The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival got off to a chalky start on Thursday, as Klaravich Stables’ odds-on Consumer Spending outclassed her rivals in the $194,000 Wonder Again (G2). Later on Thursday’s card, two-year-olds took center stage, and Churchill Downs debut rompers swept both stakes.
Wonder Again (G2)
The Chad Brown trainee was bet down to 0.45-1 favoritism after her comeback score in the April 24 Memories of Silver S. at Aqueduct, upending Pizza Bianca, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner. Pizza Bianca has since captured the Hilltop S. en route to the June 17 Coronation S. (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Consumer Spending didn’t face that caliber of opponent in the Wonder Again. Nor did the yielding inner turf hold any concern for a filly who had dominated a Saratoga maiden in similar conditions. That made for a straightforward task at Belmont Park.
With Manny Franco aboard, Consumer Spending settled into an outside stalking trip, a couple of lengths off the pace. Front-running Vergara carved out splits of :24.53, :50.12, and 1:15.40, tracked by Skims, the 2.60-1 second choice. Skims upped the ante on the far turn, and Consumer Spending covered her move into the stretch. Drawing off in hand, the favorite crossed the wire two lengths clear while finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.73.
Myriskyaffair rallied to snatch second by a neck from Skims. Another 3 3/4 lengths back in fourth came Vergara, and longshot Sweet Sensation was tailed off. Shad Nation was scratched along with the main-track-only Tap the Faith.
Franco was aware of the unfolding pace scenario.
“I said, ‘They’re going slow, so I’ve got to move.’ My filly responded to me and I just engaged them and that was it,” Franco said. “The filly did the rest. As soon as I moved on her, she went. She has a nice turn of foot.”
“I didn’t know who was going to be where,” Brown said, “I just knew they would be running in a little cycling pack there in a short field. Manny just mentioned to me now that he saw Flavien (Prat, aboard Skims) peek back on the other logical horse, so he figured, ‘I’m going to surprise her a little and get a head in front of her,’ and it seemed to work and seemed to discourage them or just put them away.
“From there, the only worry is that I don’t like lonely horses on a long turf stretch because they can drop the bit, but she did have enough to carry it onto the wire.”
Consumer Spending was completing a Belmont turf double for sire More Than Ready, whose son Emmanuel wired the companion Pennine Ridge (G2) last Saturday. Just as the Pennine Ridge offered Belmont Derby (G1) berths to the top three finishers, so did the Wonder Again award Belmont Oaks (G1) spots to Consumer Spending, Myriskyaffair, and Skims.
“I’d say so,” Brown responded regarding the July 9 Belmont Oaks. “You are always looking at her saying, well it’s a More Than Ready horse and we’ve had so much luck with them over the years with horses like Rushing Fall and Uni, but you wouldn’t be screaming for a mile and a quarter with a lot of them. But, she hasn’t done anything wrong and she ran through the wire good with no target in front of her, so I have to think if she’s got someone to follow, there’s more there, so onto the Belmont Oaks.”
Consumer Spending was runner-up to highly-regarded McKulick in their mutual debut at Saratoga. After graduating impressively at the Spa on Labor Day, Consumer Spending swept to a good-looking stakes score in the Selima S. at Laurel. The gray’s only unplaced effort came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she was a respectably close sixth to Pizza Bianca at Del Mar.
Now 2-for-2 as a sophomore, Consumer Spending has compiled an overall record of 6-4-1-0, $350,000.
“She’s really come around,” Brown said. “She’s actually surprised me how much she’s improved from two to three. We always hoped and give all the horses a chance to move along. I thought she was a nice prospect last year and good enough for the Breeders’ Cup, but you never know which ones are going to make the jump. She’s moved forward quite nicely. We’re very excited about her.”
Consumer Spending was bred by Forging Oaks Farm in Kentucky and sold for $200,000 as a Fasig-Tipton yearling. Her dam, Siempre Mia, is a daughter of Scat Daddy and multiple Grade 3 turfiste Shaconage.
John C. Oxley’s Devious Dame, the first winner for freshman sire Girvin, also became his first stakes scorer in the $145,500 Astoria S. Trained by Norm Casse and piloted by Joel Rosario, the 0.45-1 favorite showed a new dimension in this second start.
Devious Dame argued the pace in her Churchill Downs unveiling, but bided her time a few lengths back in the Astoria. The result was the same, though, as she blew past pacesetter Alexis’s Storm and posted nearly the same margin as her maiden rout – 5 1/4 lengths. The unbeaten filly has now bankrolled $118,060.
“She’s got a very potent combination,” Casse said. “She’s fast enough to sprint, but I really do think once we get her into two-turn races and be forwardly placed, but in her own rhythm, she’s going to be much more effective.
“I’d like to run her in the Adirondack ([G3] at Saratoga Aug. 7) and then freshen her up for the Alcibiades ([G1] at Keeneland). Those are the two races I really want to point to. If we’re fortunate enough that she is a Breeders’ Cup-type filly, I’d like to get a two-turn race into her before the Breeders’ Cup.”
In the $150,000 Tremont S., Two of a Kind employed the same tactics as in his Churchill wire job, speeding to the early lead and prevailing by two lengths from the 24-1 Putthepastbehind. The Brian Lynch pupil covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.35, faster than Devious Dame’s 1:04.75, with Luis Saez aboard. No Nay Hudson, the slight 2.15-1 favorite over the 2.25-1 winner, wound up fourth after a tough start.
K and R Racing Stable and Town Branch Racing’s Two of a Kind is undefeated from two starts with $151,960 in earnings. The Kentucky-bred is by Overanalyze and out of the stakes-placed Freud’s Irish Miss. His second dam, Unacceptable, won the 1994 Astoria when it held Grade 3 status.
Christopher Swann, who co-bred the colt and serves as the owners’ racing manager, praised Freud’s Irish Miss as a prolific producer. Two of a Kind is now her third stakes performer, after the 2017 Sanford (G3) third Psychoanalyze and the stakes-placed Complexifier.
“We knew this horse was special,” Swann said. “You always hear that from the beginning, it’s cliché so to speak, but this horse was special.”
Lynch indicated that Two of a Kind could try to improve on his brother’s result in the July 16 Sanford at Saratoga.
“He’s always been a precocious sort of colt,” the horseman said. “He’s physically very mature and mentally he’s mature. We can’t be anything but happy with these last couple performances, the one at Churchill and the one today.
“I’d say the Sanford at Saratoga comes to mind, so I would say he’s made the check list to go to Saratoga.”