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Princess of Sylmar retired

Princess of Sylmar made it four straight Grade 1 wins by dethroning Royal Delta in the 2013 Beldame (NYRA/Adam Coglianese/David Alcosser)
Multiple Grade 1 winner and $2 million-earner Princess of Sylmar has been retired, it was announced Friday night.

A homebred racing for Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable, the Todd Pletcher trainee hadn't duplicated her stellar 2013 form this campaign. She was most recently a dull fifth in the August 22 Personal Ensign at Saratoga, and exited the race with a case of the "thumps," an electrolyte imbalance.

The following appeared on Princess of Sylmar's Facebook page:

"I'm hanging up my racing hooves. This has been an amazing ride, and we owe everything to the fans who have shown so much love and support. Retirement isn't an end, but a new beginning. Thank you. We love you."

An announcement was likewise posted on the filly's official Twitter page:

"Retirement is calling, but we will never forget all of the fans and all of the love. This has been a life-changing experience for all of us."

Princess of Sylmar compiled a championship-caliber season in 2013. After springing a 38-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks, defeating Beholder, the chestnut went on to dominate the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama. She made it a Grade 1 grand slam next time in the Beldame, where she rolled past three-time Eclipse Award winner and defending Beldame champion Royal Delta.

Stanco sportingly opted to ship his New York-based star out west for the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita, where she would face Beholder on her own home track. Unfortunately, Princess of Sylmar threw in a subpar effort and trailed home last of six, while Beholder streaked to a 4 1/4-length victory. That cost Princess of Sylmar a divisional Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old filly, and lifted Beholder to her second Eclipse title.

Princess of Sylmar defeated Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)
Princess of Sylmar reappeared in the April 6 Cat Cay at Aqueduct and cruised home by 3 1/2 lengths. Although a close second in the June 7 Ogden Phipps, just a head short of Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar did beat Beholder, who reported home an injured fourth.

The Pennsylvania-bred then shipped near her birthplace for the historic Delaware Handicap, but she couldn't catch front-running Belle Gallantey. Princess of Sylmar, who was spotting her rival eight pounds as the 123-pound highweight, had to settle for second.

Connections opted to try Princess of Sylmar in blinkers in the Personal Ensign, an equipment change that did not have the desired result. Following her 13-length loss, she was discovered to have the thumps, prompting her team to take time before formulating plans.

Hers was a heartwarming story from the beginning. Stanco raced her dam, Storm Dixie, and planned to breed her to Grand Slam. But that well-established stallion was sidelined by injury right before the intended match, and Storm Dixie instead visited the court of a first-season sire -- Majestic Warrior. The serendipitous result was Princess of Sylmar, named after Ron and Betsy Houghton's farm where she was foaled near Christiana, Pennsylvania.

A 19-length maiden conqueror at Penn National as a juvenile in November 2012, Princess of Sylmar kept up her momentum when rising in class at Aqueduct. She thrashed entry-level allowance foes that December, and opened her sophomore season with similar routs in both the Busanda and Busher. Her four-race winning streak was halted by Close Hatches in the 2013 Gazelle, but Princess of Sylmar gained revenge in the Kentucky Oaks, and rose to national prominence.

Ed Stanco hailed his homebred as a "blessing beyond once in a lifetime" (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Princess of Sylmar retires with a mark of 15-9-3-0, $2,017,220, just eight days before she may have defended her title in the Beldame.

"Preparing her for her next race was taking longer than I expected," Pletcher said in the release posted on Facebook. "Because she will miss this year's running of the Beldame and the Spinster, Ed and I decided that timing is such that we decided to retire her."

"We were with her from birth and watched her grow up to be one of the finest fillies in the world," Stanco said. "Now she will enter the next phase of her life.

"The Princess was a blessing beyond once in a lifetime and she has provided our partners, families, friends and racing fans with unparalleled joy.

"My partners and I want to personally thank Joe Brocklebank our trusted advisor, Ron and Betsy Houghton who raised the Princess, Mike Smith, Javier Castellano and of course Todd and his team for using their skills to develop her into a classic filly.

"We also want to thank the connections of Beholder, Royal Delta and Close Hatches, because without them we wouldn't have had the world class competition that made racing the Princess so much fun."

Sherman: Chrome looks as good as ever

California Chrome needed a little persuasion to go into the gate during his schooling session (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)
With trainer Art Sherman looking on, California Chrome made his final preparations Friday for his return to racing in Saturday's Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. Having arrived late Thursday, it was Sherman's first look at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner since he's come to Bensalem.

"He looked great today," Sherman said. "He was on the bit. I couldn't be more pleased. Right now he's as good as I've ever seen him."

Well aware of the layoff since his dead-heat fourth in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, and the current state of the other Penn Derby contenders, Sherman was quite frank.

"They have an edge on him," he said. "We hope he comes back sound and know what's ahead of us. He'll have to be at his best to best these horses. Wherever you come back you need some starting point, and for Chrome this is it.

"You always wonder in the back of your mind," Sherman said regarding his race-readiness, "but I'll tell you one thing: when you put him with company, he's a different horse."

Along with galloping 1 1/2 miles Friday morning, California Chrome spent some time schooling at the gate.

"He was a little reluctant at first," Sherman said. "But once he was in he was fine. He's so professional. He does what he wants to do. You know he's a little spoiled. We don't worry, though. He doesn't kick, doesn't do anything crazy. He's just Chrome."

Much has been made this week about his post position, having drawn the rail in the eight-horse field. The inside did not play favorably for him in the Belmont Stakes.

"I'll watch to see how the rail is playing," Sherman said. "But if he gets beat I hate to make excuses. If you have the best horse, you have the best horse. The other jocks know he's down there and they'll give him no quarter. We just hope he gets a clean trip."

Sherman also knows how dangerous Haskell winner Bayern can be if he's allowed to stroll to an easy lead.

The dual classic winner got down to business in his gallop (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)
"Chrome can be a speed horse himself," Sherman said. "But I'll leave it up to Victor (Espinoza, Chrome's jockey). We'll let him judge the pace and move earlier if we need to."

Even though California Chrome's resume includes two classic wins on top of victories in the San Felipe and the Santa Anita Derby, with the re-emergence of Shared Belief, there are some who feel the three year-old championship is not yet a done deal.

"It's always been a great honor (to win the three-year-old championship)," Sherman said. "Jerry (Hollendorfer, trainer of Shared Belief) and I have been good friends for 30 years and I've been chasing his butt for a long time. I'd like to kick it one time.

"I would have to think the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic would earn those honors. The Breeders' Cup Classic will probably be one of the highlights of the year, one way or the other."

Meanwhile, Shared Belief will use the September 27 Awesome Again at Santa Anita as his springboard to the Breeders' Cup.

The undefeated champion missed the Triple Crown races due to a foot ailment, but given ample time to recover, showed he had lost none of his ability. The Candy Ride gelding comes off an impressive win against older rivals in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 24.

"We've been very fortunate to make a comeback," Hollendorfer said Thursday morning at Santa Anita. "He can run from anywhere; he can run near the front, he can stalk or he can come from behind, so we're not worried about that."

Shared Belief's lone race on a dirt track came in the Los Alamitos Derby July 5, when he rolled to a handy 4 1/4-length victory. Santa Anita recently installed a new dirt track, on which Shared Belief will make his debut in the Awesome Again.

Shared Belief is scheduled to have a four-furlong blowout on Golden Gate's Tapeta surface Tuesday, after which he would ship to Santa Anita.

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Penn Derby rivals probing for any rust on Chrome

Bayern was "angry" after his flop in the Travers (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)
California Chrome's race-fit rivals are looking to spring an upset in Saturday's Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, hoping that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is a little ring-rusty off the three-month break.

"I think if there's any time you can beat him, maybe coming off a layoff, this would be the time," said Jim Barnes, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert's assistant who will saddle Bayern. "He's a great horse, taking nothing away from him. He's a classic horse. He may well show up Saturday and prove that he is a champion."

A smashing winner of the Haskell two starts back, Bayern galloped once around the Parx oval on Friday. The dark bay seeks to rebound off a last in the Travers.

"After the race, in the stall, that's the only way I can describe it -- he looked angry," Barnes said of the Travers flop. "He knew he got beat, from what I could see, from his body language. He can be kind of aggressive, kind of feisty, and he didn't look the same.

"He never missed a day. We gave him like five days off after the Travers, just because we traveled so much. We're thinking, well, it was a mistake going to the Travers. We'll see how he looks now. We know what's ahead of us and where we're going to go, and if he's doing well we'll take a shot at Pennsylvania. He showed Bob he was ready to come to this race, with the works."

Candy Boy enters in peak form, according to trainer John Sadler.

"I think he is as good as or better than he's ever been," Sadler said. "We gave him some time off after the (Kentucky) Derby.

"We had a nightmare and no chance (when 13th) in the Kentucky Derby. He had a wide post and got wiped out, so we gave him a little time off. We ran him once in California before we thought about running out of state. Unfortunately, that was with Shared Belief. He ran a good race that day (second in the Los Alamitos Derby) and beat the third horse a long way.

"In West Virginia, he ran great over there (just nipped by Penn Derby rival Tapiture). We got home and thought the spacing was good to this race, so here we are.

"We gave him a good gallop this morning," Sadler said Friday. I think he knows when we're going. He never seemed to have to take a specific type track, so hopefully it will be something he likes. He seems to be very adaptable."

Candy Boy, who was ridden by Corey Nakatani in the West Virginia Derby, gets a rider switch to Joel Rosario.

"We've won tons of races together while he was here in California," Sadler said of the partnership. "He rode his first winner in Southern California for me and we've had a lot of success. We've had a lot of success, whether it was Sidney's Candy or Twirling Candy or Zazu. He's been leading rider, I've been leading trainer. He's also a friend of mine.

"When he came over for this race, we decided to put him on. Nothing against Corey. He rode my horse very well last time, but if Joel is available, we're going to use him.

"He's a stalker," the trainer added of Candy Boy's preferred running style. "He wants to be just off of the speed. I don't want him way back. He should get a stalking type trip. It would fit him very well. Baffert is clearly talking about wanting the lead with that horse (Bayern), and California Chrome will be up there early. We'll be just behind them."

Tapiture overcame traffic trouble to edge Candy Boy (right) in the West Virginia Derby (Coady Photography)
Tapiture also plans to stalk, according to Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

"I think Tapiture is going to be stalking. I think there's good pace in the race and he's pretty handy away from there. I see him having a nice stalking trip. He drew well on the outside (post 7).

"You run against the Derby and Preakness winner -- that's not an easy task," Blasi said of facing California Chrome. "Those races aren't flukes that he ran. If he's still at that caliber, he's going to be hard to beat.

"We do believe that Tapiture is bigger, stronger and he's fresh right now and as fit as he can be. It's a horse race -- they all have to get in the gate and get around there. We're happy with our horse is doing, and it's hard to worry about how somebody else's is.

"He's just fresh, you know? We gave him plenty of time after the Derby (where he finished 15th). We missed the other two Triple Crown races. We got him freshened back up in the Matt Winn (June 14 at Churchill) win. He's coming into this race third race off the layoff with plenty of spacing in between his races.

"I think the three-year-old crop is getting better as they go. You look at Shared Belief, California Chrome; these are a nice bunch of horses. Candy Boy, Tapiture, the horse of Bob's -- Bayern -- it's a good group. I wouldn't turn any of them down to train."

Tapiture and his stablemate Untapable, the morning-line favorite in the Grade 1 Cotillion, schooled in the Parx paddock at 10 a.m. (EDT) Friday.

"Both of these horses' works and preparation up to this race have been exactly where we want them to be and we're happy where they are right now," Blasi said of the Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebreds.

"Tapiture galloped a mile. His energy level is good. He got over the track really well."

"She (Untapable) just jogged on the track and galloped an easy mile. We weren't going to do much. She's carrying great weight.

"I love how she looks. She's fresh and happy. They worked together. She's worked with (turf veteran) Regally Ready. She's had some great preparation."

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Canadian classic heroes Coltimus Prime, Ami's Holiday square off in Ontario Derby

Coltimus Prime has "transformed" into a top competitor (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

Prince of Wales champ Coltimus Prime will take on Breeders' Stakes winner Ami's Holiday in Sunday's co-featured Grade 3, $150,000 Ontario Derby at Woodbine.

The Justin Nixon-trained dark bay, who is named in honor of the leader of the Autobots from the Transformers series, will look to add graded status to his improving credentials in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack stake.

Coltimus Prime rose to prominence in November, breaking his maiden by a widening eight lengths before completing his juvenile campaign with a strong second-place finish, defeated just a neck, to Ontario Derby rival Jose Sea View in the Display Stakes.

Nixon targeted the Triple Crown with Coltimus Prime, saddling the colt to a lackluster run in the Tampa Bay Derby in his sophomore debut before shipping him to Keeneland for a fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Off the Kentucky Derby trail and re-focused on the Canadian classics, Coltimus Prime thrived in his return to Woodbine, finishing second and then first in a pair of allowance events before setting a quick tempo en route to a ninth-place effort in the Queen's Plate.

On July 29, making just his second career start on dirt, the dark bay colt put together the biggest performance of his career to capture the Prince of Wales Stakes, second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, at Fort Erie. Sent to post at odds of 5-1, Coltimus Prime, with Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons for the first time, made every pole a winning one, covering 1 3/16-miles in 1:54 2/5.

"It was the biggest moment of my career," Nixon stated. "Coming into the stretch, and looking at the fractions, I thought we had a pretty good chance to win it and when he kicked on it was awful special. He was just dynamite."

Following the Prince of Wales coup, Nixon shipped Coltimus Prime to Saratoga with big aspirations.

"We were thinking of running in the Travers," the horseman clarified. "We brought him down there and worked him over the track and he just didn't work as sharp as we would like him to, so we backed away from that plan and came home."

Since his return to Woodbine, Coltimus Prime has breezed twice over the Woodbine Polytrack, including a swift five-panel effort in 1:00 2/5 on September 14 with da Silva aboard. That sharp work matches nicely with a bullet work recorded by Coltimus Prime on July 22, just before his big effort in the Prince of Wales.

Ami's Holiday returns to the Polytrack for the Ontario Derby following his grassy win in the Breeders' (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

"He hadn't worked on Poly since before the Prince of Wales so I asked Eurico, who worked him last time, to give him a little squeeze at the top of the lane and make sure he gets something out of it," Nixon explained. "I don't need him going in :59 every week. Prior to the Prince of Wales, he worked between races so we knew he'd be a little geared up and put in a pretty fast work. Does he need to work that fast? I 'm not convinced of that. I'm happy with how he completed the most recent work and he's been training very well coming into this race."

Although Coltimus Prime's best efforts have come when more forwardly placed, Nixon isn't convinced his colt needs the lead.

"Arguably, his best races are on the front. But, if the fractions are too quick, he doesn't need to be there," the trainer said. "His best efforts have come when he's comfortable on the front and the fractions are reasonable. I still think he's tactical."

A graded win for Coltimus Prime, bred in Ontario by co-owner Jayson Horner, would be a feather in the cap of the Cabernet Racing group.

"It's a graded stake and one of the better races remaining for straight three-year-olds across North America," Nixon remarked. "It would mean a lot for Mr. Horner to get a big piece of it given that he still owns the mare (Certainly Special) and it would also help his half-sister Crysta's Court in the breeding shed as well."

To earn that special victory, Coltimus Prime will have to fend off the closing kick of Ami's Holiday, who made a breakthrough of his own when taking Woodbine's Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, in his first attempt on turf.

The Ivan Dalos homebred became a graded winner in October with a last-to-first rally to win the Grey Stakes and opened his sophomore campaign with a fourth-place run in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19. The bay son of Harlan's Holiday then returned to Woodbine, where he narrowly missed in the Marine Stakes when a neck third after lacking racing room in the final strides.

Trained by Josie Carroll, Ami's Holiday put in a peak performance in the Queen's Plate, rallying from 13th position out of the difficult 15 post, to be second behind filly Lexie Lou. He continued his good form in the Prince of Wales, once again rallying while wide for show money as the favorite, before putting forth a sharp turn of foot down the lane to his turf coup in the Breeders'.

Ami's Holiday has posted a trio of quick works following the Breeders', including a September 14 move of 1:00 3/5 for five furlongs. Luis Contreras retains the mount.

Also featured on Sunday's card is the $125,000 La Lorgnette, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack stakes for three-year-old fillies. The strong eight-horse field is led by Bison City heroine Unspurned and Grade 2 vixen Llanarmon.

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Line of David represented by first winner

Line of David prevailed in the Arkansas Derby while making his stakes bow (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

Grade 1 winner Line of David had his first winner as a sire on Friday when Rimsky captured the 5TH race at Gulfstream Park.

Despite hitting the side of the gate at the start, the juvenile filly took command and never looked back en route to a five-length romp under jockey Amy Fontanez. The chestnut miss, who is trained by Howard Mills for Lion of Judah Racing Stable, completed a mile over the sloppy, sealed dirt in 1:40 4/5 after the race was moved from the turf to the main track.

Rimsky followed in her sire's hoofsteps by taking four tries to break her maiden. Line of David got the job done while making his turf debut at Santa Anita in February 2010 after three prior tries on synthetic tracks. He opened his career on Hollywood Park's all-weather surface in 2009, finishing ninth while going six furlongs, then stretched out to a mile when shipped to Santa Anita next out and did better when third under the line.

The John Sadler-trained son of Lion Heart opened his sophomore season with a seventh-placing at the Arcadia, California, venue on February 5, 2010, but returned eight days later on the green to record a first career victory by 1 1/2 lengths at a mile.

Line of David stayed over course and distance to take an allowance a month later by 4 1/2 lengths before shipping to Oaklawn Park for a gutsy quarter-length decision in his stakes and dirt debut, the Arkansas Derby, over Super Saver. The duo met up one race later in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, with Super Saver eventually sporting the rose garland in the winner's circle while Line of David was led back to his stall after finishing 18th in the 20-horse field.

Campaigned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, the chestnut would not race again after being purchased a month after the Derby by B. Wayne Hughes and retired to his Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. The colt headed to the breeding shed with a 3-0-1 mark from seven starts and $662,000 in career earnings.

Line of David, whose son Dirt Monster made his career debut a nice third-place effort in the Manzano Stakes at Woodbine on August 31, is out of the winning Capote mare Emma's Dilemma. His fourth dam is the Nashua mare Gold Digger, who ran second in the 1965 Kentucky Oaks and would go on to produce breed-shaping sire Mr. Prospector.

This female family also includes dual Canadian Horse of the Year and Eclipse Award winner Chief Bearhart as well as Grade 1 victor Forestry, both notable stallions in their own right.

Line of David, who began his breeding career in 2011 for $7,500, stood the 2014 season at Spendthrift for a $6,000 live-foal fee.

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Bullheaded Boy, Temper Mint Patty headline Belmont juvenile stakes

Sunday's card at Belmont Park will be highlighted by a pair of New York-bred juvenile stakes races -- the $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard and $150,000 Joseph A. Gimma -- which will both be contested at seven furlongs on the main track, and serve as a prelude for the Sleepy Hollow and Maid of the Mist, to be run on October 18, Empire Showcase Day.

The Bongard will feature a promising collection of New York-bred two-year-olds, headed by the Todd Pletcher-trained Bullheaded Boy.

Bullheaded Boy, the 9-5 favorite on the morning-line, debuted over a sloppy track on July 31 at Saratoga in a five-furlong dash. The son of Bullsbay prompted the pace that day before edging clear to prevail by a half-length. The Gary Barber colorbearer made his next start in the Funny Cide Stakes for New York-breds at 6 1/2 furlongs, but was no match for the talented pair of Upstart and Bustin It and finished third, beaten 9 1/4 lengths.

Bullheaded Boy drew post 5, and Hall of Famer John Velazquez retains the mount.

Tizquick, trained by John Kimmel for GoldMark Farm, also had the misfortune of encountering Upstart in his first start. The $50,000 yearling purchase debuted on August 15 at the Spa, and was beaten 5 1/4 lengths in a 5 1/2-furlong affair.

Junior Alvarado will be back aboard Tizquick, who is 5-1 on the morning-line and drew post 4.

The addition of blinkers helped Saratoga Heater immensely in his second start, and continued improvement could be possible in the Bongard. Both of the Temple City colt's first two starts came over sloppy tracks at the Spa, but produced starkly different results.

In his debut, Saratoga Heater was beaten 10 lengths by Bullheaded Boy, but won by 2 1/4 lengths at second asking equipped with blinkers for the first time.

Previously trained by Al Stall, the bay colt will go out for Lisa Lewis and be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario. Saratoga Heater colt sits at 7-2 on the morning-line and drew the rail.

Rounding out the field are Banana Thief, who broke his maiden by 5 1/2 front-running lengths on turf in his latest start; Market Conduct, a 2 1/2-length maiden victor on August 10 at the Spa; and Chloe's Wonderboy, who took a $25,000 maiden claimer on August 30 at Parx Racing.

The Gimma, which is restricted to fillies, is headlined by impressive debut winner Temper Mint Patty. The Congrats filly broke her maiden by a neck on August 29 at Saratoga in a gritty performance for trainer Dale Romans. She tracked a swift pace along the inside that day, was put to a drive rounding the far turn, and overhauled My Super Nova, who will also contest the Gimma, in the final jumps.

"I wish they all were as easy to train as her," Romans said. "She has a lot of talent, and hopefully will improve off (her debut). She was so professional already, and she's just been staying the course since that race. (Seven furlongs) won't be a problem for her. She sat behind horses, took dirt, and came running."

Temper Mint Patty, 4-1 on the morning-line, drew the rail and will be ridden again by Irad Ortiz Jr.

My Super Nova will represent trainer George Weaver in the Gimma. The daughter of Super Saver dueled through strong fractions in her unveiling on August 29, but succumbed late to Temper Mint Patty.

Joel Rosario takes the return call on My Super Nova, 7-2 on the morning-line, and the pair will depart from post 6.

The Gimma also features stakes winner Myfourchix, 3-1 on the morning-line. The Rick Schosberg-trained bay filly commenced her career with a strong second-place finish on July 30 at Saratoga. Rather than enter her back in a maiden race, Schosberg decided to take a shot in the 6 1/2-furlong Seeking the Ante Stakes on August 24 at the Spa and was rewarded with a three-length victory.

Cornelio Velasquez will again ride Myfourchix, and the duo drew the outermost post 7.

The field will also be joined by Hard to Stay Notgo, a sharp maiden winner on August 6 at Saratoga; Evrybdymstgetstonz, runner-up in the Lady Finger Stakes at Finger Lakes in her most recent outing; and Freudie Annie and Majestic Bloom, who broke their maidens on turf at first asking.

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Artemis Agrotera faces elders again in Gallant Bloom

Artemis Agrotera can enhance her championship credentials by beating older rivals again in the Gallant Bloom (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

In one of the more emphatic displays of superiority seen at the recent Saratoga meet, the three-year-old filly Artemis Agrotera slammed older rivals by 6 1/2 lengths in the August 23 Ballerina for her second career Grade 1 victory.

The daughter of Roman Ruler will attempt to replicate that outcome Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, a 6 1/2-furlong prep for the upcoming Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

As was the case in the Ballerina, Artemis Agrotera will break from the rail in the Gallant Bloom, with only five rivals to her outside. The New York-bred has proven a world-beater at the Spa, winning all three outings at the ancient Union Avenue course by a combined 28 1/2 lengths, but hasn't been quite as invincible elsewhere.

Although a 1 1/4-length winner of last year's Frizette over Sweet Reason, who endured a troubled trip, Artemis Agrotera finished up the track in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the June 7 Acorn at Belmont over a mile.

The Gallant Bloom figures to play out like the Ballerina with the sophomore chasing La Verdad early. That filly ran fifth in both the Honorable Miss and Ballerina during the Saratoga season after starting her career nine-for-11, but is undefeated in three outings over the Belmont strip. The Linda Rice trainee scored her most important victory at Aqueduct in April when she took the Distaff Handicap in wire-to-wire fashion by 3 3/4 lengths.

Merry Meadow has enjoyed a solid campaign this season, taking the course-and-distance Vagrancy Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths back in May, and following up with a photo-finish loss in the Bed o' Roses Handicap and a third in the Honorable Miss. The Henny Hughes filly has never finished out of the money in eight tries over Big Sandy.

Bridgehampton figures to show early gas as well. The Bernardini filly romped by more than five lengths in the My Juliet at Parx Racing two back, and last time trailed home fourth, by only 1 1/2 lengths, in the $95,000 Shine Again at Saratoga. That race's other three participants were Grade 1 winners Better Lucky and Grace Hall, and champion My Miss Aurelia.

Willet, one of three New York natives in the field, was a distant third in the Ballerina. The Grade 2-placed mare has won several state-bred stakes in recent years. Completing the field is Grade 2-placed Classic Point, who has posted strong works leading up to her debut for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, whose father Allen previously trained the Flatter mare.

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Miss Behaviour tackles competitive Charles Town Oaks

Miss Behaviour brings a trio of runner-up graded efforts into the Charles Town Oaks (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Miss Behaviour headlines an overflow field of 12 entered to sprint seven furlongs Saturday in the Grade 3, $500,000 Charles Town Oaks, the feature event scheduled for the track's sixth annual Race for the Ribbon program. The Phil Schoenthal trainee is suffering from a case of seconditis lately but could break through with a victory against this group.

The bay daughter of Jump Start is no stranger to the stakes ranks, recording wins in the Matron at Belmont and Monmouth Park's Sorority during her juvenile season. She ran second in the Sharp Cat back at Belmont before finishing fifth, her only unplaced run to date, in the Delta Downs Princess to close out 2013.

Thus far as a sophomore Miss Behaviour has captured the Miss Preakness and placed third in the Stormy Blues as well as second in her past trio of graded efforts -- the Prioress, Test and Victory Ride. The Test, a seven-furlong Grade 1 affair, saw the bay lass rally to just miss by a length on the wire behind Sweet Reason.

"I don't think there's any seconditis there," Schoenthal stated. "If that's the way it goes, there's no shame in defeat facing that type of horses. A lot of times it's the trip and the pace and how it shakes out. She's the kind of horse that gives her best effort and is always right there."

Schoenthal believes the setup on Saturday night may play to his filly's strengths.

"That (Delta Princess) was a mile at the end of a long campaign and shipping across the country and she probably just wasn't at her best that day. In the Victory Ride and Test she proved her worth against the best fillies in the country going six and a half or seven furlongs," he said.

"The bullring (at Charles Town) plays to her advantage. Hopefully she'll be on or near the lead turning for home and the closers will have to pick up their rally on the turn and weave through traffic on the turn rather than making their move."

With his filly installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Schoenthal hopes for an effort that keeps his stable star moving forward in the ranks of the country's top female sprinters.

"She is without question the greatest horse I've ever been around," he praised. "I want everyone to see how special she is."

Miss Behaviour will get a new pilot in jockey Jevian Toledo on Saturday.

Size is something of a puzzle in this race following a resounding defeat in the Alabama, but could return to form on the cutback to seven furlongs.

"The purse and the distance are the reasons to try the Oaks," trainer Bill Mott remarked. "We think she could be effective. She's proven that she's pretty good at a mile and a sixteenth. We think between she could be effective between seven furlongs and a mile and a sixteenth."

The First Samurai filly opened her career with three wins and a second over the spring and early summer, including victory in the Iowa Oaks on June 28. She was given seven weeks off following that contest and returned August 16 for the Alabama at Saratoga.

Unfortunately, Size was ninth and last in that 10-furlong contest, her first time running farther than 1 1/16 miles. The chestnut miss might enjoy Saturday's cutback in distance and keeps Junior Alvarado in the irons.

"I don't know what happened," Mott added. "She didn't want any part of a mile and a quarter. At least on that day she didn't."

Saintly Joan and Aqua Regia faced off in the Monmouth Oaks last out with the latter finishing second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of her third-place running rival. However, once the race had been declared official, their order had been reversed by the stewards. That gave Saintly Joan, winner of the Little Silver two races prior, the runner-up spot while Aqua Regia was forced to settle for third in just her second stakes attempt.

Saintly Joan has proven capable over multiple surfaces and distances (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)

The Tom Albertrani-conditioned Aqua Regia will be cutting back to less than a mile for the first time since December and gets Eddie Castro returning to the saddle.

"For us, it looks like our filly is coming off a good race," Albertrani said of Aqua Regia. "We think she could handle the track. We're taking our chances with her stepping her up a little. But we felt our filly is coming off a nice race and felt this race might set up well for her."

The versatile Saintly Joan, who comes from trainer Patrick McBurney's shedrow, has competed short and long, on dirt, synthetic and turf, thus far in her short career. Angel Serpa was aboard the Northern Afleet filly for the Little Silver and has the call on Saturday.

"She was down on the inside and kind of saving ground and looking good," McBurney described Saintly Joan's troubled trip in the Monmouth Oaks. "It was almost at the point of the turn where there are a few little trees in there and we lost sight of her. When I picked her back up she was back in sixth place down on the inside. She actually hit the inside rail when the horse came down on her."

Come Saturday night, McBurney just hopes Saintly Joan not only gets a better trip, but also handles the configuration of the Charles Town oval.

"You never know when a horse shipping in will handle those turns, but we'll see," he added. "She's a good-sized, big three-year-old filly. Her running style is that she likes to be in the mix. Hopefully, we'll get a good stalking trip."

Stormy Novel ran second to Miss Behaviour in the Miss Preakness on May 16 and hasn't been seen in competition since taking the July 20 Miss Woodford. The John Servis charge will break from the rail while making her return in this spot under Kendrick Carmouche.

"To me, she went into the race really, really good, and she ran second out of the one hole, but it proved to me she was a quality filly," Servis said of Stormy Novel's effort in the Miss Preakness. "I ran her back a little soon in the Jostle, and it was home (at Parx), but it was too quick back for her. So I gave her some time, and she ran super in the Monmouth race (winning the Miss Woodford) and she's doing great for this race."

After winning the Miss Woodford, Servis decided to give his filly two months off -- a decision he attributes to little else but timing.

"The only other race in our timeframe was the Prioress, but I'd have to ship to Saratoga and then come right back in three weeks and ship to Charles Town," he explained. "I just figured I'd skip the Prioress and go right to this. My filly's doing awesome. If I'm not top three, she's just not good enough."

Also of note in the Charles Town's feature contest Saturday are Executive Allure and Nesso. The former scored her opening two races this year and exits a runner-up effort in Woodbine's Ontario Colleen. Nesso won the seven-furlong Gasparilla at Tampa Bay Downs in January and is already on her fourth trainer.

Stakes vixen Kiss to Remember and dual stakes-placed Pixie Dust complete the main body of the field. Discreetly Elusive, a half-length third in the Miss Woodford two back, and Saratoga maiden-claiming romper Sky Crew need defections to draw in from the also-eligible list.

There are five other stakes on the Race for the Ribbon card. Pants on Fire faces seven rivals in the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful going seven furlongs off a neck second in the Left Bank at Belmont Park on September 5. That followed a half-length second in the Philip H. Iselin and a third to open his seven-year-old season in the July 27 Monmouth Cup.

One race later, an overflow field of 12 distaffers has been entered to go the same distance in the $100,000 Pink Ribbon. Multiple Grade 2-placed Strike the Moon, the 2011 Charles Town Oaks heroine, finished second in this event 12 months ago and will take on multiple stakes queen Geeky Gorgeous and Flattering Bea, who is 5-4-0-0 over the track including the April 19 Sugar Maple.

There are three $50,000 stakes also scheduled, each carded at 4 1/2 furlongs and restricted to registered West Virginia-breds -- the It's Only Money for three-year-olds and up, the Henry Mercer Memorial for juveniles and the Rachel's Turn for two-year-old fillies which will kick off the stakes action for the day.

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California Chrome, Untapable star in Philadelphia

California Chrome became a mainstream sports star taking the first two legs of the Triple Crown (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

The track in suburban Philadelphia which has undergone various name changes -- Keystone, Philadelphia Park, and now Parx Racing -- has become quite adept in recent years for attracting name horses.

On Saturday, the track which opened 40 years ago this November, will offer the public arguably its biggest jackpot of horseflesh in its history when dual classic winner California Chrome and leading three-year-old filly Untapable head stellar fields for the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion, respectively.

California Chrome, who became somewhat of a folk hero to racing and non-racing fans alike during his bid for the Triple Crown last spring, will be making his first start since finishing in a dead-heat for fourth in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit was virtually invincible this season leading up to the "Test of the Champion," winning five stakes including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Santa Anita Derby.

The colt's chances at a Triple Crown sweep, the first since 1978, were effectively dashed at the start of the 1 1/2-mile classic, when California Chrome stumbled and grabbed a quarter. Although in contention until the final furlong or so, the minor injury and the overall rigors of the classic campaign finally caught up with the modestly-bred chestnut owned by breeders Steve Coburn and Perry Martin.

Widely considered the leader of the division despite his summertime absence, California Chrome will attempt to regain some momentum in the championship race on Saturday. Shared Belief, last year's unbeaten juvenile champion who missed the Triple Crown due to injury, has come back with sterling performances in the Los Alamitos Derby and Pacific Classic, the latter against older horses. Shared Belief is not in the Pennsylvania Derby, but several other top three-year-olds are.

Bayern, whose 7 1/4-length tour de force in the Haskell Invitational remains one of the top efforts turned in by this year's three-year-old class, figures to be a primary target for the rail-drawn California Chrome. The son of Offlee Wild failed badly in his attempt to steal the 1 1/4-mile Travers over a less speed-friendly course last time, but should appreciate the cutback in distance. Bayern previously took on California Chrome in the May 17 Preakness, but was never in contention after a rough trip in the early stages kept him from being closer to the lead.

Bayern might be California Chrome's primary target in the Pennsylvania Derby (Carl J. Sari/Equi-Photo)

Tapiture and Candy Boy, separated by a nose in the West Virginia Derby in early August, have also whiffed in previous attempts against the favorite. Tapiture, who was 15th in the Kentucky Derby, has nonetheless carved out a successful campaign that also includes wins in the Southwest and Matt Winn, both Grade 3 events. The West Virginia Derby, despite the narrow margin of victory, was arguably his most impressive victory, though, as he was steadied trying to rally up the rail at the eighth pole, was switched outside for running room, and caught Candy Boy at the last jump.

Candy Boy, who has had a taste of both California Chrome and Shared Belief this season, kicked off 2014 with a half-length score in the Robert B. Lewis, finished a distant third in the Santa Anita Derby, and was 13th in the Kentucky Derby prior to garnering place honors in the Los Alamitos Derby and at Mountaineer.

The local prep for the Pennsylvania Derby, the Smarty Jones contested on Labor Day, has yielded two starters. Protonico, exiting a photo-finish third to subsequent Travers winner V. E. Day in a Saratoga stakes, overcame traffic to take the Smarty Jones by three-quarters over Classic Giacnroll. Those two are also joined by Noble Moon, who beat Classic Giacnroll in the Jerome at Aqueduct in early January and was most recently fourth in the seven-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga following a layoff of more than four months.

The field is rounded out by C J's Awesome, a first-level allowance winner at Saratoga who might apply early pressure on Bayern.

Untapable, who is undefeated against her own sex in four starts this season, is so far in the driver's seat for divisional honors entering the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion. The Steve Asmussen trainee swept the Rachel Alexandra, Fair Grounds Oaks, Kentucky Oaks, and Mother Goose by an average margin of 7 3/4 lengths, which convinced her connections to roll the dice against males in the Haskell Invitational.

Untapable, shown here winning the Mother Goose, is undefeated against fillies this season (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Favored at 7-5 favorite in that Monmouth Park fixture, Untapable stumbled at the break, raced wide, and proved no threat to Bayern, who was left alone on an uncontested lead. Untapable wound up fifth, nine lengths back.

On paper, Untapable still lords over her competition, but a couple fillies could put themselves in the championship discussion if they were to upset. Stopchargingmaria, who fared poorly in her first two starts of the year, has reeled off consecutive wins in the Black-Eyed Susan, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama, albeit against suspect company in generally slow times.

Sweet Reason has been a stronger one-turn performer, winning the Acorn and the Test after finishing a distant third in the nine-furlong Gazelle back in April. Heroine of the Spinaway last year and a troubled second in the Frizette, she might yet find 1 1/16 miles within her scope.

Likely to show speed in the Cotillion, thus setting the race up for all three major contenders, are Monmouth Oaks heroine Cassatt and the California-based Jojo Warrior, who enters off back-to-back wins in the Summertime Oaks and Torrey Pines.

Also of note are the multiple Grade 2-placed House Rules; Alabama and Delaware Oaks runner-up Joint Return; and Test third-placer Little Alexis.

Fast Anna, who just missed preserving his undefeated streak in the King's Bishop last out, is one of several fast three-year-olds in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob over six furlongs. The Kathy Ritvo charge, who blew away maiden and allowance company at Gulfstream prior to his neck loss at Saratoga, will race without blinkers for the first time on Saturday.

Prudhoe Bay and Favorite Tale, one-two in last month's Jersey Shore at Monmouth Park, are the other main contenders in a field of seven.

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Fiftyshadesofgold's the one to beat in Dogwood

Fiftyshadesofgold brings the strongest form to bear in the seven-furlong sprint (Coady Photography)
Fiftyshadesofgold puts her perfect two-for-two mark at Churchill Downs on the line in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Dogwood Stakes for sophomore fillies.

A smashing eight-length winner of last summer's Debutante beneath the Twin Spires, the Bret Calhoun trainee prevailed over Milam in the Eight Belles at this track and seven-furlong trip on May 2. Fiftyshadesofgold has performed creditably over longer, as evidenced by her distant second to Untapable in the March 29 Fair Grounds Oaks and her fourth in the June 7 Acorn.

But the Texas-bred is arguably better suited to this distance. Her only loss at seven furlongs came last time out in the prestigious Test Stakes at Saratoga, where she set a pressured pace before tiring late for fourth, beaten all of a length. Fiftyshadesofgold has fired a couple of bullets ahead of this class drop, and she looms as the one to beat with a returning Robby Albarado.

Two of her rivals are also exiting the Test -- sixth-placer Thank You Marylou, who was named by the Ramseys in honor of Marylou Whitney, and eighth Bird Maker, a Marylou Whitney homebred. Thank You Marylou has flashed talent without quite delivering on the big stage, but the equipment change  to blinkers could sharp the Michael Maker filly's focus. The Ian Wilkes-trained Bird Maker sports a two-for-three record at Churchill, reflecting a maiden score last November, a second in the Golden Rod and an 11-length allowance rout two starts back on May 25.

Milam, who came up a half-length short of upsetting Fiftyshadesofgold in the Eight Belles, has been a fairly consistent performer for Eddie Kenneally. Since her fourth to Untapable in the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas here a year ago, the daughter of Street Sense has stuck to sprinting. She rebounded from a rare clunker in the January 4 Old Hat to crush the February 22 Pica Slew at Calder by eight lengths, and most recently finished a closing third in the June 29 Victory Ride. Corey Lanerie rode her to a Churchill allowance win last fall, and regains the mount.

Tom Amoss sends out Kiss to Remember, successful in a course-and-distance allowance on June 22. The Maggi Moss colorbearer rolled in the grassy Battle of New Orleans at Fair Grounds earlier this season, and two starts ago, she was second in the off-the-turf Indiana Grand.

Henny Jenney, the winner of the Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs May 11, has been predominantly a turf and synthetic type so far. Although she was a poor fourth in the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies at Penn National in her only previous try on dirt, and still has something to prove on the surface, the William Connelly pupil has been training forwardly at Churchill.

Rounding out the 10-filly field are Enjoy the Family, Platinum Lady, Mizzen Miss and Honey's Ryan, who are moving up considerably in class from their last outings in allowances. 

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In brief

Multiple Grade 1 winner Goldencents (Into Mischief) is scheduled to make his turf debut in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland on October 4. "We like the timing and the distance," trainer Doug O'Neill said in explaining the reason for the move to grass after a 16-race campaign on dirt and synthetic, including a 4 1/4-length score in the Pat O'Brien S. (G1) at seven furlongs on Del Mar's Polytrack August 24. "He acts like he'll run on anything, so we thought we'd give it a try," O'Neill said. "If all goes well we'll probably come back in the (Breeders' Cup) Dirt Mile ([G1] October 31), but if he were to run a Wise Dan-type of performance (in the Shadwell), then you never know. But the Shadwell is a great fit on our calendar. It works out well and the horse is doing great. We know he likes to travel, so we're going to try it and see what happens." The Breeders' Cup would be Goldencents' last race. The four-year-old colt owned by W.C. Racing is headed for stud at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky after that where he will stand for $12,500...

Dual champion Beholder (Henny Hughes), fully recovered from an injury in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park June 7, makes her first start since when she defends her title in the $300,000 Zenyatta S. (G1) at Santa Anita on September 27. "She'll have one more work (Saturday) and we're ready to go," Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Mike Smith takes over on Beholder for Gary Stevens, who is poised to ride again after recovering from knee replacement surgery. "Smith is at the top of his game and he's a top rider," Mandella said. Meanwhile, Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Las Virgenes S. (G1) winner Fashion Plate (Old Fashioned) had been considered for the Zenyatta pending a workout this weekend, but Simon Callaghan called an audible. "We're not going to run" the trainer said Friday morning. "She's fine. We're just going to wait."...

Bargain claim Big Macher (Beau Genius) worked six furlongs in company on Santa Anita's main track Wednesday in 1:13 flat under Tyler Baze, after which trainer Richard Baltas said he was undecided on running the former $20,000 claimer in the $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) on October 4. Big Macher won the Bing Crosby S. (G1) at Del Mar July 27, then disappointed in the Pat O'Brien (G2) on August 24, finishing sixth of seven, beaten 11 1/4 lengths. "The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is a possibility," Baltas said after the work. Asked his take on the disappointing showing in the O'Brien, Baltas had a candid response. "I think I ran him back too quick. His blood wasn't perfect after the race. It was nothing major but something was a little bit off. He came back sound, so I assumed it was just the four-month layoff (from winning the Potrero Grande (G2) at Santa Anita on April 12 to capturing the Crosby) and then coming back in the O'Brien in less than four weeks."...

Citing a healthy equine inventory and increasing demand, Santa Anita and the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) have announced that two additional race dates -- October 16 and 29 -- have been added to Santa Anita's upcoming Autumn Meet, which opens on September 26. The Autumn Meet will now offer fans and horsemen 25 racing days, to be highlighted by the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships on October 31 and November 1. "There is a great deal of anticipation for our upcoming meet and we feel these two additional dates will be well received by everyone," said Santa Anita President Tom Ludt. "Our racing calendar here in Southern California is still in a transitional stage and we're confident this will help to better fulfill everyone's needs." The first additional date, October 16, will follow a special Columbus Day of racing on October 13. The second date, October 29, will ensure that Santa Anita will conduct a five-day race week leading into the Breeders' Cup, thus providing live racing to potential thousands of Cup visitors. Closing day is November 2...

Trainer David Simcock has reported that Trade Storm (Trade Fair) and Sheikhzayedroad (Dubawi) -- who handed the conditioner a Grade 1 double in the Woodbine Mile and Northern Dancer on Sunday -- have both exited their efforts in good order and could log more air miles in the near future. "The two horses have arrived back happy and well," Simcock said. "They'll be given an easy few days during which we will discuss options with their connections. Sheikhzayedroad could possibly go to Ascot (for the Champion S. [Eng-G1] on October 18), but only if it came up very soft, or probably back to Canada for the (Canadian) International ([Can-G1] on October 19). Sheikh Fahad will decide whether Trade Storm goes to America for the Breeders' Cup Mile (on November 2) or to Australia for his next run (in the Cox Plate [Aus-G1] on October 26)," Simcock added...

In Friday's 80,000 La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (Fr-G3), Fractional (Manduro) was settled toward the back of midpack early by Maxime Guyon. The Andre Fabre trainee needed to be rousted along as the contest entered the final quarter-mile but responded to grab the advantage with 100 meters remaining and outstay Singapore Airlines International Cup (Mal-G1) runner-up and Arlington Million (G1) sixth Smoking Sun (Smart Strike). "We felt beforehand that he was back to his best and he proved it today," Godolphin's Lisa-Jane Graffard commented. "The race went very well for him -- he was very relaxed throughout and quickened nicely. Today was his main target and we have no plans for him at the moment." Third in the Prix Eugene Adam (Fr-G2) over Friday's track and 10-furlong trip in July 2012, Fractional went on to success in the listed Prix de Tourgeville and Prix Quincey (Fr-G3) going a mile at Deauville the following month before heading for the shelf. On a roll coming into this on the back of mile conditions scores at Lyon-Parilly and Longchamp, the bay signaled his return to better company with a game win moving back up to this distance for the first time since his sophomore days...

Milam (Street Sense) enters Saturday's $100,000 Dogwood S. (G3) at Churchill Downs ready for a rematch with Fiftyshadesofgold (My Golden Song), whom she finished a half-length behind in the Eight Belles S. (G3) on Kentucky Oaks Day. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Milam finished third in her last effort, the June 29 Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont Park. "Fiftyshadesofgold is one of the horses to beat," Kenneally said. "She's a tough horse but we're doing as well as we possibly can, so we'll see. I think it'll be a close race for sure. The race came up tough; it's a solid, deep race. Milam's doing really well; she hasn't run in a little while but she's worked over the Churchill track a couple of times this month and she's ready to run." Milam's last breeze under the Twin Spires came September 13 with a half-mile workout in :49. "She's been consistent all along," Kenneally said. "She likes the track and ran a big race in the Eight Belles at seven furlongs so it's an ideal spot for her."...

Mike Mayo, a handicapping tournament mainstay and the longtime chairman of the NHC Players' Committee, passed away Thursday after a brief illness. Mike and his wife, Marsha, were familiar faces at racetracks and handicapping tournaments around the country, including at the NHC, where he was a 10-time qualifier. As chairman of the NHC Players' Committee, Mayo was a tireless advocate for the horseplayer and a staunch believer that the NHC could help grow the popularity of horse racing. Under Mayo's steady hand, the committee helped set the stage for the 2008 launch of the NHC Tour, which connects tournaments through a points system and prize money. He was a longtime proponent of a "Final Table" format for the NHC. His vision become reality earlier this year when the NHC instituted a "Final 50" and "Final Table." Several years ago, Mayo sent a letter to the NTRA formally requesting that the organization appoint a horseplayer to its board of directors. He felt strongly that horseplayers, whose wagering dollars fuel every aspect of the industry, deserved a seat and voice at the table. In August, Judy Wagner became the first horseplayer elected to serve on the 13-member NTRA board. Funeral arrangements for Mayo are pending. Horseplayers and friends are asked to consider a contribution to Old Friends retirement farm, to go toward the care of the beautiful animals that brought him so much pleasure. Contributions can be made directly to Old Friends, 1841 Paynes Depot Road, Georgetown, Kentucky 40324 or online via PayPal at

Grade 3 hero Divine Oath (Broken Vow) will square off against six sophomore rivals in Saturday's $150,000 Kent (G3) at Delaware Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Divine Oath will receive class relief in the 1 1/8-mile turf affair following a sixth in the Secretariat (G1) on the Arlington Million undercard. He captured the American Derby (G3) two starts back and will pick up a new rider in Jose Caraballo. Stakes victor Cabo Cat (Kitten's Joy) exits a third in the Saranac (G3) at Saratoga and Bashart (War Front), a Grade 2-winning juvenile, was fourth in the same event while making his first attempt for trainer Michael Matz. Craftsman (Craftsman) is the lone horse with a win over the Delaware turf, capturing the Nick Shuk Memorial two starts back for Graham Motion...

Newbury plays host to the sprinting juveniles on Saturday, with Strath Burn (Equiano) bidding to cement his burgeoning reputation in the £75,000 Mill Reef S. (Eng-G2). Following a clear-cut maiden success in his July 3 debut going five furlongs over the track, the bay was denied a half-length by Kool Kompany (Jeremy) in the Prix Robert Papin (Fr-G2) going a half-furlong farther at Maisons-Laffitte on July 20. "This race has always been the plan, as we were keen not to over-race him this season," trainer Charlie Hills told PA Sport. "He's a horse we really like and he'll be even better next season. We've been pleased with his work at home and he looks to have a nice chance." Unbeaten so far and the last rival to get the better of Strath Burn's classy stablemate Cotai Glory (Exceed and Excel) is Limato (Tagula), who was clearly the better of the two when they clashed in the July 18 listed Rose Bowl S. over Saturday's track and six-furlong trip last out. Conditioner Henry Candy is taking a cautious approach with Limato after being forced to sidestep the Gimcrack (Eng-G2) at York last month due to a bad scope. "His form is good and he's obviously a good horse," Candy told PA Sport. "He's had two courses of antibiotics and his training has been a bit stop-start, so I'd just be a bit worried in that regard. He seems well now, but you'd just have to be a little worried how much it has affected him. I mustn't be too downbeat, though, as he's a very exciting horse." The unexposed types will be tested by Jungle Cat (Iffraaj), who has been either second or third in four consecutive Group 2 races, and also Norfolk (Eng-G2) scorer Baitha Alga (Fast Company). Trainer Richard Hannon is hoping for a return to his prior best from Baitha Alga, who was inexplicably poor when last of nine in the Gimcrack and is forced to carry a penalty for his Royal Ascot exploits. "Nothing came to light as to why Baitha Alga ran so poorly in the Gimcrack, but we have suffered some surprise reverses in two-year-old races at York before and just put it down to a bad day at the office," Hannon remarked. "That is the only blip on his CV -- his overall form is very sound and he is a real professional so, despite the three-pound penalty, we feel that he will run his race. He worked very nicely under Kieran O'Neill on Tuesday, switching off beautifully, which he didn't do at York."...

France's elite juveniles are beginning to build toward their all-important autumn targets, with Saturday's 80,000 Prix des Chenes (Fr-G3) at Longchamp the first pointer for the Criterium International (Fr-G1), and as usual it is to Andre Fabre that all refer as the record-holding trainer looks for an eighth edition. Of his pair, De Treville (Oasis Dream) has yet to disappoint, and the 850,000 guineas purchase will remain exciting until his fortunes dip. With just a July 17 seven-furlong maiden win to his name at Chantilly, the son of the high-class Dar Re Mi (Singspiel) has a lot to prove but has the pedigree to hit the heights and is in the right hands to be guided in that direction. Interestingly, the rival that De Treville had back in second last out was beaten out of sight by Evasive's First (Evasive) in the August 2 listed Prix des Jouvenceaux des Jouvencelles going seven furlongs at Vichy, and he sets a marginal standard. July 13 listed Prix Roland de Chambure winner Kenfreeze (Kendargent) represents the form of Longchamps's Prix la Rochette (Fr-G3), having been fifth behind Full Mast (Mizzen Mast) in that September 7 highlight, while Cherek (Paco Boy) is open to improvement after his August 30 Deauville maiden score...

Later on Longchamp's Saturday program, the €80,000 Prix du Prince d'Orange (Fr-G3) offers the latecomers a final chance to enter the Arc picture and one who could yet book a ticket to the showcase event is unbeaten Orienteer (Dansili). Brought along steadily by Andre Fabre so far, the homebred descendant of the high-class All at Sea (Riverman) beat subsequent Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1) runner-up Shamkiyr (Sea the Stars) in his April 3 debut going 10 furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte prior to a five-month lay-off. Back with a win over Saturday's course and 10-furlong distance on September 4, Orienteer faces an examination of his raw material in this spot with the likes of Free Port Lux (Oasis Dream) in attendance. Having beaten subsequent top-level scorers Adelaide (Galileo) and Gallante (Montjeu) in the 11-furlong Prix Hocquart (Fr-G2) on May 11, the bay was only 14th in the Jockey Club at Chantilly on June 1 and fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-G1) going 12 furlongs at Longchamp on July 13 before running second in Deauville's Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (Fr-G2) back at this distance on August 15...

Horsemen are reminded that the Horses of Racing Age section of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2014 Fall Mixed Sale is closing on Monday. The consignor contract form is available via the OBS website. A total of 468 horses are presently cataloged for the Mixed Sale, scheduled to begin on October 14 with Hip Numbers 1-238 selling in the consignor preferred session. Hips 239-470 in the open session will be offered on October 15 followed immediately by the Horses of Racing Age section. Both sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. (EDT). An optional under tack show is scheduled for October 13 at 10 a.m. (EDT). As always, the sale and under tack show will be streamed live via the OBS website, which will also offer a sortable master index providing searchable pedigree and consignor information as well as access to pedigree updates occurring since the catalog was printed...

Jim Pegram will handle business at the upcoming Santa Anita fall meet for 20-year-old newcomer Alex Canchari, who missed tying for the recent Canterbury Park riding title by one win. He tied with Dean Butler at 63 each, one behind winner Ry Eikleberry. "I missed 28 days of the meet and still almost won the title," said Canchari, a native of Shakopee, Minnesota, who is of Peruvian descent. "My father is from the same home town (Arequipa) as Rafael Bejarano."...

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will offer free general admission on Saturday, September 27, as part of Smithsonian magazine's 10th annual Museum Day Live! program. The Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). A nationwide event, Museum Day Live! offers free admission to visitors presenting a Museum Day Live! ticket. The Museum Day Live! ticket is available via download at One ticket is permitted per household, per email address. Visitors who present the ticket will be granted free admission for two people to the Museum on September 27 only...

Trainer Neil French is in Arcadia (California) Methodist Hospital after suffering a serious injury to his left leg in a fall at his barn early this week. "I saw him two days ago, just a day after surgery, and he was pretty comfortable and doing well that evening, but he said he was in intensive care the day before," trainer Richard Mandella said. French stable foreman Tomas Nunez said Friday morning that he had visited his 62-year-old boss the previous day and he was talking and in good spirits.

Carryover Watch

For Saturday or Next Raceday

WOODBINE:   High 5 -- $501,095
GULFSTREAM PARK:   Pick 6 -- $50,000
ARLINGTON:   Pick 9 -- $36,402
LOUISIANA DOWNS:   Pick 5 -- $26,462
BELMONT PARK:   Pick 6 -- $19,005
MONMOUTH PARK:   Pick 6 -- $17,936
LAUREL PARK:   Pick 5 -- $17,333



SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

by Dick Powell

Great horses returning off a layoff at short odds are a recipe for pari-mutuel ruin. If they win, you barely win. If they lose, you lose. Not much reward for the risk. California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) fits that bill this Saturday in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) going nine furlongs at Parx Racing.

The winner of four straight graded stakes, including three Grade 1s and the first two legs of the Triple Crown, California Chrome was given a brief rest after the Belmont Stakes before returning to the workout tab at the start of August and looks like he has progressed in his training to be ready to go on Saturday.

Luckily, he does not carry a lot of weight so as long as he is sound -- and it looks like he is with his workouts on schedule each week -- he won't take too long to be fit and ready. And, he will have to be as the $1 million purse and nine-furlong distance has attracted a decent field.

For betting purposes, anything less than even-money is unacceptable. He is the most logical winner of the race by far but what usually happens in these kinds of races is that the next most logical contenders tend to get overbet as well.

Bayern (Offlee Wild) is back off his Travers (G1) debacle where we will never know if he could get 10 furlongs after being strangled early and out of the race before a mile was run. If the Bayern who won the Haskell (G1) going nine furlongs shows up, it should be a real horse race with California Chrome.

The problem is that I don't think he will be close to the 7-2 morning-line so we have the chance of having not one, but two overbet horses.

If both of the most logical winners are overbet, it's time to take a serious look at the less logical winners. Weighing the chance of winning and pari-mutuel return, I give Protonico (Giant's Causeway) a serious shot at a price even though he is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano.

What Protonico has going for him is a win over the track in the Smarty Jones (G3), a pedigree that should see him get better with time and he still has an upside with only five career starts.

The dark bay made his 2014 debut a winning one off a seven-month layoff at Belmont where he beat first-level optional claiming foes going a mile. He came back a month later for his two-turn debut at Saratoga going nine furlongs in the Curlin Stakes where he was part of a three-way photo behind subsequent Travers winner V. E. Day (English Channel).

Not quite ready for the 10-furlong Travers, Pletcher set his sights on the lucrative Pennsylvania Derby for Protonico and used the Smarty Jones to get a race over the track. Farther back in the pack than normal, the colt raced between horses in the second tier behind a strong pace. At the top of the stretch, he looked hopelessly beat but Joe Bravo found room and split horses to make an improbable late run to get up at the wire.

Protonico earned a career-best BRIS Speed rating of 97, which doesn't put him in the mix here unless he can improve off that effort and go forward again. By Giant's Causeway, the Kentucky-bred is the first foal to race out of Alpha Spirit (A.P. Indy), who is herself a daughter of a Delaware H. (G2) winner.

Offspring of Giant's Causeway get better with age and this one looks to be no exception. Another reason I think that Protonico still has an upside is that he missed the entire Triple Crown campaign. He started getting cranked up at Payson Park in December but went to the sidelines until he showed up on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga in May.

Unlike the other Pletcher three-year-olds who are usually toast this time of year from racing on the concrete at Gulfstream Park, Protonico has been a fresh horse in the second half of the year and he could make some noise, at a price, in Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby.

In the race before the Derby, the $1 million Cotillion (G1) will be run for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the main track and it has attracted a stellar field.

Untapable (Tapit) is the 7-5 favorite despite finishing up the track against males in the Haskell. She had dominated her division prior to that with monster wins in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Mother Goose (G1). The daughter of Tapit has the typical series of easy breezes for trainer Steve Asmussen and gets Rosie Napravnik back aboard.

When Asmussen sent Untapable to the Haskell, it opened the door for the other sophomore fillies at Saratoga and Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat) took advantage of her absence better than anyone. She won the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) by five lengths going nine furlongs then came back and captured the Alabama (G1) by three parts of a length going 10 furlongs.

Looming behind the top two is three-time Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason (Street Sense). She won the one-mile Acorn (G1), so another sixteenth of a mile should not be a big deal but the only win she has going two turns is against allowance foes on the inner dirt track.

Still, the bay miss comes in here in great form and her late kick is devastating. Can she unleash it going two turns is the big question. So far, the record shows that Sweet Reason is a long sprinter. With experience and maturity, can she be a middle distance filly going two turns? We'll see on Saturday in a race with Breeders' Cup implications for two races.


SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Study: Furosemide not Necessary to Realize Long-Term Racing Careers

Editor's Note: The Jockey Club believes that horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication. The following essay, written by Matt Iuliano, the executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, provides insights into a recent study pertaining to exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) and long-term racing performance.

by Matt Iuliano

A team of highly respected, international researchers and scientists recently found that in 98 percent of horses they studied there was no association between exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) determined after an endoscopic examination and long-term racing performance.

The findings challenge some long-held opinions in North American racing, including the contention that the use of the diuretic furosemide -- sold under the trade name Salix and commonly known as Lasix -- is necessary to ensure the long-term careers of equine racing athletes.

The study, "Prospective study of the association between exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage and long-term performance in Thoroughbred racehorses," was conducted by Kenneth Hinchcliff, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., a longtime researcher of EIPH and professor of veterinary science at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and Paul S. Morley, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Colorado State University.

It was published online in the Equine Veterinary Journal this spring.

The unique, long-term study found a lack of significant association between EIPH and a productive racing career, except in the most severe cases. The researchers reviewed the careers of 744 horses racing in Australia, where race-day medication is prohibited. The vast majority of those horses had productive racing careers without the use of furosemide.

In 2003, those horses had been examined for EIPH and were the subjects of a study into how EIPH affected performance in a single race.  For their latest report, the researchers reviewed the entire careers of those horses to determine how their EIPH status affected their racing records.

EIPH is graded on a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 indicating the lowest, or no, indications of EIPH on endoscopic examination and 4 being the highest, often including epistaxis, or bleeding from the nostrils. The original Melbourne study found that horses with either no indication or the slightest indication of EIPH had better finish positions. Horses with mild to more moderate indications of EIPH were more often associated with impaired racing performance in the single race that was studied.

The latest study goes beyond a single race to look at entire racing careers.

Whereas the first study found that horses with EIPH grades greater than 1 had impaired racing performances, this latter study found no statistically significant difference among horses with EIPH graded from 0 to 3 in terms of:

*         Duration of careers on the racetrack,
*         Number of wins per start and,
*         Number of placings per start.

Only those horses with the most severe EIPH of grade 4 (1.7 percent of the population) had a significant reduction in lifetime racing performance. 

When the data was grouped, the authors reported that horses with EIPH scores of 2, 3 and 4 started an average of 2.8 fewer times during their lifetime when compared to horses with EIPH scores of 0 and 1. However, they noted the difference in lifetime starts was highly influenced by the low number of race starts in horses with EIPH graded as 4. 

Many of the horses with EIPH graded as 4 were retired from racing early on, which reduced the average number of lifetime starts for any group that included those horses. 

The lifetime racing performances of horses with EIPH that continued to race indicate these horses were successfully managed over a productive racing career in a jurisdiction where furosemide was not permitted.

Reviewing all the data, the researchers in the most recent comprehensive study concluded:

"The lack of significant associations between the most common forms of EIPH and long-term performance can be interpreted as indicating an absence of important clinical, physiological, or management factors that limit performance in these horses." 

With the latest research showing that less than 2 percent of the Thoroughbred population may have impaired lifetime racing performance attributable to EIPH, it is increasingly difficult to reconcile 95 percent of all North American starts occurring after the race-day administration of furosemide.

As The Jockey Club stated in 2011, overuse of an under-needed medication is not producing a level playing field. In all likelihood, it is doing just the opposite.

We believed then and we believe now that horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication.

A prohibition on all race-day medications levels the field.


SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

Rail post, stalking tactics could undermine Chrome's comeback

by James Scully

California Chrome returns in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and the dual classic winner will need to overcome the rail post in a field of eight, the same starting position that resulted in a dead-heat fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

As much as I would love to see jockey Victor Espinoza play "catch me if you can" from the start, I think there's little chance he'll utilize a major weapon in California Chrome's arsenal -- speed.

"I just hope he has a clean trip and gets in the clear," Art Sherman said this week.

That doesn't sound like a trainer who expects to be on the early lead. Indeed, it seems that California Chrome's connections would love to drop behind and alter course to the outside of Bayern during the early stages of the Pennsylvania Derby, and we saw how that strategy played out last time.

California Chrome may not have won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes under any circumstances, but his best chance was on the lead after he drew the innermost post in the final leg of the Triple Crown. Despite the lack of any confirmed front-runners to his outside, Espinoza refused to send his mount after breaking forwardly, taking a hold and guiding California Chrome out wide for a stalking trip in fourth.

That left Commissioner showing the way and all you have to do is look at his past performances (click here to view) to see what a massive change in form it represented for the plodder. The front-end trip resulted in career-best performance, by a wide margin, with Commissioner refusing to yield until the final stride, recording a head second.

It's easy to understand Espinoza's Belmont strategy -- the stalking trip represented the least liability for the rider. If California Chrome sets the pace and coughs up the lead in the final furlongs, everybody can question the Espinoza's tactics. If the horse stalks the pace and comes short, California Chrome simply didn't have it that day.

The problem is that his speed gets lost in the equation. California Chrome was fast enough to easily outrun Commissioner during the early stages last time, and his BRIS Early Pace ratings show that's quick enough to be showing the way in the Pennsylvania Derby.

This is the same horse who recorded a couple of tour-de-force performances on the front end during the spring, including the San Felipe in which California Chrome established pressured splits of :23 and :45 2/5 before drawing off with the utmost ease, winning by more than seven lengths.

Granted, he changed tactics winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, settling a few lengths off the early pacesetter before offering his best, but both times he was breaking from a more favorable post position.

Those races seemingly resulted in a different mindset for California Chrome's connections, one where he was no longer a speed horse but a stalker.

The rail draw complicates matters once again on Saturday, with Espinoza being forced to negotiate a favorable trip if he doesn't seize the early initiative. California Chrome has the class to lead all the way at Parx Racing if he just breaks running.

Bayern won't get caught in a suicidal duel up front following the Travers debacle and the fact that he's drawn three positions to the outside of California Chrome should guarantee a tracking trip to the outside of his main rival.

But that's not the way I envision it playing out. Bayern's connections, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia, would probably love to see Espinoza take another early hold, leaving Bayern in the driver's seat. And that could easily happen.

I'll go with Bayern wire to wire.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Saturday

Arlington   (4th) Miss Livona, 6-1
    (7th) Road Trippin, 8-1
Belmont Park   (1st) Angel Code, 5-1
    (7th) Palace Dreams, 8-1
Belterra Park   (3rd) Smooth Decision, 4-1
    (5th) Peppermint Strings, 7-2
Charles Town   (4th) Ms. Fool Proof, 5-1
    (6th) Prince of Windsor, 3-1
Churchill Downs   (4th) Carte de Oro, 3-1
    (7th) Corps of Discovery, 9-2
Delaware Park   (1st) Our Laughing Lady, 3-1
    (6th) Corinthian Luck, 4-1
Emerald Downs   (2nd) What About Natalie, 6-1
    (6th) The Tom Squad, 7-2
Finger Lakes   (2nd) Passing Time, 7-2
    (8th) Giving Me Fitz, 3-1
Gulfstream Park   (6th) Gego, 8-1
    (7th) Quiz Whiz. 3-1
Hastings   (1st) Majestic Mark, 5-1
    (7th) Captain Salt, 3-1
Indiana Grand   (5th) Forever Sure, 7-2
    (6th) Bizerk, 4-1
Laurel   (4th) Cotton Letters, 3-1
    (5th) Southern Peach, 7-2
Los Alamitos   (1st) Fly Blue, 5-1
    (7th) Popalicious, 8-1
Louisiana Downs   (4th) Arboreturn, 5-1
    (7th) Fantasy Queen, 6-1
Monmouth Park   (4th) Bat Cave, 4-1
    (7th) Downtown Ball, 8-1
Mountaineer   (3rd) Under the Rim, 3-1
    (6th) Good Time Coming, 4-1
Parx Racing   (5th) Bama Bound, 7-2
    (9th) Traffic Light, 6-1
Penn National   (2nd) E Biscuit, 6-1
    (6th) I'm Smokin Hot, 6-1
Remington Park   (2nd) Strawberry Cat, 5-1
    (8th) Girl's Rule, 3-1
Retama Park   (6th) Downs Awareness, 5-1
    (8th) Hempstead, 9-2
Suffolk Downs   (2nd) Gansett Bay, 5-1
    (5th) Dontbothermenow, 10-1
Thistledown   (5th) Natural Bling, 4-1
    (6th) Hoagy Gone Green, 6-1
Woodbine   (7th) Mon Ami Gabuy, 4-1
    (9th) Miss Giacomo, 6-1


For Saturday

BELMONT PARK (1:05): $300,000 Gallant Bloom H. (G2), 3&up, f/m, 6 1/2f (8TH).
CHARLES TOWN (5:00): $500,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3), 3yo, f, 7f (11TH); $100,000 Pink Ribbon S., 3&up, f/m, 7f (10TH); $100,000 Wild and Wonder S., 3&up, 7f (9TH); $50,000 It's Only Money S., 3&up, 4 1/2f (7TH); $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial, 2yo, 4 1/2f (5TH); $50,000 Rachel's Turn S., 2yo, f, 4 1/2f (2ND).
CHURCHILL DOWNS (12:45): $100,000 Dogwood S. (G3), 3yo, f, 7f (9TH).
DELAWARE PARK (1:15): $150,000 Kent S. (G3), 3yo, 1 1/8mT (5TH).
GULFSTREAM PARK (1:15): $90,000 Musical Romance S., 3&up, f/m, 7f (10TH).
LOS ALAMITOS (5:00): $75,000 Katella S., &up, 6f (8TH).
PARX RACING (11:25): $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby (G2), 3yo, 1 1/8m (12TH); $1,000,000 Cotillion S. (G1), 3yo, f, 1 1/16m (11TH); $300,000 Gallant Bob S. (G3), 3yo, 6f (10TH); $100,000 Alphabet Soup H., 3&up, 1 1/16mT (9TH).
WOODBINE (1:00): C$125,000 Overskate S., 3&up, 7f (8TH); C$100,000 Avowal S., 3&up, f/m, 7fT (6TH).

*all times Eastern

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.


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