning by a half-length under Flavien Prat in a final time of 2:15.81.
Arklow finished another half-length ahead of third-place L’Imperator with Highland Chief and Cross Border rounding out the order of finish. Cibolian was scratched.
Rockemperor, second in last year’s Bowling Green, secured his second North American graded stakes victory, and first trip to the winner’s circle since a 15-1 upset win in last year’s Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
Prat, who piloted Rockemperor to victory in a turf allowance last June at Belmont, said his trip went according to plan.
“Going into the first turn, everybody kind of went so it worked out well and I got myself towards the inside, then I was traveling well all the way around,” Prat said. “I was pleased where I was and when I tipped him out, he gave me a good kick.”
Brown said the firm turf played heavily to Rockemperor’s favor.
“The key to this horse is getting him on firm turf like today,” Brown said. “He had a really good trip today and I was really pleased with the way it worked out. Flavien did a great job. We had a plan and it pretty much went exactly the way we thought for both horses. Manny rode a great race and almost pulled it off. We talked about using him a bit early and then then backing it up down the backside and he did it beautifully.”
Brown was unsure as to Rockemperor’s next outing, but echoed his desire to get the seasoned veteran over firm turf.
“He’s getting up there in age but he’s starting to round back into form. I think the key is getting into the fall and getting the firmer ground is going to be a little more challenging,” Brown said. “We’ll keep every option open and see where he takes us.”
Brown said the triumph was extra special since many of the ownership partners were in attendance of the race.
“That’s really what Saratoga is all about – a day with good weather and a lot of the partners are here,” Brown said. “It made for a great memory. A lot of pictures will be ordered on this one.”
Arklow, an 8-year-old veteran who made his 2022 debut off a nine-month layoff, surpassed $3 million in lifetime earnings when finishing second.
Trainer Brad Cox said the son of the late champion-producer Arch will likely use his runner-up effort as a springboard to the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup on September 10 at Kentucky Downs, a race he has won on two non-consecutive occasions [2018 and 2020]. Arklow was third in the 2019 Bowling Green.
“I thought he was ready to run today and he was; came up a little bit short,” Cox said. “We didn’t really have a clean run down the lane, but overall, this was a step towards Kentucky Downs and we’re going to hopefully be competitive for the race he always shows up [in]. I think he wins [with a cleaner trip]. I think he’s right there – he was right there – but he makes it very, very interesting if he gets a clean run down the lane.”
Live racing resumes on Wednesday at Saratoga with a 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.