V. E. Day lands Curlin in three-way photo, gives Lezcano 2,000th win
Turning into the stretch, Joint Custody had put away Tiz'naz, but he was clearly spent from his exertions. Then Protonico, who had been tracking the leaders throughout, and Charge Now surged forward.
By that point, V. E. Day had been unleashing a sustained bid on the outside and drew up to challenge Protonico and Charge Now in midstretch. Despite failing to change leads, the chestnut forced his head in front in a final time of 1:50 2/5 on the fast track.
"My horse did everything so easy to the quarter-pole," Lezcano said. "He saw the horses and kept running. I didn't want to break that sharp; I wanted him to settle and come running like he did last time at Belmont. I saved ground the whole way, and when he asked me he gave me a kick.
"I feel very lucky to be in this business and do good," he added of the milestone win.
"I knew he'd be back there," Jerkens said of V. E. Day's trip. "On paper, it looked like there would be a ton of speed in there. It looked like it was a little bit of a cavalry charge going into the turn there, and we were tucked in behind there, saving ourselves.
"He settled into a nice ground-saving trip. I thought the first quarter was a little slow, but then they picked it up. It turned out to be a legitimate pace, and he looked comfortable back there. I thought if he was good enough, he'd have a chance to get something."
Viva Majorca closed stoutly for fourth, beaten a grand total of a length. Next came Spot, Life in Shambles, Tiz'naz and Cousin Stephen.
V. E. Day rewarded his backers with an $18.20 win mutuel. As a son of English Channel, he opened his career on turf at Gulfstream Park, finishing fifth in his January 26 debut and second next time on March 8. V. E. Day intended to run on turf at Belmont May 10, but when the maiden was transferred to the sloppy main track, he handled the surface switch beautifully. Overcoming more than his fair share of trouble, he got up in time.
V. E. Day reverted to turf for a July 2 allowance, where he pulled two lengths clear and stamped his ticket to stakes company. In the Curlin, he answered both the questions of class and surface, namely whether he would be as effective on a fast main track, and improved his mark to 5-3-1-0, $159,010.
"He's bred top and bottom turf and ran very well on the turf last time," Jerkens observed. "But he trained so well on the dirt, I wanted to give him a chance, and this was a nice spot to run him against straight three-year-olds. I still don't know if he's better on turf or dirt, to be honest with you.
"I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but he worked very nice over here the other day (seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5 on the main track July 19). We worked him around two turns and he couldn't have worked any better, as far as working nice and even all the way. So, we decided to give it a shot."
Bred by Bluegrass Hall in Kentucky, V. E. Day sold for $105,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and later brought $135,000 as an OBS March two-year-old. He was produced by the unraced Deputy Minister mare California Sunset, who comes from the immediate family of Grade 3 scorers Hotstufanthensome and Silver Charades.
V. E. Day's second dam, Our Dear Sue, is an unraced full sister to champion turf horse Sunshine Forever. This is the superb female line of international sire Dynaformer, champion Ryafan, multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Brian's Time and the multiple Grade 1-winning mother/daughter duo of Memories of Silver and Winter Memories.
Wise Dan travels easy five furlongs over Oklahoma turf
In 2014, Wise Dan has made two starts, both wins in Grade 1 races. The chestnut son of Wiseman's Ferry kicked off his year with a victory in the Maker's 46 Mile on April 11 at Keeneland, and followed up the performance with a score in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
Wise Dan, who has not run since undergoing colic surgery on May 16, is possible for the Fourstardave, according to LoPresti, but the trainer is going to be patient with his champion.
"I'm not trying to set him down to make the Fourstardave," LoPresti said. "If he just jumps up and is dragging us around and acting like he has to run, we'll run.
"If he doesn't run in the Fourstardave, maybe he'll run in the Bernard Baruch (Grade 2, $250,000 on August 30).
"He's been through a lot. I'm sure there will be people that say, 'That wasn't one of his blistering works, he's not the old Wise Dan.' He had colic surgery nine weeks ago; I wouldn't want him to do something like that, and I wouldn't make him do something like that."
Also at the Spa Friday morning, Barclay Tagg worked his swift and lightly raced four-year-old sprinter Confrontation five furlongs in 1:00 on the fast main track in preparation for an upcoming allowance race August 8.
The son of 2007 juvenile champion War Pass last raced July 5, winning an optional-claiming six-furlong sprint in a torrid 1:08 2/5 at Belmont Park.
The victory improved Confrontation's record to four wins in six starts with $198,475 in earnings, but Tagg has yet to try him in a stakes race. That could change if he runs well in the allowance.
"If he wins that, I just might point for the big race -- the Forego (Grade 1, $500,000 on August 30)," the trainer said.
Tagg has taken his time with Confrontation, as he always has.
"I bought him (at Timonium for owners Eric Dattner and Harry Astarita), and it took me 14 months to get him to the races," he said. "He had one thing after the other. I don't think it's ever taken me even four or five months to get to the races before."
Telescope, Taghrooda looking for crown in King George
"We had been talking about the possibility of (fellow Gosden runner) Eagle Top being supplemented since the King Edward VII, and Taghrooda is a very exciting filly in her own right," trainer John Gosden told the Racing Post. "Taghrooda running complicated matters from the point of view of persuading (Eagle Top's owner-breeder) Lady Bamford to supplement but, goodness, it's exciting to have some classy three-year-olds in the race. It's very good news for the race, and Taghrooda gives it great depth."
Gosden recognized the challenge ahead of his charge, but noted that running her Saturday is a sporting move from her owner.
"The allowances she receives for age and sex are a factor, although a three-year-old filly hasn't been successful since the 1970s. But Taghrooda is a high-class filly and it's great sportsmanship on her owner Sheikh Hamdan's part to run her in the race. As she retires at the end of the year, it will be the only chance she gets."
Traditionally, the three-year-old colts to prevail came off a run in the Derby, and it is significant that Gosden has given the green light to Princess Haya of Jordan's Romsdal, who was third in the June 7 Blue Riband. That classic was run in a faster time than both the Oaks and Coronation Cup at the same meeting, and the strong-staying colt bids to emulate the likes of Alamshar, King's Theatre and St Jovite in placing there en route to glory in this highlight.
Gosden's sole winner of the King George, Nathaniel, had taken the King Edward VII Stakes at the Royal meeting beforehand and the vibes are stronger for Romsdal's stablemate and supplementary entry Eagle Top.
Friday's rain came just in time for both colts, especially for Lady Bamford's homebred, who sprang to prominence when outclassing Ballydoyle's smart Adelaide in that June 20 course-and-distance contest.
Gosden was pleased to see the heavy rain.
"This is very welcome when the owner has paid £75,000 to supplement," he told the Racing Post. "It wasn't exactly forecast, but I see now on my weather map that there could be more coming from Holland. All we wanted was for it to be on the firm side of good, just not really quick. If we get another inch people will be pulling them out for the other reason."
The thunderstorm during racing on Friday led to a dramatic change in conditions from good-to-firm to good-to-soft.
"We got eight millimeters this afternoon and there is still a chance of a thunderstorm later on," Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels commented. "Saturday is expected to be mainly warm and dry, but the threat of a thunderstorm still persists. Today's rain will soak through, so there's a chance we will be good by tomorrow."
Before the decision was made to reroute Taghrooda from the Irish Oaks to Ascot's King George, Telescope looked to hold leading claims to the title as the latest Highclere Thoroughbred Racing-Sir Michael Stoute project to bloom for the patient approach.
Like emphatic 2010 winner Harbinger, Telescope has been brought along steadily as he builds toward the big time with a single piece of smart three-year-old form to his name. That came when successful in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August before training setbacks intervened. After two soft-ground defeats this term, the handsome Galileo bay exploded when granted this trip and fast ground in the June 21 Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting. The form of his seven-length success in the same race Harbinger used as a springboard four years ago has already been upheld by the exploits of stablemate Hillstar at the July meeting, and Telescope appears to hold the aces among the older brigade.
"He was a heavier horse this year and we knew he'd take a bit of time and need a race or two to get to his peak fitness," Highclere's Alex Smith said of the colt who, if successful, will push his trainer into a clear lead as record-holder in this race with six wins.
"By Ascot, Sir Michael had him exactly where he wanted to be and the ground was in our favor, so it all came together in a spectacular fashion. Four of his owners were involved with Harbinger, so they are on the same trail and to have another horse starting favorite is incredible in just four years. He has a beautiful, flowing action so he goes on top of the ground, but it wouldn't matter if it was good or on the soft side."
"I haven't had a runner in the race since Shaamit (third in 1996)," he explained. "When I was young, the King George was the midsummer race. As far as I'm concerned it still is and it's great to be part of it. It's quite hard to find a horse good enough to run in it with a chance. Our stable has only recently grown in strength and in the future we hope to be more consistent in having opportunities to take part in races like this."
Earlier Saturday, Muraaqaba could get the ball rolling at Ascot in the Group 3, £50,000 Princess Margaret Stakes on what could be another red-letter day for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Shadwell operation.
Impressive in her June 27 debut when taking a six-furlong maiden at Newmarket, the Dubawi half-sister to accomplished fellow Mark Johnston trainees Awzaan and Muteela received a boost when the third-placed East Coast Lady won a decent race at that track's July meeting next time.
"I think she has come on well from her first run, as particularly our two-year-olds do," Johnston said. "We don't know about the form or what we're up against, but she's a lovely filly and physically the best of a great family."
Al Shaqab Racing's Osaila was fifth in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20 before enjoying a confidence boost when winning a conditions race over Saturday's six-furlong trip at Doncaster on July 17.
"Frankie (Dettori) was hugely impressed with Sheikh Joaan's filly when he won on her at Doncaster last week and immediately got on the phone and recommended we enter her for this race," trainer Richard Hannon said. "There are some potentially smart fillies in there, but we have always liked Osaila and feel she will run a big race."
Golden Ticket joins cast for Whitney; Vanderbilt, Test fields taking shape
Golden Ticket has a record of 26-5-8-3 and purse earnings of nearly $1.3 million, having run at distances from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles on dirt, turf and synthetics at 11 different tracks in New York, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana and Iowa.
Most recently, Golden Ticket finished fourth as the favorite, beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. He is 3-for-16 since his Travers victory, including a triumph in the Prairie Meadows Handicap and a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in 2013.
"The owners have had a blast with him. He's run about everywhere, and he's run well about everywhere," McPeek said. "He should have won his last race, but he stumbled leaving the gate and got kind of shuffled back and didn't have a very good trip. It was bad luck. Even the Breeders' Cup was a good race. I think he deserves a shot here again. He likes this track."
McPeek said Golden Ticket will have his final pre-Whitney breeze Saturday morning over the Oklahoma training track.
The Whitney has attracted a robust field of likely starters, capped by last year's Belmont Stakes-winning Palace Malice. Undefeated in four starts this year by a combined margin of more than 16 lengths, the four-year-old Curlin colt has fashioned victories in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, the New Orleans Handicap, the Westchester and most recently the Metropolitan Handicap on June 7. Each effort earned him triple-digit BRIS Speed figures, including a career-best 113 at the Fair Grounds.
Acorn winner Sweet Reason heads a probable field of 10 three-year-old fillies in the Test at seven furlongs. The Street Sense filly, already two-for-two at the Spa including the Spinaway, is expected to face Bird Maker, an 11 1/4-length optional claiming winner at Churchill Downs last time out; Fiftyshadesofgold, most recently fourth in the Acorn; Grade 2 winner Miss Behaviour; Princess Violet, second to Untapable in the Mother Goose; Southern Honey, unraced since taking the Winning Colors against older in May at Churchill; Victory Ride winner Street Story; Acorn runner-up Sweet Whiskey; mid-Atlantic shipper Tea Time, winner of the Beautiful Day at Delaware Park last time out, and Thank You Marylou. Delta Flower is questionable.
La Verdad looking to withstand speed duel in Honorable Miss
Also likely to show early foot, but perhaps not classy enough to take it all, is Red Velvet, the lone three-year-old in the lineup. An easy winner of the $100,000 Jersey Girl two back, the daughter of City Zip was a weakening fourth in the Victory Ride last time.
Among those who would appreciate a pace meltdown are Merry Meadow, a stalk-and-pounce winner of the Vagrancy Handicap two back and second by a nose in the Bed o' Roses Handicap last time. My Wandy's Girl, who wore down La Verdad in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel in February, is another who would appreciate the speed coming back to her. She was most recently a close third in the one-mile Ruffian Handicap at Belmont.
Speedinthruthecity, a winner in three of her last four including the Carousel at Oaklawn and the Roxelana at Churchill Downs, is another who will be coming from off the pace. The field is rounded out by Calistoga, four lengths third in the Bed o' Roses after hitting the gate at the start.
Euro Charline possible for Beverly D. after Ascot score
Euro Charline was an impressive winner Friday afternoon at Ascot and is now under consideration to cross the Atlantic and take on the best turf fillies and mares in America in the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington on August 16. Euro Charline is based at Marco Botti's yard at Prestige Place in Newmarket.
Friday's victory in the one-mile Valiant Stakes was the English-bred's second consecutive run over the testing Ascot course. Previously, in the Coronation Stakes, the filly ran a huge race to be third, beaten a length.
"We were pretty confident today," said Barry Irwin of Team Valor International. "In the (Coronation) she had to wait and was on the rail. When she finally got through she got bumped pretty hard, but she still ran well."
In Friday's race, Euro Charline broke alertly made the running before being impugned by Kiyoshi and ultimately proving victorious.
"Today she set the pace and kind of idled on the lead," Irwin explained. "(Kiyoshi) got the jump on her and challenged, but we came back and drew away."
The victory was Euro Charline's first black-type score and may be a sign of more to come for the game filly. A run in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. would be an attempt against older fillies and mares at the highest level for the first time, as well as an initial attempt beyond a mile. Botti, who has won a race at the International Festival of Racing in the last two years, is eager to see the filly do so.
"Marco has wanted to do it all along," Irwin said. "I thought it was too tough to run against older horses this time of year in a Grade 1 and she's not proven beyond a mile, but she ran at Ascot and that course has a tough uphill finish.
"I'm a little skeptical about it, but he feels that she can handle the extra ground and wants to do it. It's three weeks away, so we'll let the horse come back and then take a good look at our options," Irwin said. "One of the best parts about it is that it's an easy flight for us."
Meanwhile, Gulsary is now doubtful for the Beverly D., according to Glen Hill Farm president Craig Bernick. The daughter of Galileo was recently second in the course and distance prep -- the Modesty Handicap -- guaranteeing the mare a spot in the gate in the Beverly D., but is most likely declining such.
"She's not quite good enough for a Grade 1 like the Beverly D.," Bernick explained. "We could either run in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga or the Flaming Page Stakes at Woodbine next out with her." Both the Waya (August 2) and Flaming Page (August 23) are 1 1/2 miles and worth $100,000.
"We've run in the Beverly D. four times, so we have an idea of what type of horse it takes to compete in a race like that. Gulsary is a nice filly and has a ton of quality, but we want her to be in a position where she can win a stakes," Bernick concluded.
Soi Phet going to San Diego
Trainer Leonard Powell entered Soi Phet in three stakes this weekend -- Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Cougar II Handicap, Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 San Diego Handicap and Sunday's $150,000 California Dreamin' Handicap.
Friday at scratch time the die was cast, with Powell opting to run in the San Diego and scratch from the other two.
Soi Phet, a six-year-old California-bred gelding, was claimed for $16,000 in May 2013 and has recorded six wins in 12 starts for Powell.
"He's a very special horse," Powell stated. "He's a great character, he's got a lot of class and he holds a special place in our heart."
Soi Phet won four straight races from June 30-September 1, 2013, the last three of them at Del Mar. He comes into the San Diego having won his last two, a handicap on June 8 at Santa Anita and the July 3 Bertrando Stakes at Los Alamitos.
"I don't know if I would say he is a streaky horse, I would say he is a season horse," Powell explained. "Last year he started winning in June and kept the string going into September. Now I've noticed that he has really started to blossom. He could be a summer horse.
"The San Diego is going to be the test for us. We're going to see if we have a very nice Cal-bred or a very nice graded stakes horse."
Del Mar oddsmaker Russ Hudak issued a new opening line for Saturday's San Diego on Friday morning reflecting the tragic loss of Dance With Fate in a training accident on Thursday.
Inheriting the favorite's role from Dance With Fate, original choice at 3-1, is Imperative. Trained by George Papaprodromou and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Imperative was third behind Majestic Harbor and Clubhouse Ride, and 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Game On Dude, in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 28.
The four-year-old gelding was made the 3-1 choice on the new line with Frac Daddy next at 7-2.
Velazquez listed at 15-1 in Jockey Foot Race
At 42, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is not only the second-oldest jockey competing Saturday in the Jockey Foot Race to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, but he's also the only holdover from the last time the race was run at Saratoga in 1995. A video of the 1995 race is available here.
Off to a strong start riding at the current Saratoga meet, Velazquez took it as a minor affront when asked if he could even compete in the race, in which oddsmaker and New York Racing Association analyst Richard Migliore made him 15-1, the longest shot in the field of 13 with one entry, the Ortiz brothers.
"Can I still run this race? Can I still run? I'm going to be competitive," Velazquez insisted.
Velazquez scoffed at a training regimen for the 110-yard race.
"Not a whole lot," he said of his preparation. "A lot of riding instead of running. These young kids are strong and running. They run every day. I don't train for anything; I just ride horses."
Fans at the track Saturday will be given the opportunity to "bet" on the Jockey Foot Race scheduled for 3:20 p.m. (EDT), in the form of a $5 donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund using a special promo card. If their jockey wins, they will receive a Saratoga baseball cap and entry into a special drawing for a VIP day at the races later in the Saratoga race meet.
Velazquez, chairman of the Jockeys' Guild, stressed the importance of supporting the event.
"This is us giving back to those guys who got hurt on the racetrack and can't support themselves and their families," Velazquez said. "It's great to be a part of it. It's great to keep doing it.
"We're bringing the awareness that, yes, this job is a lot of fun, but it's very, very dangerous, and things can happen, and you can lose your career at any moment. That's what happened to these men and women that are permanently disabled, and this is us giving back to them."
Click here for video of Migliore and John Scheinman previewing the Jockey Foot Race.
'Rosie Signature Hat Collection' to benefit Old Friends
The "Rosie Signature Hat Collection" is the second fundraising campaign done by the jockey and Steinmann to support Old Friends. In 2013-2014, Napravnik participated in the 6th annual "Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby," an online fashion auction spearheaded by Steinmann in 2008.
For that fundraiser, six exclusive Kentucky Derby hats-each inspired by one of Old Friends retired racehorses are sold on eBay between November and April, leading right up to the famed first Saturday in May. To date "Hats Off to the Horses" has earned more than $20,000 for Old Friends, and this past season Rosie modeled all of the hats for the auction series.
"I wanted to start a new fundraiser for Old Friends that would be more of a year-round effort," Steinmann said of the new collection. "Rosie's dedication to her career and to the horses that she loves inspired me to create a collection in her name."
"We're so honored to be associated with Rosie and Sally Steinmann," Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen said. "Their continued support and generosity have been invaluable to us and to the horses. Sally's hats are truly works of art, and it's great to see the beautiful Rosie Napravnik in something other than a helmet."
The hats for sale are The Hallie, The Teddy and The Jordan. The Hallie is a stunning wide-brim design done in red dupioni silk, its rose framed by a medley of green taffeta leaves. The Teddy is a playful "top hat" also made of red silk with matching veil accents. The final hat, the Jordan, is a fedora-inspired, wide-brim hat created in black and red and trimmed with silver organza feathers.
The lining of each hat is white brocade to honor Napravnik's own off-the-track Thoroughbred Sugar, who is a gray gelding. Each lining will be autographed by Napravnik.
Trainer Paul Messara is new manager of Australia's Arrowfield Stud
Paul Messara, trainer of Nunthorpe Stakes winner Ortensia, will take up the reins managing Australia's Arrowfield Stud for his father, industry luminary and Racing NSW chairman John Messara.
The move follows the departure of Sam Fairgray after 14 years to take a role with Inglis.
"I am happy, because it is a process we thought would eventuate in few years' time, but when Sam decided to go to work for Inglis, it accelerated the whole thing," John Messara explained. "It's great to have a member of the family heading Arrowfield.
"I was hoping this would happen, very much so, but didn't want to place pressure on Paul," he added. "When this opportunity came up he did a lot of thinking, because he loves training. He will retain a very small team of 12 horses with five or six in work at any time."
Paul, 36, is married to Alice and the couple have sons Frank and John. He is the second oldest of four children of John and Kris Messara.
"I'm looking forward to returning to the stud business and am very grateful for the support of outstanding stable staff and wonderful owners over the past eight years," Paul Messara said in a statement.
After obtaining a communications degree, Paul Messara completed the Irish National Stud Course and a season at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan before he began training in 2006. He has thus far notched 300 wins. His 27 stakes winners include triple Group 1 winner Ortensia and Group 1 winner Alverta.
John Messara noted the adjoining Bellerive Stud, which is the base for clients' broodmares and young stock and has operated under its own banner as a vendor, had been integrated into Arrowfield Stud and the broodmare farm. The state-of-the-art Arrowfield training center, also adjoining the stud, will be converted into the Arrowfield sales center.
"It will be the swankiest yearling sale complex and we'll be able to do ready-to-run, breeze-up horses there," he remarked.
Arrowfield Stud was established in 1985 at the property now known as Coolmore, with Arrowfield relocating to its present location near Scone in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales. The stud is standing 10 stallions this season including Redoute's Choice, whose fee is A$110,000.
Untapable installed as 2-1 choice in nine-horse Haskell
Untapable has dominated her own division in spectacular fashion. She's captured all four starts this year by a combined 31 lengths, with the smallest winning margin being 4 1/2 lengths as she's garnered a pair of Grade 1s, a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 stakes, and the bay lass earned career-best 108 BRIS Speed rating in her lone attempt at Sunday's distance, the May 2 Kentucky Oaks.
Rosie Napravnik missed her last outing, a facile 9 1/4-length triumph in the June 28 Mother Goose, due to an injury, but she'll be back aboard the daughter of Tapit.
Martin Garcia replaces Gary Stevens aboard the improving front-runner and Bayern is the early 5-2 second choice. Exercise
Albano enters on the upswing for conditioner Larry Jones, registering a smashing 6 1/2-length victory in the June 15 Pegasus at Monmouth. That marked the first start since March for the son of Istan, who recorded a nose second in the Risen Star earlier this season, and Albano will look to carry his momentum forward with regular rider Kerwin Clark. He's the 6-1 third choice on the morning line.
Dance With Fate suffers fatal injuries in training
Dance With Fate was last seen finishing sixth in the May 3 Kentucky Derby. Shipped to New York for the July 5 Belmont Derby, the nearly-black son of Two Step Salsa came down with a case of colic and had to be scratched.
One of last season's prominent two-year-olds, Dance With Fate was runner-up in the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner and eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He kicked off his 2014 campaign with a brilliant score in a Santa Anita turf allowance and subsequently reverted to synthetic for the February 15 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, where he finished a fine second.
Dance With Fate was freshened ahead of his long-term aim, the April 12 Blue Grass at Keeneland, and he responded with a career-defining victory. Runner-up Medal Count has since gone on to finish third in the June 7 Belmont Stakes.
Campaigned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing, Dance With Fate bankrolled $680,050 from his 9-3-3-0 line.
Monmouth Cup, Molly Pitcher highlight Haskell undercard
Multiple stakes victor Long River should appreciate the class relief following a seventh in the Stephen Foster and a fifth in the Charles Town Classic. Rosie Napravnik takes over the reins aboard the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee. Bradester and Valid, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on July 6, will both return in this spot and Grade 3 hero Easter Gift, unraced since a third in the Clark H. last November, is set to make his 2014 bow for Chad Brown.
Natalie Victoria can continue her rags-to-riches story when she lines up for the 1 1/16-mile Molly Pitcher. Claimed for $12,500 in late December, the six-year-old mare has flourished under the care of trainer Michelle Nevin, winning four of her last five starts, and earned a field-best 102 BRIS Speed rating while garnering her first stakes victory in the May 25 Monmouth Beach last out. Jose Lezcano takes the call.
Majestic River will attract plenty of support following her two-length tally in the June 28 Lighthouse. The Pletcher filly has captured two straight starts at Monmouth and adds Napravnik to the saddle. Other runners of note in the nine-horse field include local stakes queen Zucchini Flower and recent Obeah runner-up Montana Native.
Goldencents takes another tilt at Bing Crosby
Goldencents did not reappear until the June 7 Metropolitan Handicap over a mile at Belmont Park, finishing a fine second to the streaking Palace Malice. He has fired a pair of recent bullets in preparation for this second start of the year -- a :59 1/5 five-furlong move on July 17 and a blistering three furlongs in :34 1/5 on Thursday -- and renews his former partnership with Rafael Bejarano.
The only other Grade 1 winner in the field is Declassify, who earned his laurel in a hard-fought decision in the June 28 Triple Bend at Santa Anita. That came in just his fifth career start. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Declassify won his first two outings by a combined margin of 18 1/2 lengths. The sparingly raced son of Orientate then dropped his two attempts at a second-level allowance before showing tremendous determination in the Triple Bend. With regular rider Martin Garcia at Monmouth to ride Bayern in the Haskell, Declassify gets a new pilot in Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Seeking the Sherif beat Declassify two starts back, and the reformed claimer looms as the speed of the speed, if he can transfer his game to the Polytrack. The Ron Ellis charge brings a four-race winning streak into his biggest class test so far. A starter allowance winner at Santa Anita in February, the Officer gelding has methodically climbed the class ladder at the Great Race Place, all in wire-to-wire style. Edwin Maldonado will be back aboard the likely front runner, who receives four pounds from the 123-pound highweights, Goldencents and Declassify.
Big Macher is another much improved performer for Richard Baltas. The gelded son of Beau Genius, who lost a trio of maiden claimers here last year, blossomed over the winter at Santa Anita. Victorious in the Cal Cup Sprint in January, he was a close second to Sahara Sky in the March 8 San Carlos, and captured a Grade 2 photo-finish in the April 12 Potrero Grande. Freshened in the interim, Big Macher aims to resume his ascent here.
A triumvirate of three-year-olds hope to upstage their elders -- Kobe's Back, Pablo Del Monte and Indexical.
Kobe's Back has been a work in progress, but the John Sadler colt is clearly dangerous when on his game, as evidenced by his last-to-first romps in the 2013 Willard Proctor Memorial and the February 16 San Vicente. Kobe's Back has tended to hurt his own chances with slow or otherwise troubled starts, and he especially can't afford that at this level. Third in the Bay Shore and fourth in both the Laz Barrera and Woody Stephens in his past three, the Flatter colt has to step it up while tackling older horses for the first time.
Rock Me Baby was a head second in last year's California Dreamin' and bids to go one better this time around for trainer Craig Dollase. The West Point Thoroughbreds colorbearer exits a troubled third in the Bertrando on the dirt at Los Alamitos. The respective top four from the Bertrando are all entered in the California Dreamin' -- Soi Phet, Spirit Rules, Rock Me Baby and Better Bet -- but note that Soi Phet is cross-entered to Friday's Grade 3 Cougar II as well as Saturday's Grade 2 San Diego.
Flashy American, Hot Stones square off in Shuvee
Hot Stones has been first or second in nine of her 11 career starts, including a last-out nose victory in the June 21 Bed o' Roses at Belmont Park. The bay daughter of Bustin Stones has faced state-bred competition for much of her time on track, including a half-length second two back in her stakes bow, the Critical Eye, against fellow New York-bred distaffers, but proved herself capable of handling open competition in the Bed o' Roses.
The A.P. Indy four-year-old hasn't been unplaced since her maiden debut at Saratoga last September, when she ran fifth, and keeps Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard against this bunch.
Unlimited Budget captured her first four starts and ran third in the Kentucky Oaks last year, but her connections decided to toss her to the wolves next out and entered her against the boys in the Belmont Stakes. The Todd Pletcher trainee hasn't been the same since that sixth-place run, though she did show signs of her former self when a close second in the Rampart at Gulfstream Park in late March. The four-year-old daughter of Street Sense has been well beaten in her past two against Grade 1 company and is in need of a confidence-building win here. Javier Castellano has piloting duties this time around.
The Shuvee field is completed by dual stakes-placed Swinger's Party and Ambusher, a half-length third in the Obeah last month.
Brown, Guillot excited about prospects in Saratoga maiden
Trainer Chad Brown looked at Saratoga's past performances for Saturday's 3RD race, a maiden special weight for two-year-olds, and marveled at the potential talent on display.
"Tyson and Holyfield, Round One," Brown said.
Brown's $1 million Malibu Moon colt Aldrin, one of the "buzz" horses on the Spa grounds and a three-quarter brother to top sire Tapit, was made the even-money favorite by NYRA oddsmaker Eric Donovan. The only horse on the also-eligible list -- Competitive Edge -- is a $750,000 Todd Pletcher-trained son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. Donovan listed him at 9-5 if he can draw in to the field.
Da Jenius, a $350,000 Malibu Moon colt trained by Eric Guillot, is the final foal of Grade 1-scoring millionaire Madcap Escapade, who produced Guillot's Grade 1 winner Mi Sueno.
Four others in the field sold for more than $100,000 at auction.
"The horse is really nice," Brown said of Aldrin. "So, we'll see what happens. The longer, the better, but he's quick enough to run three-quarters (of a mile) if you need him to."
Asked if he's excited, Brown stated, "A horse like this? For sure.
"He's done everything right. You get batches of two-year-olds in, and you're kind of seeing who's going to be in what division, turf or dirt, and could this one be a Derby horse, and normally that group is not that big. He acts like he'll run all day, but he's got a big turn of foot and will sprint if you need him to; those horses are very rare, in my opinion. Right now, he looks like that kind of horse."
On the front of Guillot's golf cart at Saratoga it says, "Eric Jenius Guillot," and his debut horse in the race is Da Jenius. When he first started training at Saratoga in 2010, the cart just said, "Eric J. Guillot."
While Guillot's real middle name is Jude, there is an origin story behind Jenius and now the horse Da Jenius.
"The first year when I got here when I rented the golf cart, they put my name, Eric J. Guillot," he said. "David (Grening) of the Racing Form comes up and was interviewing me about (dual Grade 1 heorine) Champagne d'Oro at the Oklahoma track. He starts asking questions, looks down at the golf cart and says, 'Eric, what's the 'J' stand for?'
"Right off, I go, 'Genius!' He thought I was from Louisiana, and I thought genius started with a 'J.' So, he hesitated for a while and finally goes, 'Eric, uh, genius starts with a 'G.' I said, 'I know that! That's what makes it so funny!"
Guillot would like Da Jenius to make him look like a genius, but he doesn't expect the race Saturday to be much more than a learning experience for the colt, who has been working steadily at Saratoga since early June.
"This will be good to use as a measuring stick," he said.
Asked if he felt any pressure for the horse to do well, considering he sort of named it after himself, Guillot said, "Pressure is for people who can't get the job done. Like Mickey Mantle, when he pointed the bat, he wasn't planning on a double. He pointed his bat to the fences."
That was Babe Ruth who called the shot, but with Guillot, these mix-ups can happen.
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.
Frac Daddy inherits San Diego favoritism
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.
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.
Exercise rider Joe Duran, injured in Thursday's tragic accident while aboard Dance With Fate, had his surgery postponed to Saturday. He was originally set for surgery Friday at Scripps La Jolla Hospital for fractured vertebrae and three fractured ribs. Trainer Peter Eurton tweeted that latest update Friday afternoon, adding that there were "no complications on his part though." Eurton visited Duran at the hospital Thursday. Duran's wife, Janice, is with her husband. "They said he could have healed without the surgery but recommended he have it," Eurton said. "Joe feels terrible about what happened, but he's going to be OK and could be back in four-to-six months."...
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens underwent his knee replacement surgery as scheduled Friday, and his wife, Angie, posted positive news on Twitter. "Gary is out of surgery and the doctor said it went great!!! Fingers crossed for a successful rehab!" she tweeted. Six hours later, her report was even more encouraging: "Great news from the physical therapist! Gary's flexion at 110%! The most she had ever seen day of surgery is 105%!" Stevens revealed on HRTV last week that the ACL on his right knee was completely torn. Given the degree of damage, total knee replacement surgery was his best option if he wanted to try to make another comeback...
Multiple Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire Game On Dude (Awesome Again) clocked four furlongs in :48 Friday over Del Mar's Polytrack. The work received a relatively rare "breezing" designation from head clocker John Malone, who timed the defending Pacific Classic (G1) champion and 2013 Del Mar Horse of the Meeting in splits of :11 4/5 and :44 2/5, with a final quarter covered in :23 3/5. "A nice step forward," clocker Toby Terrell said. Dual Grade 2 victor and fellow Pacific Classic hopeful Clubhouse Ride (Candy Ride) went seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5, fastest by a full second of four works at the distance. "Very speedy. He appeared to handle the track well from start to finish," was the clockers' comment...
As a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), Del Mar's jockeys will turn out in force Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. (PDT) around the fountain in the Plaza de Mexico to autograph a picture of the riding colony shot on opening day. The session is part of a national effort by riders at racetracks across America on July 26 to raise funds for disabled riders as well as to spotlight their plight. The PDJF currently pays 60 disabled riders $1,000 a month to help offset their expenses and medical bills. Since its founding in 2006, the fund has distributed $5 million to disabled riders according to its website. While there will be no set fee for the autographed pictures, riders will have "boots" available to accept contributions to the PDJF...
A powerful winner of Thursday's Quick Call S. going at 5 1/2 furlongs on Saratoga's turf, Pure Sensation (Zensational) came back in good order for trainer Christophe Clement and owners Frank and Patricia Generazio. The sophomore tracked the pace eagerly along the rail in the Quick Call, but was trapped behind horses as the field turned for home. Jockey Jose Lezcano waited patiently for running room, letting the eventual runner-up Choctaw Chuck (Bwana Charlie) go by before swinging outside of that rival and motoring home to prevail by a nose. The Generazios, who bred Pure Sensation, were very pleased with the way their colt emerged from Thursday's race. "We just watched him walk and he looks great," Frank Generazio said. "He looked like he galloped out good yesterday, so we're going to consider the ($100,000) Better Talk Now (going one mile on August 20)." Pure Sensation is the third generation of Generazio-bred horses, a line that began with the gray colt's third dam, Pure Fire (Fire Dancer). "We bought Pure Fire many years ago at a sale in Ocala," Patricia Generazio explained, "and all the offspring have 'pure' something in their name." Another 'pure' could be on the horizon for the Generazios, who bred Pure Sensation's dam, Pure Disco (Disco Rico), back to Zensational after being impressed with the emerging stallion. "We liked that (Zensational) was a new stud, and we thought we'd take a shot," Frank Generazio remarked. "He's such a good looking stallion we wanted to breed back to him, and we got a beautiful filly. Hopefully she can run like her brother."...
Sometimes in trainer David Jacobson's barn, it seems like Old-Timers' Day at the ballpark. Since November 1 last year, the trainer has sent out 35 different runners age seven or older, including eight who were nine-years-old or higher. One, nine-year-old Be Bullish (Pure Prize), finished second on July 19 sprinting in a $50,000 claimer -- his 80th career start -- leaving him just $15,382 shy of $1 million in career earnings. Jacobson said he gravitates to the senior runners. "I just love these old, classy horses that year-in and year-out have been giving us so much joy and are so beautiful," he said. "They look so great, too. Be Bullish, to see him on the track is something special. Anyone can do it, I just don't know if anyone wants to do it. It's a lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of care. They're like me; I've got to soak my legs a little bit more, my knees are bothering me a little bit more, and I need a little more time in the hot tub." The Jacobson old-timers, including Strong Impact (A. P Jet), Be Bullish, Grand Rapport (Grand Reward), Spa City Fever (Roaring Fever), Candyman E (Candy Ride), Johannesburg Smile (Johannesburg), Strapping Groom (Johannesburg), Minnie Punt (Gold Fever) and Ravalo (Mutakddim), are among some of the most recognizable horses racing in New York and bring a level of continuity to a game full of ever-changing faces. "They're like pitchers who threw 90 mph, 100 mph fastballs, and they were great pitchers," Jacobson said. "Then, all of the sudden, their careers change, and they've got to learn how to get them out throwing curve balls and change-ups. They develop different styles to figure out how to get the job done, and it's similar with horses." Jacobson hopes to get Be Bullish back in the entries before the Spa meet ends in an attempt to make him a millionaire, but isn't going to push it. "He'll tell me when he's ready to run," Jacobson said...
My Option (Belong to Me), a 6 1/2-length winner of the Chicago H. (G3) last out, will take on Illinois-bred champion La Tia (City Place) at Woodbine on Saturday in the C$150,000 Ontario Matron (Can-G3). Each is proficient on Polytrack, though My Option's one try over Woodbine's version of the synthetic resulted in a close sixth two back in the Hendrie (Can-G3). La Tia, on the other hand, captured the 2012 La Lorgnette in her one start on the Canadian's track's all-weather. The five-year-old mare was a front-running winner of the Arlington Matron (G3) by 6 1/4 lengths two back and gets Justin Stein aboard while Eduardo Perez has the call on My Option. Also entered in the 1 1/16-mile affair is Canadian champion Spring in the Air (Spring at Last), winner of the Hendrie two back. Earlier on Woodbine's Saturday program, six juveniles will line up in the C$125,000 Colin going six furlongs on the Polytrack including unbeaten likely favorite Conquest Tsunami (Stormy Atlantic)...
Secret Gesture (Galileo), runner-up in the 2013 Oaks (Eng-G1) behind her stable companion Talent (New Approach), will take on males in Saturday's York S. (Eng-G2). The Ralph Beckett filly has made two appearances in 2014, finishing runner-up in the Middleton (Eng-G2) over this course and extended 10-furlong trip before comfortably winning the Warwickshire Oaks over 10 furlongs at Nottingham on June 16. "Secret Gesture is in good shape and the trip, track and ground should all suit," Beckett said. "We decided to go for the York Stakes instead of the Nassau (Eng-G1) because at Goodwood it's likely that she would be taking on the fillies that have already beaten her. Saturday's race is a Group 2 and she has been getting beaten up at Group 1 level all of her life. There's no Farraaj (Dubai Destination) in there and, although it's full of nice horses, they are Group 2 horses. I'm looking forward to running her." Her rivals include Danadana (Dubawi), the 3-1 favorite with sponsor Sky Bet, who was third to Noble Mission (Galileo) and Telescope (Galileo) when trying to defend his title in the May 8 Huxley (Eng-G3). Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor is doubly represented with Windhoek (Cape Cross), an impressive winner of a 10-furlong listed contest at Sandown Park on July 4, and Sharestan (Shamardal), who was successful in the Brigadier Gerard (Eng-G3) two back, edging Sheikhzayedroad (Dubawi). Godolphin's trio is completed by the Charlie Appleby-trained Long John (Street Cry), the Caulfield Guineas (Aus-G1) and U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-G3) victor who was third in the Summer Mile (Eng-G2) in his British debut...
The March Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training will kick off the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2015 two-year-old sale schedule on March 17 with a new open-style format designed to provide buyers with an expanded selection of horses and adding another session to the sale. Three sessions, set for March 17-19, will be preceded by the under tack show on March 11-13. While no longer carrying the Selected moniker, the March Sale will continue to offer a high quality group of horses with top physicals and solid pedigrees that buyers have become accustomed to in previous years, as well as the addition of the next tier of horses that have advanced through their early training and prepared to showcase their talents in March. "The evolution of the juvenile market is telling us that buyers prefer a larger and more varied sample than they have in the past," OBS Sales Director Tod Wojciechowski explained. "We plan to monitor our entries so as to blend our usual March sale offerings with an additional group of precocious, athletic horses. The result of the past few sales seasons proves that buyers are responding to the quality as well as quantity of the offerings, not the date and title on the catalog cover." Initial response to the new format by consignors has been enthusiastic. "I think this is going to be great." Nick de Meric stated. "The new format will certainly allow us to increase the variety of horses we offer and will be attractive not only to buyers accustomed to the March sale, but also new buyers who may not have considered coming to this sale in the past." Trainer Bret Calhoun also applauded the change. "There have been times that I or my owners bypassed the March sale because we didn't feel there would be enough horses within our budget. This new format definitely changes that and makes coming to the March sale a must, regardless of how much we have to spend." For more information, please call 352-237-2154 or visit obssales.com...
When Bench Light (Benchmark) won Thursday's 8TH race under Kent Desormeaux by 6 1/4 lengths, rewarding backers with an $18 return for a $2 win bet at 8-1, it made trainer Mike Pender three-for-eight at the current Del Mar meeting. He's tied for third in the trainer standings and his 38 percent win rate is tops overall. It was a small consolation for Pender, who lost his chief client, B.J. Wright -- owner of Jeranimo and Ultimate Eagle among other stakes winners -- with Wright's death a week before the meeting started. "Like most connections we always point for the Del Mar meet and try to have them (horses) on full tilt coming in," Pender said. "I'm heartbroken with Mr. Wright's recent passing and not even these wins take the sting away, but it certainly helps. I've got some new owners who are helping to try and fill the void. Letting go isn't easy. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."...
The California Retirement Management Account's (CARMA) seventh annual fundraiser on July 19 at the Del Mar Hilton Hotel raised more than $70,000 for the organization that provides for retired racehorses. Steve Rothblum, a prominent member of trainer Doug O'Neill's team, won the Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament with owner Bob Bone being the other finalist...
Saratoga Race Course will host its first ever live-money tournament on Monday when guests will be able to experience the thrill of tournament play for just $40. The live-money format was first unveiled downstate on July 12 at Belmont Park and was well-received in its first iteration. A total of 70 patrons entered, with first-place finisher Isis Messrie walking away with $490 in prize money, while runner-up Frank Lazzarano earned $140 and third-place finisher Matt Bernier took home $70. The breakdown of the entry fee is as follows: $10 goes to the prize pool -- with 70 percent to be awarded to the first-place finisher, 20 percent to second, and 10 percent to third -- and the remaining $30 comprises the entrant's bankroll. Participants must select five races on which to place live $2 win, place, and show wagers that must be placed on five different horses in five different races. Only Saratoga races will be accepted for contest play. Sign-up will be on the first floor of the grandstand, with tournaments running every Monday at Saratoga...
Equine enthusiasts of all levels -- but especially those with little experience -- are invited to enjoy free horseback rides at the Kentucky Horse Park's "Hats Off to Kentucky" event on Saturday from 4-8 p.m. (EDT). The rides come courtesy of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), The Jockey Club and Keeneland as part of "Time To Ride," an initiative of the American Horse Council's marketing alliance. Eight experienced and docile horses will be available to teach adults and children over 12 the joys of riding and horsemanship. "Time to Ride" is in the midst of a nationwide effort known as the 100-Day Horse Challenge, offering 100,000 free or affordable horse experiences in 100 days. More information may be found at TimeToRide.com.
NORTH AMERICAN NON-GRADED STAKES RESULTS
NORTH AMERICAN ALLOWANCE RESULTS
North American Maiden Winners
JULY 25, 2014
Palace Malice in driver's seat but Horse of the Year race far from settled
by James Scully
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome showed a preference for Santa Anita earlier this year, capping a sensational three-race winning streak with a 5 1/4-length triumph in the Santa Anita Derby, and he'll attempt to come back strong this fall.
Shared Belief is now hot on the dual classic winner's heels, marching forward with a head of steam following a superb 4 1/4-length win in the July 5 Los Alamitos Derby, and he'll enter the Horse of the Year picture with a victory over elders in the August 24 Pacific Classic. The two-year-old champ is unbeaten in five career starts.
Tonalist is not out of the equation, earning big BRIS Speed numbers (107 and 108) for victories in his first two stakes attempts, the May 10 Peter Pan and June 7 Belmont Stakes. Saturday's Jim Dandy is next and the August 23 Travers will be important to his credentials.
The filly Untapable rates as an interesting wildcard. Her first test against males comes in Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and she's bred for longer distances on her female side (out of a Prized mare). Anything's possible with an impressive performance Sunday.
Wise Dan is also lying in wait. The turf miler has taken advantage of a jumbled landscape the past two seasons, earning back-to-back Horse of the Year titles, and appears fully recovered from a recent health scare, readying for his next start at Saratoga. With a third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile victory this fall, Wise Dan figures to be perfectly positioned once again should the dirt horses knock each other out.
Here are some more thoughts on Horse of the Year hopefuls:
Palace Malice: Sixth in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic, Palace Malice has become much more formidable at age four and looks tough to beat going forward. He handles longer distances, capturing last year's 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, and the Curlin colt netted a 113 BRIS Speed rating for his victory in the 1 1/8-mile New Orleans earlier this season, the top number among Horse of the Year contenders. Palace Malice may not have to ship to Santa Anita if he reels off wins in the Whitney, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, potentially guaranteeing himself the title in the process, but Dogwood Stable's Cot Campbell is the ultimate sportsman.
Will Take Charge: He ran well when opening the year with seconds in the Donn and Santa Anita Handicap but began to tail off in the spring, zigzagging through the stretch of a narrow win in the Oaklawn Handicap before tossing in a clunker with a sixth in the Alysheba. Will Take Charge showed signs of rebounding in the June 14 Stephen Foster, rallying for second, and remains intriguing given that he peaked at this time last year en route to three-year-old championship honors and likes the track at Santa Anita. He will need to run faster in upcoming starts, especially since trainer D. Wayne Lukas probably has the same races on his radar as Palace Malice, but count out at this last-season specialist your own risk.
Shared Belief: Plenty hinges on his appearance in the Pacific Classic and I won't be surprised to see him overwhelm the competition. Shared Belief drew off stylishly through the stretch while making his dirt debut in the 1 1/8-mile Los Alamitos Derby, earning a career-best 105 Speed rating, and left every indication that there's more to tap. He's an exciting prospect -- let's hope the lightly-raced gelding remains healthy -- and his affinity for synthetics should help as he continues to stretch out in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic. Ten furlongs on Santa Anita's dirt track represents a different proposition, with Shared Belief sustaining a foot injury while training at Santa Anita during the winter, but we'll see if that matters. There's a lot to like about his future.
Tonalist: He still has much to prove, winning the Peter Pan in the slop and out-finishing tiring rivals in the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, but Tonalist's ceiling could run very high. He'll need to keep improving to defeat older horses this fall, maximizing his potential over the next few months, and there's a chance he'll need more time before offering his best form down the road like a Palace Malice. Let's see how Tonalist performs in his upcoming tests at Saratoga first.
Untapable: She's run roughshod over her own division, winning all four starts this season by a combined 31 lengths, and will be favored over male rivals in the Haskell. The possibility exists that she's the best three-year-old of any gender in training and it's interesting to note that her career-best Speed rating (108) came in her lone appearance at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Oaks) -- there's no reason to fear added ground with Untapable. With a Haskell victory, she could make things interesting this fall.
Wise Dan: He's won 12 straight turf races and his North American competition needs a subpar performance or they don't stand any chance of beating him prior to the Breeders' Cup. The international contingent could be deeper in this year's Mile but if Wise Dan is able to maintain his form, nobody will be surprised to see the seven-year-old gelding win out in 2014. He needed some help to be named Horse of the Year the last two seasons (Game On Dude had to lose the Classic) and more than one horse this year could grab the hardware with a Classic victory, but it would be foolish to count out Wise Dan.
California Chrome: Connections are keeping an eye on Shared Belief -- they want to avoid losing to that rival at all costs -- and it will difficult to take California Chrome seriously for the Breeders' Cup Classic if he makes his lone prep in a new one-mile stakes at Los Alamitos in September. Other options are still on the table and California Chrome could come back better than ever this fall, but it was a serious grind earlier this year and California Chrome's best races this season could be behind him.
Game On Dude: He's won only one of four starts this year, leading to speculation that he's lost a step at age six, but the gelding's Santa Anita Handicap score was impressive (10 furlongs in 1:58; 108 Speed rating). The key for him is being able to relax up front, a luxury he didn't experience in the last two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Classic, and chances are slim that he'll be lone speed in this year's Classic. Game On Dude can still move back into the Horse of the Year discussion with a successful title defense in the Pacific Classic.
JULY 25, 2014
by Dick Powell
Saratoga has been open for five days as I write this and it is amazing how well trends continue from year to year. We talked about how post one does so poorly in 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints. Last year, they only won four of 62 races.
This year, with seven turf sprint races run, there have not been any winners breaking from post one. So, we are now looking at four for 69 -- 6 percent. It's not impossible to win from there but it's kind of like the 8 hole on a half-mile harness track. You can use them but you better get a price.
As usual, Todd Pletcher had six winners in the first five days of racing. Three were ridden by Johnny Velazquez and three were ridden by Javier Castellano. Five were favorites and four were odds-on.
The Ortiz brothers were red hot, winning a combined 10 races out of 50 available. Jose has six winners and only one of them was a favorite. Irad won four races and none of them were favorites. Only one of their wins came on the turf and that was a turf sprint. Interesting since Irad does so well going long.
In the trend that we saw last year, perfect weather has led to a record number of turf races being carded and run. This year, 26 of the first 51 races were run on the turf. Take out the first jump race and it is 25 of 50. So far, it looks like the turf course is holding up since we had so much rain preceding the meet, which led to fantastic growing conditions for it.
On Wednesday afternoon, late in the day, violent thunderstorms blew through the area. Saratoga Race Course had a direct hit that saw lightning blow up a tree in the picnic area that had been occupied only 15 minutes before. While the rest of the area got heavy rain in the thunderstorms, we did not get much rain and Thursday's card was conducted under fast and firm conditions.
NYRA has some new racing conditions and you need to understand their fine print to put them into context. You will see horses coming out of Belmont Park that raced in starter allowance races. One for $20K and another for $40K, but there is a huge difference between them.
One race is listed as follows:
The second race is listed as follows:
Normally, when you examine past performances, you would think that the first race for Alw40000s is a higher quality race than the one for Alw20000s. But it is not.
The non-winners of two condition that is part of the Alw40000s essentially limits the race to horses who have only won one race lifetime and broke their maiden for either $50K or $40K.
On July 3, 2014, at Belmont Park, an "Alw20000s" race was run for older horses going seven furlongs. Let's examine the number of career wins and top BRIS Speed rating on the dirt. It shows how tough these races are.
Needless to say, a pretty salty bunch.
On June 6, 2014 at Belmont Park, an "Alw40000s" race was run for older horses going six furlongs.
Clearly, the "Alw20000s" is way tougher than the "Alw40000s but you would not know that just going by the conditions that are listed in the past performances.
*all times Eastern
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