Saratoga lived up to its reputation as the "graveyard of favorites today."
The Delaware Handicap was supposed to be a virtual match race between Heatherten and Life's Magic, the best two older female racehorses in the country, but it was a graveyard for both of them.
Basie, a filly who never had won a major stake, scored an upset that was all the more inexplicable because there was nothing terribly fluky about it.
Both favorites had every chance to win, but Basie outran them through the stretch to score a 1 1/2-length victory over Heatherten, with Life's Magic third in the five-horse field.
Life's Magic came into the Delaware with career earnings of $1.7 million; Heatherten was just short of a million. Both are paragons of consistency, and they figured to be battling all fall for the championship of their division.
Basie, by contrast, had earned less than $200,000 and had finished out of the money in her last three starts. Her lone edge was her 110-pound weight assignment; Heatherten was burdened with 126 pounds and Life's Magic with 122.
The jockeys on the two favorites were determined to keep their eyes on each other, and they dropped back to last and next-to-last in the early running as Dowery and Gene's Lady dueled for the lead. Basie was sitting just behind them, which is just where jockey Jean Cruguet had hoped to be.
"I wanted to be third," he said. "That was the only way she could relax. If she's in the clear, she doesn't finish well."
On the turn, Cruguet swung outside the two leaders, but all eyes in the crowd of 39,549 were on the favorites, who were just starting to accelerate. Heatherten was moving four-wide on the turn, and Life's Magic was outside her.
At the top of the stretch, the five horses were abreast of each other but the favorites were blowing past the three long shots. The slow pace might have had something to do with it -- the leaders had gone the first half mile in 47 4/5 seconds -- but Basie was the strongest horse and she outkicked Heatherten to the wire, covering the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02. She paid $20.60.
Even winning trainer Scotty Schulhofer was slighty stunned by the result. "I'll be frank with you," he said. "I didn't think we could beat Heatherten or Life's Magic. This is the most pleasant surprise, I think, of my whole life."
Saratoga officials were forced to destroy a 4-year-old horse who collapsed yesterday while fighting for the lead near the end of a $24,000 allowance race.
Apprentice jockey Noel Wynter, who was thrown from Appraiser in the incident, escaped serious injury.