Starformer the one to catch in Sheepshead Bay
Mystical Star, controversially disqualified from third to eighth in last year's Sheepshead Bay after breaking through the gate before the start, seeks to snap a five-race losing skid. The 2012 New York heroine fell a neck short of catching Starformer in the Long Island last November, and fell victim to a slow pace in both the Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs and the Doubledogdare at Keeneland in her two outings this year.
Strathnaver has transformed from a low-level handicap performer in Britain to a graded stakes winner since her importation over the winter. Now residing in the barn of Graham Motion, the Oasis Dream filly won at first asking for her new trainer in a Gulfstream allowance, and then overcame a 13-length deficit to win the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch at Keeneland going away by a length as an 18-1 longshot.
Hessonite, the New York-bred mare who turned in an explosive sixteenth-mile burst to claim the Beaugay earlier this month, will attempt to win for the first time beyond nine furlongs. The David Donk-trained daughter of Freud has won five of nine over the Belmont lawn, though the Beaugay was her first ever success against open stakes company.
Three of the top four finishers from the May 1 Owsley, a 1 1/4-mile overnight stakes, return for the Sheepshead Bay. Julie's Love endured a pocket trip before getting out and up by a half-length to post the 6-1 upset of that race, with 29-1 longshot Minakshi second in her U.S. debut. Fourth was Group 3 winner Tannery, who has not placed in this country since a third in the Garden City for three-year-olds last September.
The field is rounded out by Anjaz, a handicap performer in England who was fourth in the Orchid at Gulfstream in her American bow.
Arlington kicks off 2013 stakes season with a Grade 3 smorgasbord
General Election will be making his turf debut for trainer Kellyn Gorder in the Arlington Classic. The Harlan's Holiday bay captured the John Battaglia Memorial on Turfway Park's Polytrack in early March and keeps the services of jockey Joe Rocco Jr., who guided General Election to a runner-up placing in the Grade 3 Lexington over Keeneland's Polytrack last out in April.
Procurement invades from Santa Anita Park for trainer Tom Proctor. The bay son of Milwaukee Brew won the La Puente over that track's turf course on April 21 beneath Garrett Gomez, who has been aboard Procurement in his last four starts and gets the return call.
Trainer Danny Peitz could have a live longshot in the Arlington Classic in Yorkshire Icon, an English-bred recent acquisition who is exiting an impressive May 4 allowance win on the Arlington turf.
"We were pleasantly surprised. He settled out the back and ran right by them like a horse who could be useful," Peitz said of the small bay son of Sixties Icon. "We don't know what's going to be in (the Arlington Classic), but we are taking a shot here."
Yorkshire Icon comes from a European female family flush with endurance influences and intense closing speed. This often also means that he may appreciate a little bit of cut in the ground -- which proved true when he won his allowance on yielding ground and his maiden in England over soft going.
"It wouldn't bother us if we get a little bit rain. He proved the other day that he likes it. And, he seems like he's come out well and is moving forward -- he seems very happy," Peitz said.
Coming from 16 lengths behind a dawdling pace of 1:15.17 for the first six furlongs, Yorkshire Icon, despite being on the petite side, made massive strides down the stretch to easily best the field by a little over a length -- making up six lengths in the last quarter and rewarding his backers at a nice 28-1.
"I'm hoping he runs well enough to keep running in the (Mid-America Triple)," Peitz added. "He will probably get better as the races get longer."
"In a perfect world, we'd like to keep him here and see if he takes to the grass," Smith stated. "The owners are local and want to see him race here in Illinois at Arlington."
E.T. Baird has the call on Nates Mineshaft, who will be making his first start on a synthetic course since his lone try in December 2011 at Turfway Park.
"Right now he's telling me that he handles this track just fine," Smith commented.
Among those lining up against Nates Mineshaft is Mister Marti Gras, who ran second in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap last fall in his last appearance at Arlington. The Belong to Me six-year-old gelding has been competitive in several starts since, including two wins at Hawthorne last fall.
"She ran behind four Grade 1 winners. She didn't disgrace herself. I wish we would have had more pace to run at, but that's how it goes. We knew we were taking a shot and she's a good filly," Peitz explained, before adding that he believes the chestnut lass will appreciate the conditions of the race.
"She broke her maiden here and likes the Polytrack. She will really appreciate the two turns here, too. She seems to run well on everything. I'm looking to run her in the (Grade 3) Modesty (on July 13) after this, and I thought this was a good spot to hopefully get us there.
"She has gone from a two-year-old who didn't look like much to competitive in a Grade 1. I'm glad to keep her in training. She's an Invasor and I think she will get better. I don't think she's going to embarrass us. We're going to see something and find out how much she's improved. We would definitely like to get to the (Grade 1) Beverly D. (on August 17)," the horseman concluded.
Husbands sidelined three-to-four months with tibia fracture
Patrick Husbands, a seven-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top jockey, was injured in Monday's 5TH race at Woodbine when his mount, A Tough Buck, collapsed just after the finish line.
A Tough Buck, a lightly raced four-year-old by Philanthropist, was able to get up and walk off the track under his own power. Husbands, however, was caught briefly underneath the dark bay gelding and suffered a fractured right tibia.
After consulting with doctors following a successful surgery on the injured right leg, Husbands' agent, Gary Kemplen, reported that the rider will be sidelined for three to four months.
"Patrick is in good spirits and resting comfortably," Kemplen said. "Patrick wants to extend his gratitude to everyone for their concern and continued support."
Husbands, a native of Barbados now living in Brampton who will celebrate his 40th birthday on May 22, has won 18 races at Woodbine in 2013, including a smart stakes score in Saturday's Ballade Stakes with Bear's Gem.
Triple Crown News & Notes
NYRA releases list of banned, permitted items at Belmont Stakes
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has revised its security policies and procedures for the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
The changes, a result of heightened public security concerns in recent weeks, were developed in concert with federal, state and local law enforcement officials, as well as racing and security officials in Kentucky and Maryland.
"The security of our fans, employees and athletes is paramount," said Sidney Anthony, NYRA's vice president of security. "Some of these policies are new for 2013, while others will be familiar from previous years.
"We encourage everyone to read the information carefully to minimize inconvenience and help us ensure a fun and safe Belmont Stakes Day experience for all."
All who enter Belmont Park on June 8 will be subject to an electronic wand search at admission gates as well as at employee, vendor and media entrances. All items carried into the track are subject to search by NYRA security and law enforcement partners. Searches could occur outside or inside the track's admission gates. Prohibited items confiscated during the screening process will not be held for retrieval. Tailgating is prohibited on Belmont Park grounds. Ice will be sold on the premises at minimal cost.
Below are detailed lists of banned and permitted items for Belmont Stakes Day. Changes from existing policy are denoted by bold type.
Lucky Shamrock Stable's homebred Declan's Warrior (Majestic Warrior) continued his winning ways on Wednesday with a neck victory in the $83,300 Gygistar at Belmont Park with jockey Jose Lezcano in the irons. The duo came from last in the seven-furlong contest to stop the clock in 1:20 4/5 over the fast main track. "My horse broke, and everybody else just sent them. I let him do his thing and when I asked him he really accelerated," Lezcano explained. "The horse on the lead, I didn't know if I could catch him, but the last furlong when he saw that horse, he wanted to pass him. He did everything right and won the race." Trainer Nick Zito was happy with his charge's effort. "I needed the race. I had to get the race into him," he stated. "I told Jose I trained him pretty hard for the race. I'm glad I did. That was an amazing race, 1:20 4/5. He's a special horse. The Woody Stephens ([G2] going seven furlongs on June 8) is a prestigious race, but it might be time to stretch him out, like the Dwyer ([G2] at 1 1/16 miles on July 6), or something. We might have to think about it. We'll see. You go from the Dwyer to the Jim Dandy to the you-know-what-else, right?" Declan's Warrior captured the seven-furlong Bay Shore (G3) in his last race on April 6 and has suffered just one loss in his career thus far, racking up a 5-4-1-0 mark to go along with $268,770 in lifetime earnings...
Pin Oak Stables' multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Alternation (Distorted Humor) is currently in light training at Churchill Downs with Donnie Von Hemel. The dark bay five-year-old emerged from his subpar eighth-placing in the April 13 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) with some soreness and stiffness behind. Alternation underwent a complete evaluation at Hagyard Equine Medical, including a scintigraphic exam, and veterinarians have recommended a schedule of light training for the next 30-45 days. Plans call for him to return to racing for a fall campaign. "It only made sense to bring him to Hagyard's for a full evaluation," Pin Oak Stud's General Manager Clifford Barry said. "We want to do the right thing by the horse and not return to the races until he's 100 percent again."...
WinStar Farm is auctioning off memorabilia on Ebay.com with 100 percent of the proceeds going to designated industry charities. The online auction, which includes four separate offerings, began late Tuesday and will close May 29. The feature item is a commemorative 24 x 36 Revolutionary shadowbox with contents that include a Kentucky Derby saddlecloth with the No. 3, a Revolutionary photo image, autographed goggles worn by jockey Calvin Borel, the official silks tag from the Kentucky Derby draw autographed by Borel and trainer Todd Pletcher, a shoe worn by Revolutionary in the Kentucky Derby, two official Kentucky Derby programs and a Kentucky Derby glass, and a Revolutionary button. All proceeds from this unique offering will benefit the Woodford County Humane Society. The auction also features authentic, worn halters from top WinStar stallions' Super Saver, Bodemeister and Tiznow, with respective charities Heroes Night Out of Kentucky, Grayson-Jockey Club Research, and Backside Learning Center receiving the proceeds. "One of the great benefits of having racehorses and stallions that fans respond to is the ability for us to find creative ways to help our industry charities," said Elliott Walden, President & CEO at WinStar. "We are hopeful this auction will make a difference with the money it raises, and we encourage all fans and Thoroughbred enthusiasts to support a good cause."...
Jockey Eddie Ahern on Wednesday was handed a 10-year suspension by the British Horseracing Authority as a result of the latest corruption investigation. Found guilty of conspiring to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice alongside former soccer player Neil Clement, communicating inside information for reward and intentionally failing to ensure a horse ran on its merits, the 35-year-old was not present at the disciplinary hearing. A former Irish champion apprentice who was successful in last year's Irish St Leger (Ire-G1) on the dead-heater Duncan, Ahern's penalty results from five races between September 10, 2010 and February 11, 2011. Clement has been disqualified for 15 years and three months and fined £3,000. Adam Brickell, director of integrity, legal and risk for the BHA, commented, "Today's findings have confirmed that another network of corruption has been successfully prosecuted by the BHA. The clear message from this, and other cases heard in the last 18 months, should be that the BHA is better equipped than ever at pinpointing and prosecuting malpractice. The penalties imposed as a result of these cases being heard should serve as a deterrent to others. This investigation was another landmark in terms of our intelligence and evidence gathering capabilities, as it was the first occasion on which we have received assistance from a spread betting company to bring a successful prosecution."...
Britain's biggest talking horse Telescope (Galileo) failed to produce any fireworks in his public gallop at Lingfield Wednesday, with connections now waiting on a further exercise on Saturday before committing to the Epsom Derby (Eng-G1). Watched by a clutch of syndicate members, including the recently retired Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's colt was partnered by Ryan Moore in the hastily scheduled spin following his last-minute defection from last week's Dante Stakes (Eng-G2) at York. Taking a lead from stable companions Commend (Pivotal) and Opinion (Oasis Dream), the Newmarket maiden winner passed the post three lengths ahead of the latter, but not in the style connections have reported to see at home. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who believed the below-par display was at least partly result of the tongue getting over the bit, will work him again on Saturday on the Newmarket gallops. "We felt it was more of workmanlike display," Stoute said. "He's worked with these horses this spring and has been more impressive than that. I felt that he didn't really switch off -- even cantering down he was just taking a bit of a tug, so hopefully it will do him the power of good to get back to the racecourse as it's been a long time. We will see what today has done for him, mentally more than anything else. We'll work him on Saturday and then I will speak to Harry (Herbert)." Highclere's Manager Harry Herbert echoed those downbeat sentiments. "Anyone watching that, especially those who have seen the horse work in the spring, would say he lacked that usual zip," he commented. "He hasn't put in a performance that was as good as had been hoped, but I suspect this is a combination of tongue-over-the-bit and freshness. The final piece of work on Saturday is obviously going to be critical, as the clock is ticking. Then we'll decide whether to go all out for Epsom or not. Hopefully, we'll see the real Telescope on Saturday and the dream will still be alive."...
The march toward the June 29 Shoemaker Mile (G1) continues Saturday with the $150,000 American Handicap (G2), a course-and-distance prep for the Shoemaker over Hollywood Park's turf course. The likely favorite is the front-running Obviously (Choisir), who racked up wins last fall in the Del Mar Mile (G2) and Arroyo Seco Mile (G2) before a third in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1). In his lone outing this year, the five-year-old gelding was nabbed late going downhill at Santa Anita in the San Simeon (G3). The American will mark the U.S. debut for Lucayan (Turtle Bowl), who went unplaced in his final three starts in Europe following a 27-1 upset of the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-G1) at Longchamp last May. Now conditioned by Neil Drysdale, Lucayan will be ridden for the first time by a fellow French import, Julien Leparoux. Also in the six-horse lineup are Chosen Miracle (Ghostzapper), who's placed in the San Gabriel (G2) and San Simeon this season, and Drill (Lawyer Ron), a rallying fourth in the San Simeon which marked the colt's turf debut...
Dark Cove (Medaglia d'Oro) will face eight rivals on Saturday as he seeks to add a second straight graded win to his resume in Churchill Downs' $100,000 Louisville Handicap (G3). The Mike Maker trainee was a 4 1/4-length victor of the Elkhorn (G2) over Keeneland's turf on April 26 and will stay at that race's 1 1/2-mile distance for Saturday's grass affair under the Twin Spires. Dark Cove owns two prior tries over the Churchill green, finishing a well-beaten 10th in the Commonwealth Turf (G3) in 2010 and most recently posting a runner-up effort in a 2011 optional claimer. Rosie Napravnik has the call aboard the bay six-year-old, who will be facing Heathcote (Niigon), a 12 1/4-length romper last out when taking the Valedictory (Can-G3) in mid-December; Harrods Creek (Langfuhr), winner of the John's Call at Saratoga in his final appearance of 2012 on August 3; and last year's Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Marathon third-placer, Atigun (Istan), who just scored in his second turf appearance in a May 4 Churchill optional claimer...
Dual Canadian champion Irish Mission (Giant's Causeway) returns to Woodbine on Saturday as part of a seven-distaffer field in the C$200,000 Nassau (Can-G2) going a mile on the turf. The Mark Frostad pupil captured last year's Woodbine Oaks over the Polytrack prior to a runner-up effort in the Queen's Plate against the boys. She would go on to finish sixth on the Fort Erie dirt in the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales, before taking the 1 1/2-mile third jewel, the Breeders', on Woodbine's turf in her penultimate start of 2012. Irish Mission made her return to competition on February 28 at Gulfstream Park, running second in an optional claimer before filling the third spot in the Orchid (G3) in her last start on March 30. Earlier on Woodbine's Saturday program, a field of seven sophomore fillies will line up in the C$125,000 Lady Angela, and Rootham Triple E's (Weather Warning) will try to return to the winner's circle after a sixth-place effort in the Fury on May 4. The bay miss captured the Star Shoot to open her 2013 campaign...
Csaba (Kitten's Joy) tops a field of 10 entered in Saturday's $75,000 Memorial Handicap at Calder. The four-year-old colt reeled off consecutive wins this winter in the Tropical Park Derby, Fred Hooper (G3), Harlan's Holiday and Hal's Hope (G3) before finishing fifth in the Donn Handicap (G1) and has been freshened 105 days in advance of this assignment by trainer Phil Gleaves. Manoel Cruz picks up the mount. Rule Number Six (Repent) and Megamove (High Cotton), the two respective finishers from the May 5 Sumter at Calder, will both return in this spot and Grade 2 winner Eldaafer (A.P. Indy) figures to appreciate the class relief following a fifth in the Grade 3 Skip Away last out. Other contestants include Isutalkintome (Flashy Bull), Ducduc (Langfuhr) and Flatter This (Flatter)...
Winning Image (Southern Image), last seen posting a comfortable score in the Willa on the Move at Laurel Park in mid-December, will make a title defense in Saturday's $75,000 My Juliet at Parx Racing. A four-time stakes heroine, the Michael Aro-trained mare will make her 2013 debut against five rivals and has been listed as the 8-5 favorite on the morning line for the six-furlong test. Regular rider Jose Caraballo will be up. Ruffian (G2) winner Withgreatpleasure (Hold That Tiger) is scheduled to wheel back a week later after finishing third in the Vagrancy (G2) and Villette (Petionville) will step up to face graded rivals following an easy triumph in the April 13 Foxy JG at Parx over state-bred foes. Stakes winners Appealing Stella (Closing Argument) and Ms. Cruisen' (Candy Ride) are also entered...
Trainer Bruce Levine and Jena Antonucci will be among the industry speakers participating in the New York Racing Association's (NYRA) next "New Owners Luncheon" at Belmont Park on June 2. Co-hosted by former champion jockey and NYRA television analyst Richard Migliore and former Daily News handicapper Ernie Munick, the program was initiated in 2011 and provides a comprehensive introduction and overview of Thoroughbred ownership to those interested in buying a racehorse. The event will begin at 8 a.m. (EDT) with a continental breakfast in the Turf & Field Room on the fourth floor of the clubhouse, followed by presentations and Q&A session with Levine and Antonucci, along with owner Marty Cunningham, the racing partnerships of Kenwood Racing Stable and Hibiscus Stable, bloodstock agent Joseph Brocklebank, and equine accountant Andre Moglia. Also included in the $75 registration fee is lunch in the Turf & Field Room, a backstretch tour, a visit to the paddock to see the horses being saddled before a race, a winner's circle presentation, an official program and a gift bag. Throughout the day, guests also will have the opportunity to meet many of NYRA's leading jockeys, trainers and owners. Registration details for the "New Owners Luncheon" are available at nyra.com. For more information, please call the Belmont Park Horsemen's Relations at 718-659-2206.
On the New York worktab
Multiple Grade 1 hero Point of Entry (Dynaformer), scratched out of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, logged a half-mile in :50 2/5 over Belmont Park's fast main track on Wednesday.
The Shug McGaughey trainee captured the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) to begin his five-year-old season in early February and is now pointing to the Manhattan Handicap (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Last-out Appalachian S. (G3) victress Unbelievable Dream (Kitalpha), who has suffered just one loss in her four-race career thus far, turned four furlongs in :49 1/5.
Unbeaten sophomore Lovely Syn (Freud), a 9 1/2-length romper while making her stakes bow in the Park Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes last out, breezed five-eighths in 1:01 4/5.
Grade 3 vixen My Happy Face (Tiz Wonderful), unraced since a runner-up effort in the Forward Gal (G2) in late January, traveled a half in :49 3/5 on the fast dirt training track.
Eblouissante (Bernardini), an unbeaten half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta, covered four furlongs in :49.
Grade 2 scorer Big Blue Kitten (Kitten's Joy), third in the Ft. Lauderdale (G2) to start the year prior to a pair of optional claiming wins, clocked a half-mile in :49 4/5 on the good dirt at Saratoga's Oklahoma training track.
On the Kentucky worktab
Joyful Victory (Tapit), triumphant by four lengths in the Santa Margarita (G1) and 4 1/4 lengths in the Houston Ladies Classic thus far this season, clocked five furlongs in :59 4/5 over Churchill Downs' fast dirt on Wednesday in advance of Monday's Ogden Phipps (G1).
Grade 2 victor Mark Valeski (Proud Citizen), runner-up when last seen in the March 30 New Orleans Handicap (G2), sped a bullet five-eighths in :58 4/5. He's headed to Monday's Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
Grade 2 winner Chamberlain Bridge (War Chant), a nose second in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) earlier this month, posted three panels in :38 3/5.
Swale (G3) hero Clearly Now (Horse Greeley), a head second in the Bay Shore (G3) most recently, toured three-quarters in 1:13 2/5 on Keeneland's Polytrack.
On the California worktab
Multiple Grade 1 winner Include Me Out (Include), unraced since a third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1), logged six furlongs in 1:15 over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on Wednesday.
Multiple Grade 1 vixen Executiveprivilege (First Samurai), who hasn't started since a fourth in the Hollywood Starlet (G1), turned four furlongs in :48 4/5.
Multiple Grade 2 hero Sahara Sky (Pleasant Tap), a closing second in the Carter Handicap (G1) last time, completed his move in :49 4/5. He's expected for Monday's Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont.
Grade 1 veteran Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie), last seen taking the Cool Frenchy, sped in a bullet :47 3/5.
My Best Brother (Stormy Atlantic), unplaced twice following a score in the Del Mar Derby (G2), logged three furlongs in :36 1/5.
Multiple Grade 2 queen Gypsy Robin (Daaher), last seen taking the Raven Run (G2) in October by four lengths, zipped in a bullet :35 3/5.
Grade 2-placed Chosen Miracle (Ghostzapper), third in the San Simeon (G3) last time, traveled a half-mile in :49 in advance of Saturday's American Handicap (G2).
Surfcup (Unusual Heat), winner of the April 27 Snow Chief, posted five furlongs in :59 3/5.
Over the fast main track at Santa Anita, Southwest (G3) hero Super Ninety Nine (Pulpit) and Tokyo City Cup (G3) victor Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker) both worked three furlongs in :35 4/5, sharing the bullet on the day. Super Ninety Nine was a distant third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) last time, while Sky Kingdom trailed in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (G2) most recently.
On the Florida worktab
Carter Handicap (G1) hero Swagger Jack (Smart Strike) worked four furlongs in :50 3/5 over a sloppy main track at Calder on Wednesday. He will ship to Belmont for Monday's Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
On the Delaware worktab
Stakes winner Picko's Pride (Cactus Ridge), a close second in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last time, logged four furlongs in :53 2/5 on the fast main track at Delaware Park on Wednesday.
On the Illinois worktab
Grade 3-placed stakes winner Muppet Man (Corinthian), sidelined since trailing in the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile last September as the even-money favorite, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 on the Polytrack at Arlington Park on Wednesday.
For Thursday or Next Raceday
MAY 23, 2013
by James Scully
Oxbow pulled a classic theft in Saturday's Preakness. Credit Gary Stevens for seizing the initiative.
The 50-year-old Hall of Fame jockey took expectations of a contested pace scenario and turned them upside down, guiding Oxbow to a clear lead passing the stands for the first time. The dark bay colt traveled comfortably into the first turn on about a two-length advantage and never felt the brunt of pressure.
I had Oxbow pegged as the Kentucky Derby pacesetter and expected him to be on or close to the lead in the Preakness. But I couldn't envision how easily it came, not with Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Titletown Five and Itsmyluckyday all bringing potential speed to the equation. What looked like a contested pace scenario on paper quickly dissipated as the riders of the other speed horses allowed Stevens to outsmart them.
Oxbow strolled through reasonable fractions of :23.94, :48.60 and 1:13.26 before offering his patented move into the stretch, drawing away with authority. He accelerated off the far turn in every previous start this year except the Arkansas Derby, when the rider mistakenly took a hold of him early.
Oxbow turned a short advantage into a landslide victory in January's Lecomte Stakes and offered the same move in upper stretch of the Risen Star and Rebel. He couldn't sustain a clear lead in the latter two, which called his overall quality into question, but I was impressed by his sixth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby.
After chasing a wicked pace on Derby Day, Oxbow found his best stride leaving the far turn, drawing even with Normandy Invasion with approximately a quarter-mile remaining.
"Coming into the stretch, I had a big smile on my face. I'm going to win my fourth (Derby)," Stevens said of Oxbow's move in the Kentucky Derby. "But five strides later, I was attacked from the outside for a couple strides, and they went on."
Oxbow saved plenty for the finish after an ideal trip in the Preakness and will look to do the same in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes three weeks later. Of course, this time the competition will be well aware of the consequences of allowing him an easy lead. And the presence of speedball Freedom Child, a runaway winner of the May 11 Peter Pan, should guarantee him company on the front end.
At least that's the way it looks on paper.
It would have one thing if Orb had offered a run that came up short, but his no-show Preakness performance proved difficult to watch. He essentially threw in the towel when shuffled back to eighth entering the far turn and clunked up late for fourth after Departing and Goldencents slowed to a crawl in deep stretch.
The negative backlash came as no surprise -- Orb was being hailed as Triple Crown worthy by a large segment of the audience and couldn't hit the board at Pimlico. But I'm willing to cut him a little slack considering that he won five straight beforehand, including three graded stakes. I don't expect any other three-year-olds from this crop to match that accomplishment.
Itsmyluckyday, who got first run in the Florida Derby before being overhauled by Orb in a convincing victory, also flattered his counterpart by finishing second in the Preakness.
The fact remains that it's difficult to get an accurate gauge on Orb at this point in his career. My take is simple: Orb was overrated following the Derby win and is being underrated following the Preakness setback. Let's see what he can do in the future.
The Belmont will offer the opportunity for a measure of redemption and Saturday's defeat might be the best thing for fans hoping to see Orb next year. That's something Shug McGaughey spoke repeatedly of earlier this season when stating that they would allow Orb to take them to the Derby not the other way around. He believed Orb would be better at age four and that prospect is an exciting one.
Alysheba, the champion three-year-old of 1987, shows the difference an added year of maturity can make. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner posted three consecutive first-place finishes in 1987 before dropping four of his final five starts that season. Alysheba didn't run poorly in all those losses, but there's no debating that he developed into a much more formidable horse at age four, winning seven of nine attempts and Horse of the Year honors.
A Belmont victory would go a long way toward Orb securing champion three-year-old honors and he would have the same potential for improvement as an older horse.
I'll take a closer look at the Belmont field next week.
MAY 23, 2013
by John Mucciolo
A Grade 2 event for fillies and mares sprinting headlined the weekend of racing at Belmont Park.
Vagrancy H. (G2): Laue Ranch's homebred GLORIOUS VIEW (Pleasant Tap) led soon after the start and never looked back in posting her first graded win for trainer Bill Mott. The four-year-old lass, who finished a half-length clear under the line, sped 6 1/2 panels on the fast main oval in 1:15 4/5 beneath Junior Alvarado.
A total of 48 races were held at the Elmont, New York, venue, with favorites winning at a 35 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 54 percent of the wins during the week. From 22 races on the main oval, seven animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (32 percent), while two of the 26 races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (8 percent).
It was surely tough to lead at every call on the lawn this week, with just a pair of wire-to-wire winners. Of those, one came in a sprint on the inner, the other in a sprint on the outer lawn. We did see a lot of grassy winners prompting the pace, as well as a slew of first placers closing from well back.
Though the numbers might not fully back it up, we thought Wednesday and Thursday were good days for speed. Four of the eight dirt races were won in wire-to-wire fashion, while three other winners tracked in second early on.
HORSES TO WATCH
4TH -- The Bill Mott-trained ASSURED (Empire Maker) had no chance with the sharp winner on this occasion, but the first timer offered a nice late run to be a clear second and we surely consider her one to watch going forward. The sophomore hails from a dynamic female family and could be a nice one if this was any indication.
6TH -- STAR CHANNEL (English Channel) was full of run in this 10-furlong race, driving clear to an emphatic score for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The four-year-old colt got away with running for a tag in here, but following this run, we'd imagine he won't be offered anytime soon. His final half-mile was clocked in a solid :47 3/5.
2ND -- ZIP UP (Ghostzapper) made a mostly sustained run to gamely get second in this debut run for conditioner Shug McGaughey, who is better with horses having a start or two under their belt. We consider the three-year-old filly an obvious one to watch coming back, likely at a trip a bit longer, as well.
7TH -- YES IT'S PINK (Yes It's True) has now bagged two in a row in impressive fashion and could be stakes bound soon for conditioner Christophe Clement. The four-year-old filly was last early but flew home to dust this field in the lane, getting her final quarter-mile in a rapid :22 4/5!
8TH -- The Bruce Brown-trained NIGHT OFFICER (Officer) rallied in a big way in the lane to win this stakes event and beat a very nice field in the process. The five-year-old showed nice early foot and a big late kick, clocking six grassy panels in a wicked 1:07 4/5 in the process.
8TH -- NOTMYFIRSTTIME (Scat Daddy) put in a superb run in his first start since July in winning for conditioner Steve Asmussen. The four-year-old colt dueled on the lead, took a slight lead in early stretch and kept his main foe at bay late in fine allowance tally, reaching the wire in a swift 1:08 2/5. If this one improves throughout the summer, he can be a very useful one-turn runner.
3RD -- The nine-year-old TEMECULA CREEK (Gulch) showed he has plenty of run left in him with a dominating 8 1/4-length tally for trainer David Jacobson. The old timer was visually impressive in easily going by the early leaders in here and should be tough right back with anything close to this performance. A class rise is likely in his subsequent outing.
8TH -- COUSIN MICHAEL (Greeley's Galaxy) had no chance to win in here in trying to rally from last on this sloppy, sealed oval, but the Charlton Baker pupil did make a little run and we'll back him on a dry oval at a price next time.
A Look Ahead
Memorial Day is one of the bigger days on the calendar in the Empire State and this Monday will host a fantastic slew of stakes events. The Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap leads the way and will be joined by the Grade 1, $400,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes; the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn Stakes; and the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point Stakes.
Saturday will be headlined by the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes.
At a Glance
AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE
*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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