Daring Dancer nips A Little Bit Sassy in Lake George
A Little Bit Sassy made her move rounding the turn, drawing even with Daring Kathy and sticking her head in front past a mile in 1:34 4/5. Daring Dancer had angled out by this point in the lane and was coming hard, though. The bay miss reeled in A Little Bit Sassy and got the victory over her game rival.
"That was a very close race. Somebody had to win, (and) I was glad to win that race," Garcia stated. "She was comfortable all the way. Turning for home, I was looking for a hole, but I decided to move outside. She did it spectacularly."
Daring Dancer's third dam, multiple Grade 2 queen Chapel of Dreams, is the ancestress of Grade 2 winners Tale of a Champion, Postponed and Juniper Pass. As a daughter of Northern Dancer and Terlingua, Chapel of Dreams is a three-quarter sister to world-renowned sire Storm Cat, from the immediate family of Royal Academy.
Belmont winner Tonalist returns in Jim Dandy
When back to ideal health, the Christophe Clement trainee skipped through the slop when taking the May 10 Peter Pan by four lengths, and was game in wearing down a determined Commissioner by a head in the Belmont, denying California Chrome's bid for the Triple Crown.
"It's great when your patience pays off, and that's a credit to his owner (Robert S. Evans) who gave me the freedom to do that," Clement said. "To be competing on this level is very exciting for me.
"I think he's fit, but I think he can move up from the race, too," Clement added. "He had a break after the Belmont and he put on quite a bit of weight. He's been very playful and he thinks life is great. Unfortunately for him over the last three weeks he's been back to work, but he still thinks that life is great. He's a very playful kind of a horse, and that's a great thing. He's taking his work very well."
Tonalist is seeking to become the fifth horse to win the Belmont and Jim Dandy. Arts and Letters (1969), Affirmed (1978), and Conquistador Cielo (1982) turned the double en route to Horse of the Year honors, while Palace Malice, who won both stakes in 2013, is a leading candidate for Horse of the Year honors as a four-year-old this season.
Wicked Strong, who thus far has been most accomplished at Aqueduct by winning the Wood Memorial and finishing a close third in the last fall's Remsen, will attempt to revert to the form that saw him win the nine-furlong Wood by 3 1/2 lengths. The Jimmy Jerkens pupil finished fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, dead-heating with California Chrome in the latter.
"The Easy Goer really turned him around," Rice said. "He needed that race, and it was a pretty attractive spot. It helped him and got him back in the game, and he's really turned the corner since."
Also in the Jim Dandy are two colts Kid Cruz has beaten this summer, Easy Goer runner-up Legend and Dwyer third Ulanbator. Completing the field is the Grade 3-placed Cousin Stephen, a recent Parx allowance winner who was also entered in Friday's Curlin.
Rock Fall, a maiden and allowance winner during the Belmont spring meet by a combined margin of 12 1/2 lengths, takes on stakes company for the first time Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam, a 6 1/2-furlong prep for next month's King's Bishop.
The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Speightstown cruised to a six-furlong maiden win by 9 1/4 lengths on May 11, and then returned on June 4 to beat allowance company by 3 1/4 lengths after leading by nearly twice that margin with a furlong to go.
Among the stakes veterans set to face Rock Fall are Noble Moon, hero of the Jerome in early January and most recently sixth in the Wood Memorial; Bay Shore victor Coup de Grace, a rough-trip sixth in the Woody Stephens and winner of the Oh Say at Delaware Park subsequently; and Captain Serious, who led for nearly all of the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer before conceding the race late to entrymate Kid Cruz.
Also lining up are Tiznowforamerica, an allowance scorer at Belmont last time for Tom Albertrani; C. Zee and Casiguapo, one-two in the $90,000 Cherokee Run at Gulfstream on July 5; and New York-bred allowance winner John's Island.
Dance With Fate, Frac Daddy highlight San Diego
Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 San Diego H. serves as a prep for the centerpiece event of the Del Mar meet, the $1 million Pacific Classic on August 24, and a nice field of 11 is entered for the 1 1/16-mile event on Polytrack. A pair of accomplished synthetic performers, Dance With Fate and Frac Daddy, are top contenders.
Dance With Fate broke his maiden over the local Polytrack last August and just missed when stepping up to face stakes rivals in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, recording a fast-finishing second. A son of Two Step Salsa, the Peter Eurton-trained colt registered his biggest career victory when taking the Grade 1 Blue Grass over Keeneland's Polytrack two starts back, earning a Kentucky Derby berth in the process, and Dance With Fate will be making his first appearance since a rallying sixth in the first leg of the Triple Crown on May 3. Corey Nakatani retains the mount.
Frac Daddy invades for conditioner Kenny McPeek following a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Dominion Day at Woodbine July 1. The gray four-year-old posted a sharp tally in the Grade 3 Ben Ali on Keeneland's Polytrack earlier this season, scoring by 4 3/4 lengths, and romped by five lengths in the Grade 2 Eclipse at Woodbine two starts back. The front-running Scat Daddy colt will pick up a new rider in Joe Talamo.
Imperative was unplaced in his lone previous appearance over Del Mar's Polytrack, but the Bernardini gelding is two for four on all-weather tracks and can't be dismissed from win consideration in this spot. Trained by George Papaprodromou, the four-year-old has really come on since being claimed last December, recording a win in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 San Antonio, and Imperative exits a decent third in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Regular rider Kent Desormeaux will be up.
Fed Biz, who captured the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien going seven furlongs at Del Mar two starts back, will make his 2014 debut for Bob Baffert. The five-year-old horse was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, but he's a perfect two for two at Del Mar and rates as a dangerous contender if ready to go off the shelf. Martin Garcia rides.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Summer Hit is a hard-hitting gelding from the barn of Jerry Hollendorfer and won last year's Harry Brubaker in his lone start on Del Mar's Polytrack. You Know I Know finished third in last year Pacific Classic and defeated allowance/optional claiming foes in his other start locally. Soi Phet is three for three on Del Mar's main track and enters in good form, posting an easy win over state-bred stakes foes at Los Alamitos on July 3.
Earlier on the program, eight California-bred sophomore fillies will square off in the Fleet Treat at seven furlongs and unbeaten Sunday Rules figures to be a prohibitive favorite. A smashing 8 1/2-length winner of the restricted Generous Portion at Del Mar last year, the Philip d'Amato-trained daughter of Tribal Rules returned to the races this year with an 8 3/4-length allowance romp at Santa Anita June 26. She earned a field-best 100 BRIS Speed rating for the effort and will keep Mike Smith in the irons for her second start back.
Social Inclusion arrives for Haskell in search of a rider
"I am talking to other riders and looking at other options now, and we have to decide by tomorrow morning (when entries will be taken)," said Azpurua, who at age 85 became the oldest trainer to saddle a Preakness starter when he tightened the girth on Social Inclusion, a Kentucky-bred son of Pioneer of the Nile.
Social Inclusion, who generated considerable buzz when he won his first two races at Gulfstream Park this year by a combined 16 1/2 lengths and set a track record of 1.40.97 for 1 1/16 miles in the second start, worked four furlongs Tuesday morning at his home track. His breeze of :48 1/5 was the fourth fastest of 20 horses traveling the same distance at Gulfstream.
The colt made his third start in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, but became worked up in the paddock and post parade and finished third as the favorite. In the Preakness next time, he also had some pre-race issues and antics.
"He's doing great, he's acting a lot quieter and nicer now. Before, he would get a little bit upset," his trainer said. "We made some mistakes with him. The important thing is that he's taking in everything quietly now and he's easier to train. He's matured. My people told me this morning that my horse made the trip very quietly and very nicely."
Social Inclusion figures to be part of a very quick pace. Bayern, Wildcat Red, and Albano have shown plenty of early foot leaving the gate in their races.
"We'll see what happens. That's something very easy to say before the race, so we'll see how everything is going to go. We'll run this race and find out what's going to be. I really believe my horse is going to run a wonderful race on Sunday," Azpurua said.
Departing scheduled to work for Whitney
Multiple Grade 2 hero Departing will work Saturday morning as he continues his preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney on August 2 at Saratoga.
The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred fired a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 last Saturday on the Spa's fast main track, best of 20 at the distance.
"He's training well," trainer Al Stall stated. "He trained well here last year, and he seems to like it. He didn't get to run up here, and he'll get his first chance. His breeze last Saturday was very nice -- five-eighths and a great gallop-out. Everything is on schedule."
Departing has a 7-for-11 record with nearly $1.5 million in career earnings. Last year at three he romped in the Super Derby and West Virginia Derby, both Grade 2s, as well as the Illinois Derby, a Grade 3.
The gelded son of War Front opened his four-year-old campaign with an easy score in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs and then went straight to the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 14 under the Twin Spires. Against top horses, he loomed boldly in the stretch before flattening out to third, just a neck behind runner-up and champion Will Take Charge, who also will be running in the Whitney.
Stall believes the schedule sets up Departing perfectly for a top performance.
"That was his second race in 8 1/2 months, going from a one-turn mile allowance race to a mile-and-an-eighth two turns," Stall said. "He was on the lead at the eighth-pole (in the Stephen Foster) and just kind of evened off a little bit at the end. He figured to need the race, but I thought to get beat two lengths while he's still working his way up to fitness was a great race for him."
The Whitney has "been the goal since we turned him out last October," Stall said. "We figured his third race back would be the Whitney and so far, so good."
Zito hoping Spot likes stretch out in Curlin
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito will give Grade 2-winning sprinter Spot another chance to stretch out in Friday's $100,000 Curlin for three-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga.
Purchased by Joseph Moss following a fifth-place effort in the seven-furlong 3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park in February, the gelded sophomore son of Pulpit came from off the pace to beat previously undefeated No Nay Never in the seven-furlong Swale next out.
A disappointing seventh in the Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles four weeks later, Spot was off the board in both the Derby Trial and Woody Stephens before running fourth in the July 5 Dwyer at 1 1/16 miles.
"Horses change," Zito said. "Right now, the way he's been training these last two months, we've thought for sure that he wanted to go long. The miles he's logged have indicated that he's changed. If you look at it, the Florida Derby wasn't bad. The Dwyer was a good indication that he will go long."
A longtime assistant and exercise rider for Zito, Maxine Correa echoed her boss' sentiments.
"When he gallops and breezes, he gallops out after the breeze as if he's still breezing," she said. "Never mind the breeze, at the end of the gallop he pulls even harder than at the beginning of the gallop."
Based for most of the year with Zito's string in Saratoga, Spot has worked steadily for the Curlin, including a bullet half-mile breeze in :48 on June 28. Most recently the gray Kentucky-bred went four furlongs in :49 2/5 on July 17; both moves were over the Spa's fast main track.
"He's doing good here. He likes the main track," Zito said. "I wish, like everybody else, it was five weeks from the Dwyer but what are you going to do? It was a good race, and he did win a graded race. He won the Swale. We'll see what happens."
Jockey Jose Ortiz will ride Spot for the first time in the Curlin; they drew post eight in a field of 10 at 117 pounds, six less than co-highweights Tiz'naz and Joint Custody.
"I always like the inside because you always get position right off the bat, but from the outside he'll do what he's got to do," Zito said. "He's really strong right now. I talked to the jock; he's a bright kid. He looks like he's got a future. He was here the other day and we went over the race with him. Hopefully, he gets a good place and a good trip."
Zito picked up his first two wins of the Saratoga meet on Monday in back-to-back, seven-furlong dirt sprints with three-year-olds, filly Another Incident in a $55,000 allowance and colt Tony B in a $20,000 maiden claimer.
Owned by Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farm, Tony B is a chestnut son of Old Fashioned who cost $500,000 as a two-year-old in training last spring. Named for 87-year-old entertainer and artist Tony Bennett, he was seventh in his career debut last summer at Saratoga.
On Monday, Tony B was fractious in the gate but broke well and settled in third behind pacesetter Midnight Frolic under jockey Luis Saez before shaking clear at the quarter-pole and spurting away to win by 11 lengths in 1:23 3/5.
"Sometimes you've got horses and they're not doing well and you put them in a claiming race and they run off the screen. Naturally, you hope they're not claimed," Zito said. "He wasn't claimed.
"Mr. Riggio liked him as a two-year-old and he was an expensive two-year-old. We just couldn't get a break with this horse his two-year-old year. He had an issue here and an issue there. We gave him all the time. We're so grateful he wasn't claimed because of how he won and what could happen."
Ring Weekend, other Motion trainees, targeting Spa stakes
Ring Weekend, second in the July 18 Sir Cat Stakes to Tourist on Saratoga's turf, has come back in good form for trainer Graham Motion and may return for another stakes race later in the meet, according to assistant trainer Alice Clapham.
A likely spot would be the $100,000 Better Talk Now, a one-mile turf race for three-year-olds on August 20. That race is named for Motion's 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, who ranks among his favorite horses and is turned out in a paddock near his barn at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
Ring Weekend won the Tampa Bay Derby and was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby when he finished second in the Calder Derby on turf. His connections ultimately skipped the Run for the Roses and ran in the Preakness, where Ring Weekend was bumped and steadied in a rough-trip fifth-place finish.
After that, Motion sent Ring Weekend out in the Pegasus over Monmouth Park's dirt, and the Tapit gelding pulled up in the stretch after setting the pace.
The performance in the Sir Cat showed Ring Weekend was back on track and likely headed to more turf racing.
"We were very happy with the way he ran, especially after the race at Monmouth," Clapham said. "He ran huge. We were just happy that he put his mind back in the game. I think that horse of (trainer Bill) Mott's (Tourist) is a very nice horse."
The Motion barn has an intriguing English import, Stars Above Me, set to run July 30 in the $100,000 Coronation Cup, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for three-year-old fillies. Despite only having one victory in five starts overseas, the Exceed and Excell filly has hit the board in four of those starts -- all of which came against males.
"They wanted to bring her over here and get some black-type with her," Clapham explained. "She got here last week."
Auld Alliance and multiple Grade 3 heroine Inimitable Romanee are both on track to run August 3 in the $100,000 Waya going 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Both will van up for the race from Fair Hill.
Pocahontas, Iroquois highlight Churchill's second September Meet
The second September Meet in the 140-year history of Churchill Downs Racetrack will offer a eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 during a 12-day run topped by a pair of important stakes events for juveniles who have their eyes on the Breeders' Cup World Championships and racing's spring classics, and the return of the $125,000 Homecoming Classic, a race for 3-year-olds and up designed as a prep for the million Breeders' Cup Classic.
The opening Saturday night of the September 5-28 meet will feature four of those stakes events in a program highlighted by the Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas for two-year-old fillies and Grade 3, $100,000 Iroquois for juvenile colts and geldings. The 1 1/16-mile races open the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" and "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" points system for the 2015 Derby and Oaks, and are also included in the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The second running of the Homecoming Classic -- a 1 1/8-mile race designed to be a prep for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic and November's Grade 1, $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill -- will share the stage on September 27 with the Grade 3, $100,000 Jefferson Cup, a one-mile race for three-year-olds on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Along with an automatic berth in the starting gate for their respective Breeders' Cup races, the Breeders' Cup-nominated horse who wins the Pocahontas or Iroquois also will have their pre-entry and entry fees paid, receive a $10,000 travel stipend (if based outside of California), and the nominating person of the winner will receive an award of $10,000.
Racing during the September Meet will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during each of its four weeks, with "Downs After Dark" night racing celebrations scheduled for opening night September 5 and September 19.
The races on the stakes schedule for this year's meet are identical to the roster of events offered during last year's inaugural September racing session, but total stakes purses have been reduced by $50,000 and individual purses have been changed for three races. The Pocahontas purse has been raised by $50,000 to $200,000. Purses for the Homecoming Classic and Iroquois were each reduced by $50,000. The value of the Homecoming Classic is now $125,000, while the Iroquois purse is $100,000.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois will be joined on that first Saturday program by the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack sending three-year-olds and up one mile and the $100,000 Locust Grove, a 1 1/16-mile contest for distaffers.
The $100,000 Open Mind, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, will be the featured event on September 13, while the Grade 3, $100,000 Dogwood sending sophomore fillies seven furlongs is scheduled for September 20.
The roster of winners of stakes events run during last year's inaugural September Meet included:
Churchill Downs had conducted racing in the month of September as part of various summer and fall racing meets during its long history that began in 1875. Last year was the first in which the track offered both a third racing meet in a calendar year and a racing session conducted exclusively during September.
Seating for the September 5 and September 19 "Downs After Dark" celebrations and other racing programs scheduled during the September Meet is available for purchase online at ChurchillDowns.com.
St Leger attracts 33 entries
Entries have been revealed for the final English classic of the season, the St Leger, which takes place at Doncaster on September 13. Run over one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards, the Group 1 contest boasts a record prize fund of £650,000.
Two of the past four St Leger winners have been trained by John Gosden -- Arctic Cosmos (2010) and Masked Marvel (2011) -- and the Newmarket handler has won the final classic four times in total. Gosden looks to hold another strong hand this year with Derby third Romsdal and King Edward VII Stakes victor Eagle Top starring among his five entries.
The Gosden-trained quintet also includes Cloudscape, who stayed on well when fourth in the 10-furlong Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot, impressive Doncaster maiden scorer Forever Now and Marzocco, who stayed on to take fifth in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp on July 13.
Observational will test his St Leger credentials in the 12-furlong Gordon Stakes at Goodwood on July 30. The Roger Charlton-trained colt stayed on dourly to capture the Cocked Hat Stakes by a neck from Marzocco at the same course in May, but missed the Derby with a bad scope and has not run since.
"We have entered Observational in the St Leger and it's a race we are looking at," Charlton reported. "Everything is fine with him. He will go for the Gordon Stakes next and we will see how he gets on there before deciding if he needs another run before the St Leger.
"I would not be too concerned about stepping up in trip."
The Goodwood contest has produced four St Leger heroes since the turn of the century courtesy of Encke (2012), Arctic Cosmos (2010), Conduit (2008) and Sixties Icon (2006). It forms part of the 'Road to the St Leger' series, which also features the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York on August 20.
Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien saddled his fourth St Leger winner last year with Leading Light and has seven entries in 2014, the most of any trainer. The Ballydoyle septet includes Irish Derby runner-up Kingfisher plus stakes scorer Indian Maharaja and impressive maiden winner Granddukeoftuscany.
Other possible starters for O'Brien are Adjusted, Annus Mirabilis, Blue Hussar and Buonarroti, who was fifth at Doncaster last season in the Racing Post Trophy.
In addition to O'Brien's seven entries, there are a further two entries from Ireland. John Oxx has entered the Christopher Tsui-owned Streetcar to Stars, a son of Sea the Stars who was narrowly denied in a 12-furlong stakes at Leopardstown in June before gaining a comfortable success in a 10-furlong maiden at the Curragh later the same month.
The St Leger is the one English classic to have eluded Jim Bolger and the trainer has entered dual handicap scorer Wexford Town, a full-brother to last year's Irish Derby hero Trading Leather.
No current trainer has won the St Leger more times than Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor who has five victories to his name, most recently Mastery in 2009. Bin Suroor's four entries in 2014 include Elite Army, impressive winner of the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot and True Story, who was last seen out when fifth in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 5.
The lightly-raced Arabian Revolution and Winter Thunder complete the Godolphin quartet.
Sir Michael Stoute famously broke his St Leger duck with Conduit in 2008 and has a pair of interesting contenders in Lingfield Derby Trial victor Snow Sky and the unexposed Kings Fete.
Kingston Hill enjoyed the biggest victory of his career at Doncaster when he was successful in the Racing Post Trophy last October. The son of Mastercraftsman went on to defeat all bar Australia in the Derby at Epsom and is one of two entries for Roger Varian along with Ayrad, who was last seen out when disappointing in the French Derby at Chantilly in June.
Leading Light won the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot en route to St Leger glory last year and the winner of that two-mile contest in 2014 was Hartnell. The Mark Johnston-trained colt has gone on to advertise his St Leger credentials by landing the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket on July 10, when he defeated the Richard Hannon-trained Windshear.
Johnston could also be represented by Somewhat, who belied his 100-1 starting price when third in the Eclipse Stakes, and Alex My Boy.
Andrew Balding has made entries for Scotland, who was a staying-on third behind Eagle Top at Royal Ascot, and Impulsive Moment, last seen out when third in the Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton on July 18.
The Ed Dunlop-trained Red Galileo came from way off the pace to take fifth in the Derby, while the entries are completed by Min Alemarat, Odeon and Astronereus.
There is a scratchings' stage for the St Leger on August 26. The five-day confirmation stage is on September 8, when there is also a £50,000 supplementary entry stage.
Commanding Curve among 10 entered in Curlin
Life in Shambles, a stablemate and frequent work companion for Belmont Stakes hero Tonalist, will likely be on or near the early lead from post 10. Beaten just a head in his stakes bow in the May 17 Sir Barton, the Christophe Clement pupil set a demanding tempo in the June 7 Easy Goer and paid for it late. The gritty gelding wound up third to Kid Cruz and Legend, who could square off in the Jim Dandy (Kid Cruz has the August 2 West Virginia Derby as another possibility). Joel Rosario, aboard for both of his stakes attempts, will guide Life in Shambles from the outside post 10.
The Kid Cruz formline is also represented by Joint Custody and Spot. Joint Custody placed behind Kid Cruz in the Private Terms and Federico Tesio in his home state of Maryland. Venturing to Delaware Park for the Grover (Buddy) Delp Memorial, Joint Custody was outdueled by Tiz'naz, but rebounded with a convincing win in the off-the-turf Stanton in his latest. He renews rivalry with Tiz'naz, who comes to Saratoga off a dismal seventh in the July 5 Long Branch at Monmouth. As the only two stakes winners at a mile or more in the field, Joint Custody and Tiz'naz are the co-highweights at 123 pounds.
Spot made an auspicious start for new connections -- owner Joseph Moss and trainer Nick Zito -- in the Swale at Gulfstream Park, stunning the hitherto unbeaten No Nay Never. But the well-bred son of Pulpit hasn't managed to hit the board in four ensuing races. His best result in that span was his most recent, a closing fourth to Kid Cruz in the July 5 Dwyer, and he could be on the verge of another move forward. Note that Spot gets a rider switch to Jose Ortiz.
The Chad Brown-trained Cousin Stephen aims to fulfill his early promise. Stamping himself as one to watch when crushing an Aqueduct maiden last November, he was the 8-5 favorite in a loaded allowance at Gulfstream in January, but wound up fifth to Commissioner and Top Billing. Cousin Stephen exited that loss with a lung infection. He was back on track in the Sam F. Davis, finishing a battling-on third, but flopped in the Tampa Bay Derby and headed to the sidelines. The Proud Citizen colt made a winning return in a June 16 Parx allowance, where he led throughout before holding on by a desperate nose, and now he gets Hall of Famer John Velazquez in his corner.
Charge Now has always inspired hopes as a half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby hero Super Saver. The Bill Mott colt captured a Gulfstream maiden and promptly wired an entry-level allowance at Belmont, earning his way into the Grade 3 ranks in the Iowa Derby. But Charge Now never got involved after breaking slowly and trudged home seventh in the Prairie Meadows slop. The son of Tiznow is eligible to make amends.
Protonico is another blueblood who is likely better than his lone stakes result, a sixth in last fall's Nashua. By Giant's Causeway and out of an A.P. Indy mare, Protonico has won both of his other starts. He romped in his debut at Delaware, captured a Belmont allowance most recently in his first outing for Todd Pletcher, and keeps Javier Castellano in the saddle.
Viva Majorca and V. E. Day are stepping up to face stakes rivals, but both have the right profile to make an impact. Viva Majorca, a Marylou Whitney homebred, trounced a Gulfstream maiden by 12 lengths and rolled to a 3 1/2-length allowance win at Churchill Downs. Although he has raced only in sprints so far, the son of Tiago is bred to prefer a route. V. E. Day comes off two straight wins at Belmont for Jimmy Jerkens, in a sloppy, off-the-turf maiden and a turf allowance at this trip. The English Channel colt's preferred surface is yet to be determined, for he is untested on a fast main track.
Sky Kingdom, Soi Phet top 11-horse Cougar II field
The only one in the 11-horse Cougar II field with a victory over the Del Mar Polytrack is Soi Phet, who is actually undefeated in three outings over the surface. All three occurred against allowance company at the 2013 meet, and the Leonard Powell charge recently scored his first stakes win taking the $101,000 Bertrando for California-breds at Los Alamitos.
Longview Drive, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, exits a one-length victory in the $100,000 Oak Tree Handicap at Pleasanton, which followed a head loss against Grade 3 company in the All American over Golden Gate Fields' Tapeta track.
Old Time Hockey, winner of the La Jolla Handicap over the Del Mar turf two years ago, tries a synthetic surface for the first time in the Cougar II. Hero of the Florida Cup Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs in April, the gelded son of Smarty Jones recently rallied for fourth in the American Flag at Los Alamitos after a slow start.
Other notables lining up in the Cougar II are Peruvian Group 1 winner Lideris, a distant fifth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in his U.S. bow, and the Grade 2-placed American Blend, who debuts for trainer John Sadler after being claimed for $75,000 at Santa Anita on June 15.
Harpoon takes stab at turf sprint in Quick Call
The Quick Call will be a significant turnback in distance for Harpoon, but Pletcher believes his colt may get a favorable setup.
"There's a lot of speed in the race, so he should be able to come from off the pace," the trainer said. "It's a small field, so we're taking a shot. He's shown hints of having talent and we thought his sprint on the turf last time was good."
Harpoon, 7-2 on the morning line, will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 2.
Favorite Tale has been pegged as the 5-2 favorite in his first turf attempt. The Guadalupe Preciado trainee has faltered in his two forays into graded stakes company, but has been far more effective at this level. Victorious in the Gold Fever at Belmont in the spring, he comes off a tough-beat second in the July 5 Oh Say at Delaware Park. Rosie Napravnik picks up the mount on the Tale of the Cat gelding, who figures to transfer his early speed to the turf.
Escapist, a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Clearly Now, has won both of his career starts in turf sprints. He will add to the hot pace in his stakes debut, along with Good Bye Greg, unbeaten in his two starts on Polytrack, and Pure Sensation, second to Favorite Tale in the Gold Fever two back and another trying turf for the first time. Choctaw Chuck, winner of the Tom Ridge on Presque Isle's Tapeta, and Glacken Too have also shown some early foot on occasion.
As usual, the Thursday card features a steeplechase. Bill Pape's Bluegrass Summer, the reigning novice steeplechase champion, returns to the races against a full field of contenders for the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at 2 1/16 miles over national fences.
Trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, Bluegrass Summer won an optional allowance at Saratoga last year and will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the Supreme Hurdle last November. He will be coupled in the wagering with Anne Pape's Fog Island, who is trained by Richard Valentine and will be ridden by Robbie Walsh. Valentine also entered Gil Johnston's Awesome Pearl.
Jack Fisher entered Schoodic, last year's three-year-old champion. The homebred Tiznow gelding fell from the unbeaten ranks over fences when third in the Marcellus Frost. Reigning champion jockey Paddy Young has the mount.
Willie McCarthy, the current leading jockey, has the mount on Top Striker, who opened the year with a victory in the Carolina Cup on March 29. He subsequently finished third in the Queen's Cup MPC 'Chase near Charlotte on April 26. Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. tightened Top Striker with a third on the Belmont Park turf on July 4.
Saratoga will be the proving ground for several imported hurdlers including the Irish-bred Saint Jerome; Gmac, who made his U.S. debut with an allowance hurdle in May, and Bob Le Beau, an Irish hurdler who will be making his first 2014 start under Jack Doyle. Bob Le Beau will be coupled in the wagering with Kingdom.
Completing the field are Tempt Me Alex, winner of the Iroquois Steeplechase's Bright Hour Stakes, and Sporty, third in the Bright Hour.
Estimate (Monsun), the five-year-old mare who captured the 2013 Gold Cup (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot for Queen Elizabeth II, has tested positive for morphine following her second-place finish in the 2014 renewal of the Gold Cup on June 19. On July 17 the British Horseracing Authority announced that a number of post-race samples, obtained from recent race meetings, had been found to indicate the presence of morphine, which is a prohibited substance on race days. Five horses, under the care of various trainers, were affected. "I can confirm that one of those horses was Estimate, the five-year-old filly trained by Sir Michael Stoute and owned by The Queen," said John Warren, the Queen's bloodstock and racing adviser. "Initial indications are that the positive test resulted from the consumption of a contaminated feed product. Sir Michael is working closely with the feed company involved to discover how the product may have become contaminated prior to delivery to his stables. As the BHA investigates this matter, including potential links between the different cases, Sir Michael continues to offer his full co-operation. There will be no further comment until the BHA announces its considered findings. Her Majesty has been informed of the situation."...
The New York Racing Association's historic Saratoga Race Course will unite with racetracks across the country on Saturday with autograph signings, photo opportunities and the first jockey foot race in 20 years at the Spa as part of the first Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund (PDJF) Day Across America. Every jockey riding at Saratoga on Saturday will be available during a one-hour autograph session outside the silks room beginning at 11:30 a.m. (EDT). For a $5 donation to the PDJF, fans can receive autographs from Hall of Famers and rising stars alike, including John Velazquez, Edgar Prado, Javier Castellano, Rosie Napravnik, Rajiv Maragh, Jose and Irad Ortiz Jr., Julien Leparoux, Taylor Rice and Joel Rosario. Later in the day, a field of 13 jockeys will break from the starting gate and compete in a one-half furlong foot race on the main track. For a $5 donation, guests will be able to "bet" on their choice and be entered for a chance to win a VIP Day at the Races for two on Travers Day, August 23 along with other prizes. Filiberto Leon won the last jockey foot race at Saratoga in a photo finish over Velazquez in 1995. Post position for the jockey race will be drawn on Wednesday, July 23. "PDJF is not just an industry acronym or letters on a ball cap," said Velazquez, chairman of the Jockeys' Guild and a PDJF board member. "This organization is dedicated to improving the lives and welfare of men and women who face lifelong challenges due to their disabilities. They can no longer complete or provide adequately for their families. PDJF Day Across America is an opportunity to educate our fans about the PDJF and emphasize the importance of raising funds"...
Tattersalls has finalized the dates for Books 1 to 3 of the forthcoming October Yearling Sale. Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, Europe's premier yearling sale, will take place over three days from October 7-9. The catalog features the only qualifiers for the five-race £1,300,000 Tattersalls Millions series, and is expected to number around 480. Book 2 will also take place over three days, October 13-15, and is expected to number 820 lots. The revamped Book 3 will follow on immediately after Book 2 with approximately 550 yearlings to sell on October 16-17. The sale on October 17 will take place over two sessions before and after Future Champions Day at Newmarket's Rowley Mile. All yearlings in Book 3 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale will be eligible for the all new £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes. "The new date for Future Champions Day has created challenges for us this year in accommodating the huge demand from so many British and Irish breeders for places in all three books of our October Yearling Sale," Tattersalls Chairman Edmond Mahony said. "We believe, however, that the slightly revised format, with Book 2 reduced to three days and Book 3 increased to two days, will benefit both vendors and purchasers. The new £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes attached to Book 3 of the October Yearling Sale has already been very well received, and Books 1 and 2 continue to enhance their positions as Europe's premier yearling sale and Europe's most popular yearling sale respectively."...
Mark Roberts, General Manager of Adena Springs South, and a key member of the Adena Springs team that has earned 30 Eclipse or Sovereign Awards for racetrack success, has left Adena Springs to return to breaking and training Thoroughbred racehorses, his true passion. A native of Florida and an alumnus of Eastern Kentucky University, Roberts is also a founding partner of Central Kentucky-based Hidden Brook Farm, under whose banner he will form his breaking and training operation at Adena Springs South. Roberts had been with Frank Stronach's operation for 18 years at Adena Springs South in Florida, where he oversaw the breaking and training of up to 175 Adena Springs horses annually. During Roberts' two-decade tenure in Florida, Adena Springs earned 16 Eclipse Awards as outstanding owner or breeder, and amassed more than $200 million in on-track earnings, primarily with horses broken and trained under Roberts' watch. "My years at Adena Springs have been like attending Grad School at Harvard," Roberts said. "To have had a part in the formative careers of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper and Awesome Again, Breeders' Cup winners Macho Uno and Perfect Sting, Grade 1-winning millionaires Wild Rush and Golden Missile, and the many other top horses that came through this program, made my years with Frank a very rewarding experience. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Stronach and his family for providing me with access to such world-class horses and facilities, but the truth is, I have really found myself missing the action and camaraderie of the racetrack. That is where I began my Thoroughbred career and that is where I would like to be 10, 20, even 30 years from now."...
Bright Thought (Hat Trick) and No Jet Lag (Johar), two also-rans from last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), attempt to recover their old form in Wednesday's $90,000 Wickerr at Del Mar. Bright Thought set a short-lived world record for 1 1/2 miles on turf in the 2013 San Luis Rey (G2), but was later sidelined by a splint injury. Unplaced in four of five outings since his return, the Jorge Gutierrez charge gets class relief as well as a cutback in trip to a grassy mile. No Jet Lag, who upset last October's City of Hope Mile (G2) at odds of 13-1, has failed to hit the board in his three ensuing starts. Trainer Simon Callaghan has freshened him in the wake of a sixth in the Arcadia (G2) on February 1. Like Bright Thought, No Jet Lag has been training forwardly for this lower-key assignment. Barocci (Deep Impact), last seen finishing third to No Jet Lag in the City of Hope, makes his comeback for John Sadler here, and the import is still looking for his first U.S. stakes win. Other contenders include multiple Argentinean Group 1-placed Safety Belt (Easing Along), an allowance winner in his latest for Ron McAnally, as well as fellow recent allowance scorers Rangi (New Approach), Boyett (Sharp Humor) and Lil Bit O' Fun (Langfuhr)...
Lightly raced Kiss Moon (Malibu Moon) heads an overflow field of 14 entered in Wednesday's $200,000 Indiana Grand S., which shares the card with the $100,000 Girls Inc. of Shelbyville, Shelby County S. at Indiana Grand. Kiss Moon finished fourth last out in the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs before being elevated to third via the disqualification of winner A Little Bit Sassy. That filly floated Aurelia's Belle, winner of Saturday's Arlington Oaks (G3), across the track and interfered with Kiss Moon, who was bumped, shut off and forced to check hard. The David Vance trainee was unable to factor in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (G1) but did place in the Fantasy (G2) and Honeybee (G3) over the spring. Kiss Moon will have Rodney Prescott in the irons for the first time since taking her maiden debut at Turfway Park last December. Also lining up in the one-mile turf contest for sophomore fillies are Ice for the Lady (Flatter) and She's Offlee Good (Offlee Wild), whose respective win and third-placing in the Northbound Pride Oaks were enhanced on Saturday after that race's runner-up, Stellaris, finished second in the Arlington Oaks. Earlier on the card, another oversubscribed field of 14 distaffers has been entered to go 1 1/16 miles on the grass in the Girls Inc. of Shelbyville, Shelby County S. Sister Ginger (Student Council), winner of last year's Indiana Grand and a neck second in the Opelousas S. most recently, will break from the rail and face off against Opelousas winner Malibu Yankee (Malibu Moon), Grade 3 veteran Via Villaggio (Bernardini) and the respective top three from the Ellis Park Turf S. -- Honey Hues (Henny Hughes), Gal About Town (City Zip) and Faerie Queene (Pure Prize)...
One month into Arapahoe Park's pioneering Race-Day Medication-Free Incentive program has produced three bonuses that will be paid to trainers who have won with horses that did not compete with race-day medication. The winners have represented two of the three racing breeds at the Aurora, Colorado racetrack -- Thoroughbreds and Arabians. "We've made the program available, and we're happy to have some horsemen take advantage of it," said Bruce Seymore, Executive Director of Mile High Racing and Entertainment, the parent company of Arapahoe Park. "We hope more people get on board with what we believe is the future of racing, and we're going to expand it next year, too." The Race-Day Medication-Free Incentive program, which was launched on June 27, rewards trainers who win at Arapahoe Park with a horse void of any race-day medication with a $1,000 bonus per victory to be paid from a special fund created by Mile High Racing and Entertainment. The program encourages trainers to go beyond the letter of the law that permits only Lasix, phenylbutazone ("bute"), flunixin, and ketoprofen on race day in Colorado. The bonuses will be paid out at the end of the season that concludes on August 17.
For Thursday or Next Raceday
JULY 24, 2014
by John Mucciolo
Four graded stakes races took the spotlight during the opening week of racing at Saratoga Race Course.
Diana S. (G1): Caroline Forgason's homebred SOMALI LEMONADE (Lemon Drop Kid) was in third to midstretch, collared the leader and held off a stern test late by a neck en route to her initial Grade 1 trophy. Trained by Michael Matz, the five-year-old mare went nine panels on the firm lawn in 1:48 2/5 under the guidance of Luis Saez.
Coaching Club American Oaks (G1): Mike Repole's STOPCHARGINGMARIA (Tale of the Cat) made a big move entering the turn for home and cruised home a facile five-length romper in this affair for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The sophomore filly got nine furlongs on the fast main oval in 1:49, posting the signature score of her career beneath Javier Castellano.
Sanford S. (G2): Team D's BIG TROUBLE (Tiz Wonderful) moved three-wide into contention in early stretch and got the best of a tough stretch battle to garner his first stakes win. The Tony Dutrow trainee stopped the teletimer in 1:10 3/5 for six panels beneath Irad Ortiz Jr.
Schuylerville S. (G3): George Bolton and Barry Hall's FASHION ALERT (Old Fashioned) lived up to her 1-5 billing with a measured 1 1/2-length tally for Pletcher. The precocious filly sped six panels on the fast main oval in 1:11 3/5 to remain unbeaten with John Velazquez in the irons.
A total of 41 races were held at the Saratoga Springs, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 37 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 44 percent of the wins during the week. From 19 races on the main oval, five animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (26 percent), while eight of the 21 races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (36 percent).
We witnessed a fine opening weekend of racing at Saratoga. The main oval played fairly we thought all week, with Saturday producing a trio of wire jobs from five main-track events. With that said, each of those were maiden runs early in the card, and we consider this surface to be giving most a chance. It remains, as always, good to be in range at the top of the lane.
Turf speed was very dangerous during this opening stanza, as it was in 2013 when 29 percent of the turf races during the initial week were taken all the way on the front end. We can't explain it exactly, but the turf courses go through spells at this meeting where speed is very hard to run down, especially when the lawn is firm. Of the eight who led at each call, five came in route races (three on the inner oval) and a trio in one-turn dashes.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, as expected, got off to a flying start to this meeting compiling a 12-5-2-2 line through the first four race cards. Others who caught the eye include Nick Zito, who has two winners from four to run with a third placer as well; Bruce Brown, who saddled a pair of winners; and John Kimmel; who can get very streaky here and has had a few live ones to date.
For the duration of the meeting, we will tab Chad Brown, George Weaver and Kiaran McLaughlin to pick things up and get rolling, as they seem to do on a seasonal basis at The Spa.
HORSES TO WATCH
2ND -- The Michelle Nevin-trained BY THE MOON (Indian Charlie) moved into contention in early stretch and ran down a clear one late to post a fine first-out score under Jose Ortiz. The juvenile filly came home with fine energy and was flattered when the runner-up was more than nine lengths clear of the show spot.
RING KNOCKER (Birdstone) swept to the front in early stretch and was a bit unlucky not to have graduated at first asking. The Tom Albertrani trainee will surely be a contender right back with even a similar performance.
7TH -- Though he ran for purse money only, TIZ SARDONIC JOE (Tiznow) made the favored winner work for this tally while finishing a clear second. The Wesley Ward charge was at a tactical disadvantage when the wire-to-wire winner got a slow half-mile, but we loved this one's courage late and will tab him for success over a turf course he obviously likes.
1ST -- KAMARIUS (Candy Ride) tracked the pace, took the lead in early stretch and powered clear to a decisive six-length score to graduate in this opener. The well-bred sort surely appreciated the move to this lawn and his closing five-sixteenths in :29 was sharp while not being abused in the lane. Expect the colt to be stakes bound at this meeting next time.
3RD -- OKLAHOMA ACE (Malibu Moon) showed good early foot and stayed on late to be a clear third in what we consider to be a fine debut showing for trainer Nick Zito, who rarely has them cranked up first time out. Expect improvement and a possible graduation next time for the sophomore.
3RD -- GATHERING (Street Cry) did everything right but win this race for Jonathan Sheppard in posting a fine second in a stakes-quality field. The five-year-old mare got her final five-sixteenths in a swift :28 2/5 and should use this as a fine prep for a stakes run next time.
5TH -- The talented SPRING TO THE SKY (Langfuhr) led from the start and left no doubt in finishing up very well to win his second straight turf dash. The Bruce Brown trainee went off form for a while but appears to be heading in a fine direction at this juncture, as he toppled a few very nice ones today.
8TH -- Grade 1 queen BETTER LUCKY (Ghostzapper) not only defeated a compact but very talented field, she proved she can run on anything after she accelerated like a good thing on the dirt. The Tom Albertrani pupil has really evolved into a fantastic race mare and could have a big second half of the season donning the royal blue silks.
A Look Ahead
Saturday will play host to the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes, a prep for the $1 million Travers on August 23, and Belmont Stakes hero Tonalist (Tapit) tops a field that is expected to include Wicked Strong (Hard Spun), who will add blinkers for the first time; Kid Cruz (Lemon Drop Kid); and Commanding Curve (Master Command). The Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam for sophomore sprinters will also be offered on the Jim Dandy undercard.
The Sunday feature is the Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee Handicap, while sophomore fillies will kick off this week's graded action in Wednesday's Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George on the lawn.
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At a Glance
AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE
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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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Tainted feed blamed for Estimate's morphine positive
The animal feed manufacturer whose products are believed to be behind the positive morphine test of The Queen's five-year-old mare Estimate has launched a "thorough investigation" with its supplier.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Estimate was a popular winner of last year's Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and finished second in this year's renewal on June 19. It was revealed on Wednesday that the Monsun mare was one of five horses under the care of various trainers across Great Britain to test positive for morphine in findings initially unveiled July 17.
Dodson & Horrell, which has supplied feed to The Queen's horses since 2006, identified Alpha Oil Plus as the potentially contaminated product. It is believed the contamination could have occurred from poppy seeds.
Dodson & Horrell denies the contamination occurred on its premises.
"Preliminary investigations suggest that any contamination of this component product did not occur at Dodson & Horrell's site," a statement read. "The investigation is currently centering on Dodson & Horrell's supplier. Dodson & Horrell has recalled batch numbers week 20-28 of Alfalfa Oil Plus as a precautionary measure, in accordance with our procedures and NOPS (naturally occurring prohibited substances) protocol."
The statement continued, "No positive test results have been recorded in any other Dodson & Horrell products currently on the market. From information currently available to us, it appears that any contamination may have come from poppy seeds that occur naturally in the environment. Please note this does not affect the welfare of the animal."
Estimate remains on target for the Group 2 Goodwood Cup on July 31.
Adding further confusion to the story on Wednesday, trainer Eve Johnson Houghton revealed to Racing Post that a horse in her care, the three-year-old gelding Charlie Wells, had tested positive for morphine after a Chepstow handicap victory on June 23, but Johnson Houghton confirmed that she does not use the product that is suspected as the source of contamination.
"I use some Dodson & Horrell products, but not the one they say there may be a problem with," she told the trade daily. "I believe it was only a miniscule amount (of morphine), but I don't know because the (British Horseracing Authority [BHA]) say they cannot tell me about quantities. It has come in the feed, but which bit of feed I've no idea; nobody seems to be able to say. The BHA seem to be taking an awful long time to test it and tell me which it might be in, and maybe they'll never find out."
The BHA has advised that once all processes are complete, the cases will be put before a disciplinary panel.