California Chrome to Penn Derby
Sherman told Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News that Parx's monetary incentives played a key role in the decision.
"Santa Anita said we know the $100,000 that you and the owners will get made your decision," Sherman said. "I told them, 'It sure as hell helped.'"
Bred and campaigned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome reeled off a six-race winning streak before his Triple Crown dreams were dashed in the Belmont. The flashy chestnut dominated fellow Cal-breds in the King Glorious, the last stakes ever run at Hollywood Park, and the California Cup Derby. Effortlessly stepping up to face graded rivals on the Triple Crown trail, he romped in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby, propelling himself into 5-2 favoritism for the Kentucky Derby.
California Chrome justified that status with a 1 3/4-length decision in the "Run for the Roses" at Churchill Downs. He successfully invaded Baltimore for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, driving to a 1 1/2-length victory as the 1-2 choice in the Preakness. Fans sent him off as the 4-5 favorite to end the Triple Crown drought in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, but he wound up a dead-heat fourth after a troubled start.
After the Triple Crown grind, California Chrome returned to his birthplace, Harris Farms near Coalinga, California, for a well-deserved rest. Since rejoining Sherman at Los Alamitos, he has posted a pair of works -- a three-furlong leg-stretcher in :37 3/5 on August 8 and a half-mile move in :50 2/5 on August 15.
California Chrome, currently the front runner for an Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old male, has bankrolled $3,532,650 from his 13-8-1-0 line.
Wicked Strong blows out in the slop for Travers; Bayern gets acquainted with Spa
"Anytime you expand the lungs close to a race as grueling as that, I would have to think it would be beneficial as long as you're not overdoing it," Jimmy Jerkens said. "We always thought it just put the finishing touches on a horse's fitness. A lot of people don't even dream of doing it and do very well. We just feel a little more comfortable doing it."
Also on Thursday, Haskell Invitational winner Bayern, the 2-1 program favorite for the Travers, had his first look at Saratoga's main track since arriving from California late Wednesday afternoon.
The three-year-old son of Offlee Wild jogged one mile and will gallop on Friday after the renovation break. Stablemate Fiftyshadesofhay, pointing to Friday's Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign, also jogged.
Morley is a native of England and is a nephew of David Morley, whose accomplishments include a win in the 1997 Ascot Gold Cup with Celeric. A graduate of the Darley Flying Start program, Morley has worked in England with Ed Dunlop and Jeremy Noseda and in the United States with Eddie Kenneally. Since going out on his own, he has won 21 races from 131 starts through Wednesday.
"It's an exciting weekend," Morley said. "I'm looking forward to (running Noble Cornerstone in the King's Bishop). As I said to the owner, I wouldn't be running him if I didn't think he fit in the race."
Princess of Sylmar dons blinkers in Personal Ensign; Cigar Street returns
"We're considering (having Palace Malice wear blinkers in the Woodward), but aren't committed to it," Pletcher said.
Pletcher said some older horses do not always give their best effort, which inspired him to have Princess of Sylmar wear blinkers in the Personal Ensign and consider putting blinkers on Palace Malice for the Woodward.
"Sometimes as horses get a little older they, perhaps, get a little complacent," Pletcher said. "Something like that might reinvigorate their enthusiasm. We just feel like we need to find a little something extra there."
"We got lucky. We didn't want to have to run him in the Woodward. That would be deep water," Mott said. "The distance is probably a good distance for him. I would probably rather run him a mile and an eighth than a flat mile just because of the difference in the style of races. If you run a mile a Belmont, you've got to go down the backside in 46 seconds (for the half-mile). Here, you can go the first half-mile in 47 or 48 seconds."
In his short career, Cigar Street has won four of six races.
Pacific Classic brings together Shared Belief, Game On Dude
Shared Belief opened his racing career with a seven-length romp on Golden Gate's Tapeta last October. He was sold and transferred to Hollendorfer afterward and promptly rewarded his new connections with a 7 3/4-length thrashing in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue in mid-November. He concluded his juvenile campaign with another dominant performance, rolling to a 5 3/4-length score in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on December 14, and was named champion at the Eclipse Award ceremonies a month later.
Pegged as the winter-book Kentucky Derby favorite, Shared Belief sustained a foot injury training at Santa Anita in January and was sidelined for more than six months before returning in late May. He showed his versatility capturing the Los Alamitos Derby on dirt in his second start back, but the son of Candy Ride should appreciate the switch to Polytrack given that he captured his first four outings on synthetic tracks.
Shared Belief registered a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating last time and can assert himself as a serious contender for both Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old male with a victory over elders Sunday. He's been installed as the 5-2 favorite on the morning line and will break from the far outside post.
The six-year-old romped at 14-1 last time and will keep Tyler Baze in the saddle.
Irish Surf, who earned his first stakes success with an 8 1/2-length thrashing in the July 25 Cougar II at Del Mar, comes next on the morning line at 8-1 along with multiple Grade 2 hero Clubhouse Ride. The front-running Irish Surf is cross-entered to Saturday's Del Mar H. on turf and Elvis Trujillo will be up if he runs in the Pacific Classic. Clubhouse Ride exits a second in the Gold Cup and retains the services of Joe Talamo.
Toast of New York, a convincing winner of this year's U.A.E. Derby over a synthetic track, will make his second start stateside for trainer Jamie Osbourne following a sixth in the deep Belmont Derby on turf. Victor Espinoza picks up the assignment.
Rounding out the field are Grade 2 winner Frac Daddy, fourth as the favorite in the July 26 San Diego; San Diego third-placer You Know I Know, who also finished third in last year's Pacific Classic; Grade 2 victor Imperative; Mystery Train, a multiple Group 1 winner from Argentina who will be making his U.S. debut; and Cougar third-placer Ice Cream Truck, who is cross-entered to the Del Mar H.
Obviously aims for Del Mar Mile three-peat; Fed Biz defends Pat O'Brien title
Obviously will play his catch-me-if-you-can game from the rail with regular rider Joe Talamo. Although he looms as the speed, he must concede weight all around (from four to 13 pounds) as the 126-pound highweight.
D'Amato will also send out the deep closer Lil Bit O'Fun, who is two-for-two since joining the barn. Claimed for $40,000 by Mitchell out of a victory sprinting down the hill at Santa Anita in October, he rallied to a convincing success over the same course on June 14. Lil Bit O'Fun extended his streak in the July 23 Wickerr at this track and trip, and he boasts back class from his days with Tom Proctor. As a three-year-old in 2011, he landed the Oliver at Indiana Downs and missed by a neck in the La Jolla.
Tom's Tribute, however, is the likeliest candidate to dethrone Obviously. A progressive type who has taken time to learn his craft, the Jim Cassidy trainee was still a work in progress when a belated third to Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile. But Tom's Tribute got into the game much earlier last time in the July 20 Eddie Read, and he kicked on strongly to notch a Grade 1 laurel. The Lion Heart colt keeps Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the saddle, suggesting that a similar stalking trip is in the offing.
He Be Fire N Ice, who was on the upswing at this time last season, is returning from a nine-month layoff for new trainer Cliff Sise. Formerly trained by John Sadler, the California-bred son of Unusual Heat captured the California Dreamin' and just came up a half-length short of Obviously in the Del Mar Mile. A fast-closing second once again in the City of Hope, He Be Fire N Ice was last seen checking in eighth in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount on the confirmed closer.
Rock Me Baby, runner-up to He Be Fire N Ice in the 2013 California Dreamin,' bolted to a 3 1/4-length victory in the off-the-turf renewal on July 27. The Craig Dollase charge was due for some good luck, considering his boxed-in seventh in last September's Eddie D. on Santa Anita's downhill turf and his troubled third in the July 3 Bertrando at Los Alamitos. Now with the overdue taste of stakes success, the West Point colorbearer hopes to keep his momentum going beneath a returning Corey Nakatani.
Completing the field are Tigah, last year's San Francisco Mile winner; Grade 2 veteran Handsome Mike, currently riding a 13-race losing streak; and the ambitiously placed Alpha Bullet, who is likely to flash speed with Elvis Trujillo.
Big Macher, the 123-pound co-highweight along with Goldencents, has emerged as a leader in the Southern California sprint ranks this season. After capturing his stakes debut in the January 25 Cal Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, the late bloomer missed by a half-length to Sahara Sky in the March 8 San Carlos and came right back to prevail in a photo in the April 12 Potrero Grande. A quarter-crack then cost him time, but trainer Richard Baltas patiently awaited the Bing Crosby, and Big Macher responded with a gritty performance over Goldencents.
A new face to this division is Silentio, who has compiled a solid career as a turf miler for Gary Mandella. The hero of the 2012 Sir Beaufort and 2013 Citation, he has placed in a trio of Grade 1 events, including last November's Breeders' Cup Mile and the Shoemaker Mile last out. Rather than tackle Obviously again in the Del Mar Mile (in which Silentio was third last year), he is shortening up and trying synthetic. The Wertheimer et Frere homebred has been training sharply on the Polytrack, and it's worth remembering that his sire, Silent Name, made an eerily similar switch to win the 2007 Commonwealth at Keeneland, also for Gary Mandella.
The others look in deep. The sophomore Indexical has been holding his own against older sprinters, finishing third in the June 28 Triple Bend and fourth in the Bing Crosby, but needs to step up his game to threaten. The other three-year-old, Diamond Bachelor, is still trying to find his niche after failing as a router on both dirt and turf. But the War Front colt has loads of speed, and fired a five-furlong bullet in :56 3/5 on August 13 as a reminder. The sparingly-raced Color of Courage exits a last-of-three effort in the May 26 Los Angeles, and Syndicated appears to have class concerns.
Full field of 12 entered in Longacres Mile
Stryker Phd, runner-up in last year's race and unbeaten thus far this year in two starts, heads a full field of 12 older runners entered in Sunday's 79th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs. The 12-horse field marks the sixth time in eight years a full field will start in the Northwest's premier horse race.
Stryker Phd is the 5-2 favorite on Rob Rao's morning-line, followed by Prohibition at 3-1 and Title Contender at 9-2.
Those three horses reflect the eclectic nature of The Mile, as Stryker Phd is Emerald Downs' top older horse while Title Contender has been the best older horse at Hastings Racecourse.
Prohibition, meanwhile, has been racing in New York and makes his first start for owners Dr. Mark Dedomenico and North American Thoroughbred Racing Co., who acquired the four-year-old Lawyer Ron gelding privately after a fourth-placing in the Commentator Handicap at Belmont Park.
Trainer Mike Puhich will be the busiest man in the walking ring, saddling three of the 12 runners on Sunday. Puhich, who won the race in 2012 with Taylor Said, sends out Prohibition, Mr. Bowling and Jebrica, the latter acquired in a track-record tying $50,000 claim on August 2.
Most eyes, however, will be on Stryker Phd, a stretch-running Bertrando five-year-old who set stakes records in both starts this year -- winning the one-mile Budweiser Handicap in 1:34.15 and the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap in 1:40.20 -- as he bids to become the first local horse and Washington-bred winner since Noosa Beach in 2010.
Leslie Mawing, the meet's leading rider and stakes rider, has the mount on the co-highweight at 121 pounds.
"I'm very happy with the post," trainer Larry Ross said after Stryker Phd drew the No. 9 post during Wednesday's Longacres Mile Draw Breakfast. "It looks like most of the speed is on the inside, so that's good for us.
"He should be able to get into a good position. Being on the outside, Leslie (Mawing) can look in and monitor the pace. You couldn't really ask for anything better with his training. I think he's really good right now, for sure. I think his racing schedule will be an advantage. They say third time out of the box is the peak race."
Stryker Phd will see numerous familiar faces in the Longacres Mile.
Don'tmesswithkitten finished second in the Mt. Rainier and sixth in the Budweiser behind the bay; Disruption was fourth in the Mt. Rainier; Jebrica ran fifth in the Mt. Rainier and fourth in the Budweiser; Mr. Bowling filled the sixth spot in the Mt. Rainier but was runner-up two races prior in the Budweiser; Shooting Jacket came in fourth and third in the respective Mt. Rainier and Budweiser; and Twistgrips claimed fifth in the Budweiser.
Two races later, Stopshoppingdebbie will try to extend her unbeaten eight-for-eight mark in the $65,000 Emerald Distaff against four rivals.
Competitive fields assembled for inaugural 'Saratoga Showcase Day'
Highlighted by six stakes races worth $1.15 million, nearly 100 New York-breds will be competing on a special 11-race card for the inaugural "Saratoga Showcase Day" on Sunday at Saratoga.
Captain Serious and Empire Dreams, the winners of the first two legs of the Big Apple Triple, will meet in the $250,000 Albany for three-year-olds. The 1 1/8-mile Albany completes the series, which is also contested at Belmont Park (Mike Lee) and Finger Lakes (New York Derby).
Captain Serious won his first three starts, all against New York-breds, before placing in a pair of graded contests in July. The Successful Appeal gelding made is stakes bow in the seven-furlong Mike Lee and led gate-to-wire for a three-length score over Empire Dreams on May 31. He set the pace again in Belmont's 1 1/16-mile Dwyer before giving way late to Kid Cruz, who prevailed by three-quarters of a length, and most recently pressed the pace when third in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam at Saratoga.
Trainer Michael Hushion said the Albany's 1 1/8-mile distance and lucrative purse were the primary reasons why he entered Captain Serious in the Albany instead of taking on graded competition again.
"It was an opportunity to find out how far he'll go, and it's $250,000," the horseman explained. "He's a gelding, so we don't have to try to establish him as a stallion."
Hushion added that getting Captain Serious to relax will be important in the Albany, his first start around two turns.
"I'll leave it up to the rider, wherever he finds him," he said. "With the two turns, I just want him to have him in his hands a little bit and get him comfortable."
After finishing second in the Mike Lee, Empire Dreams won his route and two-turn debut in the New York Derby by 2 1/4 lengths last out on July 12. Prior to that, his accomplishments also include a score in the Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Stakes from last November at Aqueduct.
"He settled and he had a good position," trainer Tom Albertrani remarked. "There was a lot of crowding at the start, but it didn't really affect him. He just sat off the leaders and finished up strongly the last eighth of a mile.
"Stretching him out, he really seemed to benefit from the two turns. He really seems to appreciate the extra ground. We always wanted to stretch him out, but we never had the chance to do it sooner."
Grade 1 victress Discreet Marq headlines a probable field of five for the $150,000 Yaddo sending distaffers 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf. Trainer Chad Brown has entered Dayatthespa into the Yaddo, but is expected to run the mare in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa on the Travers Day undercard.
Discreet Marq, however, will be taking a step down in class after making six of her last seven starts in Grade 1 stakes, including a win in the Del Mar Oaks last August. Trained by Christophe Clement, the four-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat was most recently third in the July 19 Diana at Saratoga, finishing two necks behind the winner.
"She's raced in four Grade 1s in a row," Clement said. "I wanted to get an easier race for her. The Yaddo will be a little easier than the Ballston Spa on Saturday. She's doing great; I'm excited to see her run.
"It won't be an easy race, but hopefully an easier race," he added. "And then she can go from there, maybe to the Grade 1, ($600,000 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park on September 27)."
Discreet Marq, who will break from post position 5, will be challenged by Effie Trinket from the barn of Richard Violette. That Freud four-year-old miss has faced graded company in four of her last five starts, including a second-place finish in the Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs last fall. Most recently, Effie Trinket finished sixth in the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx on July 8.
"She's coming off a subpar effort at Parx, which was probably my fault," Violette noted. "She's kind of refreshed up here and she's training great. If she's back to her very genuine self, then I think we'll have some fun. It's a small field, but I think it's a pretty talented bunch."
A field of salty older turf horses is set to run 1 1/16 miles in the $150,000 West Point, which will feature the return of graded winner King Kreesa.
Now under the care of David Donk, King Kreesa was previously trained by Jeremiah Englehart to five stakes victories, including the Poker last July, and five stakes placings, including the 2012 Jamaica Handicap. The five-year-old gelded son of King Cugat has been remarkably consistent in his career, hitting the board in 12 of 17 turf starts and earning more than $650,000.
King Kreesa has not run since contesting the December 8 Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin, in which he faded to 12th after dictating the early pace.
"(Hong Kong) racing just wasn't his style," Donk asserted. "He's a really nice horse, and Jeremiah did a phenomenal job with him. It's not going to be an easy spot -- there's a lot of good New York-breds in that division -- but I've got to start somewhere."
The West Point was not originally on Donk's radar, but changed his mind after some eye-catching works leading up to the race.
"I really didn't have this as an objective until three weeks ago; he worked really well and galloped out really well," the trainer explained. "He's a little further along than I thought he might be. I pointed in this direction, and he's had three really solid works."
Clement will send out another very consistent turfer in Lubash, who has compiled a superlative record of 10-7-4 in 32 starts, with earnings upward of $800,000.
Now a seven-year-old, the bay son of Freud has showed no signs of slowing down. He began his year with a victory in a statebred optional claimer, missed by a length in the Kingston in his next start, and then took a statebred allowance by 2 1/4 lengths on July 13 at Belmont Park in his latest outing.
"My horse is a very fun horse; he's been amazingly consistent over the years," Clement noted. "He's always there and he's very reliable. I would not trade with anybody. Let's go."
Winner of the Bowling Green Handicap in his most recent start, Hangover Kid will go out for trainer Jason Servis in the West Point. The Lemon Drop Kid six-year-old won last year's West Point by a length, and nearly captured the Red Smith last fall at Aqueduct.
Hangover Kid will be making a significant cut back in distance for the 1 1/16-mile West Point, as he is exiting the 12-furlong Bowling Green.
"I think he likes going longer," Servis said. "He ran hard the last few races; he hasn't bounced back completely to his old self. He's had a tough few races but he's all right, so we'll take a shot."
Winner of state-bred stakes at Aqueduct and Finger Lakes, Flipcup will make her Saratoga debut in the $200,000 Fleet Indian for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
Flipcup began her career in Canada before arriving in New York last December, winning the East View in her stateside debut. Runner-up in the Busanda to open her 2014 campaign, the Bill Mott-trained Milwaukee Brew filly captured the New York Oaks going 1 1/16 miles by a neck on July 12, returning to Woodbine to run second by a half-length in the Eternal Search on August 2.
Alwaysinstilletos and Jcs American Dream, who ran second and fourth, respectively, in the New York Oaks, will try to turn the tables on Flipcup in the Fleet Indian.
Heading the field for the Funny Cide is the Michael Mareina-trained Bustin It, the lone stakes winner in the field of five. The Bustin Stones colt, second in his debut on June 13 at Belmont Park, returned a month later and posted a front-running, seven-length win in the restricted Rockville Centre going six furlongs.
With a graded start on her resume, Evrybdymstgetstonz will face five others in the Seeking the Ante. Trained by Gary Contessa, the daughter of Bustin Stones was a six-length winner at odds of 23-1 in her first start on July 2 at Belmont Park, then returned on opening day at Saratoga to finish fourth in the Schuylerville after getting squeezed back at the start.
Justenuffhumor registers first winner
Multiple Grade 2 victor Justenuffhumor got off the mark as a freshman sire when his aptly named daughter Humoresque wired Thursday's 3RD race in the slop at Belterra Park. Bred, owned and trained by Janet Reeder, the 5-2 chance broke on top for Yuri Yaranga, maintained a comfortable margin, and crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths clear. Humoresque, who splashed through splits of :22 4/5, :47 2/5 and 1:00 4/5, completed the six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight in 1:15.
Humoresque was scoring in her fifth try, all at Belterra. She was most recently third on August 1, and her resume now reads 5-1-0-1, $12,325. The Ohio-bred chestnut was produced by the winning Theatrical mare Liege. Her second dam is stakes victress Demonry, a daughter of noted producer Qui Royalty.
Justenuffhumor, a $550,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, is exceptionally well bred. By top sire Distorted Humor and out of the terrific multiple stakes-winning and Grade 3-placed Broad Brush mare Justenuffheart, he is a half-brother to 2006 champion two-year-old filly Dreaming of Anna and to multiple Grade 2-winning sire Lewis Michael. Dreaming of Anna is already the dam of the stakes-placed All Her Class and unbeaten sophomore Fast Anna, who makes his stakes debut in Saturday's King's Bishop. Justenuffhumor is also a half-brother to Justenufftime, dam of August 9 Monmouth Oaks heroine Cassatt.
Justenuffhumor's dam is in turn a half-sister to 2004 champion turf horse Kitten's Joy, who reigned as North America's leading sire of 2013, as well as to multiple Grade 1 queen and $1.9 million-earner Precious Kitten. This is the further family of Grade 1-winning millionaire Down the Aisle, 1977 Mother Goose victress Road Princess and Hall of Famer Spectacular Bid.
Justenuffhumor got a late start to his career, but made up for lost time and developed into a top turf horse as a four-year-old in 2009. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable, the bay methodically climbed the class ladder from maiden through third-level allowance, accomplishing all in a four-race spree.
Jumping up to the Grade 2 level at Saratoga, Justenuffhumor extended his winning streak to six with dynamic rallies in both the Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch. He was then promoted to the Godolphin squad, but his skein was broken when a wide-trip sixth in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Justenuffhumor fared much better in his next attempt in the royal blue silks, closing from last to grab third to Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
Justenuffhumor was transferred to Saeed bin Suroor ahead of the 2010 Dubai Carnival, where he failed to land a blow in three starts. He was later retired with a mark of 12-6-0-1, $533,900.
The nine-year-old stallion stands under the Darley banner at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York for $3,000, stands and nurses.
Tapestry upsets Taghrooda in Yorkshire Oaks
Those who banked on Taghrooda just having to go down and come back to win Thursday's Group 1, £330,000 Yorkshire Oaks factored out the magic of Ryan Moore on an improving Ballydoyle filly in Tapestry. and were duly made to pay as she upset Shadwell's star in a pulsating finale.
A bright prospect at two but out of the limelight until coming back to form with a latest second in the July 19 Irish Oaks at The Curragh, Tapestry settled into a smooth rhythm early by Moore while last of the seven and several lengths off the generous pace set by Volume. The 8-1 second choice was being ridden and had dead aim as Taghrooda worked her way past Tasaday and took a slight lead, looking the winner with 2 1/2 furlongs remaining.
When Taghrooda and Paul Hanagan failed to put the race to bed in a matter of strides as they had done at Epsom and Ascot, it soon became clear that a battle was to ensue and Moore was able to conjure a little extra from Tapestry mount as the line neared. Chasing the 1-5 favorite down in the last 100 yards, Tapestry was driven out to score by a half-length from the previously unbeaten Epsom Oaks and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S. winner.
As a measure of the duo's dominance, Tasaday finished seven lengths adrift in third.
"She's a very high-class filly and this set up nicely for her," Moore praised Tapestry. "She traveled sweetly and toughed it out well. They are two very good fillies and I wouldn't say that the runner-up lost anything in defeat there."
Inheriting much pace from her illustrious dam's side, Tapestry had the natural speed to win going six furlongs in her debut at The Curragh last July before stepping up a panel to secure what appeared a first black-type success of many in that venue's Debutante in August. Third behind Rizeena, before being promoted to second above Kiyoshi, in the Moyglare Stud back there at the start of September, the bay miss was hammered down to 4-1 favoritism for the May 4 One Thousand Guineas at Newmarket only to fade out of the reckoning in the final quarter-mile and finish last.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien blamed himself for over-training Tapestry in the spring and, with some tinkering done at Ballydoyle, the Galileo filly reappeared with a highly encouraging effort to be sixth in the June 20 Coronation at Royal Ascot. With several of the stable's more choice fillies in the line-up for the Irish Oaks, it was a surprise that Joseph O'Brien opted to ride her but she justified that faith with a fine effort to be second to Bracelet.
Given that she was upset by the delay beforehand, met trouble in running and her rider's saddle slipped coming out of the gates, that performance was full of merit and Tapestry looked the most likely to benefit should Taghrooda fail to deliver on Thursday.
"She went weak halfway in the Guineas, as she was lighter than we would have liked but that was due to the pressure we put on her in the spring," Aidan O'Brien said of the winner, whose third dam is multiple champion and star producer Miesque. "We gave her a break after that and everyone has done a great job with her to get her back thriving again. Every run since then, she's come on and what she did the last day in the Oaks was extraordinary.
"Our only concern was if the ground went soft on us, as she's a light-framed athletic filly but we were lucky. We were in the long grass with no pressure with Taghrooda in there and so we had a target and Ryan produced her beautifully. She finishes very well and has a lot of speed on her dam's side, but as we all know Galileo's don't know when they are beaten and she's like that.
"I think she was 8-10 kilos heavier today than she was in the Oaks, so she's obviously maturing. Ground is vital to her and maybe the Breeders' Cup would be right for her, as you wouldn't want to run her on soft."
Taghrooda's connections were not opting for a change in direction afterward as they continue to point toward the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 5 at Longchamp.
"No excuses, she's just been outstayed on the Knavesmire, which has happened to horses before," trainer John Gosden told PA Sport. "She was nice and relaxed through the race, he gave her a lovely ride and it was a great race. The winner is just one of those fillies that has come to herself at this time of year. There was a lot of confidence behind her in the Irish Oaks and she had a problem with her tack, I believe. They've beaten the rest an awful long way and she has just been outstayed.
"She's been in great form at home and barely had a race in the King George, so there'll be no change to the plan. It will still be the Arc. They've always liked the winner, she has always been towards the top of their pecking order."
Tiggy Wiggy got the group action underway earlier on York's Thursday program when taking the Group 2, £150,000 Lowther for trainer Richard Hannon. While being the most industrious in the line-up having her sixth start, the Kodiac lass looked the freshest throughout as she led from pillar to post to provide the Hannon stable with another major juvenile prize.
Since her seven-length debut success in her March 29 debut on Kempton's Polytrack, Tiggy Wiggy had been kept at five furlongs and gone from strength-to-strength despite some tough assignments. Second to Patience Alexander in the listed Marygate on May 16 at York, she rebounded 13 days later to dominate the colts in the listed National at Sandown before running a neck second to Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot on June 18.
Coming forward again with an impressive six-length score in Newbury's Weatherbys Super Sprint on July 19, Tiggy Wiggy carried that raw speed over an extra panel on Thursday to justify favoritism and upstage her two market rivals Cursory Glance and Anthem Alexander as the trio pulled clear.
Quickest away and soon in front, the bay miss was always comfortable at a speed that gradually drew the collective sting from her rivals and was mainly hand ridden by Richard Hughes to hold the errant Cursory Glance at bay and crack the track record.
"She looked awesome in the Super Sprint and had to do it again, but to break the track record by a second is ridiculous," Hannon stated. "She's very fast and at one stage I thought Hughesie was going a bit quick, but he got it dead right. She does enough on her own and we haven't worked her since Newbury, she just follows the lead horse at the head of string.
"Now we can have a look the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes (at Newmarket on September 27) and if she wants another race then the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye (at Longchamp on October 5) on very soft ground is tailor-made for her.
"She's not going to get the trip in the Guineas and so the obvious race is the new three-year-olds' sprint at Royal Ascot. She'd miss out a whole season otherwise. She's very good and has always been the sort of filly who draws a gasp. This was as good a Lowther as there has been for many years and was a Group 1 in all but name."
Cursory Glance's trainer Roger Varian told PA Sport, "She'll go up in trip now and given that she looks very much as if she wants longer distances, it was a very good effort. It's too soon to be making plans, but she has plenty of entries and I'd say we're looking at seven furlongs next."
The Lowther was sandwiched between Mubtaghaa's victory in the £250,000 DBS Premier Yearling Stakes and Short Squeeze's score in the £80,000 Logistics Stakes.
Mubtaghaa -- who hails from the storied family of Miesque, Kingmambo and Six Perfections -- was slow to find his stride early, but soon worked his way into contention and after gaining the lead approaching the quarter-pole. He was driven out to assert from the filly New Providence by jockey Silvestre de Sousa and post a 1 1/2-length win.
Trainer William Haggas, who also saddled Valley of Fire to be third, revealed that this was part of a plan afterward.
"I think the third horse has lots of talent and is a nice horse who has scope for next year, but the winner is very much a strong two-year-old who we have to crack on with now," he explained. "He got wheelspin on the ground at Newmarket last time and we were hoping it wouldn't rain, as he loves top-of-the-ground and has been crying out for six. The Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes (at Newbury on September 20) is a possibility, but he has to have this ground."
Mubtaghaa met a smart rival in Moonraker when a neck second to that Mick Channon trainee while making his debut in a five-furlong maiden at Ascot on May 10 before going one better on soft ground at Nottingham at the start of June. Third in the Royal meeting's listed Windsor Castle on June 17, the bay son of Acclamation became the latest to advertise the merit of Ivawood, whom he trailed when eighth in the July Stakes over Thursday's six-furlong trip at Newmarket last out on July 10.
Short Squeez, who sported cheekpieces and a tongue-tie for the first time, was restrained in the rear of the Logistics early by Pat Smullen while full of run all the way up the straight. The Cape Cross four-year-old needed a hole to appear in the wall of horses ahead and, when it came, it was in enough time for him to surge through and reel in Group 1 performer Top Notch Tonto in the shade of the post for a head triumph.
"He's a free-going horse, so we took the decision to get him relax and ride him for luck and thankfully the gaps opened for me," Smullen explained. "He's a very willing horse -- if anything, too willing -- who gives everything and the way the race unfolded was the key to him."
Having raced too keenly to fulfill his early promise, Short Squeeze began to turn his fortunes around last summer with mile handicap wins at Sandown, York and Haydock before signing off with a fifth in the Darley Stakes going nine furlongs at Newmarket in October. Never a factor in his return when beating only two rivals home in the June 18 Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, the bay again became a victim of his over-enthusiasm when fifth in Windsor's listed Midsummer Stakes 10 days later before running fourth in a seven-furlong handicap at York on July 26.
For trainer Hugo Palmer, Thursday's win was vindication of his faith in the four-year-old gelding.
"I said to Pat to get him away from horses, as he wants to fight and get out of the ruck," Palmer stated. "He was very progressing last year and everything he was showing me at home told me that he was still progressing, so it was a real headscratcher. With cheekpieces, they never go backwards and they lower their heads and see it out more so we've left no stone unturned.
"The plan is up in the air, but he could go to Melbourne in the spring and race for me before transferring to either Chris Waller or Gai Waterhouse. He's now qualified for the (October 18) Balmoral Handicap at Ascot (on Champions' Day) and he could go for the Group 1 Toorak Handica at Caulfield September 27 and then there's Dubai if he didn't go there."
One race after the Yorkshire Oaks in the £60,000 Galtres Stakes, Queen of Ice was ignored on the lead under a finely judged ride from Andrea Atzeni. The Cheveley Park Stud homebred turned down the challenge of old rival Noble Protector with a furlong remaining and found the line before her stablemate Arabian Comet.
"I didn't think that Queen of Ice had done enough to win a race like this and she benefited from an excellent ride from the front, whereas Arabian Comet stays very well and is thoroughly genuine," trainer William Haggas said.
Lightly campaigned thus far, Queen of Ice was fifth in the Musidora Stakes in her first real test over an extended 10-furlong trip at York on May 14 before winding up third in the June 12 listed Lord Weinstock Memorial Stakes over that distance at Newbury. Only fourth, and well-beaten, behind Noble Protector in Newmarket's listed Newsells Park Stud Stakes tackling 12 furlongs for the first time on July 19, the chestnut stepped up off that effort to make all and gain a vital black-type win for her owner-breeders on Thursday.
"Newmarket last time was just messy, but she plugged on there and she looked the best she'd looked today," Haggas added. "She has a light mouth and is narrow and quite straight and leggy. Her family get better as they get older and I hope she goes on, but its up to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson as to whether she is kept in training. She's won her listed race now, whereas Arabian Comet will have her day and go for the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes (at Doncaster on September 11), as well as staying in training next year and who knows how far she will go."
Sole Power out to reclaim Nunthorpe
In a season in which the sprinting category has been dominated by Eddie Lynam's select crew of dragsters, Friday's Group 1 Nunthorpe looks easy prey for Sole Power provided the rain stays away. As strong as ever this season, Sabena Power's seven-year-old returns to the scene of his shock win in this race in 2010 after registering back-to-back renewals of Royal Ascot's King's Stand June 17. Rain ruled him out of the July 12 July Cup and his trainer is hoping it fails to materialize in large quantities at York.
"If the ground came up soft we would have to consider withdrawing him, but if it was good-to-soft we would probably take a chance with him," he explained.
"Since being forced to miss the July Cup because of the soft ground he has had a bad skin infection, like ring worm or dermatitis, which forced him to miss 10 days of training. We had to have his rugs off the whole time, which was not ideal, but it is better that it happened in the summer, when it is warmer, and he has been back in full training for two weeks and worked well on Tuesday morning.
"My gut feeling is that he may not be quite in the same form as he was before Royal Ascot, but he is coming back to himself day by day so we will take him to York hopeful rather than confident. This will be the fourth time that he has run in the Nunthorpe. He is about 45 kilos heavier now than when he won it in 2010 so he has developed a lot and got a lot stronger.
"Like a good wine he seems to get better with age and hopefully that can carry on a bit longer."
Another veteran who is at a peak at present is Norcroft Park Stud's Take Cover, who showed impressive pillar-to-post pace when besting Extortionist and Moviesta in Goodwood's King George at the start of the month. This flat, fast five is tailor-made for the homebred and trainer David Griffiths who has only 20 horses in his stable, is feeling the pressure.
"I think Sole Power is the one seriously, seriously good horse that you would be scared of, but I think we are entitled to take our chance," he told PA Sport. "If you look at the Goodwood race, a lot of them were proven Group performers. On paper, it was pretty much a Group 1. The times came out very fast. I think one of the furlongs was done in nine seconds and change, which is not unheard of, but it's very rare."
Two others that should figure from contrasting ends of the experience spectrum are Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier's Cougar Mountain and Brian Joffee and Myron Berzack's Shea Shea. While the former was just three lengths fifth in the July Cup on only his second start, the triple Group 1 winner Shea Shea is seven and bids to atone for his half-length loss to the surprise package Jwala in this race 12 months ago.
Aidan O'Brien said of the three-year-old, "Cougar Mountain seems to be fine since his run in the July Cup. Obviously, it was a big jump up for a very young and inexperienced horse, so we have to be very careful and tender with him. But he seems to be in good form."
Friday's Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York acts as the next installment in the staying saga of 2014, with the July 31 Goodwood Cup hero Cavalryman taking center stage. Bar some minor blips along the way, the career of Godolphin's eight-year-old has boasted an admirable consistency at or near the top table and this term could arguably be described as his most accomplished. Few expected him to win the 12-furlong Princess of Wales's at Newmarket July 10 prior to his Goodwood triumph, but versatility is one of his mainstays and that middle-distance speed is always dangerous in these marathon contests.
"Cavalryman is doing well and had a nice blowout on the gallops the other day," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. "He is a brilliant horse who is very tough. Some horses improve with age and others do the opposite but with him he has kept on improving, both physically and mentally. He always looks wonderful. He wouldn't want the ground to be too soft, but good or good-to-soft would be fine."
Taking him on again is the Queen's Estimate, who was a major disappointment when eighth at Goodwood having run a neck second to Leading Light in the June 19 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Racing Manager John Warren told PA Sport, "Hopefully, she can get back on track. Sir Michael (Stoute) is certainly very happy with her and hopefully we can leave Goodwood behind us. We're very positive she will give a good account of herself and hopefully give her true running. The track should certainly suit her much better than Goodwood and the faster the ground the better for her, I think. Unless there is a torrential downpour and the going changes significantly, I don't think there will be any excuses."
Times Up, who won this two years ago, has to enter the equation coming off a break after two seventh placings when the Ed Dunlop stable was not firing in the 12-furlong Jockey Club at Newmarket May 3 and Prix Vicomtesse Vigier over nearly two miles at Longchamp May 25.
"His first run of the year came when my horses weren't very well and his second run was in very bad ground when he probably wasn't right either," Dunlop told PA Sport. "This is very much like his first run of the year, but he's ready to run and we want to get him out to put him right for Doncaster (alluding to the Cup on September 12). Hopefully we'll see something tomorrow, but I would expect him to improve."
Spencer to retire from the saddle at the end of the current season
Jockey Jamie Spencer announced his retirement from riding upon the conclusion of the current season on Thursday.
The 34-year-old, who was twice named champion British jockey as well as Irish champion once, will assume a new role with Qatar Racing, with whom he is currently contracted, upon his retirement.
"This is a fantastic opportunity and if I have learned anything in my riding career it is that you should take such opportunities when they come along," Spencer told PA Sport. "As much as I love race riding, it is not something I want to do for the rest of my life and while I am not necessarily ready to retire now, I feel at a stage when I am ready for a change.
"I really enjoy being part of the Qatar Racing team, working with Sheikh Fahad, (bloodstock advisor) David (Redvers) and everyone in the team, and so the opportunity to continue that and at the same time start the next chapter in my career appealed to me."
Spencer gained international recognition when he became the youngest rider to win a European classic at the age of 17 when he rode Tarascon to victory in the Irish One Thousand Guineas in 1998. Other notable victories include the 2003 St Leger aboard Brian Boru. He has ridden for Qatar Racing since 2013.
"This has been a big decision and not one I have taken lightly," Spencer continued. "My priority is my family, and thinking of them and their future has played a key part in my decision. I feel I still have a lot to give to racing, and not just as a jockey.
"I would like to thank all the owners and trainers who have supported me throughout my career. I will always be grateful to them for the success I have had and the friendships built along the way."
"Ever since we signed up Jamie he has impressed us with his commitment and contribution," Revers said. "He has been an invaluable team player and this new role will enable him to build on that. I am delighted that we will continue to benefit from his insight, enthusiasm and invaluable experience.
"Jamie will continue to ride for Qatar Racing for the rest of the year. With regard to riding arrangements for 2015, we hope to be in a position to clarify the plans shortly."
Patinack Farm announces dispersal of bloodstock, properties
A total of 560 lots are cataloged, which includes broodmares, stallions, foals, yearlings, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, and older racehorses.
It will be the largest private Thoroughbred dispersal in Australian history.
The stallions include Murtajill, Monaco Consul, Trusting and Lope de Vega. Some of the notable broodmares include Group 1 winners Allez Wonder, in foal to All Too Hard; Bel Mer, in foal to All Too Hard; Devil Moon, in foal to All Too Hard; Heavenly Glow, in foal to Lope de Vega; La Montagna, in foal to Lope de Vega; Serious Speed, in foal to All Too Hard; Small Minds, in foal to So You Think; and Victory Vein, in foal to Lope de Vega.
"This sale is the largest unreserved, private Thoroughbred dispersal sale in Australian history," said Vin Cox, Magic Millions managing director. "It represents an unparalleled opportunity to buy some of Australia's most valuable breeding and racing Thoroughbreds. Everything will be sold."
Patinack will also disperse its properties, including:
Four Grade 1 winners highlight outstanding Travers field
Favored at 2-1 on the morning line, the son of Offlee Wild drew well on the inside for his front-running style (post No. 2) and Martin Garcia retains the mount.
"The Haskell was pretty impressive," Baffert said of Bayern, who made his career debut on January 4 and has earned more than $1 million while winning four of seven starts. "Will he take a step backward? I don't' know, but he looks good.
"He's not a really big horse, but he's fast. He's a handy horse, and he's got a lot of speed. I'm not totally convinced he can go a mile and a quarter, but he's pretty fast. You just have to let him go and what happens, happens. You can't worry about it. When you have a horse with that kind of brilliant speed, you have to use it."
"(Bayern) probably will go for it. We've got Wicked Strong outside of us (in post 7), and he might go a little bit, too. It could be a good set-up. We don't want to be as wide as we were in the Jim Dandy, so (Rosario) will have to tuck him in a bit more. It's an extra furlong (compared to the Jim Dandy), but I think the horse needed the race last time. He's had two good works since then."
Wicked Strong added blinkers for the Jim Dandy and raced more forwardly than his previous starts. A close third when concluding his juvenile campaign in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct, the Hard Spun colt returned this year with a pair of disappointing efforts at Gulfstream Park. He rebounded back in New York, taking the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial by 3 1/2 lengths, but experienced a troubled trip finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
Maragh was pleased post 7.
"I think it's a great post. It gives us some options," the jockey said. "We're posted outside most of the speed horses, and it seems like a very ideal situation. I would think that Tonalist might show a little more speed; he was pretty close to the lead in the Belmont. The No. 7 post gives me a lot of options to see how the race unfolds and pick a good spot. We'll play it by ear and see how the race is going.
"The great thing with Wicked Strong is you can adjust with him; he doesn't have one specific running style. He's won close to the lead like last time and also has won from pretty much off the pace. Our hands aren't tied to doing anything specific."
Mr Speaker shows a couple of fast works on the Saratoga main track this month and will break from the far outside post Saturday with Jose Lezcano.
Jerkens, who won with his only other Travers starter, Afleet Express, in 2010, will also send out V. E. Day in the Travers. The chestnut son of grass champion English Channel has won three straight starts, including the 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on the eve of the Jim Dandy.
Four-time stakes hero Kid Cruz will look to improve upon his third-place effort in the Jim Dandy. A sharp winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer and the Easy Goer in his two previous outings at Belmont Park, the late-running son of Lemon Drop Kid will keep Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle.
"He's coming in great," trainer Linda Rice said of Kid Cruz, who was claimed for $50,000 from his second career start in late November. "We struggled this spring with him with a shoulder and a pinched nerve at the base of his neck. We missed the Wood Memorial and went to the (April 19) Tesio (at Pimlico) instead.
"The Preakness went poorly but frankly he's coming into this race very well. Despite the fact that the Jim Dandy was kind of an ugly race for us, the goal was to get to the Travers. Hopefully, we'll be ready."
Kid Cruz, who can provide Rice with the first Travers victory by a female trainer, raced closer than normal during the early stages of the Jim Dandy, dropped back going down the backstretch, and came again late for third.
Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, fourth in the Jim Dandy, is also entered. The Dallas Stewart trainee breaks from the innermost post with Shaun Bridmohan.
Rounding out the Travers field are Charge Now and Viva Majorca, the second- and fourth-place finishers in the Curlin; and Jim Dandy fifth-placer and Grade 3 runner-up Ulanbator.
Wildcat Red reverts in distance for King's Bishop
"In this race, if we run good we still have a chance to go to (the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 20) or somewhere else. It all depends on the result and how the horse comes back."
Rosie Napravnik was aboard Coup de Grace for the Amsterdam and retains the mount in this spot.
Stakes debuters The Big Beast and Fast Anna are something of a puzzle in the race after taking their past pair of races by huge margins.
"This horse just seems to get better all the time," Ritvo asserted. "We're going to take a big swing, but he's doing so good there's no reason not to run him. I don't think it's going to make a big difference, the traffic or the people or anything that happens. He's professional. He's smart. He couldn't be doing any better."
Myositis Dan, Noble Cornerstone and Noble Moon complete the field for the King's Bishop. The former triumphed in a pair of seven-furlong all-weather allowances at Keeneland and Arlington, with a head third in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs tucked in between. New York-bred Noble Cornerstone is exiting a pair of victories against state-bred rivals, while Grade 2 hero Noble Moon will be going less than a mile for the first time since taking his maiden debut last September.
Better Lucky, Filimbi star on Travers undercard
Also exiting the Shine Again is My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 champion juvenile filly, who was making her first start that day following a 16-month absence. She finished third, beaten a half-length, in what was her first outing since moving from the barn of Steve Asmussen to the Todd Pletcher stable. My Miss Aurelia is winless in four outings since taking the Cotillion at Parx in September 2012.
"I think (the Shine Again), hopefully, will move her forward," Pletcher said. "I thought she ran hard that day. It was a long time since she'd run, and the complexion of the race forced us to get her involved early. I think she needed that run, so I've been pleased with the way she's trained. I thought her last breeze was particularly good and, hopefully, an indication she's in top form for this."
La Verdad is one of four New York-breds in the field and the most likely pacesetter in the Ballerina. She's used her blazing speed to good use winning several state-bred stakes in addition to the April 19 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct, but a tardy break from post 1 in last month's Honorable Miss Handicap resulted in a non-threatening, fifth-place effort as the 6-5 favorite.
"Everything went poorly, and she still wound up beaten only three lengths, so we'll forgive her," trainer Linda Rice said. "I think that seven-eighths may not be her best distance. I rather it be six or 6 1/2, but she's come out of the race very well and she breezed excellently the other day. How many Grade 1s do you have for fillies and mares sprinting?"
Also representing the Empire State's breeding program are Artemis Agrotera, last year's Frizette winner and the only three-year-old in the field. Up the track in her season debut, the June 7 Acorn, she rebounded to defeat state-bred rivals by more than 10 lengths in a course-and-distance allowance July 23.
"I just decided that, in my opinion, she fits very well in the race, and for a Grade 1 for all that money, it's time to go while she's good," trainer Michael Hushion said. "If she wasn't rounding out to her old-time form, I don't think she would have run as well as she did no matter who she was running against."
Other locally born contenders are Hot Stones, photo-finish winner of the Bed o' Roses Handicap two back and third in the nine-furlong Shuvee Handicap last time, and the six-year-old Willet, a multiple stakes winner who was Grade 2-placed in the Go for Wand Handicap in late 2012.
The Ballerina field is rounded out by Kipling's Joy, Voodoo Tales, and Geeky Gorgeous.
"I think she got a lot of her last race," Brown said. "The fractions were a little strong, especially coming off a layoff, but we'll be much fitter this time around. She came out of the race well and has been training great."
Dayatthespa may opt to run in the Yaddo for New York-breds on Sunday, according to Brown, who will assess both fields before making a decision.
Another Grade 1 veteran, Centre Court, appeared to shake out of her doldrums when taking the Honey Fox at Gulfstream in March, but reversed form in the spring when only fifth in the Jenny Wiley and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.
"She had a little trouble at the start (of the Distaff Turf Mile), but she blew a shoe when that happened," trainer Rusty Arnold said. "She ran with one shoe off and bore out most of the way, so it was disappointing, but I feel we have an excuse. We had to give her some time to get it all fixed up, and she's in good shape now."
In better form of late is Grade 3 winner Abaco, who has rallied to place in three of five starts this year, including a half-length loss in the Jenny Wiley. Last time, in the nine-furlong Diana, the six-year-old mare still trailed a field of 10 at the eighth pole before making a belated wide kick to finish fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Somali Lemonade.
Strathnaver, a Grade 3 winner over 12 furlongs, successfully cut back to a mile when a nose second in the Just a Game two back, but did not enjoy a clean trip when sixth in the Diana last time.
"I was a little disappointed (in her Diana) but more frustrated," trainer Graham Motion said. "She had an awkward trip, getting bumped coming out of the gate and did not get a good set-up. She wasn't beaten very far. It was frustrating; with a better trip I think she's right there."
The Ballston Spa field is rounded out by 2013 Virginia Oaks winner Nellie Cashman, who was cross-entered to the Violet at Monmouth Park on Saturday, and the overmatched Night Song.
Thirteen entered for Del Mar Handicap
Irish Surf merits respect if his connections opt for the Del Mar H. over the Pacific Classic. A two-time winner on turf, the four-year-old Giant's Causeway colt registered a career-best performance when switching back to Polytrack last time, running away on the front end to an 8 1/4-length score in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II. The Dan Hendricks charge registered a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating for his first stakes win and is scheduled to receive a rider switch to Victor Espinoza.
Grade 1 winner Unbridled Command is a logical contender in his third start of the season. Winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in late 2012, the five-year-old horse made only one start stateside last year, finishing third behind Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park H. He's recorded two unplaced finishes for new trainer Peter Miller but exits a decent fifth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read, and fitness should no longer be a concern for the honest gray horse, who capped a five-race win streak in the aforementioned Hollywood Derby.
Elvis Trujillo, who also rode Irish Surf last time, sticks with Unbridled Command and the New York-bred adds first-time blinkers Saturday.
Big John B will make his stakes bow in fine form for Phil D'Amato, reeling off a pair of sharp wins, including a 7 1/4-length score over allowance/optional claiming foes at Del Mar on July 30. The five-year-old Hard Spun gelding will retain the services of Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Grade 2 winner Bright Thought will make his first start for D'Amato. Third when making his debut over Del Mar's turf in the July 23 Wickerr, the five-year-old ridgling fits well at this level and will keep Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.
Drysdale is also responsible for the filly Topic, who exits a good second in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park. The four-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat recorded her lone stakes victory over the Del Mar turf last year, romping by a 3 1/4-length margin over listed competition. Fernardo Perez picks up the mount.
Other contenders include Last Tycoon winner Quick Casablanca; multiple Grade 2-placed Si Sage; and stakes victor Cogito.
Close Hatches looking to stay on top in Personal Ensign
"She's always run pretty good off the bench," Mott said. "Her works have been good, and I think we've got enough in her. She's always run very well when she's had time between races."
Princess of Sylmar, a clear leader in the three-year-old championship race before her loss to Beholder in the Breeders' Cup last November, captured a minor stakes at Aqueduct prior to her loss to the Ogden Phipps. Last time, she was a 1-5 favorite in the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap, but was beaten nearly three lengths by a loose-on-the-lead Belle Gallantey.
"She just missed in the Phipps," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Princess of Sylmar. "She ran a big race (in the Phipps) and didn't get a proper set-up in the Delaware Handicap and maybe didn't run her 'A' race, but she has been training exceptionally well and we believe she is sitting on a good effort."
Princess of Sylmar will wear blinkers for the first time on Friday.
Fiftyshadesofhay, whose graded stakes scores include the May 11 Ruffian and 2013 editions of the Black-Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks, returns to dirt following a fourth-place finish in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar.
The stellar Personal Ensign field is rounded out by the speedy, Todd Pletcher-trained Majestic River, who exits a 2 1/2-length score in sub-standard renewal of the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.
The supporting feature is the $100,000 Tale of the Cat, a six-furlong dash for older horses that have not won a graded stakes in 2014. Grade 2 victors Bahamian Squall and Bern Identity are joined by stakes winners Traffic Light, Sensational Slam, and Royal Currier, as well as General George Handicap runner-up Tenango.
Big Blue Kitten (Kitten's Joy), whose Grade 1 victories include the 2013 United Nations at Monmouth Park, is the one to beat as he makes his second start of 2014 in Sunday's $100,000 Cliff Hanger (G3). Sidelined nine months following an eighth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, the six-year-old horse returned with a nice performance in the August 2 Lure at Saratoga, closing stoutly to win going away by nearly a length. Regular rider Joe Bravo will be up on the Chad Brown trainee and Big Blue Kitten will face six rivals at 1 1/8 miles on Monmouth's turf. Guys Reward (Grand Reward) enters on the upswing for Dale Romans, capturing the July 27 Oceanport (G3) locally by a length, and the Todd Pletcher-trained Winning Cause (Giant's Causeway) has placed in both the Monmouth (G2) and Red Bank (G3) this season and was beaten only a length when fourth in the United Nations two starts back...
J and M Racing Stables' Uncle Southern (Uncle Camie) wired Thursday's $98,000 Union Avenue S. at Saratoga by three parts of a length under jockey Luis Saez. The Linda Rice-trained four-year-old filly took command out of the gate and proceeded through :23 1/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 4/5 fractions before completing 6 1/2 furlongs on the sloppy, sealed main track in 1:17 2/5. "We didn't see a lot of speed (in the race), but we knew my filly had speed," Saez explained. "Linda told me, 'You can go on the lead, and let's see what we've got.' I thought someone was coming to get me, but she responded when I switched my stick (to my left hand)." Rice attributed Uncle Southern's nice run in part to the track condition. "The last time we ran her it came off the turf, and she loved the mud. That might be her best surface," Rice declared. "I noticed in her last race, when it looked like the forecast called for rain, I thought I'd give it a chance. I think the Dixie Brasses (Uncle Southern's dam sire) excel on the mud, and I think that's a big play for her. She seems to be coming into her best form now as a four-year-old, and I think that's helping as well." Uncle Southern was making her stakes bow in the Union Avenue and improved her career record to 12-4-2-1, $217,921...
Hall of Fame trainers D. Wayne Lukas and H. Allen Jerkens, along with NYRA track announcer Tom Durkin, who announced his retirement earlier this year and will call his last race at Saratoga on August 31, will be honored in a special "Red Jacket" ceremony to commemorate their achievements on Friday at 12:15 p.m. (EDT) in the winner's circle at Saratoga. NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay will present Lukas and Durkin with Saratoga red blazers, while Jimmy Jerkens will accept the jacket on behalf of his father, who is training at Gulfstream Park. Kay also will unveil individual plaques celebrating the trio's long and storied history...
Thursday's 72nd running of the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-G1) steeplechase at Saratoga was postponed until Monday due to heavy overnight rains. All other turf races for the day were transferred to the main track. The New York Turf Writers Cup will be carded as the 1ST race on Monday with a post time of 1 p.m. (EDT)...
On a day filled with outstanding performances by locally based horses, the effort of Team Block's Suntracer (Kitten's Joy) remains a mystery after the 3-1 second choice in the American St. Leger faltered to finish an extremely uncharacteristic ninth of 10, beaten 20 lengths. "He seems to be fine," trainer Chris Block reported. "I don't know what happened. We're regrouping and we'll see how he comes out of it and go from there." Creating a bit of buzz all week leading up to the event in which he finished second the year prior, the six-year-old was comfortable in his normal spot -- about three-quarters of the way back in seventh -- but failed to menace when roused on the third and final turn under new jockey Javier Castellano. It was only the fourth time since October 2012 that Suntracer had finished worse than fourth and the first poor showing at Arlington since an atypical eighth-place finish in the Secretariat (G1) almost exactly three years prior. "It was very out of character and it would be nice to have an excuse," Block continued. "Hopefully when we regroup, we'll figure out what happened."...
Glen Hill Farm's Global View (Galileo) exited his fourth-place finish in the Secretariat (G1) on Arlington Million Day in good form, according to his connections. The three-year-old colt had an odd trip from the rail under Julien Leparoux. Breaking alertly, the leggy $500,000 Keeneland purchase was in fifth after a half-mile, nearly 14 lengths behind leader and eventual runner-up Tourist (Tiznow). Left with much to do entering the stretch, nearly 7 1/4 lengths behind the leader, Global View closed well to finish fourth, a half-length behind Sheldon (Purim) and five lengths astern winner Adelaide (Galileo). "He came out really good," Lindsay Schultz, assistant to conditioner Tom Proctor, said Thursday morning. "He shipped to Churchill Downs yesterday to prepare for the fall. He was making his move late, but he's the type of horse who takes a while to get going. I think we are happy enough with his performance. He showed he fits." Those sentiments were echoed and elaborated upon by Glen Hill's president Craig Bernick: "He seems fine. A few days out and horses can give you a false reading, but if he is okay, he'll run back in September or October. If not, we'll send him to the farm and let him be a horse before bringing him back next year." Bernick mentioned the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita on September 28 or the Twilight Derby (G2) on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard as possible targets. "Our thoughts have always been that he's better when he goes further, but his best races so far have been around a mile," he said...
Mukhadram (Shamardal), who was fourth in Tuesday's Juddmonte International (Eng-G1), was "a little bit sore," Thursday morning, trainer William Haggas told Channel 4 Racing. "He's a little bit sore. He got struck into on his right hind," Haggis explained. "Not an excuse of any description. He's one out of five lame on that right hind, but I think that's nothing."...
A thorough look at the past and future of synthetic racetrack surfaces in the United States and an exposé of a racing con man have both been nominated for Team Valor International's Stan Bergstein Award, the annual $25,000 writing prize that recognizes excellent investigative journalism related to the Sport of Kings. The stories were released within a few days of each other in early August, with Ray Paulick filing his story "He Lied Like Nobody's Business': A Racing Con Man and His Trail of Deception" for the Paulick Report website, and Lucas Marquardt contributing "Is This the Death of Synthetic Racing? And If So, Why?" for the Thoroughbred Daily News's quarterly magazine. Paulick details the footprints of an Ohio man named Jonathan Pippin who exaggerated and distorted his involvement in horse racing as an owner and then bilked investors in his racing partnerships, before creating and distributing phony emails and recordings in the fallout of a rash of sudden horse deaths in Southern California. The full story is here. Paulick had previously been nominated for this year's Stan Bergstein Writing Award for a story on the outrageously makeshift Oxford Downs racetrack in Florida. Paulick won the Bergstein Award last year. Marquardt also was nominated last year for his TDN magazine story examining the drug testing laboratories that are utilized for American racing. His new piece looks at the meteoric rise and decline of synthetic surfaces at U.S. tracks, from a widespread adoption between 2005 and 2008 to a near abandonment since then, despite evidence that fewer horses break down on those surfaces than on conventional dirt. The full story is here. For the 2014 award, Team Valor also has nominated stories from Frank Angst in the Blood-Horse on drug compounders, Joe Drape in the New York Times on a series of drug issues across the U.S., Ed Donnelly for the Paulick Report on jockeys' use of illegal electrical devices and Bill Finley in a TDN column on the financial impact of drugs in racing when considering a steep decline in the average number of starts per horse. Team Valor encourages writers and editors to submit stories for consideration for the award to Jeff Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1...
Trainer J. Keith Desormeaux earned his 500th conditioning victory on Wednesday at Del Mar, with his brother Kent Desormeaux supplying a stellar ride aboard Texas Red (Afleet Alex) in the 6TH race, a straight maiden race for juveniles. This was the third time the brothers, who hail from Maurice, Louisiana, had teamed up during the current Del Mar season to meet in the winner's circle...
Last summer, Lighthouse Bay's (Speightstown) upset victory in the six-furlong Prioress at Saratoga marked the first career Grade 1 triumph for trainer George Weaver. On Wednesday, the 43-year-old conditioner added another first, claiming 10-year-old veteran steeplechaser Spy in the Sky (Thunder Gulch) for $30,000 on behalf of Northville, New York, native Gregg Ryan. "I figured if David Jacobson did it a few years ago, what the heck? It's a racehorse," Weaver said. "They already know how to jump. I'm sure Gregg can give me some pointers." Weaver said he is likely to run Spy in the Sky again, but not in a return to the flats. The chestnut gelding did run in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, a two-mile turf marathon on the eve of the Belmont Stakes. "I'll talk to Gregg a little bit, but if we run him we'll probably run him in a steeplechase race," Weaver said. "We haven't figured it all out yet. They've got a steeplechase at Belmont in about a month's time, so that might be something we do." Ryan, 54, holds the record for career victories by an amateur jockey in sanctioned steeplechase races with 162 since 1981. He is owner and president of Lee & Mason Financial Services in Northville, located about 45 minutes from Saratoga, and continues to ride periodically. "Gregg had a horse that got claimed from him a couple days ago for $40,000," Weaver said. "He might be interested in going back to riding, not steeplechase but point-to-point (races) or something like that in the future. He thought having a horse like this would be better than trying to make one. We talked about it and said, 'Let's claim him.' We might try to run him a time or two, but I think long-term the horse might serve a purpose for Gregg wherever he takes him." Weaver met Ryan several years ago when he showed up at the trainer's barn looking to get on some horses in the morning. "I didn't know who he was," Weaver remarked. "He wanted to freelance, and I usually defer to my wife (Cindy). I let her decide. She talked to him and he said he couldn't come in every day, but we needed some help. He started getting on horses and he was pretty good. He could get anything around there. We had some horses that could get on the bridle and be a little tough and he was good at riding them, and we appreciated his help. I tried to pay him but he wouldn't take the money. At the time, I didn't even know he was a very successful businessman. He's a great guy."...
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez continued his recent string of success with first-time starters on Wednesday at Saratoga by sending out Michael Dubb's Pancakesandbatter (Henrythenavigator) to a victory in the day's 4TH race, a $75,000 maiden claiming event for two-year-olds. Pancakesandbatter broke from the rail and settled behind a dawdling early pace of :23 3/5 for the opening quarter-mile and :47 3/5 for the half. The bay colt remained along the rail entering the stretch under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who waited patiently for a hole to open. Once a seam finally presented itself, Pancakesandbatter split horses willingly and drew off to a very professional 1 1/4-length win. "It wasn't a fast race, but he did it the right way," Rodriguez said. "We taught him how to take dirt and taught him how to behave. The race fell apart and he was able to split horses. Irad rode a perfect race." Son of accomplished turf runner Henrythenavigator, Rodriguez was tempted to enter Pancakesandbatter on the grass, but was dissuaded by the caliber of turf races at the Spa. "The grass maiden special weight races here looked very, very tough, so I figured we'd run him for $75,000 (on dirt)," Rodriguez explained. "If he got claimed, OK; if not, we'll figure out what to do with him. He was training good on the grass here, but when I saw the horses entered I said, 'Why am I going to do that?' We took a chance and he ran good." While Pancakesandbatter's pedigree gives Rodriguez options, the trainer says he will stick to dirt racing for the foreseeable future. "I don't know what I'll do with him now; I'm just going to enjoy the win right now," he said. "We could maybe take him to Philadelphia or Laurel and run in a little stakes over there. He ran a good race and I think he wants to go a little longer. I'll keep him on the dirt until he tells me otherwise."...
Northern Passion (First Samurai), Spring in the Air (Spring at Last) and Toasting (Congrats) were the respective third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the Ontario Matron (Can-G3) last out on July 26, and on Sunday will line back up against one another in the C$150,000 Seaway (Can-G3) at Woodbine. Northern Passion entered the Ontario Matron off a nice win in the Sweet Briar Too over the same seven Polytrack furlongs of the Seaway and is actually two-for-two at the distance, having also captured the Zadracarta last season. Spring in the Air was honored as Canada's 2012 champion two-year-old filly and captured the Hendrie (Can-G3) in late May prior to fourths in her last two. Grade 1-placed stakes winner Toasting will be making her seventh start of the year in the Seaway while trying Woodbine's synthetic for just the second time. Also in with a chance are a pair of current Canadian champions in Leigh Court (Grand Slam), unraced since running a close fourth in last October's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland, and defending Seaway heroine Youcan'tcatchme (The Daddy)...
Starstruck (Galileo) and Irish Mission (Giant's Causeway) ran one-two, respectively, in the Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth Park on July 27, and on Saturday the pair will line back up against one another in the $100,000 Violet S. (G3) over the same turf course and nine-furlong distance. Starstruck proved best by 1 1/4 lengths to defend her title in the Matchmaker in what was a first win since her 2013 victory in the same race. In the six races between those two races, the five-year-old chestnut also ran fourth in the Rodeo Drive (G1) and Cardinal H. (G3) as well as third in the Marie G. Krantz Memorial H. and Bayou H. Kerwin Clark retains the mount for trainer Larry Jones. Irish Mission took the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders' S., as well as the Woodbine Oaks in 2012 en route to being named the Canadian champion turf female and three-year-old filly for that year. Those two are her only stakes wins, but the chestnut mare would go on to place in the Queen's Plate, Nassau (Can-G2) and Orchid (G3) for trainer Mark Frostad. She was transferred to Christophe Clement for her five-year-old season and has thus far placed in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and Belmont Gold Cup Invitational as well as the Matchmaker. Irish Mission is primed for a return to the winner's circle and gets Julian Pimentel in the irons on Saturday. Others in with a chance in the Violet include last-out Dance Smartly (Can-G2) heroine Overheard (Macho Uno), Grade 3 victress Nellie Cashman (Mineshaft) and Eatontown (G3) runner-up Triple Arch (Arch)...
Daring Kathy (Wildcat Heir) tops a 10-filly field entered at Woodbine for Saturday's C$150,000 Ontario Colleen (Can-G3) going a mile on the turf. The David Fawkes trainee had a three-race win streak, including a pair of stakes wins in the Honey Ryder and Starfish Bay, snapped when third last out in the Lake George (G2) at Saratoga on July 23. The three-year-old bay is 4-3-0-1 on turf thus far and gets Justin Stein in the irons for Saturday's test. A competitive group of sophomore fillies has been assembled for the Ontario Colleen, and Executive Allure (Bold Executive) is just one of them. The dark bay miss will attempt to keep her current three-race win streak, including a last-out win in the July 12 Passing Mood, going with Eurico Da Silva aboard. Beaumont (G2) heroine Ready to Act (More Than Ready) enters the Ontario Colleen off her first loss of the year when third in the Penn Oaks on May 31 while Bison City runner-up Hot and Spicy (Tale of the Cat) returns to the turf for the first time since taking her maiden debut in March at Gulfstream Park. Earlier on Woodbine's Saturday program, seven turf distaffers will line up in the C$100,000 Flaming Page at 1 1/2 miles on the green, including Savvy Hester (Heatseeker), third by a head most recently in the Dance Smartly (Can-G2)...
Stanley Gold has been a dominant force during the summer meeting at Gulfstream Park, saddling the winners of $459,315 in purses -- more than $200,000 higher than the earnings of his closest rival in the trainer standings. The private trainer of Jacks or Better Farm has been particularly prominent in stakes competition during the summer months, sending out four winners and three second-place finishers from 12 starters. Gold will attempt to continue his success in Saturday's $75,000 Forty Niner S., a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds, with Best Plan Yet (Hear No Evil), a colt with a history of stakes success, just not recently. After establishing dominance in the Florida Stallion Stakes last year with a victory in the In Reality division, the bay has been winless in six starts this year, although the first three races were against some of the top three-year-olds in the country in the Gulfstream Derby, Holy Bull (G2) and Fountain of Youth (G2). With his pedigree, Gold has good reason to think that Best Plan Yet's future may well be in turf racing; he made his turf debut at Tampa Bay Downs in April with an encouraging third-place finish against stakes company. "I thought he ran well in that race, that's why I was so disappointed with his next race," Gold said. The bay returned in the June 14 English Channel two back but could only manage a wide-running sixth over the good going. "Sometimes they just don't perform. We're going to throw it out and try again," Gold stated. "Hindsight might tell you after this race (if he didn't handle the softer turf). Sometimes they don't like a particular turf course." Best Plan Yet went back to the main track on June 28, finishing a distant fourth behind Wildcat Red (D'wildcat) in the Quality Road S., and has been training sharply for his return to turf in the Forty Niner. He's slated to meet Ex Pirate (Malibu Moon) defeated Best Plan Yet in his turf debut but hasn't visited the winner's circle in two tries since. The Kirk Ziadie-trained gelding just returned to competition with a well-beaten sixth earlier this month at Gulfstream following a three-month break. Multiple stakes winner Bolita Boyz (Act of Duty) and dual stakes-placed Breitling Flyer (Ghostzapper) are also in with a chance...
Ten distaffers have been entered to go 1 3/8 miles over Del Mar's turf in Friday evening's $90,000 CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California H. Topic (Discreet Cat) captured last year's running by 3 1/4 lengths following a third-place effort in her stakes bow, the American Oaks (G1), but has been unable to visit the winner's circle since. The Neil Drysdale-trained four-year-old came close last out in the Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3), finishing second after having the lead in the stretch, but was disqualified and placed ninth in that 11-furlong contest. Charlie Em (Kheleyf), Customer Base (Lemon Drop Kid) and Perfecta (Pleasantly Perfect) will be facing off once again after finishing in that order in the Possibly Perfect H. on June 26...
Irad Ortiz Jr. continued his recent hot streak going into Travers Week at Saratoga, riding three winners from six mounts on Wednesday's card at the Spa. Since last Thursday, the 22-year-old jockey has guided 15 winners out of 40 mounts, clocking a win percentage of more than 37 percent during the past seven days. Nine of those wins came from a successful three-day weekend for Ortiz, who entered the winner's circle with nearly half of his 19 mounts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Puerto Rican native capped the weekend with victories in all three of his races on the Sunday card, most notably riding the longest shot on the board, Farhaan (Jazil), to upset the Alydar S. Currently second in the jockey standings with 38 wins through Wednesday, Ortiz has narrowed the gap to defending Spa leading rider Javier Castellano to six with 11 race days left in the meet. He has eight more wins than John Velazquez (third) and 16 more than his younger brother, Jose, who is fourth on the leaderboard. "Everything's going perfectly this week," Ortiz said. "I have no complaints. I don't pay too much attention (to the standings); I just like my horses." Ortiz, who tied Castellano for the riding title at the most recent Belmont spring/summer meeting with 51 wins each, has won back-to-back riding titles during Aqueduct's inner track meet (2012-13 and 2013-14) since moving his tack to New York in the summer of 2011. "Irad's been riding a lot of live horses for a lot of good people," said Steve Rushing, Ortiz's agent for nearly a year. "Plus, he's riding great. This place is just so tough. I mean, you never come in with high expectations because it's so competitive. But we've definitely exceeded anything that we would've expected. He's been having a great meet, and hopefully it continues for the next two weeks."...
Champion sprinter Benny the Bull (Lucky Lionel) will take up residence for the 2015 breeding season at John and Leslie Malone's Bridlewood Farm near Ocala, Florida, according to an announcement made by owner Greg James. His fee has not yet been determined. The dark bay is due back in Florida sometime before the end of December, returning to the United States after his third consecutive year of shuttling to Brazil. From his first crop, three-year-olds of 2014, Benny the Bull has sired 20 winners along with six placed horses from just 32 starters, ranking him third among leading second crop sires in Florida by lifetime winners. They include Joe Pike, a Grade 1 scorer in Puerto Rico who has 10 wins and two seconds from 12 starts, as well as Bull Account, also a Grade 1 horse in Puerto Rico. In 2013, when his first crop were just two-year-olds, Benny the Bull was ranked among the top Florida freshman sires with six winners, all of whom won maiden special weights in their first starts.
For Friday or Next Raceday
AUGUST 22, 2014
by Dick Powell
The Travers Stakes (G1) will be contested for the 145th time this Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. Run at 1 1/4 miles on the main track, its purse has been raised to $1.25 million and this year's renewal has attracted a field of 10.
Adding intrigue to the proceedings this year will be the speedy Bayern BAYERN (Offlee Wild) who shipped to Saratoga from California on Wednesday. My opinion was that Bob Baffert would keep the Haskell (G1) winner on the West Coast and wait for the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) on September 20. The good news is that it seems that Baffert was looking for a reason to not ship but when everything went well after the Haskell, he decided to ship him East.
After failing in the Preakness, Baffert brought Bayern back in the Woody Stephens (G2) on Belmont Stakes day and he romped by seven lengths in fast time. It looked, at that point, that if he ran on Travers Day, it would be in the seven-furlong King's Bishop (G1) but Baffert, as is his habit, shipped Bayern to Monmouth Park where he thoroughly dominated the nine-furlong Haskell.
The question that he needs to answer is Bayern a legitimate two-turn horse or did the speed-favoring Monmouth Park racing strip carry him home? Yes, he should have the lead in the Travers all to himself so there is always the danger of lone, uncontested speed. Can Bayern go to the front and never look back in a 10-furlong race?
The Travers will be the fourth time that Tonalist (Tapit) and Wicked Strong (Hard Spun) have met. The first time was in a key allowance race on February 22 down at Gulfstream Park, which was won by the immensely talented Constitution (Tapit). Second that day was Tonalist and fourth was Wicked Strong.
It was Tonalist's third career start and Wicked Strong clearly disliked the Gulfstream Park main track. They met again in the Belmont when Tonalist gamely won in a wide trip. Wicked Strong got very hot before the race as the big crowd seemed to set him off.
They met for a third time in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Wicked Strong turned the tables on his rival with blinkers added, receiving an aggressive ride from Rajiv Maragh . He went up after the lead around the clubhouse turn and closely stalked the early pace. When Tonalist made a run at him turning for home, Wicked Strong fought off the challenge and drew off to a 2 1/4- length win.
Since the Jim Dandy, Wicked Strong seems to have trained better than ever. Tonalist, who wore a bar shoe in his training going into the Belmont, has two five-furlong breezes here, the second one way faster than the first. Not sure what it means but it seems that Wicked Strong is continuing to maintain his form, which has been solid since his win in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1).
Commanding Curve (Master Command) turned out to be the key horse in the Kentucky Derby (G1) when he rallied for second at 37-to-1 odds. He failed in the Belmont and might have ran a sneaky good race in the Jim Dandy when he raced closer to the pace than normal. He has a huge late kick when he's right and I expect that he will race farther back than he did in the Jim Dandy and make one run. As good as he was in the Derby, he's still eligible for first-level allowance company.
V. E. Day (English Channel) was dismissed as a turf horse based on his breeding but he won the Curlin Stakes here going nine furlongs on the main track. He gets a race over the track but has to pick up seven pounds. As long as the seven pounds includes Javier Castellano, it should not be a problem.
Kid Cruz (Lemon Drop Kid) had some buzz around him when he won back-to-back stakes races down in Maryland. When he ran poorly in the Preakness, it looked like he would be back on the "B" circuit of three-year-old stakes races but he was a fast winner of a listed event on Belmont Stakes day and then came back to win the Dwyer (G2) going 1 1/16 miles.
The colt exits a good third in the Jim Dandy and while never threatening the top two, and visually it looked like he was just in it as a prep race. Like Commanding Curve, I expect that Kid Cruz will take back and make one run. In his favor is the hottest jockey at Saratoga will be in the irons, Irad Ortiz, who wins at 25 percent with his route mounts.
For many years, the Haskell was just as good a prep race for the Travers as the Jim Dandy. But, beginning in 2005, seven Jim Dandy winners have won the Travers compared to only one Haskell winner. The race over the track seems to be the key factor and we will see if it is in play on Saturday as Haskell winner Bayern represents a formidable challenge to Jim Dandy supremacy.
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