Belmont Oaks comes up tough for Lady Eli
The dark bay miss enters the Belmont Oaks Invitational off a half-length score in the nine-furlong Wonder Again S. at Belmont and will be trying 10 furlongs for the first time. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard for all of Lady Eli's starts and retains the mount on Saturday.
Completing the Belmont Oaks Invitational field are Lady Zuzu (Dynaformer), who just missed by a head in the Regret S. (G3) most recently at Churchill Downs, and last-out allowance scorers Sentiero Italia (Medaglia d'Oro) and Daring Duchess (Arch), who are both making their stakes debuts in the race.
Bolo brings turf game to Belmont Derby
Rafael Bejarano retains the mount in the nine-horse field.
Closing Bell (Tapit), a last-out maiden winner for Bill Mott, rounds out the U.S. contingent.
Canndal (Medicean), Group 2-placed in France, and Irish stakes winner Postulation (Harlan's Holiday) are international raiders for trainer Mikel Delzangles and Dermot Weld, respectively. And based on BRIS Class ratings, both colts merit serious respect on Saturday. Regular riders Christophe Soumillon (Canndal) and Patrick Smullen (Postulation) have also made the overseas journey.
Tonalist, Texas Red, Private Zone top Belmont dirt stakes
Tonalist, who will race without blinkers for the first time this season, will face five others in the 1 1/4-mile test. Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle the uncoupled pair of Coach Inge (Big Brown), who took the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn (G2) by a neck in his stakes debut, and the classic-placed Mylute (Midnight Lute), who won first out for the trainer in a one-mile allowance May 29. Coach Inge could be the controlling speed in the Suburban.
Effinex (Mineshaft) was a game winner of the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct in April, but was pulled up in the June 6 Brooklyn after getting out on both turns of the one-lap event around Belmont's oval. Street Babe (Street Sense), unplaced twice since taking the Mineshaft H. (G3) at Fair Grounds in only his third career start, might show speed from post 1, while Brooklyn fifth-place finisher Neck 'n Neck (Flower Alley) seeks his first win since the Ack Ack H. (G3) at Churchill Downs in October 2012.
The $500,000 Dwyer (G3), a one-mile event for three-year-olds, marks the return to action of Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex), who was sidelined with foot problems following a second-place effort in the February 1 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita and missed the classics.
Private Zone (Macho Uno), a two-time winner of the Vosburgh (G1) as well as last year's Cigar Mile (G1), shortens up to seven furlongs for the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship (G3). Third last out in the Met Mile, the Jorge Navarro charge was narrowly beat by Honor Code in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) over a mile in his season debut before taking the seven-furlong Churchill Downs (G2) by more than four lengths.
Among his primary rivals are 2014 Belmont Sprint Championship winner Clearly Now (Horse Greeley), unplaced in three of four subsequent outings; last year's King's Bishop (G1) hero The Big Beast (Yes It's True), fourth in the Carter H. (G1) when last seen in April; and the stakes-winning Stallwalkin' Dude (City Place), runner-up in the True North (G2) and Donald LeVine Memorial last month.
The Grade 3-winning Texas-bred Promise Me Silver (Silver City), who saw her perfect eight-for-eight record end with a 10th-place finish in last month's Acorn (G1), hopes to get back on the winning track in the $150,000 Victory Ride (G3), a 6 1/2-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies.
Multiple stakes winner Enchanting Lady (Tale of the Cat), runner-up in the $150,000 Jersey Girl June 5, figures to attract support as will Beaumont S. (G2) vixen Miss Ella (Exchange Rate) and Miss Preakness (G3) winner Irish Jasper (First Defence).
Gimme Da Lute, Kentuckian highlight five-horse Los Alamitos Derby
Kentuckian won his career debut by 11 lengths at Golden Gate Fields in early March and after finishing third as the odds-on favorite in the San Pedro at Santa Anita a month later, the $610,000 yearling purchase strode to an impressive 6 1/4-length tally in the seven-furlong Laz Barrerra. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained gray colt will make his two-turn debut and return from a 55-day layoff with Mike Smith.
After a fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Prospect Park was being readied for a Kentucky Derby (G1) bid before an illness derailed those plans. He was redirected to the June 7 Affirmed, finishing second as the 3-5 choice, and the dark bay colt is eligible to show more Saturday for Cliff Sise Jr. Tyler Baze picks up the mount.
Runner-up in the Pat Day Mile two back, Pain and Misery (Bob and John) returns to graded company after a wire-to-wire victory in the June 6 Charles Taylor Derby at Albuquerque. Flavien Prat rides the likely front-runner. Rounding out the field is Follow Me Crev (Quality Road), who was claimed for $50,000 from a third-place effort last time and will make his stakes debut for new trainer Vladimir Cerin.
Baker hoping to strike Queen's Plate gold with trio of runners
Sending a longshot into the Oaks didn't phase Baker.
"It was a huge opportunity," he said. "She wasn't really ready for her race last year against (Oaks rival) Shez a Masterpiece (Mast Track), who was supposedly one of the better fillies around here. I thought we could have beat her (Shez a Masterpiece) that day, but we were maybe a little green or not fit enough. If you make her equal to her (Shez a Masterpiece), why not give her the opportunity in the Oaks. It's a one shot chance just like the Plate."
Baker believes Academic, with Stein returning, is capable of another surprise score on Sunday.
"I've had luck with small fillies," the horseman stated. "Size wise, she's comparable to Bear Now and she made $1.3-million."
Bear At Last, a one-time winner in 11 outings, will be piloted once again on Sunday by Rico Walcott. The dark bay finished seventh in the Plate Trial, a race in which he was shuffled back at the turn.
"He was definitely compromised, but I don't know what it means as far as the results go, because there were lots of horses compromised," Baker noted. "If you watch close, at the end of the race he's going as fast as anyone else and wasn't beat that far.
"He's bred to go the distance, so we'll give him a chance. Rico thinks it's a good idea, so we'll bring him out and try again."
With 11 races under his belt, the rallying Bear At Last will be, by far, the most experienced horse in the Plate field.
"He's certainly fit enough, we don't have to worry about that," Baker remarked. "It's nice to have a horse with a different kind of style, because you don't know how the track will play that day."
Breaking Lucky broke his maiden at Woodbine in April, then just missed by a head when second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer. Last out, with Antonio Gallardo up, the chestnut colt finished a disappointing seventh in an allowance going the same distance while facing older company.
"He was rank around the first turn, he kept throwing his head," Baker explained. "I don't mind the regression in the last race, we're looking for a booming race this time. We're looking for his lifetime best and I think we'll get it."
At press time, Baker had yet to decide who will ride the chestnut in the Plate.
With three contenders in the mix, Baker is quietly optimistic of earning his first Plate score in Sunday's test. However, the trainer is also most wary of another veteran horseman when assessing the Plate field.
"You always have to worry about Roger Attfield in the Plate. He's won the race eight times," he said.
And as for his own chances?
"I've been here at Woodbine a long time, almost 50 years. I came with my sister to watch Northern Dancer win the Plate in 1964," Baker smiled. "It's been a long time. If it's in the cards, it's in the cards. You can't worry about horses getting beat. Secretariat got beat, it happens."
In other Queen's Plate news:
He'll be a longshot when the gates open for the 156th running of the Queen's Plate, but Milwaukee Mist (Milwaukee Brew) has certainly shown a penchant for outrunning his odds. The bay gelding broke his maiden at Turfway Park on January 3 at 29-1, ran fifth in the in the 96Rock S. at 24-1, then filled the third spot in the John Battaglia Memorial S. at 66-1.
"He's taken on some pretty tough competition here in the U.S.," trainer Pavel Matejka said. "I really think he's going to like the (Plate distance of) 1 1/4 miles. Hopefully, we can get an outside post, get him to settle and then make a nice run when he's called on."
Gary Boulanger, who won the Plate in 2001 with filly Dancethruthedawn, will pilot Milwaukee Mist in Sunday's "Gallop for the Guineas." The sophomore enters the race off a trio of turf starts in Kentucky, including a runner-up effort at Keeneland in April
"We're all very excited to be part of this race," Matejka added. "We freshened him up with some nice works and we feel good about how he's coming into the race. Hopefully, our first chance to be in the Queen's Plate is a memorable one."
"We thought he ran a huge race and really thought he improved a lot and decided to go ahead (to the Plate)," Vella said. "He's very versatile, that's what is best about him. He can show a bit of speed if you want. He can show a turn of foot to run well going short but he'll turn off if you want him to. He's versatile and that's an asset in a big field."
Vella isn't too concerned about starting a maiden in the Plate.
"He got beat a neck last time or we wouldn't be having that discussion," he stated. "I don't think it matters. He was closing hard on much older horses on a day that the pace favored the older horse...we think he'll improve a lot off his last race. I don't think he knows any different."
Ault, should he win, would be the fourth maiden to win the Plate since 1952, the last maiden Plate winner being Scatter the Gold in 2000.
Thursday's Queen's Plate morning draw from the Woodbine walking ring will be streamed live at www.queensplate.com.
Coffee Clique, Testa Rossi headline Penny Memorial
Others likely to attract support are the multiple Grade 3-placed Photo Call (Galileo), who was cross-entered to the $100,000 Perfect Sting at Belmont on Friday; Baffle Me (First Samurai), who has won multiple stakes at Gulfstream and Belmont in recent seasons; and Distorted Beauty (Invasor), who's placed in the Pebbles and Intercontinental at Belmont.
Displaying less early speed than usual worked out for Red Rifle (Giant's Causeway) in Wednesday's $122,942 Dominion Day (Can-G3) at Woodbine. A tracking sixth early in the 1 1/4-mile event on Polytrack, the five-year-old gelding swooped to the lead by midstretch and fended off an inside bid from Florida Won (Birdstone) to win by 1 1/4 lengths as the 2-1 favorite. Owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Red Rifle completed the distance in 2:01 4/5 under Alan Garcia. This was the first stakes win of the year for Red Rifle, who placed in the Mineshaft H. (G3) and Excelsior (G3) but was out of the money in the New Orleans H. (G2) and Belmont Gold Cup earlier this term. He was a three-time stakes winner previously, including a wire-to-wire score in the 10-furlong Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) last November. His record now stands at 18-6-5-1, $546,306...
Earlier in the Canada Day program at Woodbine Wednesday, Endless Light (Pivotal) posted a 10-1 upset of the $84,682 Sweet Briar Too, defeating odds-on choice Hillaby (Distorted Humor) by three-quarters of a length in the seven-furlong, Polytrack race for fillies and mares. Owned by Jal Dastur and trained by Mark Frostad, the five-year-old mare took her stakes debut in a time of 1:21 4/5 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. Second three times before breaking her maiden on turf at Leicester in England in 2013, the lightly-raced chestnut preceded this victory with two runner-up finishes in grass allowances at Gulfstream and Woodbine. From two wins and five seconds, she's now earned $73,466...
Friday's $150,000 Molly Pitcher (G3) at Monmouth Park, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, features a rematch between Stiffed (Stephen Got Even) and Got Lucky (A.P. Indy), the one-two finishers in the $97,000 Monmouth Beach on May 24. On that day, Stiffed rallied from 10 lengths back to post a 34-1 upset by a half-length over Got Lucky, a multiple Grade 2-placed four-year-old who was among the betting favorites. Also among the field of seven is Shayjolie (Indian Charlie), a stakes winner at Aqueduct in March who has gone unplaced in two starts since finishing a narrowly-beaten third in the Top Flight H. (G3)...
Trainer Christophe Clement will send out a pair of top contenders, Zindaya (More Than Ready) and Marbre Rose (Smart Strike), in Friday's $100,000 Perfect Sting at Belmont Park. The four-year-old fillies finished one-two in the June 4 Intercontinental, with Zindaya improving her mark to three-for-three on Belmont's turf with the 2 1/4-length decision over her favored stablemate. Daring Kathy (Wildcat Heir), last seen winning the My Charmer (G3) at Gulfstream Park West in late November, will make her first appearance for trainer Chad Brown in the one-mile turf affair and Grade 2 heroine Emotional Kitten (Kitten's Joy), most recently second in the Gallorette H. (G3), is also part of the 10-horse field...
Jack Disney, a longtime sports writer with the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, who went on to serve as Director of Publicity at Hollywood Park and who was an integral part of Santa Anita's publicity efforts for many years, passed away at his home in Irvine, California, on Monday at the age of 80 following a long bout with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (C.O.P.D.). "Jack's love and enthusiasm for sports was evident in all of his reporting," said former Santa Anita General Manager George Haines. "Jack built thousands of relationships over the years here in L.A. and these were of great benefit to him and all of us here at Santa Anita. He was just a class act and he was very well liked by our jockeys and horsemen. He will be sorely missed and my best wishes go to his wife and family." Disney enjoyed some of his greatest success late in life -- as a Thoroughbred owner. Calling upon his close ties to the sports community, Disney and his twin brother, Doug, formed "Indizguys" Stable about 10 years ago. The stable's best horse was On the Acorn, a claim that went on to win the 2007 San Juan Capistrano H. (G2) and the 2007-08 editions of the Jim Murray Memorial H. (G2). In addition to his wife, Emily, and brother, Doug, Jack Disney is survived by his sons, Rick and Mitchell, and two grandchildren. Services are pending...
Jim Rome -- a prominent Thoroughbred owner and the host of "The Jim Rome Show" on CBS Sports Radio and "Jim Rome On Showtime" -- will deliver the keynote address when OwnerView, The Jockey Club, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) host the second Thoroughbred Owner Conference in Hallandale Beach, Florida, in January 2016. The conference will be held at Gulfstream Park from January 11-14 during the week leading up to the 45th annual Eclipse Awards Dinner, which is scheduled for January 16. Rome has experienced significant success campaigning horses under the name of Jungle Racing LLC. Mizdirection (Mizzen Mast) was a two-time Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner and earned more than $1.7 million. Shared Belief (Candy Ride), the 2013 Eclipse Award-winning champion two-year-old male, has won five Grade 1 events and 10 of 12 races overall, including the Santa Anita H., and is currently ranked behind only Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the weekly NTRA National Thoroughbred Poll. Attendees at the owner conference will enjoy two days of conference presentations, a welcome reception at Gulfstream Park's paddock, a gala dinner at Turnberry Isle Resort, a day of racing, and multiple opportunities to network with panelists and industry personnel alike. Gary Player -- a legend in the golfing world and a long-time owner, breeder and advocate of Thoroughbred aftercare -- delivered the keynote address at last year's conference. Conference details, including the schedule of events, online registration, host hotel information, other tourism tips, are available at ownerview.com...
The catalog for the inaugural Barretts Select Yearling Sale is now online and will be mailed soon. The auction of 68 yearlings will be held on the grounds of the Del Mar Racetrack August 15 starting approximately 30 minutes after the last race. Barretts has instituted for the first time an "Also Eligible List" which begins with Hip No. 70 in the catalog and will allow horses to "scratch into the sale" if a yearling numerically below them (in terms of hip numbers) is withdrawn. The yearlings will be stabled inside the Del Mar Horse Show Arena adjacent to the Sales Pavilion.
SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK
JULY 2, 2015
by John Mucciolo
There were a handful of graded races during Santa Anita's closing week.
Gold Cup S. (G1): Hronis Racing LLC's HARD ACES (Hard Spun) broke slowest of all but gradually got into contention and was all heart late in earning a nose victory for conditioner John Sadler. The five-year-old, who was guided by Victor Espinoza, got the 1 1/4 miles on the fast main oval in 2:02 2/5 to notch his initial graded stakes win.
Triple Bend S. (G1): Jay Em Ess Stable et al's MASOCHISTIC (Sought After) led early, was briefly passed on the far turn and then put on a show, drawing off through the stretch beneath Tyler Baze. The talented five-year-old gelding finished 3 1/2 lengths on top and sped seven-eighths in a sharp 1:20 1/5 for conditioner Ron Ellis, registering a whopping 110 BRIS Speed rating.
Royal Heroine S. (G2): Fanticola and Scardino's FANTICOLA (Silent Name) forced the pace in second, gained the edge past the final furlong marker before holding gamely, posting a head victory for trainer Phil d'Amato. The five-year-old mare finished off the one-mile turf test in 1:36 3/5 with Joe Talamo in the controls.
San Juan Capistrano S. (G2): Big Chief Racing LLC's CRUCERO (Admiral's Cruise) was always in touch with the leaders early on, moved three wide in the lane and got the better of the odds-on choice in posting an upset for conditioner Keith Desormeaux. The five-year-old endured the 1 3/4 miles on the firm turf in 2:49 2/5 with Kent Desormeaux in the silks.
Senorita S. (G3): DP Racing, LLC's PRIZE EXHIBIT (Showcasing) broke slowest of all, tracked in last to the top of the lane and then delivered a stout late run to crush the field under Sal Gonzalez. The three-year-old filly, who is trained by James Cassidy, finished off one mile on the firm turf in 1:36, 2 1/4 lengths clear under the line.
From a total of 36 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 42 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 56 percent of the wins. From 20 frays contested on the dirt oval, five animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (25 percent), while two of the 16 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (12 percent).
HORSES TO WATCH
6TH -- Simon Callaghan's ARTISTIC CHARM (Dutch Art) appeared to be sitting on a win and delivered like a favorite should with a fine allowance tally. The four-year-old import has flashed nice potential since arriving in the U.S. and could evolve into a stakes runner with continued improvement.
7TH -- KUNG FU MAMBO (Giant's Causeway) dueled for the opening half-mile, slowly got rid of a pace foe and opened up in the lane en route to a stylish allowance win for trainer Peter Miller. The six-year-old chestnut made quite an impression in his first run since 2012, earning a strong 99 BRIS Speed number.
3RD -- We don't think HOT ORE (Unusual Heat) toppled much in this field but the juvenile still looked the part in dominating his foes. The Robertino Diodoro trainee opened up for fun in the lane, crossing the wire 7 3/4 lengths clear, and will be facing stakes runners in his comeback outing.
5TH -- The Bob Hess-trained PERFECTLY MAJESTIC (Majesticperfection) tracked at the back, began to gain momentum approaching the turn for home and proved much the best late in a daylight tally. The gelded sophomore has flashed a lot of potential and appears to have a nice future.
5TH -- SMOOTH RULER (Hard Spun) split runners near midstretch and powered home inside the final furlong, posting a very impressive debut tally for trainer Victor Garcia. The four-year-old gelding took a lot of money and proved why, as the Kentucky-bred looks like a fine prospect, winning at a tricky distance first out.
2ND -- TALE OF PAPA NICK (Papa Clem) led to late stretch before running out of gas but we still like the filly. She possesses a lot of speed, and simply went too fast in this one, but the four-year-old will be tough right back if she can rate even a little bit.
5TH -- IRON FIST (Tapit) has now earned back-to-back tallies, both since stretching out in trip, and looks of stakes quality for Jerry Hollendorfer. The expensive sophomore seems poised for a big second half of 2015.
A Look Ahead
The action moves to Los Alamitos on Thursday, the Saturday's Los Alamitos Derby (G2) serving as the weekend feature.
JULY 2, 2015
by John Mucciolo
There was a single graded affair this week at Belmont Park.
Mother Goose S. (G1): Brereton Jones and Timothy Thornton's INCLUDE BETTY (Include) tracked in last for the opening half mile, but the Tom Proctor trainee was full of run in the lane and won going away stylishly. The sophomore filly was 3 1/4 lengths clear under the wire beneath Drayden Van Dyke, clocking 1 1/16 miles on the fast main oval in 1:44 3/5.
A total of 46 races were held at the Elmont, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 41 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 61 percent of the wins during the week. From 28 races on the main oval, six animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (21 percent), while two of the 18 grassy races were taken all the way on the lead (11 percent).
Both ovals were fair to most all runners in our view this past week. Of the two turf wire jobs, one came in a sprint and the other in a route run. Four of the six wire-to-wire winners on the main oval occurred in the sprint ranks.
HORSES TO WATCH
1ST -- YOUNG ANNA LEE (Posse) broke best, was well placed to the top of the lane and finished with good energy to be a clear second in the dash. The juvenile filly should be graduating soon with even slight improvement for conditioner Joe Sharp.
2ND -- FULL TAP (Tapit) showed no signs of rust after being off since July, offering a powerful run in the lane to graduate with ease. The Christophe Clement pupil will likely be a major player right back against winners.
3RD -- CARAMEAWAY (Lawyer Ron) took command out of the gate and never gave her foes a chance, posting a facile allowance tally under Rajiv Maragh. The five-year-old mare earned a lifetime-best 98 BRIS Speed number and will be stakes bound with state-bred foes in the near future.
4TH -- STORMMIN STEPHEN (Malibu Moon) sat a nice trip from the start and finished a solid third at first asking for Clement. The juvenile colt is bred to run longer and improve with experience, and he should be graduating before long.
6TH -- NOBLE CORNERSTONE (Noble Causeway) gained momentum approaching the turn for home and powered past his foes in the lane, turning in a fine comeback effort with Joel Rosario. The Thomas Morley trainee showed a lot of class as a sophomore and could be set for a big second half of the season with expected improvement.
4TH -- The Brian Lynch-trained LOOSE ON THE TOWN (Speightstown) tracked in the clear before sweeping to the lead near midstretch and won like a good thing in a sharp debut performance. The three-year-old colt is bred to go a bit longer and appears to have a bright future.
1ST -- The Bill Mott-trained I'LL TAKE CHARGE (Indian Charlie) returns to this list after taking command of this field in the lane, winning with relative ease. The three-year-old lass has recorded a pair of good efforts to kick off her career and looks capable of performing up to her regal pedigree with more seasoning.
4TH -- MAGNA LIGHT (Magna Graduate) took a short lead at the top of the lane and took over late in a clear debut showing under Jose Ortiz. The juvenile colt looked like he had a lot left in the tank and could get more ground going forward.
6TH -- MEXIKOMA (Birdstone) was one we liked some as a prospect last campaign and it was good to see him come off the 15-month layoff and defeat this allowance field. The Michael Dilger trainee would like even more ground than he got in this allowance test and the four-year-old could be a stakes type as this season progresses.
A Look Ahead
Six graded stakes races will be held on Saturday's Independence Day program, including two Grade 1s: the $1.25 million Belmont Derby and $1 million Belmont Oaks.
Also on tap is the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (G2), $500,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3), $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship (G3) and $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes (G3).
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.