Saturday’s $671,000 Just a Game (G1) isn’t part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, but 3-5 favorite Rushing Fall treated it like one. After the Chad Brown filly ran the field off its feet in near-record time, the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) must come into serious consideration.
Already proven versus international shippers when taking the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and last fall’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland, albeit in her own division, the once-beaten filly has the star power otherwise lacking on the domestic mile scene. And with Brown well stocked for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), there’s no pressing incentive to commit Rushing Fall to a stamina test. The next step would be to pitch her in against males in a mile major, but off this evidence, she’s up for it.
Rushing Fall figured to be the controlling speed with her regular partner, Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. She duly clicked off fractions of :23.91 and :47.21 on Belmont Park’s firm Widener course.
What elevated her performance from the garden variety wire job, however, was the fact that she met and repulsed a challenge, and still finished fast. Daddy Is a Legend accosted her on the far turn, and Rushing Fall responded by tossing in a :22.00 third quarter on the chart to reach the six-furlong split in 1:09.21. Note that 123-pound highweight Rushing Fall was conceding eight pounds to Daddy Is a Legend, a multiple Grade 3 winner.
If anyone thought a sudden burst of speed at that point could have affected Rushing Fall’s closing kick, she rebutted it with a final quarter in :22.46 according to the chart. The daughter of More Than Ready drew away from Daddy Is a Legend and built up a margin safe enough to hold the late-closing Beau Recall by 2 1/4 lengths.
Rushing Fall zipped the mile in 1:31.67, missing by a scant .03 the stakes record set by Celestine (2016). She was just about three ticks off Oscar Performance’s course mark of 1:31.23 (that reportedly equaled the world record). It should be noted that the Belmont turf has been playing extremely fast, but even so, Rushing Fall’s effort was top notch.
Brown has swept the graded stakes for turf distaffers during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. He sent out the exacta in both Friday’s New York (G2) (courtesy of Homerique and Competitionofideas) and Thursday’s Wonder Again (G3) (with Cambier Parc and Newspaperofrecord), and Significant Form captured the Intercontinental (G3).
Beau Recall also made a favorable impression by rolling from last to grab second, continuing her purple patch for trainer Brad Cox. According to Trakus, her penultimate furlong (:10.65) and final furlong (:11.14) were each a field-best for those segments, adding up to a closing quarter in :21.79.
Daddy Is a Legend was relegated to third by a head, and if not for her bold bid to challenge Rushing Fall on the turn, she might have finished a little closer. Yet at least she took a run at the front-running favorite, who otherwise had everything her own way.
Bellavais was another half-length astern in fourth, edging the winner’s stablemate Environs, who ran fairly evenly. Disappointing in two straight since her smashing American bow at Keeneland, perhaps Environs is looking for a step up in trip. The Juddmonte blueblood is a three-quarter sister to Proviso, the 2010 Just a Game winner, and out of a half to Byword, so hopefully she can find better form stateside.
Capla Temptress trailed, and Got Stormy was scratched.
Campaigned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, Rushing Fall is a neck away from being undefeated. That lone reverse came with a difficult trip in last year’s Edgewood (G3), where Daddy Is a Legend was one who pestered her. The Just a Game was a more straightforward affair, but Rushing Fall could just be the finished article now too.
Rushing Fall has bankrolled $1,893,000 from her 9-8-1-0 line. Her running style has changed with maturity. A deep closer at two, she broke her maiden at Belmont Park and punched her Breeders’ Cup ticket in the Jessamine (G3) on the way to the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar. Her sophomore season included stalking victories in the Appalachian (G2) and Lake Placid (G2), followed by a wire-to-wire decision in the QE II. Rushing Fall picked up right where she left off with a front-running score in the April 13 Jenny Wiley (G1) back at Keeneland.
Brown mentioned the July 13 Diana (G1) at Saratoga as a likely port of call, setting up a clash with champion Sistercharlie in her reappearance.
Bred by Fred Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, the $320,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling was produced by the Forestry mare Autumnal, who is also responsible for the multiple Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Milam and multiple stakes-placed Autumn Song. Autumnal is also the second dam of New York-bred stakes winner Empire Line. This is the further family of Grade 1 star and $3 million-earner Albert the Great.
Quotes from Belmont Park
Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano: “She broke out of the gate but she was able to settle down in the beginning. It’s amazing the way she finished. They tried to challenge her, but she’s so good.”
Winning trainer Chad Brown: “When Daddy Is a Legend tackled her on the turn, I was concerned there for a moment because I knew it would be a real battle. I have a lot of respect for that horse. Thankfully, Rushing Fall showed her best stuff today and was able to fend her off and kick clear. I don’t use the word brilliant too often, but it was a real brilliant performance.
“She’s just so versatile; the different distances she can run and her running style. She doesn’t need the lead but she has enough speed she can really hurt you. A horse like this does not come around very often.
“I want to speak to (owner) Bob Edwards but I feel the logical thing to do is get her back to 1 1/8 miles in the Diana.”