by James Scully
Independence Day brings good racing
The Holiday Weekend features a bevy of of top-class races from
coast to coast, including the nation’s premiere turf event for
three-year-old fillies, the $750,000 American Oaks (G1) on
Saturday at Hollywood Park. The 1 1/4-mile affair has drawn an
international cast of 14.
Three females have come from New Zealand as well as invaders
from Ireland, France and Japan. The morning-line favorite, DANCE
IN THE MOOD (Jpn) (Sunday Silence), hails from the Far East and
proved her class this spring with a convincing win in the
Japanese One Thousand Guineas (Jpn-G1).
The American Oaks received Grade 1 status in 2004, its first
year of eligibility, and the first two editions were long on
quality. Megahertz (GB) (Pivotal) and Dublino engaged in a
thrilling battle through the stretch during the inaugural
running, and Dimitrova (Swain [Ire]) shipped in from England to
turn in a smashing victory last year.
The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) remains an
attractive option in the fall, producing champions Perfect Sting
and Ryafan as well as classy runners like Affluent, Memories of
Silver and Plenty of Grace, but three-year-old fillies are
tempted to take on their elders at that point of the year in
races like the Flower Bowl Invitational H. (G1) or Yellow Ribbon
S. (G1). Dimitrova won the former last fall. The American Oaks
stands alone as the biggest race for the division during the
The Triple Bend Breeders’ Cup H. (G1) is also carded Saturday
at Hollywood, and the best thing that can be said about the field
assembled is that it makes for a good betting race. There are no
standouts among the 14 entered, and Sunday’s seven-furlong Tom
Fool H. (G2) at Belmont Park should feature a much more talented,
but not as competitive, field.
A total of five Grade 1 races are scheduled nationwide on
Saturday, and the $500,000 Suburban H. (G1) is the bigger of two
events in New York. COLONIAL COLONY (Pleasant Colony), an upset
winner of the Stephen Foster H. (G1) last out, will face seven
rivals in the 1 1/4-mile test.
It’s difficult to go off at 62-1 in a six-horse field
regardless of the competition, and Colonial Colony’s form
couldn’t have been more dismal entering the Stephen Foster. Many
quickly dismissed his performance as a fluke, but it took plenty
of moxie to out-game Southern Image (Southern Halo) through that
final furlong for a nose decision. Showers are possible and a wet
track would only help his chances.
Other top contenders include PEACE RULES (Jules), DYNEVER
(Dynaformer) and BOWMAN’S BAND (Dixieland Band).
The Prioress S. (G1) owns similarities to the Triple Bend.
With 10 betting interests (two couplings among the 12 entries)
and plenty of deserving candidates, it looks like a good race to
play. But its Grade 1 standing for next year is in jeopardy.
METEOR STORM (GB) (Bigstone [Ire]), the country’s best turf
horse, will run at Monmouth Park on Saturday in the $750,000
United Nations H. (G1). The 1 3/8-mile race always seems to be a
thrilling contest, and there’s a twinge of sadness at the absence
of With Anticipation, a staple for the past three years but
retired earlier this season due to injury. With Anticipation won
the 2002 U.N. by a neck and was controversially disqualified from
a head score in 2001. He shouldn’t have come down that day.
Meteor Storm is another prime example of the excellence and
patience of conditioner Wally Dollase. The five-year-old horse
showed some talent at three in France, placing in a couple of
stakes, and came to the United States for his four-year-old
season. Instead of plunging him right into stakes, Dollase took
his time with Meteor Storm and placed him where he belonged in
allowances and optional claiming events. He didn’t enter him in a
stakes race until this February, where Meteor Storm finished a
close fourth in the San Luis Obispo H. (G2).
His next start resulted in a narrow victory in the San Luis
Rey H. (G2), and Meteor Storm then easily captured the San Juan
Capistrano Invitational (G2). He continued to improve with a
smashing 1 1/4-length victory in the Manhattan H. (G1) last time,
and don’t be surprised to see Meteor Storm keep getting better.
The Independence Day holiday is always a great time for