Speed Boat Beach lived up to his name just as readily on turf as on dirt, breezing home in Sunday’s $102,000 Speakeasy S. to book his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). The undefeated colt capped a Santa Anita stakes double for connections, following stablemate Midnight Memories in the $200,000 Zenyatta (G2). Champion Ce Ce rebounded to capture the $100,000 Chillingworth (G3) for the second straight year, while Heywoods Beach dethroned Tizamagician in the $101,000 Tokyo City Cup (G3).
Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman’s Speed Boat Beach went off as the 2-5 favorite on the switch to turf. The Bob Baffert pupil had blasted to a 5 1/2-furlong track record in his Sept. 10 unveiling on the Del Mar dirt, so the overriding question wasn’t his talent, but the surface.
Favorite backers might have had an anxious moment when the Bayern colt hopped out of the far outside post 9. His recovery was rapid, but he found himself chasing the warp speed of Helladic through splits of :21.06 and :43.36 on the firm course. Nudged by Juan Hernandez to go after the leader rounding the far turn, Speed Boat Beach prevailed in a brief tussle in the lane. The dark bay edged away by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of :55.25 for five furlongs.
Helladic retained second by a half-length from Ah Jeez, who headed Mas Rapido for third. Next came Wound Up, Straighten Up, Arman, Flame Rider, and Taltariate.
“We filled one of the spots on the plane to Keeneland,” Baffert said of his Speed Boat Beach’s joining his Breeders’ Cup squad. “I wasn’t sure if he would like the turf or not. I told Juan (Hernandez) that if he doesn’t like the turf, raise your right hand. He hopped at the start of the race. He was a little green and he kept switching leads. At the three-eighths pole, he became serious and took off. This horse has pretty serious speed.”
Hernandez likewise noted that Speed Boat Beach is still learning.
“The inside horse (Helladic), he kind of broke better than me, but I had the best position outside,” the winning rider said. “I saw the inside horse trying to go, so I just let him go and I let my horse get comfortable because it was his first time on the turf and he was kind of looking around, wanting to see what was going on. Around the three-eighths he switched to the left (lead) and he started to focus and started running to win the race.
“He enjoyed it. He was just watching the horse in front of me and just wanted to see everything around him, but he focused, and he started to run by himself. I just let him roll.”
Now 2-for-2, Speed Boat Beach has earned $108,000. Bred by Caperlane Farm in Florida, the $12,000 bargain-basement OBS yearling appreciated to $200,000 at the same venue as a March two-year-old in training. His dam, Sophia Mia, is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile and multiple Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Amie’s Dini.
Baffert hasn’t decided yet if Midnight Memories will be on that plane to Keeneland, but the Pegram/Watson/Weitman homebred is trending in the right direction. Despite buckling at the start, the 8-5 favorite regrouped to go last to first.
Midnight Memories was coming off a wire-to-wire victory in her stakes debut in the Torrey Pines (G3), but she’d rallied from off the pace in her first two starts. The sophomore employed a bit of both running styles here after her early miscue.
Jockey Ramon Vazquez let her find her groove at the back of the compact quintet. Up front, Soothsay clocked an opening quarter in :24.16, closely attended by Awake at Midnyte. Midnight Memories, her confidence regained, moved up to join the leaders and put her head in front at the half in :48.26. Then Soothsay increased speed to regain a slim advantage passing six furlongs in 1:11.97, challenged by Awake at Midnyte. Midnight Memories was now third in the tandem, but not for long.
As Awake at Midnyte got the upper hand, and Soothay began to fade, Midnight Memories re-engaged in upper stretch. The daughter of Mastery and Grade 2 winner Tiz Midnight, who was runner-up to Hall of Famer Beholder in the 2014 Zenyatta (as a Grade 1), looked stronger the further she went. Extending her margin to 3 1/4 lengths, she completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.07.
Empire House finished with a flourish and came up a neck shy of catching second-placer Awake at Midnyte. Soothsay beat only Samurai Charm, who was eased but walked off, according to the chart.
Kentucky-bred Midnight Memories has bankrolled $286,680 from a record of 5-4-0-1.
“We have taken our time with her,” Baffert said. “The Mastery fillies seem to be slow coming around. We have had to be patient with her. She got into a nice rhythm today and when Ramon asked her in the lane, she took off. She is really improving.”
“(Ramon Vazquez) did extremely good,” Weitman said. “ She had a little problem coming out of the gate. She was like spinning her wheels, but he was patient with her, brought her up and turned for home fast.
“She’s had a little tiny problem sometimes in the paddock of acting up just a little bit, but today she was calm, and I watched her in the paddock, and she was as calm as she could be. I think that is important that she doesn’t get worked up.”
Reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion Ce Ce set herself up for a title defense with a straightforward repeat job in the Chillingworth. The 3-10 favorite monitored developments in fourth early as Teddy’s Barino reeled off fractions of :22.38 and :44.96. But once regular partner Victor Espinoza gave her the cue, Ce Ce rolled past her rivals swinging for home and coasted by 2 1/4 lengths. The Bo Hirsch homebred negotiated 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.36, gilding her scorecard to 22-11-2-4, $2,357,100.
Baffert’s Under the Stars, who stalked Teddy’s Barino early, overtook her by 3 1/2 lengths for the runner-up spot. Scenic Masterpiece was fourth, Cover Version trailed throughout, and My Destiny was scratched.
Ce Ce has followed a similar itinerary to the second half of 2021, by trainer Michael McCarthy’s design. After winning the July 2 Princess Rooney (G2) again, in even gaudier style, the six-year-old lost the Ballerina (G1) again, in a worse fifth. The Chillingworth was once more a congenial spot to get back on track for the Breeders’ Cup.
“She’s the type of filly that you just never know,” Hirsch said of her occasional clunkers. “She could get up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes and fool you. That was always in the back of my head. She ran like a 1-5 (favorite) should run and I’m so happy. We are all on schedule to go to the Breeders’ Cup, I’m so excited and God willing, we’ll be there.”
Aside from the Filly & Mare Sprint, her other major wins include the 2020 Beholder Mile (G1) and Apple Blossom (G1) as well as the Mar. 12 Azeri (G2). She was third to Letruska and Clairiere when attempting another Apple Blossom on Apr. 23.
A third-generation Grade 1 winner for the Hirsch family, Ce Ce is an Elusive Quality half-sister to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Papa Clem. Their dam, Miss Houdini, landed the 2002 Del Mar Debutante (G1), and second dam Magical Maiden was a multiple Grade 1 queen.
Tokyo City Cup (G3)
Defending champ Tizamagician was the only favorite to lose in Sunday’s stakes at Santa Anita. The 9-10 favorite was perhaps too eager to press Storm the Court in splits of :48.68, 1:13.40, and 1:39.32.
Meanwhile, Hronis Racing’s Heywoods Beach was sitting in the proverbial garden spot. When a seam opened on the rail, Vazquez sent him through, and the John Sadler charge made the winning move on the final turn. Leveraging every bit of ground he saved, Heywoods Beach drove clear in the stretch. That cushion came in handy, for Win the Day came charging late, and Heywoods Beach just lasted by a neck. The 7-2 second choice took 2:31.98 to finish 1 1/2 miles.
Tizamagician wilted to third. Rounding out the strung-out field were Extra Hope, Storm the Court, Avenue, and Govenor’s Party. The latter two were eased, but walked off.
“I decided that I was going to go out there and win my second stakes of the day,” Vazquez said of his double. “I rode good horses today. I know my horse, (Heywoods Beach) is a good horse and likes the distance, and he had enough energy through the last quarter. I had a great trip with him, and we found the hole in the race – it was easy.”
“I noticed last year (Ramon) won quite a few of these races on Lone Rock,” Sadler said, “so I think he has a fairly good touch at a mile and a half on dirt.”
If the Lone Rock reference is a tell, the marathon on Breeders’ Cup Friday, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G2), could be next. Heywoods Beach, who also toppled Tizamagician in the July 24 Cougar II (G3) over this same trip at Del Mar, sports a mark of 20-5-2-3, $349,751.
Bred by SF Bloodstock in Kentucky, the Speightstown five-year-old is a half-brother to two-time Breeders’ Cup star and $4.2 million-earner Stephanie’s Kitten.